Is the pre amp on the 860 digital?
Listening to some Sigur Ros on the Omega right now. If any of you want, I can try to help you find a set for sale. Just let me know. The cool thing about the Omega is that it's not as power hungry as the O2 imo.
yes it is a digital preamp it amplifies the signal in the digital domain so is immune to phase shifts and and degradation of signal to noise ratio. (its all math baby! ).. if you want to feed it analog sources you have to buy a Wadia Analog to Digital converter ...Wadia claims this is the best way to do it... I was skeptical... but nowadays...I think they might be onto something and I should try it..Also it allows you to digitize analog material and archive it.
(logically speaking if the Wadia A/D converter is better than what most studios use to make CD's you should end up with something really good... your only drawback is you are not using a wide high speed master tape and skillfully riding the gain and compressing and selecting eq curves like some great mastering professional.... but you are at least working from a decent vinyl copy that is not a 6th generation copy. Hopefully the Wadia A/D converter is so good and voiced for working with the Wadia algorithum.... that the end result is something close to or perhaps even better than what the studios can produce using a studio full of RF and induced EMF and a ridiculous patch bay with some old harsh sounding A/D converter.)
..After all....for digital..I find this sound from my player as involving as analog with the noise, and subsequent loss of quality after each play...as well as not having to worry with generation copy of the vinyl mother master you have for each vinyl record. So in this regard...most of the digital CDs will sound better than all but a few of earliest of analog masters for a particular vinyl album. for instance.... I have a copy of the first Emerson Lake and Palmer Album... there is a track "Take a Pebble" which is really well recorded... fantastic in fact as well as "Tank" on the flip side... and "Lucky man". The record I had was full of noise so I bought another pressing- a much later generation vinyl copy... and it lost the bottom two octaves and all of the 3d presence..
I bet if I buy the ELP CD and play it through my Wadia it will be much better than these later Analog pressings...as it was likely sourced from the master tape which is the earliest generation possible. I'm sure if you own a Rockport or other ULTIMATE turntable and some mega kilobuck phono cartridge and phono pre-amp and super expensive pre-amp you can better the Wadia 860x SE with Great Northern Sound statement level Upgrade but only on those early generation vinyl pressings..and you would be about $20-80 thousand poorer. For that money- you could buy several killer speakers and design a proper listening room of correct dimensions... yes you would hear the imperfections of digital "more clearly" but also the good things about the digital signal (properly D/A' d by Wadia) as well.
If the 860 and 861 Wadia's did not exist... I would still be spinning vinyl. That doesn't mean they are the best "CD players/DAC/digital pre-amps"..... they are just the best that I have heard... and I have heard only about 7 or 8 + $15,000.00 digital front ends. So I am in this realm...no industry expert.... but I am extremely happy with what I have to say that my quest for better digital sound has offically for me- ended for 16 bit 44.1kHz red book (The Wadia does upsample).
preamp vs no pre-amp:
With the Wadia.... You essentially remove the preamp from your system and go straight into the amp- like we did at the meet. The Wadia 860 is a very functional DAC so you can feed it digital sources.. The unit for sale is not a 860 with the 860x modification by Wadia.... so it takes 16 bit 44.1 rates and I think 16 bit 48kHz rates- with the "x" mod (you may send it to Wadia or what I would advise is to send it to Great Northern Sound and tell Steve Huntley I sent you so he knows what to do. He worked for Wadia when the Wadia 860 was conceived and also for Audio Research he knows exactly how to voice these units and likely....even better than Wadia which now has new staff that voices them differently now.
The core Magic of Wadia is INHO the wadia digimaster algorithm... which is proprietary....and needs really great jitter reduction to make the magic happen.... having an all in one CD player is part of this equation... Huntley believes the transport is part of the process, and according to Huntley, feeding the DAC from separate digital sources as opposed to the internal transport is not as good as reading the disc. Aa far as I hear.... even running it from an external digital source..STILL provides better sound quality than any other DAC and transport I have heard....and even more so- with the GREAT NORTHERN SOUND STATEMENT LEVEL UPGRADE. and well according to Huntley- playing direct from Disc should be better still.... I just have not had enough time with the unit and my speakers as it is new to me as an upgrade to hear this and I would guess my Ultrasone Edition 9's with APS V3 and Millet TTVJ tube portable are no where near as resolving as the Stax omegas with the Blue Hawaiian. Though..hmmmm..I think I'll have a listen to check it out and see what it sounds like.
BTW let me know if you are bidding on it ...so I don't lol.
I have that ELP album, an '80s pressing that I dug out for the first time in quite a while, and your evaluation is spot on! Early '80s pressing, no dynamics and no bottom end at all. Generational degradation for sure, but the vinyl used back then for mass-market LPs pressed in the states was of extremely low purity as well.
I have been stalking your meet from afar because I used to live in LA myself (my sister actually lives in Venice) and I wish I could have joined you guys, it sounds like it went really well. Congrats on a great meet!