what are the Best Direct to amps Digital Players ?

Hi, I have had two tube digital players, one solid state in 14 months,I like the sound of alot of tube players, However, It always seems that tube players have problems!, These days, alot of solid state players out perform the tube players in every way!, Tube or solid state, what is the best sounding, most reliable, all cost points!, Digital that can be used direct to amplifiers?,, Thankyou!
Add ps audio perfect wave II to your list. I have a very good preamp and I think it sounds a touch better without.
I like the Wadia 270/27ix and the DCS Elgar with the matching transport and upsampler. When I was looking to buy one of the above setups, I put them both in the same room and ended up liking the Wadia a little better.
The Bricasti M1 has a remoter with volume control and definitely one to consider.

Sounds Real Audio is a Bricasti dealer. That however in no way affects his opinions.

I've used the Wadia 581se, 781i and now the S7i running directly to my amp.

check out Aesthetix Romulus with volume control. Tube unit, sounds analogue! Best I've heard.
I am on my third Wadia presently a 781 plus the Wadia has inputs for other front ends such as their fine iPod dock.
Hi, Good answers here so far, I read on a thread that wadia does not make digital players no longer?, just media players now?, Thankyou Gentleman!
"Sounds Real Audio is a Bricasti dealer. That however in no way affects his opinions."

Of course not.

It's a bit ironic that Sounds Real Audio recommends the Bricasti M1 DAC when you asked about a CD player with a volume control.

At the same time, they recommend that you not get a Wadia since they have discontinued CD players.

Wadia has always been known primarily known for their DACs and their digital volume control.

While it seems to be an unpopular move on Wadia's part, the fact that they see the market as turning more towards computer or server based instead of actual CD transports allows them to focus more on their DACs, just like Bricasti and many other companies.

I stand by my suggestion that the Wadia S7i is a top level CD Player.

I'm a big fan of Wadia products. I've been using them for years. To answer Audiolabryinth concern, this is the 2nd time Wadia went out of business. I know they still sell a few computer based, lower priced products, but they stoped making things. Wadia no longer makes any products in their own, US based factory. The products they now sell are all made for them overseas. To me, that's going out of business. Others may disagree.

I mentioned Wadia because even though their high end products are no longer made, I still feel that they are some of the best ever made. For something currently made and supported, you really can't go wrong with dcs. Even though I ultimately went with Wadia, I can understand why some like dcs better.
I always been a wadia fan my self!, never owned one, listen to many, always liked the sound!, How about the esoteric K-01?, The burr-brown 1792 dacs that are in that unit, I had in a cary cd-500, I cannot say if it was the dacs, but I quikly sold the unit!, that should say it all on the 1792 dacs or cary digital!, cheers!
07-01-13: Krell_man
While it seems to be an unpopular move on Wadia's part, the fact that they see the market as turning more towards computer or server based instead of actual CD transports allows them to focus more on their DACs...

Wadia has also disconnected all production of DAC's, except the Chinese made 121 model.
What are the used market value for the wadia players?, how much do they sell for if I would like to buy one?, thankyou Gentleman!
Hi, Did Wadia go completly out of business?, Their site has been taken down!,, where would someone get a player fixed if a issue happened?, cheers!

While I don't question what you said, I do have to wonder what's going on then.

The Italian company that bought them also owns Sonus Faber and Audio Research. Why would they buy Wadia and then shut it down? It seems like someone just flushing money down the toilet.

When I was at Wadia in Michigan before they moved to Minnesota, John told me that they got one of the primary designers back and were planning to delve much deeper into the DACs.

Wadia was acquired because of the brand, and not because of the products they produced.
Yes certainly, but not with products we associate with Wadia in design and function, and therefore addressed to a completely new customer segment.
"07-02-13: Krell_man

While I don't question what you said, I do have to wonder what's going on then.

The Italian company that bought them also owns Sonus Faber and Audio Research. Why would they buy Wadia and then shut it down? It seems like someone just flushing money down the toilet.

When I was at Wadia in Michigan before they moved to Minnesota, John told me that they got one of the primary designers back and were planning to delve much deeper into the DACs.

Krell_man (System | Reviews | Threads | Answers | This Thread)

07-03-13: Chris10an
Wadia was acquired because of the brand, and not because of the products they produced.
Chris10an (Threads | Answers | This Thread)"

Your guess is as good as mine, but there are quite a few reasons why another audio company would buy Wadia. Here's a few that I can think of.

1. To get the Wadia name.

2. To have access to the network of existing Wadia dealers.

3. To get the rights to Wadia designs. If you wanted to get into making digital sources, owing Wadia's designs would probably give you a head start.

4. Eliminate Wadia as a competitor in the marketplace.

5. Wadia may have a stock pile of valuable parts. High end Teac and Pioneer stable platter transports, Dac chips, etc.

6. Possibly rebuild the Wadia name and line of products with fresh resources.

7. Maybe there was no real reason other than Wadia was just too cheap to pass up. A gamble.

8. It could have been a mistake. Maybe Wadia 3 will be just as successful as Wadia 1 and 2.

9. To keep someone else from buying it.

10. I like nice, round numbers and didn't want to leave it a 9. If I can think if a number 10, I'll edit my post.

Wadia is now a part of the Italian company along with Audio Research and were in the process of moving there last September. If you call Audio Research, I'm sure that they can help. I hope that Wadia isn't unable to service their components.


I don't have enough confidence in Wadia for any type long term service. Who knows if they can even fix one of their higher end units right now if there was an issue. One of the original people from Wadia founded another company called Great Northern (I'm pretty sure of the name. If not that, then something close.), but I think they went out as well. They used to service Wadia.

You may want to check out the TotalDac D1-Dual, they also offer a single DAC version and a tubed version.

There are 1 or 2 reviews of it at 6moons and there has been some nice talk about it over at whatsbestforum as well as some limited talk here.

I haven't personally heard it myself, but the comparisons to the MSB Diamond DAC had me intrigued.

@ Richlane, Thankyou, I was hoping there would be more choices out there!, It would be nice to have a flood of choices with what i am asking, that way, I can spend weeks auditioning them all, and have a good choice instead of a choice between a coople of players and regret it later!, thankyou!
@ Zd542, Hi, I feel the same as you do, and I agree with all that you said in your last post!, I like Wadias sound, I do not want to be stuck with a product that can no longer be serviced!, thats a bummer!, thankyou Zd542.
Audiolabyrinth, I use Esoterick K-01 dirct to my krell 302e. Great sound. I tried ARC REF 5 and esoteric own
c-03 and preffered esoteric k-01 direct for its more intimate and more refined (purer) sound. The key is amplifier input impendance needs to be at least above 50K for this type of conection (CDP/DAC direct to amp) to work with good results. Of caurse if one want to add some tonal color to the sound, the good tubed pre-amplifier will do.
I had Waida S7i two years ago, no match to esoteric k-01, unlesss highly modified, and esoteric is build much better.
@ Denon1, Hi, I have a krell 700cx that is at Krell right now being totally renewed, inside and out!, its only 8 years old!, Ray Mulchler, the service manager there said that my amp will perform better than before!, they are putting better than the original caps in side of it, and be prepaired to do 500 hours of break-in or a little more!, Its costing me $3,157.38 to do all this!, I have an Ayon 2s now that runs direct to amp that I am not very fond of!, The entire sound of that player sounds good, as far as treble, and resolution!, I do not like the little forward sound that it does at all!, thats part of the reason of this thread!, this is my 3rd player since april 2012!, my Krell 700cx has 100kohm!, likly the same as your Krell!, I just bought a Taralabs cobalt power cord with the up-graded oyaide plugs to use on the ayon or whatever else, I will not be up and running till my amp comes back from Krell, so what do you think here?,, cheers!
@ Denon1, Didn't you own a Ayon player before?,, can you describe the sound of thr K-01?, does the k-03 have volume control?, cheers!
Hi Audiolabyrinth,
Yes I did own ayon 5s with upgraded tubes and did run it direct to krell. The overall sound threw huge soundstage but has been missing some focus and refinement and also had some noise because of its high gain on the output.
I hate to say it, but ayon 2s not on par with ayon cd 5s and not even close to esoteric k-01 and K-03. You are for sure missing what your krell can do. The reason I sold ayon 5s is because of looking for the more long term front end solution and more universal player (ability to play SCAD and better DAC) which esoteric K-01 and K-03 is perfectly represent.
Yes K-03 has volume control.
I love what esoteric K-01 can extract from cd/scad and its overall sound that after 700 hours of burning became liquid but so resolving with no digital artifacts. Plus its USB input and its DAC and volume control make it truly outstanding device. I would say the same about K-03 just in a little smaller scale.
The key here is the volume control technology. There are only three that compete with the very best preamps:
1) DACs that control volume by adjusting the reference voltage
2) Transformer-based line-stages added to DACs, such as this one:

3) Line-out of a high-drive output DAC to amps directly and use digital volume control - least attractive and most dangerous.

All of these require that the output stage of the DAC be as good as the very best preamps on the market, including drive strength, output impedance and power delivery.

Steve N.
Empirical Audio
@ Denon1, Hi, Did the Ayon 5s have a bigger, better sound stage than the k-01?, Have you listened to the k-03?, I believe you have burr-brown 1792 dacs in the esoteric players, I owned the 1792 dacs in a cary player and thought they were analitical on the player, they did not sound natural, very lean in the bass,They had resolution,and refinement, unless esoteric found a way to use these 1792 dacs, they did not sound musical at all to me, alot of hi-fi fire works, but not realistic sounding compaired to live music!,, You are right about the Ayon 2s player, I had mine less than 90 days and it blew some tubes, infant tube failure, or something else all together!, It arrives at usa tubes today for repair!, I do not like usa tubes, poor service communications after the sale!, we basically cussed each other out!, I will never buy nothing from them again!,,The ayon 2s soundstage is small, and is not deep enough for me, and forward sounding without the tubes in the power supply to color the sound to have a bigger sound stage like the Ayon 5s player, I do like the treble of Ayon and the 1704 dacs, the best I have heard, extreamly detailed and smooth and refined, the mid range I hate, and the player sounds lean compaired to other players I have owned, Alot of money for the Ayon 2s to sound like this!, In the old days you got alot better sound for a whole lot less money!, The Ayon players are beutiful units, some of the best chasiss I have seen with Digital!, LOL!, I do not want a looker in my room, its all about the sound for me!, How would you copaire the 5s to the k-01?, I know its more refined and more resolving,How would you compaire the sound stages?,, Denon1, I allready have extreme resolving power and focus on my system,My cables do miracles!, I own the Taralabs The Zero Gold I/Cs and Taralabs cobalt power cord, Taralabs omega gold speaker cables!, the cables cost so much, I do not want to buy more I/Cs!, LOL!, Thats one of the reasons I run direct to amps!, I agree with you whole heartly!, I do need alot better digital player for my cables and my amp!, Denon1,, I have only been tring to build this system since april 2012!, the Ayon 2s that I still own is my 3rd player!, I will sell my ayon and try to get into a musical top notch digital direct to amp player, thus this thread,I love the sound of some tubes, they just seem like they have way to many problems!, I have listened to years ago solid state digital players that put tube players to shame in every aspect of the sound comeing out of speakers!,The sad thing here is I have to make long road trips to audition players, BTW, I have not done!, after going thru this many players, LOL!, Its high time I audition before I buy!,, your Krell is 100kohms?,, I enjoy talking to you, by having or had similar equipment this helps!,, cheers!
First of all esoteric k-01 as well as K-03 uses katest AKM 4399 32 bit DACs - more advanced than burr-brown 1792 . K-01 uses 8 dacs per side and K-03 4 dacs per side. Comparing K-01 with ayon cd5s, I heard taller and deeper sounstage from K-01 with better imaging, and of caurse details. I understand that you using cables to get focus and resilution, but if source cant extract more details in the first place - no cables will resolve this issue down the chain. Both K-01 and K-03 when propelry burned are better sounding players (to me and in my system) than ayon cd 5s and your ayon cd 2s way below all of them. Your cables and amplifier on a higher level than your source. Please dont underestimate the importance of the great source.
@ Denon1, This is why I started this thread!, To get a better source!, I apoligize for the dac mistake I thought was in the k-01,k-03,,, Your description of the sound stage has my attention!, One thing I can disagree with you on is the cables, years ago I took a $300.00 yamaha cd-player with tara the one model cables and extreamly imbarresed a spectral digital unit that was thousands of dollars, I am sorry, I agree that the source is very, very important, no where near as important as cables by a long shot!, The spectral digital had mit top tier cables on it to boot, thousands of dollars more!, I have done these test many times to bewilder people for kicks and grins!,, eany way, lets get to source talking, First, I was hopeing you could answer all my questions I had in my last post?,, I appreciate your help, I want to go and audition a k-03 now!,, Have you listened to a k-03?,,this is important!,thankyou Denon1.
yes I did, and to me it is about 80-90% of K-01,
I think K-03 is currently represent a sweet spot in esoteric line. You will happy with it and yes the digital volume control on K-03 has the same implementation as on K-01, it is just driven by a lesser number of DACs (4 on each side instead of 8) but still will provide with great sound using your krell. If you get to audition K-03 make sure that the filter and upsampling combo well burn as well as the digital volume control option (ATTN on) with at least 400-500 hours.
@ denon1, Thankyou for the info, I have to admit thou, your k-01 is very appealing to me!, $20,000 is alot of money!, Denon1, In your opinion, do you feel the k-03 is better than the Ayon 5s?, they both are in the same ball park at the price point,That is suppriseing that you said the k-03 is 80-90% of the k-01!, Alot of people have said to me that the k-03 is not in the same league as the k-01!, I trust your opinion on the 80 -90% LOL!, because you have good tast in amplification, Krell!,, How long have you had your k-01 to get the 700 to 750 hours you have?,, BTW, who makes the dacs for esoteric k-01, k-03?,, Thankyou Denon1, I am happy to learn all this from you!, cheers to you!
@ Denon1, I just read a old forum where you owned the k-03!, now you have the k-01, If eanybody would know the % difference in sound, that would be you!, LOL!, you lived with both players, to me, thats way better than just mere listening to the players!,Congrats on your k-01!, Man, you got me really interested in the K-03 player, I have seen some here on the used market, with-in my range to get sooner than later versus a new player!, cheers!
Hi everyone, I Thank everybody here, I am still looking for more answers, look forward to your post, Happy listening.
Most of the posts I have browsed through indicate the K-01 is a 10%-20% improvement over the K-03. If that is true then I can say with relative confidence that picking up a K-03 w/ BelCanto's RefLink USB Converter ($1,500) gets you very close to the performance of the K-01. That is if you plan to use the K-03 for Computer Audio playback. I conducted an A/B comparison using the RefLink and without (Using the Audioquest Carbon USB's). There is a noticeable difference in soundstaging, transients, and dynamic range when using the RefLink vs running straight from the headless Mac Mini to the Async USB input on the K-03. It simply removed additional digital artifact then without. In fact, I would recommend getting a high quality USB converter for anyone who has a K-03 or K-01. Finding a local dealer that can provide a demo unit would be a sound choice to determine if you experience the additional improvement I have experienced.
@ Edorr, Hi, I hope I am not a burden, I would like to ask, Have you listened to this player, can you describe some of the sound attributes that are good and bad?, thankyou.
Audiolabyrinth, I was in line to audition the Aesthetix Pandora in house, but got an EMM Labs DAC2X instead. I have since moved on to MSB Signature IV plus, and Arc Ref 5SE preamp. However, if you're interested I can hook you up with a dealer who might get you a Pandora for in house audition.
@ Gocubs999, Hi, That was information I will defiantly use!, Thats real good to know, Thankyou.
@ Edorr, thankyou, That will not be necessary, I am taking all this in, and then go and audition the players at a store where ever they are sold at, there is no dealers for top high-end here where I live, cheers.