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WADAX! AE's first Computer Audio Component!

I've been bugging Jlam and Piano Tuner for the last couple of years to get into Computer music. Each time I see an article on the demise of audiophiles and the rise of the download generation, I send it to the both of them! My nephews and nieces have never bought a CD (let alone vinyl) before. Everything is purchased online and downloaded. That is the future of music! They are the future audiophiles!
Eventhough I have a full Tidal Suite (with the Agoria on order), the Vekian Opus combo, the Thales TTT with Simplicity tonearm, I listen to my ipod the most, as I spend most of my time travelling on business. So I have ripped all of my 4000+ CDs. The convenience of searching, sorting and listening to music on a computer or device is uncomparable. I am a music lover FIRST, and an audiophile SECOND. So having access to all of my music at a touch of a button is important.
As an audiophile, I wanted my downloaded or ripped music to sound just as good as my cd deck. After all, its all bits and bytes, so if I just run my mac through my state of the art DAC, it should sound the same right? NOPE!
I've either owned or auditioned (in retail shops or in home demos) the Slim Devices (now Logitech) Transporter, the Meridian Sooloos and even the Linn Klimax. They were all a dissapointment. Don't believe the hype. Go listen for yourself.
I finally settled for having my music running on a Mac with Sonic Studio's Amarra, connected to my system. I only used it when I had large parties and wanted to choose the playlist to set the mood. Sound wasn't good, but I did not have a choice.
So when Piano Tuner called my a month ago and said that he has found a product that he can finally give the Audio Exotics stamp of approval, I immediately arranged to meet up with him in Hong Kong. Wadax's designer and founder, Javier Guadalajara was in town and PT wanted me to meet with him and audition the WADAX Pre-1 with the Hermes Stream player. Essentially what I've been looking for the last couple of years.
The setup at the AE studio when I arrived there yesterday is the new Cessaro Lizst, the Robert Koda preamp, Power Labs TNT50 amps. PT also had a single chassis CD player (supposedly more expensive than the Vekian Opus combo. I forgot what the name was) and the Wadax Pre1 setup. The Wadax Pre-1 was connected to a Wadax external server that can house 2 SSD drives via an Ethernet cable. The Wadax Pre1 is a simple yet beautiful looking piece of equipment. Solid and heavy, it is obviously well designed. You can control the Wadax with the remote or via the Wadax Ipad app (we only used a prototype). The final app will be available on iTunes in 2 weeks. You can stream music from any Itunes library over wifi. At AE, we used PT's Macbook Air. There is also USB port at the back of the Pre1. My experience with USB has been spotty. I tried it with the Vekian Opus DAC, and also with a DAC by DCS (forgot the name). (Frankly, don't waste your time!!). The recommended way of connecting to the Pre1 is using the Wadax server, connected via a Ethernet cable. (The server that Javier brought to AE was a protoype and he showed me drawings of the final product. Wow! They were sexy! ) The server has a CD slot in the front where you can put in your CD. It rips the CD to FLAC with all error corrections and check against 5 online sources to populate all the metatags. You also have the capability of connecting an external NAS (Network Attached Storage), as the media server only holds 2 SSD drives.
The engineering on the Wadax represents a paradign shift in high-end audio. The ASIC chip was developed and designed by Javier and his team. It can take into account over 1500 signal parameters, and can be programmed to take into account cartridge type (for the phono stage) and other soon to be announced features.
The stream player can also 'RECORD' your vinyl at 128 bit resolution. Can you imagine? All your favourite vinyl, recorded at high definition?
Now the sound.
My experience with most computer audio is that it has tended to sound too lean or compressed or mushy. We did a simple a/b test between the Wadax streaming the exact same file over Wifi from the Mac and the Wadax Media Server. The sound from the Mac was definitely more compressed, while the file from the Media server sounded ... like Vinyl. I don't want to go into describing the technicalities of the sound as I'm really not that good at it, but the sound coming out of the Cessaro was amazing. I have never heard computer audio sounding so good before. And mind you, these were not high definition tracks. These were normally ripped tracks on FLAC. Our next test was the Wadax vs the CD player. Again, the Wadax won hands down. And considering that the CD player costs more than the Wadax (which also has other features discussed below), this was definitely a revelation. The sound from the Wadax was very natural, very analogue, effortless and open. And most importantly it was musical. Against the Wadax, the CD sounded too clean.
There were a few people who visited AE during the day. In general, everyone was shocked at the performance of the Wadax. Many times, folks would ask. "Is it streaming or is it playing the CD?" The sound from the Wadax Media Server in my opinion can rival any of the best cd gear that Audio Exotic's carries. Plus it has the advantage of convenience. We used the iPad to control the Wadax, lining up songs to hear, creating playlists. What more could you want?
Actually, there is more.
The Wadax is also a Preamp and its also a Phono Stage The same ASIC chip can 'map' the characteristics of your turntable setup and correct it in real time! Javier showed us a vinyl record that you play on your turntable. You turn the Wadax in record mode. You then email the file to the Wadax team that looks at it and creates a custom mapping just for your setup. That file is then sent back to you, and you load it back onto the Wadax using a USB key. So now, everytime you play your Turntable, the signal is reconstructed based on the exact mappings of your turntable. Star Trek stuff? MosDef!
We spent the rest of the afternoon listening to the phono stage. There were other luminaries from AE there including Mr Zanden, so I will leave it to them to describe the sound. Needless to say, I thought the sound was incredible.
The next generation is particular about value. Something must have value for them to consider buying it.It must also have convenience. And must have appeal and look good. The WADAX scores on all these points. Its not cheap (same league as the rest of AE gear), but when you consider what you get in one beautifully designed unit

1) a world class preamp,
2) a world class DAC,
3) the best Computer Audio Streaming server I've heard,
4) a world class phono stage that is mapped to the characteristics of your setup and
5) a phono recorder +
6) other yet to be announced features.

the numbers don't sound that bad. One of the hidden costs of high end audio is the cost of cables. Just consider how much you will be saving on cables by getting rid of some of your components if you move to the WADAX? When I added this up, it made sense.
I guess you'll being seeing my stuff on sale on Audiogon soon ;)
For folks in Singapore, I'm hoping to have a Wadax in Singapore soon. Please email me at katongkid@gmail.com
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Comments

  • I once borrowed a CAS system from my friend and hooked it up in my system for a trial...the texture of the hi-rez file is enormously rich but the rhythm is a bit monolithic to me when compared to Vekian CD playback which is more 'fluid'. My friend's CAS is a well built DIY running on Linux with a lot of the unnecessary system jobs disabled.

    In AE showroom, I have experienced the power of Wadax both as a digital phono and a CAS. As a digital phono, Wadax gives out a lot of energy and a wide soundstage filled up with details and resolution. It is wide and wild in dynamics expansion resembling much the characteristics of the Trinity phono. When we turned to listen to hi-rez file, the result is clear, at least to me, that it stands out from the rest of the CAS market by wide margin. Anyone who claims they have a CAS system outperforming their own CD system should come and experience this. I will be also showcasing this in my system and invite my CAS friends to come and listen.

    Marvel
  • Katongkid,

    Wow! What a comprehensive write-ups. Am I too old for this computer stuff? You get the point straight that I am a music lover first, audiophile second. I listened to iPod during daytime.

    We know well the benchmark at AE is abnormally high relative to the average showroom standard. And Jlam will not demo any "me too" stuffs. But that digital phono idea is not easy to digest. Had you listened to the phono session of the Wadax too?
  • Hi VoyR,
    I thought the digital phono was comparable to some of the other equipment that AE carries. There were other hardcore phono masters at the session on Saturday afternoon, so I will leave it to them to report.
    As for the Computer Audio part, I am totally sold on the Wadax. Its the best I've heard so far!
  • That is Javier - the architect of the whole Wadax concept. He was discussing with Katongkid on the philosophy behind the project. Javier holds a Phd in Room Acoustics and is the most experienced in room acoustics amongst all other super audio brains under the AE umbrella.
  • Today, we brought Javier to meet the crew at Audiotechnique.
  • What was unexpected was that Lincoln would like to listen to the dac performance of the Wadax Pre One. The reference machine at AT today was the latest 5-boxes dCS flagship dac: Vivaldi. The Vivaldi transport is used to connect to the digital input of the Wadax Pre One.

    They just listened to the dAC session first before moving on to bypass the Boulder 2020 preamp.
  • This was chosen as the CD transport to match with Wadax' DAC today.
  • To cut a long story first, Wadax has NO FEAR against the competition at the highest league. Lincoln listened tracks after tracks of his reference CDs in silence. Yeah... yeah.... yeah.... if anyone think we bullshit whatever, please bring your reference dac to AE for a comparison. We don't take anything for the sake of quantity. We are always opting for extreme performance.
  • Hmmm... PT, are you trying to say that the one-box Wadax beat the 5 box DCS? As I said in my review, the cost of the cables alone to the DCS can pay for the Wadax!
  • That's quite a big claim on one hand. On the other hand, PT never bluffs. Anyway he didnt make any statement of Wadax outperforming dCS. He implies "comparable" only.
  • A full of wadax in action.....the server is clearly throwing my Mac book out of the window in terms of noise and therefore resolution!
  • It is extremely beneficial to use Linebacker for the Wadax server. It silents "all those computer irrating noises". Now we are talking. I have never experienced computer audio at the ultra end level required by AE. Forget everything about computer audio if you don't have a Linebacker. They are amazingly magical. For the price, it is a real bargain. Don't you guys know PT applied two linebackers for the subwoofers of the Lizst? He had once done a demo for Mr.Zanden with and without.....
  • Agree! Linebackers are the most important discoveries of AE after Tripoint's Troy.
  • 2 days ago, I had the chance to listen to Wadax with another top notch CAS system, both were sharing the contents stored in the Wadax server. The Wadax pre1 clocks the contents, to my ears, in a more accurate way that the rhythm and tempo are there to light up the musicality aspect of the 'data' being converted from digital to analog. When we listened to 'I dreamed a dream' in Les Miserable which I now become very familiar, with Wadax, the emotion, the details and soundstage are all there to contruct the operatic scene....
  • HI Marvel big brother,
    May I know what the configuration and component of the 'top notch CAS system' is ?
    Thank you.
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