Results in OppoSE vs Emotiva ERC-1 comparisonMy home Internet connection is down again -- my third AT&T DSL modem in six years just failed-- so I must be brief.
I tested the Emotiva ERC-1 CD player with Analog Devices 1955 chips against the Oppo 83 SE with the new Sabre Ultra Dacs, against my reference: an Arcam FMJ-23 CD player with the highly acclaimed Ring DAC.
The Arcam listed for about $2,200 in 2002 and is wonderfully musical. It remains one of the best CD players Arcam has ever produced.
I listened through Vandersteen speakers and Senn 650 phones via Headroom's Max amplifier, updated with the current Max electronics. (Thank you Mike Olson at Headroom!)
In A-B testing, I thought I found some differences, but frankly, they turned out to be so small as to be meaningless.
At first, I thought the Oppo was a tiny bit ballsier on the drums, that the Emotiva was a tad bit more laid back on Steve Earl's "Christmas in Washington," and that the Arcam was a hair more refined on Emmy Lou Harris' voice.
Believe me -- if you listen at length to one player and then another, you would find it hard, if not impossible, to tell any meaningful differences. All three produce first-rate sound.
I want the best sound I can get without spending crazy amounts of money. And I would be happy with any one of these three.
Summary: If you want the sound of a great $2k-plus CD player, get yourself a used Arcam FMJ 23.
If you want sound that's just as good as a great $2k-plus CD player, but comes with Blu Ray video, get yourself an Oppo 83 SE for $900, plus about $30 in shipping.
If you want an audio-only player that's as good as a great $2k-plus CD player in a modern, stand-alone unit, get yourself the Emotiva for $399, plus $17 shipping.
All three pieces look good. The Oppo SE is heavier and better looking than any past Oppo product. For an audio-video piece, it is a steal.
The Emotiva, at 17.5 pounds and with a slot-loaded drawer that really works, is well-constructed and looks great. To my eyes, it's easily the best looking of the bunch.
I've heard some criticism of the Emotiva's bright lights. But you can dim them from the remote, so that's no problem.
One nit: While the remote works fine, you have to remove six screws on the rear to install the two (included) batteries. I tried four Phillips screw drivers and finally had to borrow one that fit from a techie friend.
You have to do this every time you change the batteries.
Emotiva should include the correct size Phillips screwdriver -- magnetized to make it easier with the tiny screws -- with each CD player.*
Emotiva's Dan Laufman credits the ERC-1's chips and line stage amplifier design for its fine sound. Based upon my listening, I wouldn't hesitate to try Emotiva's other electronics. The ERC-1 may not be better than its more expensive competitors, but it is every bit as good.
It's exactly what consumers need in this tight economy.
Since I can't decide between the Oppo and the Emotiva, I plan to keep both.
*Update: Emotiva reports that the screws on its remote take a standard No. 2 Phillips driver.