The Audio Geek!

Wadia Intuition 01 Demo @ Tivoli Hi-Fi

Over the last few months I have had very positive interactions with the fine team at Tivoli Hi-Fi in suburban Camberwell. I recently bought my Wadia 151 PowerDac Mini from them and attended a hi-fi forum event hosted at their premises. I have been totally impressed with their passion for fine sound and their unbridled enthusiasm to share it. Somewhere during this process, they manage to sell stuff. Like successfully for the last 40 odd years. More power to them.

For me, this relationship paid off in spades last week when senior audio guru James contacted me to let me know that Tivoli had the ONLY Wadia Intuition 01 DAC/Pre/Power box in Australia for demo for a week or so. James kindly arranged a time that was most suitable to me and today I went along for a listen to it. And more...

For those that don't know me, some information in the spirit of full disclosure is appropriate. I own three Wadia products, am known as 'wadiaman' on a few hi-fi forums and enjoy the build quality, sonics and long-term value that Wadia products afford their owners. So read this post with that information in the back (or front) of your mind. I have paid advertised prices for all my Wadia products and derive no commercial benefits from any relationships with Australian audio retailers or distributors.

So onto to the Intuition review. For more specific product details, please check out the Wadia Intuition 01 site here. But all you really need to know is that is a relatively high powered (350 watts at 4 ohm / 190w at 8 ohm) Class D+ (no real idea what the + means) power amplifier, seven digital and 2 analog inputs pre-amplifier and a full function Wadia proprietary DigiMaster 384kHz/32bit capable DAC. So all you then need is a new-ish computer, media software and music files and you are away. So I brought along the trusty MacBook Pro (Retina) running OSX Mavericks (10.9) and the Fidelia audio player (V1.3.0b3) with access to a range of FLAC and ALAC files of various resolutions.

My pictures don't do the Intuition justice at all. The curves of the 'chassis', the smoothness of the aluminium finish and it's compactness for such a full featured unit is quite a revelation. Designed and built in Italy, the Euro style certainly shows. A box it isn't...

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MacBook Pro & Wadia Intuition 01 - 2013

James kindly commandeered Studio 1 (the big rig room) for the afternoon.

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The Big Room - AR, PS Audio, Wadia Intuition 01, MBP and Wilson Audio Sasha - 2013

He slipped the Wadia onto a spare shelf and had it running for a day or so before I arrived. I placed the MBP onto the top shelf, added my Kimber USB cable, selected the Wadia as the output device and queued Track 1, Stevie Ray Vaughan / Albert Collins 'Pride & Joy', (HDTracks 96/24), from the 'In Session' album. Cool blues filled the room, although the sound was a little thicker and the guitars grungier than I remember. The next track, Pete Alderton playing 'Walking Blues' (Linn Downloads 44/24) was acoustically lighter and sounded much better. Great! But perhaps my old Kimber cable wasn't up to it. So James inserted a similarly priced Transparent Audio USB cable into the system and we tried again. If you don't believe cables make a difference, look away now.... Ooh, that was clearly worse. My cable had been used for 18 months or more and was fully broken in (again, if you believe that sort of stuff) and the Transparent was quite new, but there clearly was a tangible difference in the Kimbers favour and we stayed with that throughout the rest of the day.

As good as the sound was, James thought another speaker combo (and room change) would be worth trying. I amused myself with some Diana Krall and Shelby Lynne while the new speakers were configured. And mighty fine they sounded through the Sashas.

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The curvaceous B&W 802 (left), and either the ghost of Tivoli past or JF in full flight (right)

So we moved to Studio 2 where a pair of B&W 802 were now expertly set up and waiting. Similar tracks were played and frankly there was no real magic. Slightly recessed vocals, some reduced dynamics and an overall dryness to the experience had the B&Ws sounding very hi-fi-ish and exiting stage left after a few demo tracks. I have heard these speakers previously through a stack of Electrocompaniet gear and they sounded absolutely superb. Either a lack of synergy or more setup / configuration time required for this combination to show it's best.

Enter a pair of Wilson Audio Sophia 3s.

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Awesome looking and sounding Wilson Sophia 3 - 2013

Looking absolutely gorgeous in Desert Silver, it would be interesting to see how they sounded compared to the Sashas albeit in a different room. A question for later, but much, much better than the B&Ws in the current room was the initial answer. Immediately the music was more forward and layered, the mid-range glorious, especially on Phil Manning 'Two Roads' (ALAC 44/16), one of my go to demo tracks for male vocals and acoustic guitar. Another jazz favourite, 'Ode to Billy Joe' (ALAC 44/16) by Patricia Barber is another track that I have heard a hundred times on the Wadia and Zus at home. The 'new' Wadia and Wilson combo did it proud. Textured finger snaps, warm bass line and vocals really drew the listener in. OK, time to stop messing around with this low key stuff, so on went Yello and 'Rubberband Man' (ALAC 44/16). Most spectacular! Not only was the energy through the roof, but the Intuition dragged out some details and phrases from this track that I hadn't heard before. The native 384/32 USB upsampling maybe? For whatever reason it was simply stunning. Just for confirmation, we revisited Pete Alderton and the sound I thought was even better than the Sashas, albeit subjectively, after a 45 minute gap. The only thing holding the combo back was a slight (and I mean r-e-a-l-l-y slight) 'slowness' to the presentation compared to my whip-crack Zus and the fact that the Sophias are not the last word in bass impact (tone is fine). But I am really splitting hairs here.

But of course James had a plan to fix the speed and bass issues! Wheel those Wilsons away and lets try some Martin Logan Summit Xs.

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The Martin Logan Summit X now in place - 2013

By this point, I have to say that I was getting weary watching James move huge speakers in and out of the room...

On a perfect day, my system sounds pretty darn good. And in two minutes James made the MLs and the Wadia sound better than my systems 'golden' moments.... Through these large panels and active bass boxes, I immediately heard the same (or larger) image size, the same (or faster) speed & snap with an added level of refinement. I could almost have been sitting in my own home, rather the uber-comfy sofa of a primo audio dealer. Of course that is a bit of a problem. Was it better? Absolutely yes, but was it different enough? Probably no, not really.

So the best pairing on the day is..... the Sophia 3 / Intuition 01 combo. It was fabulously engaging, detailed, balanced and to my ears, different enough to consider an investment.

While there were no real losers in this test, there was one standout performer, the Wadia Intuition 01. If you can get a listen, I am pretty sure that you will then understand why. If you have ever thought that digital plus Class D was dry, strident and un-engaging, this is THE product that will change your view.

Thanks again to Geoff and James for your hospitality, time and the outstanding opportunity to savour the delights of the Wadia Intuition 01!