In my initial setup, using the Monitor Audio speakers in a room on the large size for those 6” woofers, I found myself wishing for more bass (not surprising given a medium-sized room and small speakers). Switching to a NAD 320BEE integrated amp, I recovered some bass energy, while trading off some definition. Be careful what you wish for. To this point, I’d call this choice a tie—and if I were to use an amp like the 151 in this sized room I would either add a sub or search for an efficient speaker with more mid-bass output. More on this later, when I submit a complete test and can try another room. For now, I can say that the 151's bass character could be highly desirable in a small room (the kind of room that would suit its limited power well).
Note: Wadia advises that the 151 PowerDAC requires a minimum of three solid weeks of burn-in before its sound fully blooms and develops optimal richness. So, I plan to give the 151 quite a bit more run-in time before doing a final assessment of its bass capabilities and writing my formal Playback review.
My concerns about bass were nearly forgotten when I really got down to listening. There is a naturalness and coherence to the midrange of this DAC/amplifier that one doesn’t often hear. This is a hard aspect of audio to explain, and has been for some time. As an example, for decades (the 1970s and 80s) many audiophiles favored Audio Research preamps. They had a certain midrange “rightness” that you had to hear to understand. Another example might be the 2009 release of the Meridian 808.2 DAC/Player. When you hear the Meridian, you suddenly realize it has banished many of the digital distortions that you’ve (probably) been living with.
With components like the ARC preamps and the Meridian DAC it is as if frequency response within the midrange is smoother, overtones are present in the correct amounts, and dynamics are more naturally explosive. These items don’t appear to be lacking in conventional equipment, but you realize they are when you hear something better. At this early stage, I’d say the Wadia 151PowerDAC is in that “something better” category. Pretty rare stuff for a component in this price class.
As we continue our tour of the frequency range, the Wadia’s treble is a bit harder to characterize. Partly, I would guess, that is because DACs don’t always reveal their high frequency problems on every disc. I haven’t listened to enough discs to be able to aptly nail the sound of the 151. I would say a few things about what it is not. The 151 is not bright. And the 151 does not have the splashy treble that some inexpensive CD players exhibit. Whether the 151 has a dark treble will require more listening with more ancillary equipment.
Imaging strikes me as another strength of the 151. Central images are precisely rendered and the lateral spread of orchestral instruments sounds quite natural.
If you have the impression that I’ve enjoyed the Wadia 151PowerDAC, you would be correct. It has a definite character, but in the essential midrange it gives a taste of the essence of music that is seductive.