Wadia 121 Decoding Computer

Wadia 121 Decoding Computer

Software installation, for use as a USB/DAC in a Win7 laptop was easy and straightforward as it usually is, with the XMOS chip driver. Overall, the 121 is easy to setup and use and the owner will have to resort to the manual only for certain operations, such as- for example - those related to the sensitivity adjustment of the headphones output and the choice of the maximum output level, that require a certain key sequence to activate. The manual is well written, but only included in electronic format on a USB stick, where the user will also find the driver and a link to the company web site. The rubber mounting points allow the user to set the 121 over any device (this should not be a tube amp with 4 KT120 per channel, though…) which will make things quite easy, even in a crowded rack.
The first impression one gets when listening to the 121 is that of a disciplined, neutral and precise device that gives to the listener a feeling of being seating at an average distance from the stage, allowing him to listen to all the details. The width of the soundstage is clearly defined without exaggerated “atmospheric” feeling or lack of focus.
With the 121 replacing the Teac Esoteric D70, the system (Teac Esoteric P70, Melos Plus Series Line, Parasound HCA3500 and ATC SCM50 PSL) retained its positioning accuracy of the audio objects in space, while the feeling of the air between them was, also, quite real. Some differences were identified mainly on the depth of the soundstage and the whole orchestra size sense with the Wadia being a bit more strict and tighter than I am used to. However, in any case, the listener becomes aware of many acoustics details and is offered a good description of the dynamic contrast and the feeling of the breath in large orchestras. All those features pick up great importance and contribute heavily to the overall impression, when listening to high resolution audio files. The 121 successfully transfers the atmosphere of such files often in a way that impresses the listener, essentially putting him inside the music piece, an experience that is both interesting and enjoyable.

Wadia 121 Decoding Computer
Wadia 121 Decoding Computer

Bass appears to be extended with good detail and with a sense of tighter than usual control. Given a recording of good quality, the listener enjoys an imposing scene with good articulation, a good feeling of scale and without low bass exaggeration. The 121 seems to perfectly describe rhythmic parts with the proper feeling of speed and very good balance between the rhythm section and the other parts of the composition.
Key feature of the device's mid range behavior is a sense of balance and the absence of any character that could cause undue fatigue to the listener. And, while the converter is quite accurate, in a way that there will be some indication for mixes without the proper tonal balance, it appears that there exists also a subtle character towards the soft and relaxing side. This means that you can still enjoy even those not so technically successful recordings you own, a behavior any audiophile would appreciate, especially those who are not opting for the absolute accuracy needed in the studio.
Wadia 121 proved to be very good in the high frequency region, giving a feeling of balance, and speed, with excellent attack and release timing. At the top of the range, one may note some thin-bodied character, as compared to the reference DAC, but in this price level this should not be considered as a problem. The DAC sounds harmonically rich as well as bright and refreshing. With this behavior as a fact, the converter is more than able to highlight the virtues of high resolution recordings, being able to create a vivid picture and get a sense of comfort and easiness in the listening room.
Finally, the headphone amp stands at a good quality level. Using a pair of Grado RS2 the result was quite detailed, with extended lows and adequately restful character, that is entirely satisfactory for anyone who wants to listen to for long periods of time.


Wadia 121 is more than just a decent proposal in the DAC/Headphone Amplifier market and -honestly-we did not expect something less from Wadia. With their proven expertise in the field of digital audio, the company has its special way to deal with audiophile demands. Truth to be told, in this price range, the 121 (Decoding Computer- do not forget …) is indeed meaningful and interesting.

Listening Sessions Recording

The following recordings were made with a DV-RA1000 Tascam master recorder (using 24bit/192kHz sample rate) and you can download them to have an impression of what the device under review sounded like. It is obvious that any recording of this kind could not be absolutely transparent but, according to our experience, the majority of sound attributes we listen to, during the actual listening sessions, are preserved. No need to say that you should use these samples cautiously and for informative purposes only. Do not rely on them exclusively to make any buying decisions. The file format is .wav, so expect that the zipped files will be quite large (even if the clips are about a minute or less long). You could use an ABX listening tool like the ABX plug-in for foobar2000 if you want to make some more elaborate experiments. Contact us if you have any questions.

Listening Sessions Recording TOC
File #01 Wadia 121 Decoding Computer/USB/foobar2000, 16bit/44.1kHz
File #02 Wadia 121 Decoding Computer/USB/foobar2000, 24bit/96kHz
File #03 Reference: dCS Puccini U-Clock/Teac Esoteric D70

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