Many great things happened in the 90s, Nelson Mandela was released from prison, first book of Harry Potter was published, Google was founded, I was born and the Wadia 25 was released (produced from 1996-98). We keep looking towards the future, especially when dealing with technology, but it’s also very valuable to really look into the past and learn a lot. The Wadia 25 is a prime example for that, it’s such an early example of a DAC that predates the standardization of the term “Digital to Analog Converter” and during it’s time was called a “Digital Decoding Computer.” Now that DACs are synonymous with computer audio playback, you might expect to find some sort of USB input, but the Wadia 25, being a predecessor to modern DACs, actually doesn’t have any sort of USB input (since most digital audio was played via a CD transport over SPDIF or Toslink rather than off a computer via USB) which can leave you at a dead end if you are not prepared. Thankfully I have a trusty DDC (Digital to Digital Converter) which helps me a lot since 100% of my music library are digital files played off a PC or DAP rather than a spinning piece of plastic in a transport.
First let’s talk about my chain regarding the Wadia 25 as the primary DAC. The Wadia 25 is connected through AES to the Mutec MC-3+ USB DDC which in turn allows me to use the USB interface to connect to my music transport (In this case a Android based phone). Then the Wadia 25 signal feeds into my Woo Audio WA8 amplifier to a OG Sennheiser HD 600 (roughly around 2006 model) or directly to my Focal Alpha 80 powered speakers. I also directly plug in the Luxury & Precision P6Pro as a line out when I want to use a different DAC to the same chain excluding the Wadia 25 & Mutec MC-3+ USB DDC of course as it acts as the DAC and the music source.
Disclaimer: Throughout the rest of the article I will refer to the Wadia 25 as the Wadia
There’s a few things to keep in mind, besides the aforementioned lack of a USB input, the DAC also does have another limitation as it is only able to play up to 24 bit 48khz files. Trying anything higher like a 24 bit 96khz file, it simply won’t play it. In those situations, you need to downsample your file from your source computer/phone/streamer, or find a CD quality version. Downsampling can adversely affect sound quality so it’s something to keep in mind. It also cannot play things such as MQA or DSD, but if you are in the market to buy a Wadia, I have a feeling you aren’t an MQA or DSD type of person. Besides that however it’s a normal DAC, not much of a difference plugging it into your wall over a Schiit Bifrost, Modius or other modern DACs like Denafrips Ares/ Pontus II.
When it comes to sound, my impressions may seem almost short but there are a few good reasons for that. Firstly, this is not a review. Secondly, the Wadia while being an extremely high end DAC, most certainly has a very specific handful of qualities that the conversation will revolve around since they are extremely prominent. In fact, we should start with the first, and that is BASS on the Wadia. It’s the most deep, the most textured and most sick bass I’ve ever heard. While going up the DAC ladder it’s true that bass improvements are generally a universal byproduct, but the Wadia goes above and beyond when it comes to bass improvements. It has an absolute bass focused signature that shines through on any track with deep, deep rumble that if I didn’t know any better I would think my OG Sennheiser HD 600 is a Fostex headphone using a Biocellulose driver. The bass’ sense of impact/slam and authority is absolutely, mind-bogglingly ridiculous. When listening through the Focal Alpha 80 speaker chain, I’m legit scared that the bass produced will shatter my windows but I welcome the intensity. In fact, intensity is a very good descriptor for the Wadia 25’s sound, It’s the A-10 Thunderbolt aka Warthog of DAC’s; it’s unequivocally there for a mission that it will perform to the max, with a surplus of power, impact and absolute control of the bass. It will demand your attention with it’s raw power. The Wadia is absolutely sick. It released the bass head I didn’t know I had in me. I’ve always leaned towards bright or when I did cross towards the warm territory it was still because of a focus in mids instead of the bass that generally comes with the territory on warm gear. Not this time, the Wadia does not focus on mids, has fairly dark treble, no no no the Wadia is unapologetic about it’s focus on bass and purebred impact. It does have a bit of a nice upper mids shine too which does add to the contrast and helps making things more colored. While the micro detail on the Wadia isn’t particularly good the focus the macro detail is absolutely amazing and feels ahead of it’s time. Not trying to beat a dead horse but again with the macro detail on the bass, when listening to modern music like pop artist Dua Lipa, Korean pop artists like New Jeans (뉴진스), StayC (스테이씨), Gfriend (여자친구) or Latin pop artists like Kali Uchis, Maluma, Guaynaa no matter what the bass is the star of the show and makes for a mix of an incredibly technically capable DAC with exaggerated dynamics, excessive/extraordinary bass, exaggerated sense of impact/speed
There will be 3 main comparisons I can draw to that will give people a good idea of where the Wadia stands, Luxury Precision P6P as a line out standalone DAC, Schiit Bifrost 2 and last but not least the Hiby RS6 as these have been the DACs I have spent most time with, or are comparable in price/ form factor.
Wadia 25/ L&P P6P Comparison
These DACs could not be more different, including staging capabilities where P6P is a far more spacious sounding/neutral-natural DAC wit no nonsense in terms of it not adding any extra sweetness, extra impact, extra speed etc whole the Wadia is an expert at adding extra bass, extra slam, extra macro dynamics and is more forward sounding as a whole but nowhere near as spacious. Tonally speaking the Wadia is a bit darker to where It may not sound as natural as the P6P which is very textbook in terms of tonal balance but it’s also not to a point where it seems unnatural either. In fact, I’m having a hard time calling the vocal timbre of the P6P as more natural because the Wadia just feels tonally different but fairly close to the vocal timbre (albeit slightly, very slightly behind). But you bet that when I want to focus on vocals, and want that extra bit of what I call soul I do typically switch over to the P6P most of the time as the midrange on it is phenomenal in both detail, tonal accuracy but also general prominence. The P6P feels very textbook, generally accurate in most ways as it’s not unnaturally forward/laid back nor is it blunted or exaggerated in it’s attack/decay and while the midrange, treble and bass all find a way to be prominent they are all incredibly balanced. The Wadia on the otherhand does feel a bit more different sounding where it’s attack is going at 100% all the time, the impact combined with the forward sound and contrast between bass and upper mids make it lean heavily towards a more engaging sound signature that won’t let you just lay back. It’s tonal balance might freak out measurement nerds as at first listen it can take a while to get used to or some people might straight up consider it unnatural (although I would i would disagree). The mids on the Wadia are no joke either, while they may not be as prominent as that of the P6P mids, less tonally “correct” they are actually fairly damn natural, enjoyable and detailed as well. The P6P’s micro detail vs the Wadia’s macro detail leads to a wash there, the soundstage feels like a fairly prominent win for the P6P as it’s more wide, similar levels of depth and has better accuracy as a whole. Again the Wadia is a much more forward sounding DAC while the P6P is a bit more in the middle where it’s not quite laid back but also not particularly forward. At the end of the day both of these DACs are absolutely the most technically capable DACs I’ve ever heard and they make a pretty good team.
Wadia 25/ Hiby RS6 Comparison
I mentioned earlier that the Wadia and the P6P could not be more different, I stand corrected as the Wadia and the RS6 really could not sound any more different. The Wadia as mentioned before is incredibly engaging, incredibly forward with the most violent attack and speed in addition to a soundstage lacking in width/spaciousness. The RS6 is the most laid back, euphoric DAC that intentionally blunts it’s attack and avoids any sharpness at all costs, it’s so chill that not just I but basically anyone who has heard the RS6 has stated they fall asleep alot during sessions. It’s not stated with negative connotations whatsoever but the RS6 just sounds so lovely, euphoric and laid back that it’s a natural side effect from listening to it. Also, while the RS6 is not necessarily more organic than the Wadia 25 or P6P even it does have the sweetest midrange of the bunch. The micro detail on the RS6 I would say is slightly better than that of the Wadia 25 but pales in comparison to the Wadia’s macro detail. Dynamically the RS6 is much more compressed, dynamics aren’t it’s strong suit but not to a level where it ever bothered me. Nonetheless the Wadia’s superior dynamics did feel like a noticeable upgrade that I really enjoyed and while the RS6 has awesome bass it does pale in comparison to the Wadia in texture, detail, quantity and overall quality. When it comes to treble both are fairly rolled back. From a usability perspective something to keep in mind is that in my experience the RS6 needs to be playing music continously for 1 hour at least and even at the 5 hour mark shows improvements while the Wadia as long as it’s plugged in for 15 hours, it can warm up playing music and within 24 minutes it can reach it’s peak sound in my experience.
Wadia 25/ Schiit Bifrost 2 Comparison
These two dacs are a bit more similar to each other in than the other dacs have been so far, at least in sound. When it comes to technical abilities the Wadia is simply levels ahead of essentially everything, macro/micro detail, textures, bass, midrange, treble even (although the recent Bifrost 2/64 upgrade more than likely changes that) and most things that you can imagine. Bass is fun on both, the Bifrost shares a focus on sense of impact and bass while actually having an extremely forward midrange which does differ from the Wadia quite a bit in that aspect. Details are a bit smoothed over in my experience but again does hold a simliar macro focused sense of detail and punch like the Wadia. I do think that similarly to the RS6 I can see someone needing to own the Bifrost/RS6/ P6P along with the 25 since It’s lack of “soul” can leave you wanting more if it’s your only DAC for long periods of time. But if you own something that takes care of that, it’s not a problem that one keeps thinking of since the Wadia is generally awesome.
Similiarly to the wise saying “The foolish man gives a shit, the wise man takes it” – old asian man or “The early bird get’s tired first” – Park Myeong Soo (박명수) I heard another jesting remark about the Wadia 25
“People just had more fun in the past” – Not a reviewer
It was said in a joking way I’m sure, but i felt it was perfect for the Wadia. All in all, the Wadia has been an eye opener for me as it really surprised me because It has many qualities that I would usually consider deal breakers like recessed midrange and lack of treble but it release the hidden bass head inside of me. It’s such a unique sounding peace of gear that also has cool history behind it as it was created by the same guys who created Exogal and the most cool thing to think about is that when I was in first grade playing marbles, 6th grade listening to “Tonights gonna be a good night” every single Friday at elementary school through the PA system, running miles at 120 degrees in the desert in my middle school years or even in high school developing my music taste listening to “Sweater Weather – The Neighborhood”, “Somebody that I used to know – Goteye” and “Riptide – Vance Joy” this specific DAC all that time was already in someone’s home playing music. That, is crazy. This DAC is minimum as old as I am or possible two years my senior and I am sure we will be best friends during my lifetime.
Generally chill person, found purpose in life through Martial Arts as a child and as a young man trying not to let that young boy down. Lover of Photography, Running, Audio Gear and living life freely. Just like my experience in life please keep in mind that my experience in audio is fairly limited.