Just for my edification, which is the 'top end' dCS stack ? The Scarlatti ? The DAC alone currently lists at 22K AUD - and you would need the ~10K master clock with that.
He reviewed the Paganini back in 2009 and he makes several references to the 13.5K deBussy DAC in the DAC2X review - surely that is a much closer comparison than the Scarlatti ?
His conclusion back then -
- The dCS Paganini DAC, Upsampler, and Puccini U-Clock is the best digital front end I've ever heard in my listening room. Since the dCS components are boxed up Jack Johnson, Shelby Lynne, and the Minnesota Orchestra have left the building. The dCS stack not only made the Computer Audiophile Suggested Hardware List, these components are exactly why the CASH List was created. Well done dCS.
Of course, there are other high-end DACs, but how can any reviewer claim that component XYZ is better than components he has never heard ? I saw no such claim in that review, although I concede that the title of my post might have you foaming at the mouth if you believe that somewhere over 30K will buy you a better combination than the 15.5K DAC2X. Some might suggest that he also needs to review the Overdrive, but I'm told that isn't going to happen.
Chris was previously a flag-waving zealot for the Alpha - when he comes out and says the EMM Labs DAC has transformed his music, even at that stratospheric pricetag, I give that a little more heed than the 'what if' pronouncements of the majority of forum devotees. I've bolded a large chunk of his conclusion - per his deBussey revieew
Throughout the entire review period nothing made a bigger or more memorable impression on me than listening to Ottmar Liebert's One Guitar at 24 bit / 96 kHz. I've never heard a better reproduction of this album than through the EMM Labs DAC2X. Period. The air around the entire recording space is stupendous. I'm willing to bet some CA readers can identify what material this floor is made of and how large the room is after listening to this album through a great system and the DAC2X. The decay of each guitar note is unsurpassed by neither the Berkeley Audio Design Alpha DAC with Alpha USB nor the dCS Debussy. The difference in decay reproduction was easily and immediately identifiable when comparing all three DACs. Another major difference between the Alpha/Alpha combo and the DAC2X is reproduction of the upper midrange and higher frequencies. The Alpha/Alpha combo can sound a skosh thin up top compared to an appropriately fuller sounding DAC2X. Comparing the Debussy to the DAC2X the first and largest sonic difference I heard was the in the lower midrange and bass frequencies about 600 Hz and below. The Debussy appeared to emphasize the lower frequencies or even play guitar and bass notes lower than I thought sounded correct. Granted I was not present at any recordings and don't know what's more accurate. On the other hand the EMM Labs DAC2X reproduced this lower midrange and bass extremely well. I consider the DAC2X the most "up-the-middle" DAC I've heard in my system. It isn't bass heavy or thin on top or anything other than neutral. I've previously discussed the sounds of the Alpha DAC and Weiss DACs as being on one side and the dCS DACs as being on another side. Both have different sounds that attract most users to one or the other. The EMM Labs DAC2X is a DAC that's smack in the middle of these two groups. The "2X" doesn't borrow the best of each DAC rather it's a different animal that beats to it's own drum.
The EMM Labs DAC2X is the most detailed, neutral, and transparent DAC I've heard in my system. A better power supply, ceramic circuit boards, and well damped chassis are the foundation that elevates the DAC2X well beyond the capabilities of the Meitner Audio MA-1 and many of its competitors. At $15,500 the DAC2X should perform better and it clearly does in all areas. No DAC has brought out so much emotion or brought me closer to my favorite music than the DAC2X. This wonderful hobby is first and foremost about music and its reproduction. Well engineered components that reproduce our favorite music are only tools. These tools are built to be invisible or disappear as soon as the play button is clicked. The DAC2X produces the best musical illusion and performs a better disappearing act than all other DACs I've heard in my listening room and many other rooms. To remove any doubt I will state with emphasis, the EMM Labs DAC2X is unequivocally the best DAC I've heard in my system.