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EMM Labs DAC2X slays all comers - and wallets .....

post #1 of 62
Thread Starter 

Reading Chris Connaker's glowing review, I began to think 'OK, clearly we are talking Alpha pricetag on this thing', but I was wrong. 

 

If you've got 15.5k and a hankering to own 'the best' (at least in CC's opinion), read on:

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/468-emm-labs-dac2x-review/

 

We had an interesting discussion in this forum a couple of months back on just where 'high-end' starts, and a couple of Head-Fiers contended that its not about the money - I can only say that a silver box which will likely cost around 16 thousand USD delivered is definitely my idea of 'high end'.  As always, YMMV, but I hope said mileage will be accompanied by some impressions and an unboxing video.  wink.gif

post #2 of 62

he never said it was the best dac, just that it was the best dac hed ever heard in his system. Hes never heard the top end dCS, or any MSB Tech stuff in his own rig. but i guess both those cost considerably more as well....

post #3 of 62
Thread Starter 

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 ? 

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/content/319-dcs-paganini-dac-paganini-upsampler-and-puccini-u-clock-review/

 

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. 

post #4 of 62

Haha i was just giving you a bit of a hard time estreeter. but yes, the scarlatti stack would be the best dCS dac. Im not sure i would pay that much for a delta-sigma converter though -_- if it were me id get the DAC IV Diamond instead.

post #5 of 62

The dCS DACs all use a custom R2R network don't they? It was interesting to read the Stereophile Stereo Mojo review of the Calyx Femto DAC, as the reviewer found it better for long listening sessions than the Debussy, which reminded me of the Esoteric K-01, which, while incredibly detailed, I found un-musical. I wonder if the DAC2X manages to strike the right balance.

post #6 of 62

Do you have a link to the Stereophile review of the Femto?  Can't find it with a few basic google searches.

post #7 of 62

If the EMM DAC sounds anything like the XDS1 player, it will get to the heart of the music, dig deep into the details, avoid harshness and grain, have great texture and image density, and be neutral with no roll off, and have very natural vocals (and instruments), and make many redbook CDs 

very reminiscent of Hi-Rez/SACD.


Edited by rgs9200m - 7/18/12 at 7:58pm
post #8 of 62
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by SoupRKnowva View Post

Haha i was just giving you a bit of a hard time estreeter. but yes, the scarlatti stack would be the best dCS dac. Im not sure i would pay that much for a delta-sigma converter though -_- if it were me id get the DAC IV Diamond instead.

 

I'll file that for future reference - I have a very long memory.  wink.gif

post #9 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Radio_head View Post

Do you have a link to the Stereophile review of the Femto?  Can't find it with a few basic google searches.

 

Sorry, I was wrong. It was Stereo Mojo: http://www.stereomojo.com/CalyxFemtoDACReview.htm/CalyxFemtoDACReview.htm

post #10 of 62

Oh, that's different then.  Was looking for some JA measurements on the unit.

post #11 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Currawong View Post

The dCS DACs all use a custom R2R network don't they? It was interesting to read the Stereophile Stereo Mojo review of the Calyx Femto DAC, as the reviewer found it better for long listening sessions than the Debussy, which reminded me of the Esoteric K-01, which, while incredibly detailed, I found un-musical. I wonder if the DAC2X manages to strike the right balance.

 

I coulda have sworn that I had read some where at some point that they are sigma delta and not ladder dacs...and the fact that they resample everything to double DSD rate 5.2MHz i think? just supports that even more. But i do believe they are custom designed dacs, not sure if they are discrete though either...

post #12 of 62
Thread Starter 

Thanks for that link - some interesting reading. Another review which includes several >5K DACs with no reference to the Overdrive. It would be very interesting to get all of the DACs mentioned in both reviews in the same room with the same associated kit - interesting and seriously expensive.  eek.gif

post #13 of 62

Since 2004 I tried a bunch of CD sources (Playback Designs, Modright/Sony, other high end ones) and I keep coming back to EMM and I'm settled with them for good.

EMM units (first the DCC2-SE dac, then the CDSA-SE and XDS1) just sound truthful to me like no other and dig out the details in a non-analytic way that I can't give up. I like the EMM sound better than analog, too. 

post #14 of 62

Alan Taffel of Absolute Sound posted a blog note from the April New York Audio Show.  Maybe they will actually review it?  Muse/Editor Harry Pearson has raved about EMM Lab digital in past years, but I don't recall seeing a formal review.

 

 

Quote:
While the (Light Harmonics $20k DAC) DaVinci stole the show, the new Meitner EMM Labs 2X SE DAC ($15k) stole my heart. I know little about its internal workings—save that it upconverts everything to DSD—but I do know that it sounded astoundingly analog. I heard the 2X SE in the other Audio Doctor room, playing through KEF Reference 207 speakers. There was a turntable sitting directly above the DAC, and if I hadn’t known otherwise I would have assumed it was the source. Really.

 

http://www.avguide.com/blog/the-return-the-new-york-audio-show?page=2
 

For those not in the 1% still craving the DAC-2X, if you're willing to forgo the ceramic PCBs, the hand-matched components and the lower-cost power supply, much of the same technology is currently available at less than half the DAC-2X's sticker price in the Meitner Audio MA-1, Ed Meitner's more "commercial" offshoot of EMM Labs.  There's a February review of the MA-1 by Srajan over at 6 Moons.

post #15 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Smeckles View Post

Alan Taffel of Absolute Sound posted a blog note from the April New York Audio Show.  Maybe they will actually review it?  Muse/Editor Harry Pearson has raved about EMM Lab digital in past years, but I don't recall seeing a formal review.

 

 

 

http://www.avguide.com/blog/the-return-the-new-york-audio-show?page=2
 

For those not in the 1% still craving the DAC-2X, if you're willing to forgo the ceramic PCBs, the hand-matched components and the lower-cost power supply, much of the same technology is currently available at less than half the DAC-2X's sticker price in the Meitner Audio MA-1, Ed Meitner's more "commercial" offshoot of EMM Labs.  There's a February review of the MA-1 by Srajan over at 6 Moons.


Fabulous,   I messed up the TAS link.  Corrected: http://www.avguide.com/blog/the-return-the-new-york-audio-show

 

Here's Srajan's (warning: he gets into a big discussion of DSD files and set up, which the MA-1 handles without needing to convert to PCM): http://www.6moons.com/audioreviews/meitner/1.html

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