On Cat Power’s “Lived in Bars” from The Greatest [Matador], the cymbals are clean, with superb definition as they decay. Some D/A converters render this as a muddled crash, not a clear strike followed by waves of vibration decaying over time. On this same track, the string bass is very clearly defined, as is the drum, but through the 151 the latter’s voice mostly consists of skin sounds, and lacks some fundamental punch.
You can hear similar things on Jack Johnson’s “Dreams Be Dreams” from On and On [UMVD]. The cymbal definition is superb, and the bass line is tight, but the air that could be there (this is a bass after all) is reduced relative to the real thing.
On Eleventh Dream Day’s “Figured It Out” from El Moodio [WEA], the opening quiet section has the performers separated so that you can each each line distinctly. This sense of real performers holds up even as the electric sound is cranked up and the distortion pedal gets stomped on. The track feels edgy, as it should, without loosing control or turning into a fog.
On Hootie and the Blowfish’s “Hannah Jane” from Cracked Rear View [Atlantic], the vocals are clear, but some lower midrange vocal resonance is missing. Darius Rucker is more of a baritone than the tenor he seems to be here. Clarity, however, is exemplary.
The Wadia 151 PowerDAC is one of those rare reasonably priced products that gives you more than a glimpse of greatness. It’s sound is musically involving and fundamentally solid. Like most such products, it isn’t without tradeoffs, but if you value midrange performance and clarity above all else, you’ll likely love it. Similarly, if you have a room and system where bass control and heaviness are problems, this is one amp/DAC you have to hear.
Wadia 151 PowerDAC mini Combination Integrated Amp/DAC
Power: 25Wpc @ 8 ohms, 50Wpc @ 4 ohms
Inputs: four digital audio (USB, 2xSP/DIF-coax, Toslink-optical)
DAC Maximum Data Rate: USB—24-bit/96kHz, other inputs can accept up to a 24-bit/192kHz
Outputs: main speaker taps
Dimensions (H x W x D): 2.7” x 8” x 8”
Weight: 6 lbs.