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EMU 0404 and 0202 Compared

post #1 of 121
Thread Starter 
I finally got my hands on the EMU 0404. After backorders and delayed shipping and what not. This post is basically to compare the 0404 and 0202. I will be using the following:

Foobar w ASIO playing FLAC files
EMU 0202 and 0404
Canare IC's
Gilmore Lite
Dowin D12 recabled HD650's

First let me start off with pros and cons associated with features and build quality.

Advantages of 0202

Compact, and has a flat top, looks more elegant. Convinent for small racks. The GLite and 0202 are made for each other, with the Lite stacking neatly on top. Gives a much more elegant look compared to the ton of lights and knobs on the 0404.
Doesnt need a Dedicated Power Supply. This is quite an advantage if you are considering using with a laptop and you dont have to go around hunting for a power outlet.
Cheaper - Marginally, but its still cheaper.

Advantages of 0404
Better features for a serious recording artist. This is kinda obvious.
Digital I/O. This might be a big one for some, the 0202 completely lacks any digital connections whatsoever.
Dedicated output volume knob - This is kind of a meh point, but the 0202 doesnt have an output level controller at all.
Better rated DAC and built in amp - The DAC used by the 0404 is a higher end DAC compared to 0202, and the headphone amp has a little more juice.


Both of them have average build quality, all plastic gives a slightly cheap look, but the plastic looks durable. The knobs fell solid, but again, I don't know how much of a beating they can handle. Overall though, the 0202 is probably easier to maintain, since knobs on the top are always a risk IMHO, and they might get hit sideways, and I don't know how much they can take. The 0404 is also a bit bulky in comparison and has a clear plastic cover on the top surface which can be scratched very easily. Hit the end of you Interconnect on top by mistake and you are almost guaranteed to have a scratch.

Lets move on to the sound, most of my comparisons were between the 0202 and 0404 connected to the Gilmore Lite. I briefly compared the built in amps at the end.

The first thing I noticed with the 0404 is that everything sounded a bit forward in comparison to the 0202. There is better instrument seperation, better decay on the hits, clearly improved soundstage, and more air overall. But the 0202 is no slouch. Let me compare them song by song.

"Say Goodbye" - Dave Matthews Band
Since one of the first things I noticed was the soundstage, I had to listen to my favourite soundstage demo song, the intro to this song has drum hits all over the place, perfect for testing width, placement, decay, ambience, and overall timbre and tone of the hits. The 0404 really shined in this song. Each hit had better decay, more air, better seperation and came out crisp and clear. The 0202 was not far behind though, the improvements were subtle. The 0202 had more presence for each hit, more body, and the drums sounded a bit fuller. The details were lesser, soundstage definitely smaller, and the decay of each hit wasnt as long. Overall though I would give the win to 0404.

"Schism" and "46 and 2" by Tool
I like the way tool albums are mastered. They don't push anything too far into the mix, or bring anything too forward. This is where the battle got interesting though. Schism sounded almost the same on both 0202 and 0404 initially. But on closer inspection, the treble and mids detail were clearly better on the 0404, but for better or worse depending on what you like. While the detail was better, they were also brought forward more. This can end up being fatiguing on forward sounding cans like the Grado's IMHO. The 0202 has a warmer sound overall, soundstage not playing such a big role in these songs, finer details taking a back seat, overall sounding a bit more musical than analytical. There is a background effect right at the beginning of 46 and 2 which clearly showed how they present the music. While the 0202 put it in the background, the 0404 clearly brought it forward and gave the listener full detail on what the effect was and it was clearly audible. While this might appeal to detail freaks, and more so, mastering engineers and recording artists, for an average listener, I somehow felt the 0202 had a more musical and less fatiguing approach.
Tie, slight edge to 0202

"Heartattack in a Layby" by Porcupine Tree

After the previous test, I needed something to make me feel good about the 0404. This song did just that. The 0404 simply murders the 0202 in this song. There are tons of details in PT songs, soundstage is a key element, and resolution and ability to manage layers without merging them all together were just strengths of the 0404. Again, the 0202 doesnt sound bad, dont get me wrong, I have been extremely happy with it. For this particular song however, its a clear win for 0404.

"Lebanese Blonde" by Thievery Corporation
While this is not a song I listen to that often, I had a suspicion that proved right. The 0202 proved to be better for this song than the 0404. The 0404 just brought out details of the effects used too forward, that the drum loop ended up sounding too loud compared to the bass. The 0202 had a more warm sounding approach which proved better for this song. While the "padap pa paaa" at the beginning sounded better in the 0404 with tons of air around the vocals, the overall presentation was slightly more musical and favourable to the style of the song in the 0202. Win for 0202

"6:00" by Dream Theater
Excellent recording IMO, one of my favourite reference recordings. This really pretty much lays down the difference between the two devices confirming what I have mentioned earlier. I will simply summarize below

Strengths of 0404
Soundstage
Details
Instrument seperation and air with decay
Overall balanced sound with mids and treble more forward compared to 0202
Details on hi hats, crash, and high frequencies are clearly superior
Vocals sound better

Strengths of 0202
Warmer sound signature
Not fatiguing
Fuller sounding bass in some songs
Lets finer details stay in the background


This is why I pretty much stopped without comparing some of the other genre's like Classical music. I didn't think I was going to find anything more.The preference of the individual and the type of cans used are key in the end.

I also compared the two built in amps. The 0404 clearly has a little more power than the 0202. But the story was more or less the same, infact even more so. The 0404 sounded even more forward, the treble got even louder and the mids came out with more crunch. The Gilmore lite seems to tame these down in a good way and give a more smooth, balanced presentation overall. However, the comparisons still hold, and the built in amps can easily drive the HD650's and sound pretty good as well. It can be a good solution till you decide to invest on an amp later on.

So in the end, I must say, I am not exactly blown away by the 0404, at the same time, its interesting to see how the two devices present the music. The 0404 is clearly designed for critical listening, and for monitoring. It can be an extremely useful tool for a recording artist to hear all the details and nuances of the recording and set the levels.

The 0202 on the other hand, loses out in some aspects, but has a warmer sound sig, and is not fatiguing, gives bass oriented music a better presentation, but it can end up sounding lean in mids and treble to some in the process. Not to a great degree though, I still think its a great sounding device for the price.

I would say Grado's will pair better with the 0202 than the 0404, simply because the treble n mid energy might end up being over bearing IMO. The 650 sounds good on both, but I am starting to like the details on the 0404, and it gives me an opportunity to listen to music more critically and hear every effect added by the artist.

As for musical styles, popular styles of music(pop, hip hop etc) or any other style that doesnt rely too much on finer details, soundstage etc , think the 0202 might be better. Classical, its a toss up based on personal preference. Rock n metal, depending on the type of cans you have, both are good choices.

So I guess in the end its not really a one is better than the other story. The 0404 is probably better marginally because it has more advantages, and there are more aspects of the sound that are improved overall. But its not a hands down beat the crap out of 0202 victory, far from it to be honest...
post #2 of 121
Hi there, nice comparison. Would you like to compare your player setup against NI TRaktor BeatPort SYNC player since, SYNC supports native ASIO natively instead of through plug-in as the Foobar does. IMO, SYNC gives least deeper lower areas and isn't bad sounding at all (best sounding player I've come to so far). If you like to try, just remember that SYNC has SRC option build-in ... so, check that the SR is set by the source in SYNC output settings.

DL link is listed in my sig.

jiitee
post #3 of 121
What im really interested in is the amps between the two. I hear the 0404 headphone jack is much more capable in driving high impedance phones. Is this true? Or is the difference also minimal?
post #4 of 121
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dougboy View Post
What im really interested in is the amps between the two. I hear the 0404 headphone jack is much more capable in driving high impedance phones. Is this true? Or is the difference also minimal?
The specs for the two internal headamps on the E-MU site are not the same; the 0202 USB is shown as having less output power (16 mW versus 20 mW) but that really shouldn't be much of an issue. Both have an output impedance of 22 ohms.

I'm actually surprised that they are not exactly the same.

EDIT: I originally intended to add another comment......it isn't just the impedance that is of concern, it's also the sensitivity and voltage swing requirements that could be a limitation for hi-Z phones. Somewhere in the 0404 USB there is a device that steps up the 5 VDC supplied from the wall wart, because the opamp would need at least a bit under 8 VDC across the rails to be able to drive the outputs at 2.0 Vrms (equal to peaks of +/- 2.8 V, plus a volt or so because the opamp won't run rail-to-rail.)

Maybe that's the reason for the slighly limited power of the 0202 headamp versus the 0404's......no external power supply?
post #5 of 121
Great review, I think.

Personally, being a big classical fan and listening primarily to minimally miked, unprocessed recordings, I tend to favor a DAC that brings out all the detail.....so I'm very pleased with the 0404 USB in that regard.

Sonically, I'd put it a bit to the lean side of neutral for most pop/rock recordings.

All in all, for someone who wants to spend a very reasonable sum to get much better sound than they have from an internal card, either is a great choice.

Google Shopping shows one vendor of the 0202 USB is selling it for a bit less than $87........wow, tough to go wrong at that price! When one could get refurb'ed HD580's for a bit over $100, that would have been an amazing combination for ~$200.
post #6 of 121
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Google Shopping shows one vendor of the 0202 USB is selling it for a bit less than $87........wow, tough to go wrong at that price! When one could get refurb'ed HD580's for a bit over $100, that would have been an amazing combination for ~$200.
My point exactly, while ppl constantly tell others how good a deal the 0404 is for an upgrade from internal audio, the 0202 is a killer deal as well. If your budget is less than 100$, you are really not compromising on too much with the 0202, which can serve you well till you decide to move to higher end components.
post #7 of 121
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dougboy View Post
What im really interested in is the amps between the two. I hear the 0404 headphone jack is much more capable in driving high impedance phones. Is this true? Or is the difference also minimal?
Depends on what you consider high impedance. The 0404 doesn't drive my 600 ohm AKGs very well. It drives my 120 ohm K601s OK. There very good at driving the RP21 which are 32 ohm.
post #8 of 121
Thanks for the review jilgiljongiljing, I'm sure this answered a lot of questions for a lot of people.
post #9 of 121
Quote:
Originally Posted by jilgiljongiljing View Post
My point exactly, while ppl constantly tell others how good a deal the 0404 is for an upgrade from internal audio, the 0202 is a killer deal as well. If your budget is less than 100$, you are really not compromising on too much with the 0202, which can serve you well till you decide to move to higher end components.

Hi jilgiljongiljing,

thanks for your review. In Europe the prices are like 150$ for the 0202 vs. 300$ for the 0404, so this comparison really helps us folks .
post #10 of 121
Thread Starter 
Quote:
In Europe the prices are like 150$ for the 0202 vs. 300$ for the 0404, so this comparison really helps us folks .
Wow, I was not aware of that. Thats quite a difference in pricing.
post #11 of 121
Nice review .

I use Grado's with my 0404, and I've come to appreciate the added detail and forwardness without really finding it fatiguing.

The fact that you used a Gilmore makes this much more interesting for me, because I am considering dedicated amps for my upgrade this summer. I don't know if you have tested Grado's with the 0404 > Gilmore combination, but how do you feel about that signal path? Too forward/cold/analytical?
post #12 of 121
Excellent comparison.

So good in fact, you persuaded me to bid on a 0202 on eBay. Which I lost because the someone outbidded me in, literally, the last 5 seconds.
post #13 of 121
Thread Starter 
Quote:
I don't know if you have tested Grado's with the 0404 > Gilmore combination, but how do you feel about that signal path? Too forward/cold/analytical?
None of the above. The Gilmore Lite really helped the overly energetic sound of the 0404. The treble was no longer piercingly sharp, instead it was smoother and fuller sounding. The bass got a nice little push forward with better punch and presence and the mids had a more balanced presentation.

Overall, smoothness is the term I would use to describe the way it affected the sound. Its a great combo IMHO, and I am glad I already had the Glite with me.
post #14 of 121
Thanks for the comparison.

I'm gonna purchase the 0404 this Friday but would really like to get the 0202 since it's cheaper. The only use either will see is to connect my Swans M-10 speakers and Grado SR60 headphones (to my iMac). Will the 0202 be just fine for my set-up or will I regret not getting the 0404? Any help would be appreciated since I'm new to all this. Thanks again for the comparison.
post #15 of 121
The GL is much too cold sounding for the 0404, try the two with a decent tube amp and you will notice the difference in warmth + details!
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