Emotiva ERC-3 or Music Hall C-DAC15.3 / connections?


Hi,
first time post. Not an 'audiophile' per say, just a guy who appreciates good sound.

I'm looking at buying a new CD player and the Emotiva ERC-3 is on my short list. I've read good reviews and the 5 year warranty is a big plus.
I'll be hooking it up to an Anthem MRX 710 AVR. The Anthem doesn't have balanced inputs and from what I've read the ERC-3 sounds best using balanced connections.  So, would there be any advantage in using an XLR to RCA cable? Or am I going to get the same sound using RCA-RCA?

The Music Hall C-DAC15.3 player is also under consideration.  My speakers are Paradigm Studio 100's v2 
With the Anthem , which would be a better bet, the Emotiva or Music Hall?

Thanks!
kfoxian
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The Emotiva ERC-3 will perform just fine with RCA cables.  At its price, not too many other CD players only (new), I would recommend.  Still use a ERC-2 in one of my systems.  

Great build, good DAC and sound.


Rich
I have the ERC-3. Great player. IMO it would take multiples of the MSRP ($500) to best it. That said, I can also speak to the downside of the unit. I’ve also talked to Lonnie Vaughn a few times and got his take on my observation(s). First, if you haven’t seen the video of him explaining the player, you ought to:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AASMX6zpOog

To your specific point about RCA and XLR, XLR is preferable. What is not known, however, is whether or not the unit is *truly* balanced through and through. It is thought not to be. No bigigy there, just keep it in mind. The RCA also sounds great, but as I might have expected, has a little bit less gain than the XLR out. I’m guessing some where between 3 and 6 db less.

On the negative side of the player, it (motor spinning disk) is *very* noisy when compared to other players. Guessing a 2 db increase and it is audible within a foot or so of the unit. There is much negativity by some in other forums about that. However, from the listening position which would likely be many more feet away, it is not audible (to my ears).

On the positive side, regarding the noisy motor, the rationale by Emotiva is the unit uses a significantly better class laser than most players and therefor can and opted to spin the disk about 1200 RPMs, many times (3 or 4) faster than most players. As a result, the error correction in the ERC-3 is purported to be very good (and I can vouch that it is). So, if you have scratched or less than optimal disks, this player should be able to read them with no problem.

Great player and a great value when all things are considered.

Edit: I have no experience with the Music Hall C-DAC15.3. At face value though, from what I can glean from http://musichallaudio.com/c-dac15-3/ and the fact it may be a bit *more* expensive, I would go with the Emotiva :)
gdhal, are you saying that Emotiva is not sure whether the ERC-3 is fully balanced?  That's what it appears you are saying.

I bought one of their early dacs, the XDA-1, and Emotiva was sure that it had lossless volume and could do 192 hz over USB.  They were wrong on both counts, and had to recant, after many customers complained.

The ERC-2 was noisy too, and to hear that they haven't made any headway in that regard is disappointing.  The cd player has to do several things well, including the DAC process, and if the manufacturer can't even decide if the cd player that they designed is fully balanced, well that's a red flag, the price be damned.

I had the ERC-1 as well as the XDA-1, and it had issues too. 
gdhal, are you saying that Emotiva is not sure whether the ERC-3 is fully balanced? That's what it appears you are saying.

No. I meant thought not to be balanced by myself, based on some readings on this forum, the Emotiva forum, and the fact their website is a little ambiguous in this regard. I have not posed the question to Emotiva. 

Have you come across any literature from Emotiva or forum posts indicating it is truly/fully balanced?
@213runnin

Incidentally, the ambiguity I was speaking of was also cited by @almarg in this thread https://forum.audiogon.com/discussions/balanced-but-not-fully-balanced

Further, note the Emotiva website, which indicates a S/N for balanced out is 110db, is correct. However, prior to 11/30/15 the spec listed was lower than the 104db S/N output for unbalanced. After calling this to Lonnie's attention, he had their website corrected. As proof of that, if you PM me your persoanl email address, I'd be happy to forward his correspondence.
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gdhal, so you don't think it's fully balanced, but Emotiva does?

I am fully aware of the possible compromises in design that can occur when a component comes with XLR jacks though it is not fully balanced.  

Thank you for the offer, but I trust your memory of your communication with Lonnie, I don't need to see it.  I just went to the Emotiva product page for the ERC-3, and they seem pretty confident that the ERC-3 is indeed a balanced design.  Has an independent party found some sort of proof that it is not?
@213runnin

You are correct that I do not think it's fully balanced. I do not know what Emotiva thinks in this regard, nor do I know of any third party who can offer proof one way or the other.

Suggestion. As this is of concern to you, perhaps it behooves *you* to call Emotiva and ask. 
I also use the ERC-3 and really like it. RCA to my now vintage Quad preamp. Granted I haven't listened to many other players in my system, but it is much more revealing than my previous Yamaha player, but definitely not cold or harsh sounding. It is loud, but the only time it has bothered me is when there is absolutely no ambient noise (furnace fan turned off) and I'm standing by the rack. Once I'm sitting and listening I can't hear it between tracks. It is absolutely the best that I've used at reading old or scratched disks. I love the remote...it doubles as a personal protection device or for cracking walnuts. Can definitely recommend it.
@ky1mag

+1
Thanks to everyone for your thoughts.

gdhall and 123running, RE whether the ERC-3 is fully balanced or not, have you taken a look at the internal pics? Does the circuitry around the XLR inputs give you any better indication?
pics here: https://emotiva.com/products/sources/erc-3
@kfoxian, Yes, I have looked at the internals. Pictures cannot provide any answers in this regard. Only a schematic and knowledge of electronics can. Regardless of whether or not the ERC-3 is fully balanced is not entirely the point though. It does have balanced connectivity and that does provide greater all around capability (noise reduction and higher output gain) relative to RCA. It's a great CD player at a very reasonable price point.  

Based on work I have done with the XDA-2 DAC, I would say that the output buffer of the ERC-3 is fully balanced.  However, it is difficult to say for sure if it is fully balanced from the DAC chip and I/V stages. 

https://emotiva.com/sites/default/files/styles/product_very_large/public/ERC3_TOP.png?itok=cjgxjTHQ

There are four op amps right next to the AD1955 DAC chip, so it could very well be fully balanced through the I/V and low pass filter stages.  Emotiva likes to use OPA2134 op amps.  These are somewhat laid back with a warm full sound, but definitely not as high-resolution as other op amps, such as the bipolar op amps (i.e. OPA1612 or AD797).

Op amps are also a cost cutting indication, the better designs go with discrete circuitry.

I'm sure, however, that the ERC-3 sounds nice, but op amps plus a noisy spinning mechanism indicate that it's built with a lower price point in mind.
@auxinput
please, could you have a look at the Music Hall’s internal and give your opinion?
http://musichallaudio.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/07/music-hall-cdac15-3-inside.jpg

btw, you can’t see it , but the CD drive controller board is positioned underneath the drive

EDIT: the pic here is better, allows a focused zoom
http://www.audioadvisor.com/prodinfo.asp?number=MHCDAC153
Could any Music Hall 15.3 CD owners comment on it's ability to play scuffed/scratched discs? Thank you
My apologies kfox, I should have noted that in your budget, and probably any cd player under $1000, op amps would be pretty common.  I will say that the Music Hall unit looks pretty sparse under the hood, while an Emotiva has much more circuitry, as does the mid level Nad C546BEE.

With your Anthem MRX 710, you'll have the option to let the Anthem do the digital to analog conversion.  I heard one of the lesser Anthems driving a pair of Totem Dreamcatchers in two channel mode.  It was quite impressive to say the least.  I expect that Anthem's room correction is very good, and you'll be quite pleased with the result.
@213runnin
I thought the same thing, that the Music Hall internals look sparse, but then found out there’s a large circuit board, reportedly the CD drive controller board, hidden under the drive itself.
see here: http://audio.com.pl/images/0/8/5/29085-max_music_hall_c_dac15-3_a15-3_2.jpg

Yeah, the Music Hall is VERY sparse internally. In addition, they have two completely separate DAC chips, I/V stages and clock sections. They are probably thinking that the Burr Brown sounds better for 16 bit CD source and the Wolfson does better for hi-res and everything else. It’s just an added expense for you. Each of these sections has its own completely isolated power supply (a wasted cost in my opinion). The power supplies are very sparse as well. My guess is that this is not going to sound as full and nice as the Emotiva.

One thing I like about Emotiva is that their designs are very good. The choices they make about how they design the actual circuits show a lot of thought. They just use lower cost components (electrolytic and film capacitors, op amps, etc.). The power supply section is very beefy and can supply a lot of current. The result is something that is very nice for the amount you spend on it, but there are always better equipment at a higher price, lol.

Upgrading the electrolytic/film caps as well as upgrading the output buffer op amps will give you an excellent CD source. Bump up the main power supply caps to as large as you can, upgrade all caps to Nichicon Muse or KW. Upgrade op amp negative feedback film caps to film-on-foil (Kemet PFR). Upgrade output op amps to Sparkos discrete op amps.

I took a quick look at your Anthem MRX 710 AVR.  If you are wanting an analog CD player, make sure to set the "Process Analog Audio Input" to NO and "Anthem Room Correction" to NO.  This will disable any digital processing and do a pure analog "pass through" in your Anthem.

If you want to use Anthem Room Correction and/or a subwoofer with your CD player, you might be better off getting a CD transport such as the Cambridge CXC and connect it to a COAX digital input on the Anthem.  If you like the DACs in your Anthem, this might be a better way to "play" your CDs.

@auxinput
the Music Hall has separate DAC chips, clocks, etc because it's a combination 3-INPUT DAC and a CD player
http://musichallaudio.com/c-dac15-3/

Knowing there's a another circuit board UNDER the disc drive, you still think the interior is sparse?

Yes, the Music Hall is still very sparse.  You need to take that single circuit board and chop it in half.  The left side is the power supply, DAC and I/V stage for the digital inputs.  The right side is the power supply, DAC and I/V stage for the CD drive.  The hidden board under the drive is just the digital controller for the CD drive itself.

In the Emotiva ERC-3 picture, the power supply comprises the large circuit board on the left side of the player.  The top right contains the DAC and I/V stage.  The top middle contains the output buffer stages.  The emotive is hiding it's CD driver controller board.  Also, the Emotiva has metal shielding between power supply / drive / DAC modules.

This may push your budget, but you could look at Marantz offerings.  There are a couple items for sale on audiogon.  A Marantz SA8005 and a UD7007.  Both have discrete output stages (no op amps), and will probably sound much better than the Emotiva or Music Hall.  The SA8005 also has digital inputs and can act as a DAC.

I have the ERC 2 and changed the Opamps to Burson V5's. With some burn in these pieces take the player to a whole different level in my opinion. They come with a eight pin adapter so rolling other Opamps is just a drop in. Looking to try the Sparkos at some point.