March 31, 2010

10 Qs For James Shannon, VP International Sales Wadia.

James Shannon, VP International Sales Wadia.

It's been an exciting Wadia sponsored month here on HiFi-Unlimited. The final qualifying entry to the Wadia write in competition has been chosen and awaiting results, for the grand prize of a Wadia 170iTransport, courtesy of CMY Audio & Visual.

In the mean time, I took the opportunity to find out more about the company, the people and the future of digital from James Shannon, when we met at the Wadia listening date some 2 weeks ago. Here are my 10 questions to James:

1) Big E: The name Wadia, what's the story behind the name?

James: Wadia is the family name of the company's founder, who originated from Syria.
The Wadia 9 series statement products, this 3 piece digital gear cost a cool, cool, RM$120k!

2) Big E: How did Wadia came about, as a company?

James: Wadia was formed by a group of researchers who formerly worked in the 3M Corporation. Their love for music and hi fidelity(that in the early days of CDs), made them feel like they could do something about the digital sound they heard. They thought they could make digital sound better.

3) Big E: What's Wadia's reference to digital music reproduction?

James: Our reference is simple, our products must reproduce music in the highest levels of fidelity possible, yet still sound like music and must involve the listener on an emotional level. We also look in to the feel good factor, and pride of ownership too. After all, we'd only produce a product that I, myself would wanna buy with my hard earned cash.

4) Big E: The Wadia 381 CD player is one of the best sounding I've heard in recent times, how is that level of performance achieved?

James: The Wadia 381 is a lower cost version of our Wadia 581SE. The 381 shares many of the core technology, circuit layout and parts as the more expensive player. The level of performance is very close between the 2 players, hence the Wadia 381i is a great value for money performer, you must trust me when I say our margins are very thin with the 381 CD player. However we felt that level of pricing would allow more people to be able to afford the Wadia level of sound performance.
A close up of the Wadia 381i DAC and analog output board. I spotted 4 pcs of PCM1704K DAC chips, made by Burr Brown. These DAC chips are still considered to be the best available today!

The production date stamp!

At this point James proceeds to open up a unit of the Wadia 381i to show us it's internal bits!

5) Big E: Is Wadia looking to introduce memory players? Like those from Bladelius or Nova Physics?

James: Oh...! You mean players with built in flash memory cards?(yes!) Ah.... I personally feel digital formats are still evolving and players with built in flash memory cards are just one of the current solution. Until the digital music download format issue settles down, we'd think of something. In the meantime, everyone now stores music in their hard disk. Some have just started, but I know many people have stored thousands of albums and singles on their hard disk. What they probably need now is kind of like a digital librarian to archive one's music in an easy to use interface.

6) Big E: Do you download your music?

James: I am one those people with thousands of albums and tunes stored in my hard disk. In fact I have a few hard disk drives full of music! Therefore, when I mentioned about the digital music librarian, I am really attending to my own problems and I think there's plenty of people out there with the same problem.
The dual power supply transformers and the CD transport, co developed by Wadia and Stream Unlimited.

7) Big E: Is the Wadia 381i CD player using a TEAC sourced CD transport?

James: Interesting question! We have previously bought OEM transport packages from Philips, Pioneer and Teac. We had an exceptionally good working relationship with Teac, as their transports were some of the best designed and most reliable in the field. But for our latest generation of players, we've decided to work with Stream Unlimited. They are a Swiss company specializing in optics for data. They are staffed by mostly ex-Philips engineers and have a lot of experience in making an excellent CD transport. The best part is, we at Wadia get to work with them, and input our requirements in to the transport design from an early development stage, compared to previously, we could only buy what was an OEM transport package! I am extreme pleased with the result of our partnership with Stream Unlimited and the transport you now see inside this CD player.
A proud James proclaiming the best Wadia transport ever made!

8) Big E: Can I make a suggestion on your next transport and tray re-design? I've being using a review sample of the Wadia 381 CD player for past few weeks and have found that, the CD shaped imprint on transport tray design does not leave much room for some warped or improperly placed CDs on to the tray. As a result, the CD becomes scratched on the playing surface, especially when the tray gets jammed as it closes and the CD is caught in between the tray and the from panel slot.

James: Thank you for that suggestion, why have we never taught of that? But that's an easy problem to fix and we'll incorporate your excellent suggestion in our next transport/tray re-design. By the way, since we talking about the tray, I'd like to point out that the aluminum alloy tray is dampened with a vinyl like material on the under side. This reduces the resonance effect the tray would have on a spinning CD. Also note those Teflon coated guide rails? They make the transport opening/closing action very smooth. And lastly, stop leaving your CDs in the sun, would ya???(hello James, this is Malaysia, you know? It's hot and sunny everyday!)

9) Big E: Do you think today's iPod generation will get to be tomorrow's hifi buyers?

James: The Apple iPod totally transformed the way today's music is sold and consumed. The market for iPod owners is huge! With products like the Wadia 170iTransport and 151 PowerDAC, we hope to open the eyes and ears of this new generation of music lovers, of what is possible with the sound quality from their iPod. If only we could convert 25% of today's iPod users in to tomorrow's high end customers, can you imagine the market size then for high end?

10) Big E: The Wadia website seems pretty basic on product information, is it a strategy to get people to go to the dealers?

James: You know, buying a piece of audio equipment is just like buying a car. You wanna touch it, feel it and most important of all, hear it(in the case of the car, test drive it) before you buy. The best way to buy hifi is still to do it at the dealers. You're right, that's our intention.

That's all the time I had with James. Do stay tuned for the winner announcement of our Wadia write in competition.

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