EMM Labs DAC 2 presentation

Hi All:

I'm using the highly respected Emm Labs DAC 2 in my PC Audio set up. In spite of USB cables, tweaking of the FUBAR settings etc, I find the sound dry and mechanical. I'm asking for suggestions on a warmer, more lush sounding DAC as my primary source of listening is vinyl. Perhaps something that employs tubes in its design. Maybe Audio Research, Wavelength?
Hi Chris, you may want to have a look at the DAC introduced by Playback Designs. I believe it upsamples to 24/192. PD is headed by Andreas Koch, formerly of EMM. According to all reports I have heard, PD sound is both more emotional and more detailed than EMM. My favorite though is the TEAC Esoteric D-03, which while maintaining the emotive characteristics ofPD, sounded to me even more refined, lower in distortion, and seemed to yield an even more convincing sound stage. TEAC has recently introduced a USB/lossless option to the D-03. G.
We have the EMM Labs DAC, the Digital Audio Denmark AX24 and the Playback Designs MPS-5. The Playback Designs is our new reference DAC. It will even accept the ST-optical connection of the EMM labs transport if you have one. They also make a seperate DAC without the transport.
Crna39, how would you characterize the sonic differences between the PD DAC and the EMM DAC?
Yes, the EMM Labs is very transparent and clinical. It's what recording and mastering engineers want. The Playback is more "musical", allowing the harmonics to come though and is just a tad punchier on bass transients.
I'd suggest the Positive Feedback article written comparing the EMM labs to the Playback. Too bad the Playback isn't an A to D converter...
I'm curious what you guys have the EMM Labs DAC2 paired with.

Right now I am running it through a Krell Evo 707 and Evo 403 and the bass is very tight and punchy and I would never call the sound I have from the TSD1/DAC2 analytical, quite the contrary, it is extremely detailed while remaining musical.
Thank you Crna39, I will read the PF article. By the way, CDSTEP has used his Playback Designs MPS-5 successfully as a DAC. I believe that PD has introduced a DAC-only version of the same, although this is not reflected on Chambers Audio web site as yet.
Hi Frontier1,

I have been through a number of DACs over the years, ranging from a few hundred dollars to about six thousand in price, ranging from tube, solid state, upsampling and NOS.

I am currently using a Wavelength Cosecant V3, which gives a far more pleasurable listening experience than the solid state DACs I have owned, and I prefer it to the other tube DACs I've owned as well. It is very smooth and musical, although possibly a tad light in the low bass (if your speakers go that low). The only input option on the current line of Wavelength DACs is USB.

If you don't want to spend a lot of money, I recommend trying the MHDT Labs products. They are specifically designed around analog-like sound quality, not test bench performance. I recently sold my MHDT Labs Havana, which sells new for under a thousand dollars, but in my experience competes with all of the more expensive DACs I've owned. However, like most NOS DACs, they are fussy about what is driving them.

Keep in mind that my system is currently all solid state except for the DAC, so this is probably why I prefer a DAC with a tube output.

Good luck finding something you like.
The DAC only version of the MPS-5 is called the MPD-5, and I believe it has been released. Here is a link to the product on the Playback Designs web site:


I'm not sure about the pricing.
the MPD-5 is $7500 intro price ($1100 retail) per Jtinn. kinda out of my price range, but i have an inquisitive nature.
Perhaps an old thread.
I have been using Weiss Minerva with Firewire interface for PC audio.
I also have an EMM SE combo (not latest - no USB).
I keep the EMM combo for SACD replay but never go back to it for CD or (obviously) HiRes playback. The Minerva is very reasonably priced. It is stable and I love the flexibility of different input and output interfaces.
MOST IMPORTANT - MPD-5 only gives you 48k sample rate on USB. High sample rates have to come through AES/XLR. Minerva can take HiRes through Firewire and interface out through AES XLR.
The sound is not a clinical/fast as EMM combo. Different, but just as good and, IMO, easier on the ear for long sessions of musical listening.
Don't spend your money on a new DAC. You absolutely need a better way to get your audio out of the PC into the Emm Labs DAC. The USB input on that DAC is the worst connection you could possibly use out of your options. You aren't giving your DAC 2 a fair chance to showcase its qualities by any means. You need a SPDIF or AES connection with an Empirical Audio Pace-Car, Off-Ramp 3, or the Lynx AES16e which would provide much better lower jitter sources. The only DAC's I would even consider using with their USB inputs are the Wavelength Cosecant and Empirical Overdrive which use Asychnronous mode via USB all other USB chipsets use Adaptive which is bad for audio period. No other DACs have this feature because it is extremely new technology.
Typo in my post, meant to say "Asynchronous"