Wadia Transport WT3200
January 2008  

Man oh man, I am running in circles. Marantz, philips, philips, marantz - even Naim and Creek and Cambridge - all is a Philips/Marantz.
I need fresh air !
I need inspiration.
I want a macho USA machine. No more crap !!!
I want the king of all CD players, the ultimate, the heavy, the expensive, the legendary, the cool, the ruthless, the mean.

(well, I shouldn't have sold my own 850 back 5 years ago in the first place.)

So when the opportunity arrived - I could not resist.  Miss America is asking me for a date.
Open kimono time! what is in the Wadia?!

Some company background: Wadia is a USA company, well known for 2 decades as a maker who stops at nothing to build the WORLD'S BEST CD. At least they try. The price tag is for wealthy snobs - from 6 to 25 K. This could build 25 wells in Sahara but anyway, we are not about demagogy/politics here, we want the truth about Audio, don't we?
The message of Wadia is I AM SOLID. So the company invested huge money in so called CRC aluminium tooling, and as the first company ever started making housings which looked sort of like routed from a solid cube of metal. And the fit tolerances were such that even a virus wouldn't go through the casing joints. These players are IP67 in engineering terms ;-) if you know what I mean.
The Wadia makes a HUGE impression on the first time "looker". My specimen here is a very old one, but starting from W16 - things got PRETTY SERIOUS !
I am kidding you not - if you are a metal fetishist like myself - Wadia has no equal.
To fill this expensive housing and to justify the price ticket - they had to DIFFER. They could not use off the shelve components, that was impossible. The marketing drive of Wadia is very strong. Their product had to be FROM ANOTHER PLANET.
So they wrote some proprietary software and programmed their digital filter to be unique. (need I mention how much was written about this in their white papers and hi-fi press???)
On the ground of this they called the whole thing a computer. Kind of overstatement, but it sold.
Concerning transports - they tried to use the best, and used all kinds of TEAC VRDS (which is a Sony) from plastic ones to metal cast ones, and also some pioneer stable platters.
Wadia's hallmark was an XLR (mandatory) and also "digital volume control" that was supposed not to degrade sound (bullshit, I had one Wadia and I know it DOES degrade quality quite dramatically, at least more than a decent pot.)
At that time - Wadia had only one serious competitor in the domain of super-CD players - THETA also from USA. But Theta chose a different route: instead of investing 90 % resources in casing, they built custom modified Laserdisk machines. The mechanics of those was absolutely from another league. But THETA is not yet  examined by my good self.

This is a dedicated transport machine, and I decided with its owner that we will make a fully integrated CD player out of it. We will fit the DAC inside.
But first - I had to sniff around a little..............

Holy shit as they would probably say in Wadia's homeland. This player is a ... Philips 960 transport ! This is a Japanese Marantz!! Or I am on drugs ! Same CDM1 mk1 transport, Marantz display (cd94mk1) and the standard PCB.
I need to wake up. This is not happening.

Under the magnifying glass, there is NOTHING AT ALL that deviates from the Marantz. Not one smallest cap or resistor. No blackgates, no proprietary soft, it is a Marantz.
Not look alike.
Not similar,
Not "based on Marantz"
It IS A MARANTZ. Period.
(well, minus 90 % of the buttons and functions.)
It reacts of course to Philips standard remote, so no proprietary servo here as well. Not even a superclock.
Does it mean that it is bad - no, on the contrary, it is a hell of a transport. But just fitting the alu face plate does not justify the 5x price difference. They could have done better.

This is an after market upgrade with AT&T optical transmitter, a 1500 USD gimmick if memory serves me.
But with gasoline for 89 c a gallon - they could afford these gizmos back in the 91  ........

Look - even the writing says JAPAN, not USA.

I admit I like the amber filtered display a lot more than the UUUgly greenish one from Marantz.

Good screening with copper galvanized steel cages.


Comparison against my best transport at hand - SONY 190A assembly inside Sony CD555ESD player (after my ken x9010 died it lost the title of worlds best transport).

The DAC at hand was a Lampucera 1,0 with heavy tuning.

10 switching between the two and they seem identical. The SONY has a much nicer mechanism, the drawer, the opening movement, the display - all is a whole class better "feeling".
But sound is similar.
Finally, I identified that the deepest bass has better definition on Wadia, and is overblown and a liiiittle bit uncontrolled on Sony.
I had very slight subjective overall preference for Wadia's magic soundscape and hair rising factor. Very small difference but I tell you as it was.
The difference is of similar nature and magnitude as changing digital cables. Very small that is.

Overall, this is one of the best transports in existence, probably the VRDS machines do not sound better, and even if they do - the VRDS/Sony parts are impossible to find as spares. This WT3200 is easy to repair and it should work forever. Of course - they need a belt service every 10 years or so, as every CDM1 transport. The Marantz 95 which it really is - is cheaper and better looking, but it will not be a Wadia. So your snobbish part will want Wadia anyway. Considering all pros and cons - it is a winner. Just be careful - how much you will pay. If you already have it - keep it !

Lampization story to be continued .....