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  1. #1

    Wadia 121 Initial impressions

    I received my long-anticpated and long-awaited Wadia 121 a week ago Wednesday. I've had high hopes for this DAC as it is reputedly based on Wadia's S7i CD player and Series9 DACs, which I've heard and was impressed with.

    I also had at the time a USB Schiit Bifrost, which, after appropriate burn-in, I found be a very good DAC overall, and a DAC that I personally feel virtually slaughters everything else in the $500 price class. Given that, some of my initial comments here will be referenced against the Bifrost.

    Wednesday, 4-11-2011:
    First impressions are favorable, even though I only have about 30 mins on it out of the box. Quite a bit less aggressive and harsh than the Bifrost out of the box, though the bottom end is a bit on the thin side, still. Setting the output to 4V from the default 2V helped flesh out and give a fuller sound.

    wadia-121-2.jpg

    The Wadia 121 does not have as beefy a feel to build quality as the Bifrost by any stretch; the bottom of the case is thin metal. The "wrapped in solid aluminum" Bifrost, with it's built-in power supply (and transformer), is notably heavier and has more "of a piece" feel to it than the 121. The 121 feels like there's a lot of empty space inside, which the Bifrost does not feel like.

    Thursday, 4-12-12
    Initially the 121 had a nice midrange and top end, but was thin in the midbass and bass. With about a day on it, the sound is fleshing out nicely and smoothing out as well. Overall, it's clean, transparent, and VERY quiet. Not harsh, strident or clinical in any way. Like a Dynaudio speaker, it's clean and neutral but really nice to listen to. A bit more neutral than a fullly run-in Bifrost, but I've only got about 24 hours on it and I expect there are still changes to come. The Bifrost started out neutral and ended up on the slightly warm side, which is actually really nice.

    One thing I like in particular about the 121 is the sampling rate light changes when the source content sampling rate changes, so you can see what the sampling rate for the song you're playing is at a glance. The 121 also ramps the volume down when you change sources or sampling rate, then ramps it back up automatically.

    Sunday, 4-15-12
    Off to Eugene, OR to teach DFSS for the week. Be back Saturday. I have the Macbook serving up files continuously, so the Wadia will have over 150 hours on it when I get back. We'll see where things stand. I sold the Bifrost to a good buddy Friday night and gave it a last listen. The Bifrost runs right with the 121, but it's not a fair comparo until the 121 is fully burned in. As of Friday night, the 121 seeems to be somewhat more detailed and transparent, and quieter, but more neutral than the Bifrost. The Bifrost is more mellifluous, smoother and a skosh warmer. They remind me of my C-J CT-5 and Premier 17LS preamps, respectively.

    Saturday, April 4-21-12
    Back from a week in Eugene for work; I left the Macbook streaming music to the Wadia constantly since Sunday, so I've got about 150 hours on the 121 at this point.

    The 121 now sounds very natural, no overly exaggerated highs or any hint of edge or glare, and neither overly full or overly thin...in some respects, it reminds me of current C-J gear: "It just sounds right". The overall presentation is neutral, or perhaps just very slightly warm with a very low noise background. Imaging is excellent, with well-defined voices and instruments and a spaciousness that seems just "right". Transparency is excellent due to the very low noise background and there is a overall musical and analog quality to this DAC that is very appealing. Detail is excellent, probably more detail than the Bifrost, if a touch more neutral in presentation than the Bifrost. I think the best thing I could sum it up with is with a high-quality source, the presentation is comparable to a first class analog source.

  2. #2

    Wadia 121

    Thanks for your initial impressions. Need to upgrade soon and have my eye on this one and also Musical Fidelity M1.
    Waiting for more press on this unit. I read that Chris has a unit in for review so I wait patiently for it. Still have to track down a local dealer.
    Jay

    Raised on TV.

  3. #3
    Freshman Member roboss38's Avatar
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    Wadia 121

    My Wadia 121 has about 36 hours on it now. My files are being played with JRiver on a Windows XP laptop via a Cardas Clear USB cable. My initial impression is in line with Puma Cat that the sound is very neutral. It's not overly warm or clinical in it's presentation. The background is dead quite. I'll have a more definitive understanding once the DAC has a couple hundred hours on it. So far, I'm pretty impressed.
    Bobby

    Digital: Modwright Oppo 105>Audio Research Reference 5 SE>Rogue Audio Stereo 100>Daedalus Audio Argos V2

  4. #4
    I am disappointed to find that the Wadia 121 DAC apparently does not automatically adjust to the supported data rate when used with a Mac and iTunes only.

  5. #5
    Freshman Member Alkan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buffalobill View Post
    I am disappointed to find that the Wadia 121 DAC apparently does not automatically adjust to the supported data rate when used with a Mac and iTunes only.
    That's an iTunes limitation: Apple decided it (no automatic sampling selection) because iTunes isn't for professional (or audiophile) applications. You will need specific audio player like: for Mac Audirvana, Pure Music, Amarra etc.; for Windows JRiver, foobar etc.
    Dalton
    __________________________________________________ ____________________

    "Si vous avez compris, vous avez sūrement tort." (Lacan)

  6. #6
    Quote Originally Posted by Alkan View Post
    That's an iTunes limitation: Apple decided it (no automatic sampling selection) because iTunes isn't for professional (or audiophile) applications. You will need specific audio player like: for Mac Audirvana, Pure Music, Amarra etc.; for Windows JRiver, foobar etc.
    Thanks for the explanation. It just irks me that Wadia conveniently does not mention this iTunes limitation in their description of the automatic data rate adjusting feature in their owner's manual.

  7. #7
    Freshman Member roboss38's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by buffalobill View Post
    Thanks for the explanation. It just irks me that Wadia conveniently does not mention this iTunes limitation in their description of the automatic data rate adjusting feature in their owner's manual.
    JRiver makes all necessary changes quite nicely. I've been impressed by their software. My buddy has Pure Music for his Mac, and really likes it.
    Bobby

    Digital: Modwright Oppo 105>Audio Research Reference 5 SE>Rogue Audio Stereo 100>Daedalus Audio Argos V2

  8. #8
    Quote Originally Posted by buffalobill View Post
    Thanks for the explanation. It just irks me that Wadia conveniently does not mention this iTunes limitation in their description of the automatic data rate adjusting feature in their owner's manual.
    Why should they? It's not Wadia's fault that iTunes has this limitation. The automatic data rate adjusting implementation works fine on Wadia's end. FWIW, you can use iTunes with a no of players e.g. Pure Music, etc. and get automatic data sampling detection and switching absolutely seamlessly. Not only does it work but the sampling lights on the front panel change along with the source content. It works great on my 121.