The iTransport is a trick little device to get the best sound out of your Ipod. With boutique Line-out-docks getting as expensive as $200, you might as well upgrade to the Wadia iTransport. Of course, the Wadia dock is not exactly portable as it requires AC power.
As boutique as your line out dock can be, the sound you’re getting is limited by the digital-to-analog (DAC) processor inside the iPod. And truthfully, the DAC inside your Ipod is nothing stellar, compared to high end set ups with dedicated DAC boxes that costs thousands of dollars. The Wadia iTransport works to obtain the digital data from your iPod, thus eliminating the lousy iPod DAC from the equation. In such configuration, the iPod only serves as a data storage device for your music files and nothing more. Thus you can still have a high end DAC generating the audio signal, with the iPod conveniently holding thousands of CDs in its hard disk.
In addition of making a great transport out of your iPod, the Wadia iTransport also feed analog signals, utilizing the iPod’s internal DAC. Although using it in this mode is not recommended, as basically you’re just using a fancy looking, overpriced line-out-dock. Having this feature around does provide a convenience, should you have no external DAC to use. The iTransport is also able to send out video signal should you want to watch videos through the iPod. To make sure playback is uninterrupted by low battery level, the iTransport charges your iPod while in operational.
I tried a little test to see if the Wadia is as good as they say it is. Basically the purpose of the comparison is if the Ipod, using an external Grace M902 DAC through the Wadia, can match a $1600 CDP transport using the same Grace M902 DAC. The set up is as follow:
Wadia Set-up: iPod Classic 120GB, Wadia 170 iTransport, Stereovox HDXV Digital Coax, Grace M902 DAC, Grace M902 Amp, Sennheiser HD800
CD Player Set-up: CEC TL51XZ, Stereovox HDXV Digital Coax, Grace M902 DAC, Grace M902 Amp, Sennheiser HD800
The CEC is playing a Deutsche Grammophon Digital Recording of Tchaikovsky’s Overtures, by the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and Daniel Barenboim. The iPod is playing .WAV files from the same CD, ripped with iTunes.
After much listening to Tchaikovsky’s Overtures, I can say that the Wadia iTransport matches the sound of the CEC TL51XZ CD transport almost perfectly. Though I hear the CD Player to be better, it’s slight and insignificant, and honestly, I think that may have been a placebo effect. But for all practical purposes, the Wadia iTransport really makes for a perfect Transport, with the convenience of having all your music in the iPod.
There are a lot of debates if having a better CD transport really have a merit in sound quality. After all, the CD transport only serves as a device to obtain the digital data, and the analog signal is generated by an external DAC. Yes, jitter can come out as distortion in the analog signal, but how audible is the distortion? In this comparison, we are comparing the highly rated CEC top loading, belt driven CD transport, versus an $200 iPod reading .WAV files. The result, as I mentioned above, was mostly identical.
.WAV files were used for the comparison, as it is the perfect copy of the files out of a CD. As quoted from the Wadia manual:
WAV files are full resolution files equal to the original master source.