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post #46 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by harmonix View Post

I've never fell in love with the 360s though $2500 is quite a bit more palatable and frankly don't understand why people rate it so highly.

I would still go for an Alpha for the the same price and get it upgraded to series 2...

 

did i see somewhere that the Alpha can only be upgraded to series 2 if the serial number is above some value?

that would account for a variation in resale price

post #47 of 62

Yes, it's cheaper to upgrade units manufactured after June 2011.

post #48 of 62
Thread Starter 
Quote:
Originally Posted by harmonix View Post

I know how that feels - same thing with used digital cameras.... 

 

Fair enough, but the question I would pose applies to both audio and photography - when is the end result going to be 'good enough', and when does it cease to be about the end result and more about staying on or near the bleeding edge ? I find it interesting that many audiophiles suffer the parallel addiction to photography - both are hobbies where gear envy is a powerful sales tool. 

 

As always, I'm pointing out the blindingly obvious while being subject to much of the same drooling reflex. I'd like one of everything delivered to my front door ASAP.   biggrin.gif

post #49 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by estreeter View Post

 

Fair enough, but the question I would pose applies to both audio and photography - when is the end result going to be 'good enough', and when does it cease to be about the end result and more about staying on or near the bleeding edge ? I find it interesting that many audiophiles suffer the parallel addiction to photography - both are hobbies where gear envy is a powerful sales tool. 

 

As always, I'm pointing out the blindingly obvious while being subject to much of the same drooling reflex. I'd like one of everything delivered to my front door ASAP.   biggrin.gif

Fair question - for digital audio my answer would be when I feel just as comfortable listening to digital as my Turntable. Not there now but I think the EMM DAC2x would get me there. The Alpha DAC2 perhaps not but to each his own. This would be my first DAC change in 10 years so I'm not exactly a high gear turnover person.

 

For photography - I'm already there. Really don't focus on the camera but the lenses and I already have them. 

post #50 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by rgs9200m View Post

Yeah, I should have qualified that I have never used my EMM machines as a DAC, just as a straight CD player (or as the combo transport+dac).

Do you note any strange "wobbly" or over empahsized lower mids with Playback Designs? I found it annoyingly loose, even with the Sony R10s I had at the time (and other phones), and sold the MPS5 because of it and returned to EMM.

I did like the lack of glare in the MPS5 though.

 

Congrats on the Linn system. I was always a big fan of the CD12 (way ahead of its time).

 

Sorry about the late reply; I really don't come to this site much any more after I got the Linn + Beta22. To answer your question: Yes, I do hear a slight wobbliness in the bass of Playback (I emphasis slight and will only notice in back/back testing, and will be virtually unnoticeable in normal listening). The bass is not quite as solid as Linn, EMM, Esoteric, or the Bricasti DAC. However, I don't think this characteristic detracts from the naturalness of the Playback. I do think Playback provides one of the most natural sound of all the CDP/DACs I have heard.

post #51 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by chesebert View Post

 

Sorry about the late reply; I really don't come to this site much any more after I got the Linn + Beta22. To answer your question: Yes, I do hear a slight wobbliness in the bass of Playback (I emphasis slight and will only notice in back/back testing, and will be virtually unnoticeable in normal listening). The bass is not quite as solid as Linn, EMM, Esoteric, or the Bricasti DAC. However, I don't think this characteristic detracts from the naturalness of the Playback. I do think Playback provides one of the most natural sound of all the CDP/DACs I have heard.

Thanks for that. Interesting that you did hear this, even if it was slight. My Playback MPS5 was the first version back in 2008 and I was told it this problem was addressed since then.

I did find that SACD on the MPS5 did not suffer from this, and was just plain superb.

post #52 of 62
So, any new owners of the DAC2X here?
I've hopped on the bandwagon.
post #53 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by Quest88 View Post

So, any new owners of the DAC2X here?
I've hopped on the bandwagon.

Just got mine... Lot's of break in time scheduled but just a couple of hours into this a few observations

 

1) Super huge and deep sound stage which doesn't "thin out" or lose timbre/harmonics

2) Sense of pace, drive and timing on hard driving pieces and relaxed on slower pieces. I think this is a sign of extremely low jitter. Doesn't screw up timing via pre-ringing or other artifacts?

 

Loving it so far!

post #54 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by harmonix View Post

Just got mine... Lot's of break in time scheduled but just a couple of hours into this a few observations

1) Super huge and deep sound stage which doesn't "thin out" or lose timbre/harmonics
2) Sense of pace, drive and timing on hard driving pieces and relaxed on slower pieces. I think this is a sign of extremely low jitter. Doesn't screw up timing via pre-ringing or other artifacts?

Loving it so far!

sounds very good.
anyone have a comparison to the DAC2 SE (the previous model before the DAC2X)?

also, what digital source and input connection were you using?
post #55 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by harmonix View Post

Just got mine... Lot's of break in time scheduled but just a couple of hours into this a few observations

1) Super huge and deep sound stage which doesn't "thin out" or lose timbre/harmonics
2) Sense of pace, drive and timing on hard driving pieces and relaxed on slower pieces. I think this is a sign of extremely low jitter. Doesn't screw up timing via pre-ringing or other artifacts?

Loving it so far!
I'm still only just above 150hrs over here.. running in 24/7.
The first 24hrs showed the potential of the DAC, after 24-48hrs sounded abit odd to my ear, then it came back at 100hrs with a more open sound, and the natural ease I heard when I demoed it the first time at home smily_headphones1.gif

Anyway, while I'm not usb at the moment, I installed the beta thesycon driver and realise we have options to lower latency and buffer size.. didn't do any AB if it makes a difference (since my playback software bypasses), but it should help for everything else.


Not sure about DAC2, but the TSDX1 + DAC2X is better than XDS-1, especially in area of dynamics and tone.
post #56 of 62

Some moderate necromancy here.  Since I posted these comments in another thread, they should probably be echoed here.  I've had my DAC2-X for about 1 month now, and have a good 100 hours listening post burn-in.  To say I enjoy the DAC2-X is both accurate and not.  For me, it is the final piece of my system and I feel like I am no longer looking out for the "next great thing".

 

I listened to a lot of DACs over the past year and posted on this forum in various threads and PMs about them.  All were good and could have fit into my system.  But when I heard the EMM Labs gear, I stopped searching.

EMM Labs is detailed and beautiful sounding but I would not call it "neutral" the way I feel the Berkeley's Alpha 2, Antelope's Zodiac Gold or even AMR CD-77 are.  Those three are clean and clear and "truthful" to the source recording, almost to the point of excess.  Flaws like sibilance and compression sound shrill and awful through those DACs. There's no smoothing done by the hardware; if the recording sucks, you'll know it.  On my system with one of those 3 as a DAC, you won't want to listen to mp3s below a 256k bit rate, just as a minimum threshold to listen.  Lossless is a much better proposition, but you're still at the mercy of the recording engineer.

The EMM stuff editorializes in the most subtle of ways. I've heard the "clean and clear" of the sigma-delta style chips and design used in the above DACs.  I know what it sounds like in my system.  And the EMM gear gives me the best of that "c&c" sound with more added.  It's the "more added" part that some listeners may not like.

Using only lossless tracks of "poor" recordings or dynamically compressed music, the EMM seems to tame the shrillness and tempers the peaks enough to make me listen to recordings which would otherwise have me running for cover.  The best example I use is Florence + the Machine's track "Seven Devils" off the album "Ceremonials".  The noises of wind and her voice during the crescendos are brittle and make me cringe throughout the track, despite it being a really enjoyable song. At a high-end local store, I played this track through a $300k all Mark Levinson and high-end Revel multi-channel system and walked out before the track finished. 

Put the same track through the EMM gear and there's the "c&c" openness in the recording, but the brittleness is buffed and replaced with a more continuous (and emotional?) sound.  I hate to sound melodramatic about this, but for me it breathes a certain life into the recording that is missing though a lot of other gear. 

Price aside, taste-wise (is that a word?) - it's not gear for everyone.  There is an EMM Labs "house sound".  You like it or you don't.  But it's not "neutral".  For my system, the surrounding gear is what I would call coherent and detailed.  If my DAC had the same qualities, I think my listening notes would often use words like "cooler", "clinical" and on a lot of tracks, "emotionless".  And of course there are whole sections of my music library which I could not listen to without grinding my teeth or doing an impersonation of Tyll Hertsens' infamous Ultrasone Ed 10 review on YouTube.  A case of "good equipment gone bad ..."

I have not listened to the Bricasti, MSB, Esoteric or Resolution's Cantata, so I can't compare them.  But I would expect them to have their own pluses and minuses.  Are they "better"? At this performance point, I think it's all subjective; that there is no absolute truth.  My POV is that I am no longer in the market for a DAC and can't see that changing anytime soon.

 

I had some non-audioholic friends over during the holidays and they wanted music, so they heard the EMM gear through both the SR-009s and Maggies.  Their faces were priceless as they heard what good music reproduction can sound like.  It's meaningful for me since I can both enjoy it personally, but also share it with my friends, and they don't have to understand what impedance the amp is driving to enjoy the sound.

post #57 of 62

Thanks for your insights Smeckles. I'm considering the CD-77.1 and the DAC2X (among a few others) and would like to hear more about your impressions of these two units: the CD-77 & DAC2X in particular.

 

Which sounds more "analog"? I think I know the answer to this already, but I'd like your take on it.

 

How about musicality?

 

Any thoughts on 3 dimensionality and soundstage between the two?

 

How about detail retrieval? I suspect they're both highly resolving with the nod possibly going to EMM, but I'd like your take on it.

 

Were your comparisons based on redbook vs redbook or redbook vs DSD? In your opinion does it matter? I'm of the opinion at this time that well recorded redbook can rival or well recorded DSD provided they are played back on equally well implemented systems using the same mastering. Further, I think the general consensus is that Redbook performs best on TDA1541A implementations, while there are many more opinions for playback of high res material.

 

When you were comparing them, were you using tube or ss amplification?

 

Thanks again, and I apologize for barraging you with questions (feel free to pass on any of them if you feel your recollection too vague, any insight you can provide would be helpful).

 

I have a chance to listen to these two units, but only in very different systems.

post #58 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by nd4speed View Post

Thanks for your insights Smeckles. I'm considering the CD-77.1 and the DAC2X (among a few others) and would like to hear more about your impressions of these two units: the CD-77 & DAC2X in particular.

 

Which sounds more "analog"? I think I know the answer to this already, but I'd like your take on it.

 

How about musicality?

 

Any thoughts on 3 dimensionality and soundstage between the two?

 

How about detail retrieval? I suspect they're both highly resolving with the nod possibly going to EMM, but I'd like your take on it.

 

Were your comparisons based on redbook vs redbook or redbook vs DSD? In your opinion does it matter? I'm of the opinion at this time that well recorded redbook can rival or well recorded DSD provided they are played back on equally well implemented systems using the same mastering. Further, I think the general consensus is that Redbook performs best on TDA1541A implementations, while there are many more opinions for playback of high res material.

 

When you were comparing them, were you using tube or ss amplification?

 

Thanks again, and I apologize for barraging you with questions (feel free to pass on any of them if you feel your recollection too vague, any insight you can provide would be helpful).

 

I have a chance to listen to these two units, but only in very different systems.

 

Hi.

 

 

Many apologies for the wall o'text here, but to answer your questions with the seriousness that a multi-kilo $ purchase (or even audition) requires, I should get into what my own thoughts were when I had to choose between one or the other.

 

First of all, with either unit, I would think anyone can be happy, so it's not a case of "one is materially better than the other".   At this level, parts quality and overall Redbook CD performance is to be assumed as state-of-the-art.  It's the details of implementation and your personal listening preferences that will decide for you one over the other. I really, really liked the CD-77 and replacing it was neither easy nor a reflection of anything the AMR did "wrong".

 

For test purposes, my system was the same for both units down to the cables, so I got a good feel for both under constant conditions.

 

Easy questions first:

 

*  Amplification for the 2 channel is/was always SS.  The SR-009s are tubed, so it's mixed.  However, my opinion is that neither amp drifts into the "worst ills" of either category. 

 

*  I have not used DSD files with either.  Not sure if the CD-77 can accept the bit stream.  Only recently did they even allow for the option of a digital output; I don't recall it being an available option when I bought mine.

 

*  Soundstage: both DACs created a similarly sized projection across the recording space.  I've had DACs project smaller or bigger stages, but these two were similar.  My reference albums for this (Beck's "Mutations" and Gomez's "In Our Gun" for studio recordings and Dead Can Dance's "Toward the Within" for a live recording) had musicians clearly taking up space across the stage with both DACs. 

 

The EMM gear produces a deeper stage and more individual space around musicians.  Language fails me in how to explain this better, but if you hear it, I think you'll know what I'm referring to.

 

*  Resolving low-level details: both get high marks for digging out the minute details and the whole "Wow, how many times have I heard this recording and never heard that before?" factor.  The EMM is slightly better at threading these details into the context of the music, rather than "here's where Ringo rides the hi-hat a beat early" type of resolution.

 

Now the tougher ones:

 

*  Which was more analog sounding? 

 

Tough question, since I've been purely digital for two decades now, so my biases really don't work this way.  I would say that the CD-77  recreates a more faithful interpretation of what's on the files, for good or bad, so if you are a listener who wants "music the way it was recorded", the CD-77 does not editorialize the way I feel the EMM stuff does.  If you're running tubed amps already and love the sound, this may be a significant advantage for the CD-77.

 

The clear advantage of the EMM gear for me is the creation of a 3D presence of instruments within the soundstage.  Well recorded music has players with not only position in the soundstage, but depth.  Drums come from a space behind the singer.  Acoustic guitars resonate not just like the plucked string but like real wood does, with a certain depth of the guitar body itself.  It creates more of a "you are there in the room with them" experience (or is it "they are here in my room with me"?). 

 

I had to listen to many different DACs in order to realize that I am "you are there"  type of listener, rather than the "faithful to the master tape" style which I had originally thought I was.  This is probably the hardest part of the decision any buyer would have to make: "Am I really that type of listener?"

 

*  Musicality?

 

The toe-tapping factor? You must understand that the CD-77 was my first high-end source, and it set an extremely high standard.  I spent weeks with it going through my entire collection with a huge smile on my face.  Since I replaced the CD-77 with the CDSA and then the  DAC2-X, I did choose one over the other, but again, it took months of listening to several high-performance DAC units and then a fundamental change in my own understanding what type of listener I am to reach this point.  Had I heard the DAC2-X sooner, I may have missed some of the aspects of its presentation that I appreciate differently (better?) now.

 

As I noted, the EMM may soften aggressively compressed or peak-y tracks, not really in a tubed way by rolling off the top end, but a way I feel is more natural sounding.  This is likely because of the insane upsampling it does (5.6 MHz, or 2x regular SACD sample rates).  If you had never heard a terrible original compressed recording and how bad it sounded through such a clearly resolving system, but only heard it through the DAC2-X, you may never realize what it did.  The CD-77 wasn't nearly as forgiving.

 

Along those lines, the DAC2-X is better in my opinion in the (hugely subjective) aspect of creating a coherent context of rhythm and pace within certain tracks.  I've had several experiences of not only hearing the previously unheard details in a song, but sensing an underlying, almost subliminal, thread or theme in the some songs that really struck me.  I just "never got it" before.

 

 

Other factors which may be important only to me:

USB implementation on both units was not plug and play, on either Mac or Windows OS.  Both EMM and AMR require driver installs for Windows (or did when I installed them) and Mac USB set up was not difficult, but not as easy as the true p-n-p of  the Weiss or Aesthetix Romulus (which I would recommend very enthusiastically if you have the opportunity to audition one; it is the soundstage champ of any source I've ever heard.  It pulled a ridiculous magic trick when it made the side and rear walls of my room disappear.)

 

Both EMM and AMR occasionally have issues locking onto a USB bitstream and may need to be reset (powered on/off) a few times to get a lock.  First-world problem if ever there was one.

 

I did need to have the USB interface on the CD-77 serviced, including sending it back to the AMR factory after something failed: I never knew what the exact cause was.  It just stopped playing lossless files.  My Mac didn't even see the USB was connected.  CDs played fine throughout, though.  In fact, the disc-reading of the CD-77 was excellent; it was able to clearly play a few old, beaten-up CDs which were scuffed and unplayable on other players.  EMM CDSA is a bit more picky with physical disc condition.

 

Build quality for the CD-77 is like a tank.  The chassis is huge and you will need a very study rack to hold its close-to 40 kg weight.  I thought it was beautiful though, and worthy of top-shelf on the equipment stand to show off its bling.  The blue LEDs visible through the top always gets positive attention.  The EMM Labs is sturdy and well built, but AMR goes above and beyond.

 

CD-77 does not play SACDs, in case that is an issue (it plays dual-layer SACDs at Redbook with no problems).

 

Ugh, that's a lot of words words words.  But good luck with your own choices.  You should be happy with your selection, regardless of brand you choose.

post #59 of 62

Thank you for taking the time to share your opinions. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your impressions, and feel it's very beneficial to the community (particularly those that can't audition). First hand user accounts, as opposed to reviews by "professionals" (whose motives might be ambiguous) on reference pieces of this nature is scant at best.

I agree with you completely about equipment at this level; I don't believe it's likely to make a "bad" choice per se, as the level of effort, time, resources, and engineering talent committed to products like these vetting serious problems, and ultimately, these are statement pieces and significant reputations are on the line. There are probably exceptions to this, but I can't think of any offhand.

I think it's easy for audiophiles to fall into the trap of getting so pedantic they can't see the forest for the trees. Like you, I think I take a more holistic posture when it comes to component selection and the enjoyment of music. I also think it's poignant that you, like many of us in the hobby, went into this with preconceptions about what we thought we were looking for, but our experiences shaped that into something different (and often unexpected). Thanks for sharing that.

Cheers and congratulations on finding the sound you were looking for!

post #60 of 62
Quote:
Originally Posted by nd4speed View Post

Thank you for taking the time to share your opinions. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your impressions, and feel it's very beneficial to the community (particularly those that can't audition). First hand user accounts, as opposed to reviews by "professionals" (whose motives might be ambiguous) on reference pieces of this nature is scant at best.

I agree with you completely about equipment at this level; I don't believe it's likely to make a "bad" choice per se, as the level of effort, time, resources, and engineering talent committed to products like these vetting serious problems, and ultimately, these are statement pieces and significant reputations are on the line. There are probably exceptions to this, but I can't think of any offhand.

I think it's easy for audiophiles to fall into the trap of getting so pedantic they can't see the forest for the trees. Like you, I think I take a more holistic posture when it comes to component selection and the enjoyment of music. I also think it's poignant that you, like many of us in the hobby, went into this with preconceptions about what we thought we were looking for, but our experiences shaped that into something different (and often unexpected). Thanks for sharing that.

Cheers and congratulations on finding the sound you were looking for!

 

Great, I'm glad you understood the context I was trying to create in that text-plosion there.  I really do think you'll enjoy your process in trying to solidify your own system, and it seems like you're already in the mindset for taking the leap.

 

One of the things that I referred to is that despite the exorbitant price tags and technology involved, high end components like these still have annoying hiccups or ergonomic quirks in their operations.  Neither EMM Labs nor AMR was trouble-free in my time with them; in fact all but one compoenent I've had in the last few years had some kind of frustrating break down or quirk which I though could've been implemented better.  In fact, my $150 Blu-Ray player has a much higher reliability than any of my high-end gear, by far.

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