Wadia 581ISE review

A breathtaking CD/SACD player – with an equally breathtaking price tag. As authoritative and cohesive a sound as you will hear Tested at £9995.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A breathtaking CD/SACD player – with an equally breathtaking price tag. As authoritative and cohesive a sound as you will hear


  • +

    Brilliant bass performance

  • +

    exceptional stereo imaging and focus

  • +

    impressive timing

  • +

    fine build and finish


  • -

    Not the most intuitive machine around

  • -

    hard to accommodate

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

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 cohesion
Whether 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.

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

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

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