EMC-1 vs. Levinson 360s/Sony SCD-1

I've narrowed my digital Redbook front end down to two choices, both of which will cost me under $4K used. (The "under $4K used" is the important criteria here for me)

The current front-runner for me is a used/demo EMC-1 with the new 24/192 upgrade board at a cost of under $3,500 -- there's seems to be very wide concensus that this is one of the better Redbook players under $10K.

Choice #2 is my current Sony SCD-1 coupled with a Levinson 360s (which is also under $4K used, if you can find one).

I listen to a very wide range of music and have both tubes (Aranov) and SS (Classe 301)amps with a Placette Active Line Stage. Whereas, I realize that few of us have a chance to hear the new upgraded EMC-1, comparisons to the older model are also fine. And if you've listened to another DAC in the $4K used range with the Sony SCD-1 and you liked what you've heard, then please comment.

I've ruled out the following: (probably the best -- DCS - but too expensive, even used). MSB Platinum (sounded a little dark to me, as if it was taking something away when trying to get rid of the digital edge. Mephisto II (dealer who sells both says the the new EMC-1 is equal/better and a whole lot cheaper).

I think many of us are sitting on the fence a little with respect to choosing between a good one box player (EMC-1, Audio Aero, Mephisto II, Meridian, etc.) and the better transport/DAC combos (Levinson. DCS, Wadia, etc.)-- which to me, seem a bit pricey considering the quality of the very best one box players.

Pls1, who has done a lot of comparisons in high end digital, posted in another thread that he thought the differnces were very subtle between some of this high end stuff, sometimes just 5% or so -- has anyone else done extensive listening/comparisons? --Lorne
For what it's worth, I believe the SCD-1 is a phenomenal transport after fully broken in (500 hours minimum) and the 360S, which I had for almost a year, is a great DAC. I missed using them together because I traded in the 360S for an Elgar, but based on my extensive use of them separately, I'd bet they would be a great combo.
Hello Lornecherry

I have just compared the EMC-1 (with standard converters) with the SAT CDFIX and Metaxas Phos and found both of the to be better players. I have also do some listening to the ML 39 and 36 and I would dare to say that both of are better than any of the before mentioned players. Even without having heared it A/B in same system.
The ML seemed to get the silence much more right and the in charge feeling no matter how complex the music was, could not be copied by either of them.
The 24/96 bit version has to be not only little better than the standard to reach the ML level.


Lorne - while this could be construed as somewhat off topic have you examined the possibility of modding the Sony? There seems to be a few people in the marketplace (Richard Kern, Dan Wright, Ric Shultz - no slight intended if I missed someone...) who have received accolades for their work. I realize that the resulting warranty issues are a concern (I am struggling with the idea of having my SCD-C333Es modded myself) but possibly this avenue will provide you with what you are looking for at a significant reduction in expense against the addition of a ML DAC...
I've come to the conclusion that a one box system is the way to go for me. I have the SCD-1 and recentlysold my Dodson. I'll wait until the next generation of SACD boxes, Classe, krell, Accuphase come out. Meanwhile, I find myself listening more and more to LP. given the lack of SACD software.

Lovin' my Audio Aero Capitole 24/192 CD player- closest to analog I have heard- incredibly natural, plus the volume control lets me go straight to amps. Its a great one-box solution for me anyways. Good luck!
Lorne, I would urge to go to the Ayre.com web site and just read the reviews on the Ayre D-1. I believe you will be extremely impressed. I just bought a new one but I do not have it hooked up yet. I hope to have it running this weekend. I know you but it new for 4000. Rivercitylad
I use a Pass Labs D1 with a SCD-1 and a 9000ES. Both are very musical through it. Even my dish network box sounds good through it. All details are on Pass Labs' site. The downside is I was recently told there is a 52 week backlog for them. Maybe there are some dealers with demos. A demo should be had for under $4000. Heck I'd sell mine for that and I love it. Best Regards, Aaron
Just got a EMC-1 with the 24/192 upgrade after owning a Marantz SA-1 and Wadia 860. I'd have to say the EMC-1
does everything better than either of my prior players.

A fully burned in Marantz SA-1 is the best redbook player I've heard.... Until I compared to the EMC-1. Side by side the Marantz and EMC-1 have similar detail but the EMC-1 is easier to listen to.

Try for yourself. At the price of a used EMC-1 + the upgrade, you'd save big bucks over ANY of the real competition.
Thanks, Bwhite .... I think it will be the new EMC-1 MKII as you suggest -- seems to be the best value in high end digital, at least for the moment. Also, Stewart at Sancturary of Sound (my dealer) swears by the new 192 upgrade and told me he liked it better than the $7,500 Mephisto II, his previous favorite. Can't wait to have a listen.
If you have a couple weeks to wait, I'm going to be sending my SCD-1 in for the full
www.audiocom-uk.com upgrade. After experimenting with a number of DAC/SCD-1 combos I found the Audiomeca Enkianthus 24x192 up sampling to do a great job, but not enough of a difference to justify the cost. The transparency and depth was enhanced, but only very, very slightly. ABXing the two showed no difference, but with greater listening of full cuts it became apparent that the Audiomeca was better. The Audiomeca is quite a bit more cost than the upgrade I'm going to get and the reports are the upgrades improvement is greater. It is expected that the dynamics, detail, transparency, timbre, sound stage and definition will all be improved. It has been reported that the upgraded unit will equal any Redbook playback system. The upgrades include replacing the audio board electrolytic capacitors, resistors, regulators, op-amp modules along with the power board electrolytic capacitors and regulators. I plan to write a review after the unit has 150 hours of burn-in on the upgraded components. My expectation is this will make the SCD-1 far and away the best player on the market and should be considered before you make your final decision. I hope to again compare it to the Audiomeca before my report.
I have to agree strongly with "Sutts".

After auditoning MANY all-in-one CDP's and seperates with transports, the Audio Aero Capitole 24/192 is the overall best thing I heard out there. VERY analog like, smooth, liquid, but with TONS of detail. Best of all can be run direct to amp for the purest possible signal. Do yourself a favor & give a listen before buying anything else (seperates or otherwise).
Check out the Bow ZZ-Eight. This is the best one box CDP that I have heard and unlike all the upsampling units, it doesn't unnaturally smooth the signal. It gives you all the immediacy, bite, dynamics and low end weight which is usually missing from the overly and unnaturally smoothed upsampling units.
Over the last 9 months I have had EMC1, SCD1, and the new Meridian 588. Each had their strengths but were in the same
ballpark. I now switched to a Cary 306 and this is really in a different league. The Vocals, piano, just about everything
sounds more natural and emotional. I strongly recommend you
listen to the Cary 306 before you purchase your next player.
You won't regret it. Good luck.
I had the SCD1 driving a 360S as well as a Sonic Frontiers Processor 3. I found the Sony alone to be closed in and too laid back for my tastes and I had at least 500-600 hours on it. The 360S was a great unit but still a bit hifi. The P3 is also a good unit. I bought a Naim CDSII sight unseen/unheard and my girlfriend immediately said it was better than the other (ie 360S) one. My sister and her boyfriend heard it and had to come in to see what was playing. The Naim has a clear, direct musical sound that completely destroyed all notion of hifi terminology (soundstaging, imaging, depth, resolution etc). I've owned numerous expensive DACs (Wadia, Altis, Audio Logic, Theta, Krell, Levinson et al). They all seem to be of a vein. The Naim was really that good.

However, if you're thinking about the 360S for 4K, you will be safe. ML is a good brand that is no-nonsense and holds its value well.
Just got my new EMC-1 MkII up and running, and cannot believe the improvement in bass dynamics and total lack of digital grain! Too smooth? I dunno...the clarity and detail is NOT compromised...just sounds wonderfully natural.
(Just read a European review showing the MkII's frequency response: razor-flat to +0.1db at 5k, rising to a peak of +0.4db at 16kHz, then falling. So its smoothness is NOT related to Wadia-like rolloff!). Doesn't have the "whitish smeariness" in the treble of the Bel Canto, for example, either.
I'll try it soon running balanced to see if there's any advantage outside the +6dB gain.
Sorry, no experience with the Levinson or Sony. Good luck!

I have a wadia 861. What do you mean when you say that the wadias are is rolled off on the high end? Could you elaborate? I am not looking to dispute your opinion. I am also interested in the emc1 mk2. But i have not been able to compare the two as of yet. Thanks.
Avnut, It is my understanding that the 830/850/860 Wadias used a filter algorithm that rolled the top about -1 dB at 10k, and -3dB at 20kHz. Perhaps no bad thing for many systems and recordings. But with 49 yr old ears I need all the help I can get up there, without of course introducing any digital nasties. The EMC-1 MkII measured flat to +0.1 dB at 5k, rising to a small peak of +0.4dB at 16kHz in a Scandinavian test (probably an inaudible bump, but at least not rolled off, eh?). Indeed it sounds very detailed yet ultrasmooth. My Parsifal Encores sport modified 28mm Dynaudio tweeters, which, at that size, are probably rolled a bit above 15k too; perhaps my Aleph 2 monos are a bit soft at the extremes, as well. Last thing I need is a rolled CDP.
I'm unaware of any improvements in linearity that the 831/861 might have, but it doesn't lack air in your system then it may be the optimum CDP for you. It's all system synergy, I guess. Keep us posted with your comparisons. Ernie
Well, the norwegian magazine Audio wrote that Electrocompaniet will probably sell a separate DAC,based on
the EMC-MkII.Another new interesting player is the Advantage S1 reviewed in the latest issue of that magazine.
It recieved a very favorable review,and the reviewer bought
the sample.The price,I guess, will be approx. and equivalent
to $ 4600 here in Sweden.
I've just been told by a Danish EC dealer that the MkII DACs are slightly backordered due to unexpected success.
Guess EC has their hands full trying to pump out a great product!
I heard a it mentioned that Electrocompaniet was raising the price on the EMC-1 MkII SUBSTANTIALLY! Can anyone confirm this?
Thought it was just to $5k from $4k. Export net is still around $2800 equivalent, I heard last month.
How's that Mephisto?
I read that dealer cost was going up past 3000 for the new units and dealers will be charging 6000 for new.

The Mephisto is good. It's different sounding that the EMC1. It has a way of making "heavy rock music" sound like something you'd hear in a coffee shop. Two of my audio friends have listened to mine - and now they own Mephisto's as well. The sound is contagious!