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Wadia 830 CD Player Print E-mail
Friday, 01 October 1999
ImageThe Wadia 830 compact disc player is the latest addition to the Wadia family of CD players and digital separates. At $3250 including remote, the Wadia 830 is the most affordable member of the line up and is based on many of their design achievements pioneered on the more pricey reference 860 CD player. On the 830, Wadia uses the same DAC board design and analog technology found in the 850 and 860. The DACs in the 830 are the top of the line Burr Brown 1702s. These are essentially the same as those found in the 850 and 860, however the chips in the 850 and 860 are the 1702K's, the K representing matched pair status. The other mechanical difference between the 830 and it's big brothers is it's Pioneer Stable Platter Transport. The 850 and 860 use the Teac CMK Mk.4 and Mk.3.2 respectively.

The 830 features the digital volume control technology found in the 850 and 860 which allows direct coupling to an amplifier, eliminating the need for a analogue preamp. This technology operates by mathematically reducing bits of data. While this sounds, on the surface, to be dangerous Wadia has achieved sonic integrity by maintaining full 16 bit resolution through 30 dB of volume reduction. We have a link to Wadia's site for a more detailed discussion of this technology at the end of this review. Additional options on the 830 include fiber optic and toslink inputs and outputs. The Music
After burning in the Wadia 830 for 40 plus hours, I dropped in Stanley Clarke's East Riverside Drive (Epic) and settled into my plush stuffed listening throne. Before the cushion could settle under my butt, I was struck by the 830's rhythmic drive and toe tapping involvement. This is a player that involves the listener on a visceral level. The kind where the music gets your whole body involved. Track 5 "I'm Home Africa" propelled itself on a powerful synth bass line that was not only full in body, but was well controlled and pitch specific. The plucked acoustic bass was equally well served. On track 4 from John Coltrane's Night Train (MOFI) The bass is not very well recorded and can sound a bit defused. Through the 830, this recording anomaly is lessened and resulting in a feeling that I was hearing as much as the recording had to offer.

Clean transients are required for a fast bass performance, and the 830 is as clean as a whistle - not only in the bass but on up through it's entire frequency range. Most CD players distort the initial attack of a note, blunting and smearing the real time series of sonic events that defines the rhythmic component of music. The 830, in a large part avoids this pitfall and presents the music in an immediate, locked in way. On track 4 from Chris Isaac's San Francisco Days (Reprise) the gently plucked acoustic guitar sounded focused, spontaneous and dynamically alive. On the same track the brushes on the snare drum possessed the same clean sparkle and kept the mellow grove moving on nicely.

This clean unobscurred presentation gives the 830 an up front immediate sound stage with outstanding image specificity. Complex orchestral passages unraveled nicely at medium to loud levels, becoming only slightly obscured at frenzied full bored peaks. Back to San Francisco Days, the sense of Chris Isaac leaning into the mic with his head actually attached to a body, on the title track, bolstered the believability of the sonic picture the Wadia paints.

Typically, digital components with the 830s above mentioned attributes are accompanied by a cool tonal balance. While not what I would call lush, The 830 was on the warm side of digital and only when compared to my $9000 reference Krell KPS20I or the Wadia 860 did I find the tonal balance wanting. On Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane's absolutely beautiful collaboration (Impulse!) The 830 lets Johnny's baritone voice flow, Perhaps a scoshe less weighty than what I'm used to with the Krell, yet the sound remained free from grain, naturally airy and believably resonant. The high frequencies were very well portrayed, striking a balance between the revealing of detail and smoothness.

To this point I have been running the 830 into My Jeff Rowland Coherence preamp via a pairs of MIT Balanced Reference, arguably one of the best preamps and interconnects money can buy. Bypassing the Coherence and extra set of interconnects yielded more, more of everything, Greater bass dynamics, transparency, extension and control. A more immediate and defined mid range with more solidly focused images and more perceived detail in the mids along with a slightly more extended treble. If your system is a bit sluggish or vague, running the 830 directly into your amp may be just the audio wake up call you are looking for.

The Downside
The standard remote include with the Wadia 830 for the $3250 prices is a poor excuse for a remote. I recommend the remote Wadia offers their full function all metal remote, which comes standard with the 850 and 860 for a $300 premium. A cheap remote may lower the pricepoint on the unit but it also cheapens the experience. If you are anywhere over 4 feet away from the 830 you will not be able to read the display to determine index points. I found myself counting off the clicks rather than making visual contact, just extra work and effort I don't enjoy when I am interfacing with my music system.

Socially, when compared to my Krell 20I as well as Wadia's own 860 which I had on hand for the review period, I found the 830 a bit less refined and resolving. Lighter in weight, tonally, than either reference grade player, the 830 lacked that final measure of heft that fleshes out the images and completes creating the illusion of real instruments. As for dynamics, compared to my references, the 830 was missing a couple of rungs on the dynamic ladder that allows the music to breath at lower volumes, attenuated micro dynamics if you will.

The good news is, despite the interface and sonic shortcomings listed above, the 830 remains an engaging, well balanced and musically satisfying product. The Wadia 830 had a grip on the essential timing and rhythm of all types of music, excellent soundstaging and imaging and a well balanced tonal palette I could live with over the long haul.

If you are looking to take that leap into the choppy uncertain seas of high end digital, the Wadia 830 may be the digital vessel that can carry you to safety. Excellent performance, `future proof' upgradability and the flexibility to bypass a preamp, makes the Wadia 830 beg the question, what are you waiting for?

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