Gestalt. Gevalt. With benchers gestalt raises alarms. How to measure it? Hence Yiddish 'gevalt' from the German 'Gewalt' for violence. But it also means force, power or control. And Wandla's gestalt controlled the sound no matter the settings. It's easiest explained against their past OEM. Mytek should agree that their DACs emulate a recording-studio monitor speaker. Benchmark Media follow the same path. Wandla does not. Primary tell is platter position. Envision a table ordering dim sum. The waiter will populate a large rotating platter with many small dishes to share. No matter your seat, you can get at all of them. Before the platter turns, some are simply closer. Ditto hifi gestalt. All sonic aspects present on one platter to be noticed. Until we rotate them with our attention, some simply face us first, others sit farther away or partly obscure. Whenever our attention lets go, the platter returns to its default position. That's gestalt. It's about how certain aspects ping our awareness first. They take priority. Paying more attention quickly accounts for all the others. It's why there are few 'bad' reviews. One could justifiable condemn a product only if the kitchen skipped certain performance attributes altogether; or over/undercooked some. If the waiter merely placed them farther away, that's back at gestalt so matter of taste.
Wandla's positional tell was elegance of texture and tone. That's it. All the other stuff which populates hifi commentary lived on the same plate. Particularly with a DAC where half its circuit can't be listened to—we can't hear digital, period—that goes without saying. Premium measurements and related specs are expected. But they can already be had with a cheap very cheerful Topping. When textural elegance appears not as a coarse function of THD or other obvious deviations like contoured or limited bandwidth, more is afoot. Attaining this quality is what keeps ambitious audiophiles awake at night. What hardware mix guarantees it? What seasoning tweaks with cables, cones and assorted voodoo might polish it further?
My own hifi journey explored and eventually gave up tubes. I only kept an original Vinnie Rossi L2 Signature pre. As a grounded-grid circuit, its one direct-heated triode per side couples direct sans capacitors or transformers. That gives solid-state level bandwidth. Here my favorite bottle is Thomas Mayer's Elrog ER50. Its aroma is more subtle and lucid than any 300B I tried. Yet compared to a Pál Nagy icOn autoformer volume control I still pay for it in speed, immediacy and resolution. As we'll see downstairs, Wandla's take on the subject extracts a similar toll. Still, securing its own version of 'aromatic' tone textures with age-invariant transistors, IC and FPGA code not 20th-century vintage tech is a special achievement. Against my transistor focus, it's implicit that these textures don't lay on overly thick unless we really go on the sauce with max Hypsos voltage. Living inside a gap where a listener more obsessed with clarity, speed, energy and charge than Gemütlichkeit can accept the wins without complaining about the quid pro quo is a neat trick. It's where less becomes more yet isn't nothing but a decisive something.
That's sophisticated. It takes many years of experience/expense to organize our own musical platter so nothing misses, everything organizes orderly and our favorite items place front and center. Wandla's nip 'n' tuck remains manageable with one component. No change is irreversible. None of it costs extra. We get to zig and zag with first coarser steps then micro ones like digital filters even pre-upsampling in player software. Should our tastes or hardware change, we revisit settings. Yet Wandla's tell or signature should be its tone-texture sophistication. For validation I embedded the deck in other systems. First, one more pointer on tone textures. Think older BurrBrown chips as in my desktop COS H1 which Wandla bumped off. There were similarities though Ferrum's overall resolution was higher and on overall cos and effect next level. I also tried my vintage ESS-powered Auralic Vega. That was more euphonic than how I'd set Wandla. Vega turned my rotating platter so density and saturation came to the fore even more. Vega played a more-is-more game. On the above groove by Antonino Ramos 'Maca', Wandla trumped my competitors with the most vigorous guttural snarling bass.
Next it was upstairs to replace a Cen.Grand DSDAC 1.0 Deluxe which resamples all incoming PCM to 1'024 DSD.