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Sound signatures of Esoteric vs. EMM Labs

post #1 of 60
Thread Starter 
In my search for a higher-end DAC, I've taken interest in offerings from both Esoteric and EMM Labs. Would appreciate any comments from anyone that has heard both, particularly the seprate transport/DAC units or the DAC fed by a different transport, comparing their general sound signatures.

I'm currently eyeing the Esoteric D05 but for around the same price, I may be able to land an EMM DCC2 SE (if someone is willing to sell separately) used on Audiogon.

TIA
post #2 of 60
Esoteric has a slightly more analytical sound (Clearer/maybe ever so slightly more detailed/wider soundstage). But EMM labs is not far behind in any of those categories and has a better tone by a significant amount.
post #3 of 60
Dan...ur back!

Just curious what you planned to use as a transport?
At least the emm, it makes a large difference. I use the dac only with the empirical audio usb converter. While good, there's a big improvement in sound that you get from the transport.

My workaround for that is to burn a mix of tracks onto CD and use the dcc2 transport.
post #4 of 60
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Icarium View Post
Esoteric has a slightly more analytical sound (Clearer/maybe ever so slightly more detailed/wider soundstage). But EMM labs is not far behind in any of those categories and has a better tone by a significant amount.
Whenever I hear analytical, I tend to associate that with an emphasis on the higher frequencies, leading to a more dry and sometimes harsh sound. Is this the case? Do you mean EMM Labs sounds more natural by a "better tone"?
post #5 of 60
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by foo_me View Post
Dan...ur back!

Just curious what you planned to use as a transport?
At least the emm, it makes a large difference. I use the dac only with the empirical audio usb converter. While good, there's a big improvement in sound that you get from the transport.

My workaround for that is to burn a mix of tracks onto CD and use the dcc2 transport.
I've always stuck with a PC/server based setup so an SD Transporter will be used as transport. I just find switching CDs after every hour or so too much of a hassle
post #6 of 60
don't underestimate the DAC in the transporter. when compared to the EMM Labs stack, it was surprisingly respectable (although my comparison of the two was brief).

i think A'gon would be a good place to look for comparisons of the two units/companies.
post #7 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by vcoheda View Post
don't underestimate the DAC in the transporter. when compared to the EMM Labs stack, it was surprisingly respectable (although my comparison of the two was brief).

i think A'gon would be a good place to look for comparisons of the two units/companies.
Not close, IMO. The OP could consider getting the Transporter modded by APL, which would be much cheaper than buying a separate DAC. I thought it sounded quite good when I heard the modded Transporter at Alex Peychov's shop.

As for Esoteric vs. EMM, I think that Icarium's summary is mostly accurate, and yes, I think that it means leaner and colder, with some greater emphasis on the top end.
post #8 of 60
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by Voltron View Post
Not close, IMO. The OP could consider getting the Transporter modded by APL, which would be much cheaper than buying a separate DAC. I thought it sounded quite good when I heard the modded Transporter at Alex Peychov's shop.

As for Esoteric vs. EMM, I think that Icarium's summary is mostly accurate, and yes, I think that it means leaner and colder, with some greater emphasis on the top end.
How would you compare the sound from the modded Transporter to your EMM stack? How much would APL charge for the mod?

Quote:
Originally Posted by vcoheda View Post
don't underestimate the DAC in the transporter. when compared to the EMM Labs stack, it was surprisingly respectable (although my comparison of the two was brief).

i think A'gon would be a good place to look for comparisons of the two units/companies.
So far I find the DAC in Transporter to be more or less on the same level as my previous Stello DA220MKII, with a smidgeon more detail while the Stello has a bit more umph. Did you compare it with an SE or non-SE EMM stack?
post #9 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2deadeyes View Post
Did you compare it with an SE or non-SE EMM stack?
i was at aaron's and he runs a transporter through his emm labs stack (non se i believe). he switched back and forth a few times. there definitely was a difference, in favor of the stack, but the transporter sounded better than i expected. again, my comparison was brief but my point was only that the dac in the transporter should not automatically be ruled out.
post #10 of 60
I agree with Icarium's assessment. I've heard the DV-60 and his UX-1 and both seemed to share a relatively cool sound.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 2deadeyes View Post
So far I find the DAC in Transporter to be more or less on the same level as my previous Stello DA220MKII, with a smidgeon more detail while the Stello has a bit more umph. Did you compare it with an SE or non-SE EMM stack?
I might attribute your observation to the fact that the DA220 MKII uses the AK4395 for the D/A conversion and the Transporter uses the AK4396. This DAC seems to be fairly well-regarded but you can do significantly better with the EMM Labs equipment.

Also remember most of the Esoteric equipment doesn't have true-balanced output...
post #11 of 60
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vcoheda View Post
i was at aaron's and he runs a transporter through his emm labs stack (non se i believe). he switched back and forth a few times. there definitely was a difference, in favor of the stack, but the transporter sounded better than i expected. again, my comparison was brief but my point was only that the dac in the transporter should not automatically be ruled out.
You say Aaron was running the Transporter through his EMM stack (analog signal out of the the EMM stack?) - so it was being used as a tranport rather than a standalone DAC?
post #12 of 60
^^ he was streaming music from his computer via the transporter and then had the latter connected to his emm labs stack to use the emm labs DAC, but he could switch between the two so one could listen to (or compare) the music being played from the transporter through the transporter dac or the emm labs DAC. the transport section of the stack was not used.
post #13 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2deadeyes View Post
How would you compare the sound from the modded Transporter to your EMM stack? How much would APL charge for the mod?
The modded Transporter sounded good but I was not able to compare it to my EMM stack and I was hearing it in a system I had never heard before. When Alex switched in the NWO3.0GT modded Esoteric UX-1 CDP, the Transporter was instantly outclassed. As for the Transporter vs. the EMM from memory/experience, I would just say that the modded Transporter is good but not on the same level.

EDIT: APL sells modded Transporters for $3200 and I believe that having yours modded is about $1500. You also need to know that the XLR outputs are inactive after the mod, and you must use RCA output.
post #14 of 60
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by vcoheda View Post
^^ he was streaming music from his computer via the transporter and then had the latter connected to his emm labs stack to use the emm labs DAC, but he could switch between the two so one could listen to (or compare) the music being played from the transporter through the transporter dac or the emm labs DAC. the transport section of the stack was not used.
Thanks for the clarification - got a bit confused when you said Transporter through the EMM stack.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Voltron View Post
The modded Transporter sounded good but I was not able to compare it to my EMM stack and I was hearing it in a system I had never heard before. When Alex switched in the NWO3.0GT modded Esoteric UX-1 CDP, the Transporter was instantly outclassed. As for the Transporter vs. the EMM from memory/experience, I would just say that the modded Transporter is good but not on the same level.
Thanks for the info. I was able to find APL's site and it seems they just announced that effective immediately, all mods to the Transporter will be discontinued. Not sure how credible this is as it is the 1st of April.
post #15 of 60
Quote:
Originally Posted by 2deadeyes View Post
I've always stuck with a PC/server based setup so an SD Transporter will be used as transport. I just find switching CDs after every hour or so too much of a hassle
Please try the FW40 before your upgrade, the new firmware completely changed the sound signature of the TP.

TP has this nice Xilinx FPGA that is used to control the operation of the DAC (actually mostly filters IIRC); and that is the key to possible continual improvements in sound quality as evidenced by the significant increase in fidelity with the new FW40 firmware.
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