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My new Wadia 151


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Our house goes on the market in two weeks, and our new apartment is half its size. It's been suggested to me that I can no longer crank it up at will (if ever again) because there are people living on all sides of me (imagine that!). So I figured I'd downsize my audio rig while I was at it. My Focal 726s are fairly efficient, and I probably can't exceed 80 db without incurring the wrath of the condo board. So I decided to look for a small 50 to 100 W all digital unit and see how it works out.

 

While browsing the web over coffee, I came across a deal on the Wadia 151 "PowerDAC" ($500, a major drop from their original $1200) and decided to take the plunge - tiny footprint, all-in-one, all digital, with excellent reviews that describe sonic qualities I favor........so I bought one. I already moved most of my audio equipment to the apartment, and I've been listening to music via JRiver Gizmo on my phone and tablet. The only "audio" pieces left in the house are the BeagleBone and an old pair of rear-ported Phase Technology bookshelf speakers my son got used about 15 years ago - so they got the nod.

 

Right out of the box, this little baby's great! Sourcing FLACs from my NAS through MPD on the 'bone, the Wadia's really tight and punchy but not "mechanical". The bass is amazingly well controlled and makes the Phase Techs come alive. The midrange is very detailed if a hair softer than my Emotiva Stealth (even through a tube power amp), and the highs are as smooth as satin. I've been using the PTs as sound reinforcement for a small TV, so I never actually listened through them and can't be as thorough an evaluator of the electronics as I'd like right now. Once I get this set up with my usual speakers, I'll come back with more info. It has 2 RCAs for coax plus a USB and an optical input. It upsamples everything to 384, but USB is "limited" to 96 while the other input modes take 192.

 

Build quality seems excellent if a hair short of tank-like. The remote is aluminum and feels good, although it's not quite in the same league as the Emotiva remotes. Strangely, there's no power switch on the remote, so you have to turn the unit on and off using the back panel switch. I also can't figure out how to run an iPhone or iPad through it, as the only USB input is a B jack. This wouldn't be a big deal except that the Wadia literature makes a thing out of the remote's ability to control i-playback. If I can't connect it to the device, who cares? I'll have to call Wadia later today to find out about that one.

 

I can tell you with absolute certainty that a 50W digital amp is not a 50W tube amp (like we all didn't know that...) - at max volume, the Wadia drives the PTs to peaks of 81 - 82 db on small band jazz. It topped 85 a few times with Rob McConnell's Boss Brass, but I'm not going to be evicted with this rig for sure. The Focals are several db more efficient than the PTs - so I'm sure I'll be very happy at the MALL ("maximum allowable listening level" - established by my wife).

 

Now that my runs will be very short, I'll be buying good speaker cables too - losing a db to the 35'+ runs in my house wasn't a big deal. But it's time to pay attention to everything including power. The Wadia manual says that the 151 "...employs extensive power line filtering and noise suppression technology, so fine performance is available with the Wadia 151 PowerDAC Mini plugged directly into a wall outlet using the AC power cord provided". I'll try an external conditioner and see if I can hear any difference - if I can't, it's back to basics for me. I do have a serious 1/2 meter Pangea power cable bought for my PrimaLuna that I'll also try, and I'm hopeful that it'll be fine from wall to Wadia.

 

Summary: so far, so good - I'll build a nice headphone rig for serious listening. Having a great system the size of a Tom Clancy book is really pretty cool.

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Several reviews of the Wadia 151 talk about how well the remote controls a connected iDevice - but I couldn't find any way to do that, as the only USB input is (appropriately) a type B. I just spoke with a great guy (Chuck) at Wadia. What's missing from the 151 manual is the fact that you need a Wadia 170i dock for iDevice connectivity. The Wadia dock had a 30 pin connector, and they decided to D/C the product when Apple switched to the Lightning connector - and Chuck says that an iP6 won't work through it using a 30p-to-Lightning adapter. There's a 170i available used on Amazon for $325 (!), so thanks but no thanks.

 

I learned some other stuff as well: first, Wadia now belongs to the (Italian) Fine Sounds group, and at least some of the staff are less than completely familiar with the entire line. Second, the 151 is D/C'ed (which I suspected, based on the huge discount). Third (and most importantly), the people at Wadia seem to be dedicated to great customer service (a fact I hope I never need to verify the hard way...)

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I have had one for a while great value. You could look at an Airport Express for streaming.

Used 170 and 171 come on on ebay sometimes for less.

Thanks! I'm setting up a robust WLAN in the apartment, but I want to use ac and AE is "only" n. There's a lot of love for AE on this forum, so I'll look at it as long as it will also support PCs. I'm also looking at wireless HDMI systems, since the building's made of concrete and other stuff through which I can't easily run cables. The prior owner ran surface wires, but that looks tacky - I promised my wife our apartment wouldn't look like Frankenstein's lab...

 

The Netgear A6200 802.11 ac USB adapter seems to work great in all the reviews I've read. I can plug one into my Beagle Bone and have a wireless streamer / amp (with the Wadia) about the size of a $5 box of chocolates. I'm actually excited about this, which is something I never dreamed I'd be able to say when each of my amps weighed 35+ pounds and my electronics filled a floor-to-ceiling rack. I LOVE living in the 21st century!

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