Our Verdict 
A breathtaking CD/SACD player – with an equally breathtaking price tag. As authoritative and cohesive a sound as you will hear
For 
Brilliant bass performance
exceptional stereo imaging and focus
impressive timing
fine build and finish
Against 
Not the most intuitive machine around
hard to accommodate
Reviewed on

Wadia is a digital high-end specialist, and has long built some of the chunkiest and best-sounding disc players around. The 581i se maintains that tradition.

It's bigger and heavier than most power amps, weighing 25 kg and extending well beyond the shelves on our reference Audiophile base racks. Still, it's worth accommodating it because this is an astonishing player.

Wadia has long believed in bypassing the traditional analogue pre-amp. The 581i has digital volume control and variable gain adjustments to match the partnering power amplifier. Our sample came with the optional digital inputs, so the player can form the heart of a system.

Analogue sources have to be converted to digital – Wadia makes converters – and can then be fed into the player. Clever, but it's Wadia's own conversion system that makes the 581i different: it's one that concentrates on getting the timing of the music right, and that's exactly how the player sounds to us.

Delivers a sound of exceptional cohesionWhether it's Mozart or Michael Jackson, the 581i delivers a sound of exceptional cohesion. The timing relationship between instruments is maintained regardless of complexity, giving the Wadia a convincing presentation. Not only that, bass is solid and is rendered with breathtaking texture.

More after the break

Add terrific stereo imaging and the kind of sonic stability rivals barely hint at, and you have a brilliant integrated player.

Up against top class competition – such as our reference Naim two-boxer – you'll find a touch less fluidity in the midrange, but then again the Naim doesn't do what the Wadia does, either.

As for the 561i's cluttered display and imprecise remote, they are worth tolerating for the glorious sound. Value for money doesn't come into it: if you're lucky enough to contemplate spending this much on a disc player, the 581i se shouldn't be ignored