EMM Labs CDSD / DCC2 - Initial Listening Session

With only 48 hours of burn-in on these pieces, this review is hardly definitive- but here goes...

I think old Ed (Meitner) has hit the cover off the ball with this, his latest offering in CD/SACD playback equipment. The following comments are based on comparisons to my previous front-end: Meitnerized Philips SACD 1000, Meitner DAC6, Meitner Switchman II and apply to both SACD & CD playback.

The CDSD & DCC2 - compared to the previous Meitner rig---

-Much deeper soundstage, much more layered, as well, width about the same.
-Hall ambiance retrieval is vastly superior.
-Tonal and timbral qualities are unsurpassed in any digital gear I've experienced. Piano reproduction is absolutely stunningly good!! Acoustic guitar has the string interaction/wooden resonance of the real thing.
-There is a "Bloom" to instuments, even voice, that seems typically absent in digital playback. This quality is very "Analog" like.
-So far, I sense not even a suggestion of stridency or digital fatigue- It is just not there. This new gear is just plain musical. That word is overused- but there is no other word to better describe the overall experience. There is a natural seamlessness and natural bloom to the music, as a whole, which reminds me of a live performance within a live venue. All of the elements of that live experience seem reproduced faithfully by the CDSD & DCC2. This is no small feat. In quantitative terms I'd say the new gear is 25%-35% better, in every listening category (it is about the same in soudstage width), than the earlier 3 piece set-up I had.

As the new gear continues to burn-in there will certainly be changes and refinements, probably for the better, which I will try to keep track of. But so far- Ooh, La, La!!!

Kharma Midi Grand
Tenor 300 HP
Jena Labs Pathfinder
Shunyata Anaconda VX & VX Alpha
"...So far, I sense not even a suggestion of stridency or digital fatigue- It is just not there."

I like that.
Why is it better? Is it all the transport?
Great review, now I am even more eagerly awaiting my CDSD to show up! I have heard from another DAC6 owner that the DCC2 was a large improvement across the board, he could not believe it. This review vaguely reminds me of my initial DCC2 review, words that people have used to describe sound with in the past really comes to have new meaning with the Emm labs gear.

I have heard there is a significant improvement with the new transport so things that I felt were musical will be taken to a new height- I can hardly wait:^)
Tbg: Since I switched out both the transport and the dac, at the same time, I don't know exactly where the improvemnent(s) lie. Possibly Tireguy could refer you to person he mentions in his post who, apparently, still has the Philips SACD 1000 running into the DCC2.
Nope, I did each in separate stages. For whatever reason, the DCC2 is the cat's meow.
It would be a shame were the improvement to be in software as that was supposedly an easy update for EMM equipment. But maybe it is the built in preamp.
Some people will, however, prefer the DAC 6 separate and the Switchman. It's hard to put your finger on, but it may have a slightly richer presentation, less dry.
no doubt on the sound!!!
but can he not design some better looking gear this emm stuff look's like it out of some late 70's sci fi flick. (which I guess has it place).
Sorry I just had to say something about how it looks like a FORD TRUCK but performs like a PORSCHE.
Good review, Fbhifi. I, too, have the DCC2/CDSD combo, and my experience to this point mirrors yours. It is truly a benchmark in digital reproduction. Before I heard the EMM stuff, I was seriously considering going to vinyl; now I'm glad I didn't. Mind you, there are still fundamental differences between the two playback types, and many will stll prefer one or the other, but in MY mind the EMM gear renders the point moot.
Good review,

For the price I would expect nothing less than that quality sound. Another good sounding $10+ trasport and DAC combo.
Robm321, May I ask what is the total ammount you have invested in your Vinyl playback system, including turntable, arm, cartridge, tonearm cable, phono stage, pre-amp and all associated interconnects and powercords?
Hooper. You still need to get vinyl.
Gladstone. you still need a DCC2.
Gladstone: I didn't get into vinyl after hearing the Rockport Sirius III. If that wasn't enough to convince me, nothing is. :)
fbhifi under $10k in vynil setup.
Robm231. With the DCC2 you're also getting a world class pre amp. Many pre amps in the $9000. to $10,000. range don't sound as good. Besides that you only need 1 set of i.c.'s and one less power cord. To me, that's a pretty good deal for sound at this level.
Frankg is exactly right, I am a cheap bastard and there is NO way I would have spent this much if I felt it wasn't a good "value". The verdict is still out on the transport, however, it seems pretty clear to me that the DCC2 is hard to beat- if not impossible- in its price range and what it is capable of doing.
Is everone who has the CDSD and DCC2 using the pre-amp that comes with the DCC2 or are their other stand alone pres that can do a better job?
Does the pre-amp in the DCC2 have a HT bypass?
Fbhifi: What do you mean, "I still need a DCC2." I have one.
I would have to agree with you FrankG. It sounds like the best redbook, SACD combo for that price range from what I am hearing ;) - My dealer will have a demo in soon. I can't wait to hear it. I'm not going to purchase but like to hear what all the hype is about.

Gladstone: I thought you were a DAC6/SWITCHMAN II man..
Robm321: It would seem prudent and most constructive to make purchase decisions AFTER a demo, not before. Also, carrying strong predispositions into a demo will generally skew the results of the demo to the side where one's predispositions lie. Approaching new audio products with an open-minded sense of discovery is essential to building a TRULY great system- one that a jury of your peers, in a blind test, would deem to be the superior sounding system.
You are correct Fbhifi: I was a DAC6/Switchman guy. Was.

Why are you addressing your comment to me? I'm not going to buy either way as stated in my previous post. I just like to hear what's out there and being friends with my dealer I get to hear most of the promising new stuff out there. I'm happy with my modest but musical setup.

And why would a "jury of your peers" be necessary if it is your stereo and everyone has different tastes? Why would I let my friends tell me what sounds good? If they say something sounds like crap and I like it, I get it anyway - end of story.

Trust me; I don't let HYPE skew what my ears hear.


Robm321: The only reason to listen to others' opinions is that, on occasion, you may learn something new & valuable. This knowledge could allow you to improve your stereo and, more importantly, your listening enjoyment.
The only thing vital in all of these posts is that the DCC2 sounds considerable better than the DAC6/Switchman combo. If given a chance, I certainly will give it a listen, and I would love to have it side by side with the Exemplar/H-Cat combo.
Yes the DCC2 does sound better than the DAC6 / Switchman primarily due to its simpler / shorter signal path...

Remember the DCC2 is essentially two channels of the Studio DAC6 packaged with two channels of the studio switchman packaged in one chassis for two channel audiophiles.

BUT look closer...you dont just eliminate an interconnect with the DCC2...compare the signal paths:





The DCC2 eliminates TWO BUFFER STAGES and an INTERCONNECT .. and surely a short PCB trace to get the signal from the DAC to the Gain control is a lot better than any interconnect !!

Remember, less is more in the analog domain...the best results are acheived by the shortest / simplest signal path.

Yours in Music


P.S. I own a CDSD & DCC2 and am supremely happy.

Good points, Ceol. Is there a DCC6 coming? On another thread there is obviously pressure on moders to do 6 channel mods on players, not that I have any interest.
I just got my DCC2 about 9 days ago. The remote was not functioning well and I was told that I will have to replace the microchip in the sensor. I have yet to pass the judgement as I compare it to my Audio Aero Capitole II. The soundstage sounds constricted, the mids are very dry. It sounds thin almost too perfectly sterile. I console myself that about 20 hours is still within breaking period. I certainly do not have the glowing experience of the other owners. I am running Meitner transport via Harmonic Tech digilink Platinum into EMM. EMM is connected via Jena Labs Symphony to Edge NL10 amp and via Kimbers bifocal XL to Kharma Midigrands. Any thoughts?
Hifinut- Try using the supplied digital cables(they should have come with the transport) and see what you think. Out of the box my DCC2/meitner transport combo outperformed my audio aero capitole mkII, the improvements were painfully obvious after the first song I listened to. In fact it was more like the first note I heard, there was a level of resolution and detail that I have never heard with digital. My soundstage has become HUGE, larger then with any other source I've used- and while I wouldn't call the mids lush they are, from all of my experience, not dry either more like accurate to the original recording.

Good luck getting everything straightened out, your in for a treat when you figure out what ever is causing the problem!
How does one audition the EMM Labs gear in Los Angeles?
Here we go again with the ego inflated overpriced gear.By the way how many people say that something sounds "more like the original recording" and was actually at the venue while it was being recorded and who can remember anything going back in time more than a few minutes anyway.If something you purchased is satisfying just say it without hyperbole.No one learns anything when the words like giant soundstage or sounds more lifelike get tossed around.Good night.
I disagree with Brucegel. Given the overall message in this thread, I think buyers are very happy with what they are hearing with this combo and more importantly for me, they find it better than the DAC6/Phillips 1000 combo which I have heard.

Greater realism is the name of the game, including a realistic soundstage, great dynamics, and involving music. As might be noted from another thread, words like dark may fail us as we are discribing what we hear, but until we can post sounds, it is all we have.

What is "ego inflated, overpriced gear?" What Brucegel cannot or will not afford?
Ditto's to tbg.
Tvad. If you're ever in the Palm Springs area you're welcome to come by for a listen. Right now my system is in some transition but should be ready in about 3 weeks.
Frank Gortz
Hifi nut, I hope you didn't run out and get the EMM based on all the hype. If you got that kinda money put it into a TT and you will get much better performance ;)
TBG: It's easy enough to affect a lofty sneer, thereby demonstrating your own superiority to other audiophiles. But what's wrong with a little enthusiasm, anyway? Tireguy is using a few terms that, for better or worse, are among those what we have to describe an evanescent quality. All he's guilty of, if he's guilty of anything, is ebullience. Since when is that a crime?
Gladstone, are you an English professor or just bombastic?

On previous posts that had to do with CDSD / DCC2 I tried to keep enthusiasm in check (I got slammed for it, but I expected that) in order to keep someone from ordering one based on hype instead of realizing that maybe it is not the be all, end all CD - DAC combo. And maybe some people will not like the sound. Most of the posts were that it was the best combo out there. Well, not everyone has the same tastes.

The TT comment was just a fun jab, hence the smiley face.

Given my other posts extolling the virtues of the Exemplar over the EMM, please don't assume that I am caught up in the rush to the DCC2/CDSD combo. I now am fairly confident that it is superior to the DAC6/Phillips sacd 1000 combo, which my Exemplar easily outperformed. So I will now have to give the DCC2 some leeway until I get to hear it.
Brucegel- I would really love to hear you describe the sound of the CDSD/DCC2. I try to offer help the best I can, perhaps its not to the level that would satisfy you- but its the best I can do.

Tbg- Well said!
Rohm321--I'm neither. Just a harmless drudge.
My experience with the emm gear is with their 8 channel dsd/pcm converter into a genex 9000 fed by a grace preamp and royer ribbon mics and geffel mics.This is 30,000 dollars worth of high end recording gear which I mention ONLY to elicit oohs and ahhs from the money boys out there(you know who you are).As a musician first and a audiophile recording engineer second I need to be very accurate and careful when describing acoustics,what a given mic and pre sound like (everything is a coloration...there is no neutral}etc..etc.So with this in mind I can tell you that the meitner sound is unparalleled for detail retrieval and the envelope of spatial retrieval is equally impressive yet it still has the digital taint that is inextricably part of the gene pool of digital.It is too hi-fi ish for my tastes.I ultimately fall on the colored sword of tube gear because this always in critical comparisons ends up sounding more live and thick and meaty and rich and enveloping like sitting in with a group of musicians sounds like to me.In the end it's all blah blah.
I guess I am painted with the broad brush as a "money boy" for whatever use there is in this blah, blah. I would agree about the continuum from great detail with a lack of harmonics to a more "musical" harmonically rich sound. I also think there is a scale of dynamics and one of degree of smear or undo smoothness that is often, but not always, a characteristic of tubes. All of this complexity fails to be of much use to me, as does how much the component costs. So in reality I would merely say once again that I now have to hear again the DCC2 to find out whether it can rival my untubelike Exemplar/Denon 2900 in my digital front end.
A little lesson for all of you today (I am also a frame drum/hand percussion teacher as well).When I say money boys it is to underscore the most uninteresting and least edifying way to approach the audiophile hobby which is to spend as much as possible on the most expensive equipment (everyone has their limits)knowing one has purchased the state of the art...whatever that is and in whose ever mind it may be defined.This entire hobby,passion,and yes ego aggrandizing(which means to increase ones rank) is built on this testing of the limits one is willing to reach to spend as much as possible.It is one of the greatest sell job hype jobs perpetuated on audio in all of recorded history(pun intended).IT DOES NOT HAVE TO BE THIS WAY.Many people suffer from this acculturation of the best and most exotic.It is a mental problem...not as in illness but as in a challenge to the awareness to be vigilant and to guard against it.For example I have a microphone preamp that costs me 150.00 dollars that is virtually indistinguishable from my 3000.00 preamp.I consider this to be a fantastic achievment far outweighing the no holds barred overpriced preamp.This is where the genius and excitement of this hobby exists and not in the money boys who buy the latest greatest most expensive gear which appears/disappears every few months.Just my two cents which I probably spent one cent too much on just now.
Others suffer from delusions of grander and of unwarranted sense of authority.
A little lesson for you all today (I am a trumpeter as well). It is a challenge to the awareness to be be vigilant and to guard against those who peddle the very nonsense they purport to debunk.
Gladstone- ROFLMAO :o)
I guess you can't teach old dogs...sure glad I teach young cats.See you on the other side.
Gladstone... you are witty to the extreme. LOL!!!!!