Originally Posted by 2deadeyes
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.
The Esoteric equipment, in my experience anyhow (DV60, UX1, DV50, some other thing; I forget the model No.) maybe has what people call "analytical" sound. I'm not sure since I'm not certain what this term means. Likewise, I'm not sure what to call the DCC2 since it was also highly detailed and I had very little trouble picking out various elements of the music with precision. However, it was still balanced and very pleasant to listen to; moreso than the Esoteric gear I've used.
From a design standpoint, the EMM gear (at least what I've used) is also considerably more interesting, to me at least. EMM uses ovenized discrete d/a converters and discrete output stages, along with what are apparently in-house developed algorithms for sampling and filtering. Several of the Esoteric products are more or less fairly standard converter + op-amp output stages with off-the-shelf filters, receivers etc. and, while they sound good, are not particularly novel or superlative in the broad scheme of things. I'm not sure if the DCC2 was the best thing I've ever heard, but it is certainly one
of the best I've heard (thanks to foo_me's very gracious sharing of it at a meet, and very friendly attitude towards letting people have at it).
With respect to the D-05 specifically, for me at least, I'd take the DCC2 over it without much worry. The D-05 uses the AK4397 which, while the "32 BITS!" sounds neat, it just means it'll take a 32 bit word length and not much else. The dynamic performance isn't even up to par with the best of the 24 bit delta sigma ICs out there (AD1955) and you're going to be limited by the performance of the SCF (switched capacitor filter) that's stuck on the output of the chip. If this were me making the decision, I think I'd favour the more novel and, in my opinion anyhow, likely to be higher performance approach of the DCC2. At the very least, I'd say the DCC2 poses a pretty low risk of sounding less than very good to excellent, especially if you like that type of presentation, and it has a higher coolness factor ^_^