MUSE Erato II - Anyone using this player?

I have an opportunity to own MUSE's top player, the Erato II. However, the only print references to the Erato II I can find are the double review in HiFi+ (same review on-line at AV-guide), a Stereophile CES 2008 Show Report with no performance related comments, and an article indicating that Stereo Times reviewer Jan Petter Egidius uses the Erato II as his reference. There is no specific discussion here or at AA, and there is only one posted virtual system that uses the transport version, and none listed that use the player version. The two HiFi+ reviewers seemed to like it with a few operational caveats, but their reviews were not what I would call all-out raves. I would be interested in hearing feedback from any who have heard the Erato II player in their own system, a friend's system, or even at a show like CES. Thanks.
Amazing, that not a single person that posts on this forum or on Audio Asylum has heard a player that Roy Gregory of HiFi+ calls,

"a performance marker against which other products should be compared, a benchmark in the truest sense of the word."
Maybe Roy Gregory has the only one.
Good one Chayro.
The only reviews I have found are for the Polyhymnia @ Stereophile & Eleven @ Secrets of Home Theater. I quess you will have to call the designer.
Mds, thanks for looking and posting here.

I have also seen those reviews. The designer told me the Model Ten (which I owned) would be superior to the Eleven (for redbook CD playback). The designer also considers the Erato II superior to the Polyhymnia for CD or DVD playback and for video. The only benefit of the Eleven and the Polyhymnia are that they also play SACD, which the Model Ten and current Erato II do not. Therefore, I suspect the Model Eleven and Polyhymnia reviews would not be good indicators of how the Erato II sounds. Since I would not have a chance to audition the Erato II before owning, I was really hoping a couple of folks here had given the Erato II a run in and could compare it's sound to one or two of the usual suspects around the same $7K price range.

I talked with Kevin about 3 years ago when I was looking to upgrade my DVD Player for better analog audio. I got the impression that their products were mainly for audio and video was just a side note. I decided to take another route since I didn't want to loose any video quality. Kevin did state that the bulk of their sales were oversea's so maybe no one has had a chance to compare the products. Good luck in your search, I suspect that the Erato II would be an excellent sounding product hopefully you can find someone that is familiar with the product.
I have an Erato II in my home system. It replaced a Krell, and I simply love it. The rest of my system is Edge NL 10.1, Nearfield Pipedreams, and Crystal Clear cables. The Erato is one of the best additions I've ever made. It is startling in clarity, speed, tonal balance, and wonderful in accuracy. It is feeding my Edge directly...
Finally, someone who has heard (owns) this player. Thanks for responding! You must have the attenuator module if you are running direct. I would be using it into a preamp. Three questions I have for you are whether the player is good at conveying body, dimensionality, and fullness; whether the bass is deep, dynamic and defined; and how the player compares with other excellent players you have owned?

Oh and finally, since providing detail on the MUSE website has never been their strong suit, if you have the newer style faceplate, where are the control buttons? Is this a pressure sensitive screen in the middle or is everything controlled by remote? The website shows a picture of the new faceplate, but it is hidden by the open drawer and the site doesn't show or discuss the operation of the player without the conventional buttons they have had on their players for years. Thanks again.
Mitch2 Yes, I have the Attenuator module, and removing my preamp was a huge difference. Much cleaner, faster, more open, and much more detailed.
I am using a Rel sub with my Pipes , and the bass is deep, and very well defined. I have mainly owned Krell digital products, and this is miles ahead of them. I have heard several Esoteric and Audio Research, and prefer the Muse. It seems to take digital to a new level. When I added the Erato, it forced me to replace everything else in the system so I could see how far digital had come. Several conversations with Kevin at Muse convinced me it was worthwhile to try the attenuator module.
The control buttons are arranged with three buttons on each side of the face plate. I almost never use them, and use the "bulky" remote. It's easy. I spoke with Muse while doing my initial set-up, because you are correct..lousy instructions.I do not have a pressure sensitive screen.
I only bought this in the beginning because of a generous trade-in policy on my Muse Model 8 transport I was using when my Krell KPS 20i transport was in need of repair, and Krell could no longer fix it. Kevin Halverson is wonderful to deal with. I also spoke to Scot Markwell about this player... Bob
So you have the newer style faceplate shown when you select the "products" tab on their website? That is the only picture of the faceplate I can find, since they had not yet updated it at the time of the pictures in the HiFi+ review. Unfortunately, the one picture on their website is not of sufficient resolution to discern the buttons on the front. Are the buttons located within the white metal faceplate area, or within the black looking central opening (is that plastic)? If it would be possible to e-mail a picture, I would be very grateful. I am surprised you have the bulky remote (I also have one with my Model 3 Signature preamp) because I understand the Erato II now comes with the much simpler Remote 1. However, I am glad to hear the sonics are excellent. Thanks again, - Tim
The faceplate is black plastic and lights up with blue lights for info. The buttons are also in black plastic inside the same area...not outside on the gray.
The bigger remote gives you more video options which I don't need. The smaller remote would be fine. Are you still using the Muse preamp in your system?
Not sure what I am going to do with the preamp. I just had it upgraded, it sounds good, and I really wanted to like it better than my Lamm LL2 Deluxe, but after recently reinstalling the Lamm, I believe the MUSE is just not as good sonically. Maybe the MUSE is a little tighter and more dynamic in the bass, and perhaps better overall for rock music, with more gain, but otherwise the Lamm just plain sounds better to me. Too bad, because the features and operation of the MUSE preamp are hard to beat with the adjustable gain, 0.5 dB volume steps that are displayed as actual attenuation and gain values (which I like better than any volume control I have used), and remote control of phase, mute, input, volume, balance, skip and direct track. It has HT pass through and is also fully balanced, which works better for me with my balanced Clayton monoblocks. From a feature standpoint alone, I have never used a better preamp. I will probably put it back in my system in a week or so and see if I miss the Lamm.
Tim..Tough call..Muse is terribly unappreciated and rarely reviewed. Lamm has an incredible following though, so it sounds like you can't lose.
If you go to the Erato, I think you'll be very happy. What is it replacing? What are your speakers?
I did speak with Kevin about the Polyhymnia vs the Erato II. He said the Erato was much better and newer design...Bob
Lector CDP 7TL MkIII player,
Lamm LL2 Deluxe or Muse Model 3 Signature preamp,
Clayton M300 amps (300/600 wpc @8/4 ohms Class A),
Aerial 9 speakers
The Lector is very nice, so I cannot go wrong there either. I guess I had visions of an all SS front end that would give me the same level of enjoyment as my tubed CDP and preamp, but that would be easier to operate, with more features, and that could stay turned on all the time. Have you heard the Model 3 Sig, and did Kevin discuss that as an option when you were looking at the attenuation module on the Erato II?
I have not heard the Sig 3. Kevin was suggesting the attenuator module and never said anything about other options.
Do you need a preamp for vinyl. or will you be digital only?
Tough call on the tube and SS comparison. I was usually a SS guy, but Edge made me look at SS very differently. It is the most relaxing, mellow and powerful combination I've ever heard. None of the SS fatigue I used to get.
My SS Clayton monos are also amps that transcend the old SS vs. tubes debate. You know you are not listening to tubes, but you focus more on their strengths than on what you are giving up by not having tubes. They do not have quite the (larger than real?) body of my former hybrid Lamm M1.1's but they do bass, drive, clarity and high frequencies better, while still providing better body and dimensionality than most SS. I like using a preamp simply because I like the sound vs. a passive, I perceive more drive and depth to the music with a preamp. I assume Kevin's attenuator module is simply a passive attenuator? I maybe should e-mail them and learn more. Unfortunate, but a more informative website with better pictures and descriptions would probably be enough to increase their sales. IMO, Lamm is one example of a Mfg with an excellent and totally informative website.
I agree with you about Muse. I've been told that Kevin is close to a recluse, and really doesn't want to grow the company. If you get him exchanging email directly with you, you will learn everything you need to know.
I think that his attenuator stage is active, but not positive.
Also, if you go to google and look up Muse you will find a dealer that handles Muse. Scot Markwell (former reviewer and I think Harry Pearson's assitant in set up) will talk to you about Muse products.
Tim..did you buy it? Where were you getting the Erato? Bob
Bob, I have e-mailed them with some questions on Sunday and have not heard back. Since a couple of the questions were technical in nature, Kevin will probably be elected to answer them and I suppose he has been busy. The Erato II will be an upgrade from a Thalia/Nine. I am inclined to go ahead with the upgrade but I want to know more about the remote and about the attenuator module, which I am now considering as part of the upgrade. Thanks for checking back.
As an update, I did hear back from Kevin at MUSE and we are discussing details for the upgrade to Erato II. The attenuator module is indeed an active device that has a maximum output of 6.5V RMS, an output impedance of 150 ohms (or 150+150 ohms in balanced mode), and it can be controlled by the remote. Even with the attenuator module, it still comes with the fixed outputs so it can be used with a preamp.
Mitch, I really think it's worth considering. I found it to be a marked improvement over my Krell Preamp. Please let me know if/when you order and how it works out for you. I think it is an all out winner. Kevin is a genius...Bob
I've come to this a bit late but I had an Erato at home for a few weeks earlier this year. The reasons for not purchasing were purely practical. I found it beguiling and now that I have an Emm Labs CDSAse I'm not 100% sure I did the right thing. It seemed to have a natural character that when I think back drew me in more so than I've experienced before or since. The system I run now is better but not neccessarily in a natural way certainly more hifi, greater resolution etc. The likelyhood of trying it again and comparing is slim but I'd definately love to.
Thanks Defride, for weighing in - any information is helpful. I have been considering the Erato II in order to simplify my system by running all solid state equipment that should better serve my erratic listening habits. I have been curious about how few folks here own MUSE equipment even though their gear has been universally well-regarded. I have been told, MUSE has a larger following overseas than here. In the Stereophile review of the MUSE Polyhymnia, they concluded the Polyhymnia was basically at the same sonic level as the Ayre C5XeMP, but with a slightly different sound of it's own, and MUSE considers the Erato II [sonically] "the better of the two devices," when compared with the Polyhymnia. HiFi+ considered the Erato II basically equivalent to the very highly regarded (and much more expensive) AR CD-7, and called the Erato II a "digital benchmark." Therefore, based on those reviews at least, the Erato II is a very well-regarded player.

Another reason this has been a tough decision for me is that my Lector CDP 7TL MkIII still sounds great, and IMO beats the Thalia/Nine (that I purchased as a back-up) by providing a more realistic portrayal of wood, brass, and strings, and better micro dynamics (the Lector is simply more fun to listen to). Therefore, I am taking it on trust that the Erato II is a large step up from the Thalia/Nine and will be at least the equivalent to my Lector (and hopefully much better). Kevin at MUSE and I are working out final details and I am sending the Thalia/Nine in for the upgrade this week. I must also add that after owning MUSE equipment on and off for years, and going through several upgrades to their digital units and preamp, IMO a person would be hard pressed to find a better company (along with Ayre and a few others) to work with based on their responsiveness and commitment to upgrading existing products while still staying on the cutting edge of new developments, year after year.

Mitch, I'm glad to hear you're taking the action with Muse. You won't be dissatisfied. Let us all know how it works out.
Hi Mitch, good luck with the Erato assuming you do get one it'd be very interesting to hear what you think. You mention the Hifi+ reviews, I had them to hand when I had the player and felt they offered a pretty fair reflection of what I heard. The player had an uncanny way of at first sounding a bit ordinary and at the same time very natural. I ended up listening through entire albums where I'd usually skip through some of them.
DeFride..saw your response about teh Erato. I was curious why your system and its makeup sound better now. I own the Erato and love it. Any info about how to select rest of system to compliment its strengths would be appreciated. Thanks, RKochies
RKochies, I had only 3 weeks with the Erato and my system has changed quite a bit since then but I've fond memories. I ran the Erato into Muse Model 200 and Audio Analogue Verdi amps. These drove Sonus Faber Grand Piano's. I've kept the Model 200 but have been through speakers since settling on Kharma's. They offer up most notably greater scale. My impression is that the Emm Labs is a tonally richer player. The Erato seemed to be very natural, neutral and linear. There was no over or under emphasis anywhere and it made music beautifully. What I'm listening to now has similar attributes but more believable scale and thats down to the speakers more than anything. My guess is the Erato will suit a system with similar traits but it'd be important to make sure that other components didn't tend toward the lean side. I think the bass could end up sounding lightweight in that sort of setup. The Erato offers plenty of bass but only when its there, no emphasis, if this area of the system were light I'd guess it'd not come across well. All IMHO of course and bare in mind I've not heard one in my current setup.
Defride...Thanks for the update. I use the Erato with the attenuated stage fed directly into my modified Edge NL10.1. It is very musical. The speakers are Nearfield Pipedreams and all cabling is Crystal Clear silvers. Also using Rel sub...I find it natural and relaxing...none of the old fatigue my Krell system presented. Thanks again, Bob Koch
Hi guys, I have been communicating with Kevin and my upgrade is underway. The result will be an as-new Erato II with the new style faceplate shown on their website. I am still debating whether to have the attenuator module installed. When I asked Kevin about the differences between playing the Erato II through the attenuator module and through his Model Three Signature preamp (which I own) he said,
There should be no discernible difference between the two configurations you describe, it (the attenuator module) has nearly identical characteristics as the Model Three Signature.
He went on to say,
I will pass along that some individuals have expressed that they like the attenuator module even better than the Model Three Signature. This may be because of the fewer number of interconnects (just one pair to the amplifier) it may be because the module is so low in cost. I myself find them very similar, too similar to make a call. Certainly the feature set of the Model Three Signature is much greater than the attenuator module, but for a really simple system, it (the attenuator module) is nearly a perfect device.
Since I already own the Three Signature, it seems I would not need the attenuator, but I am curious about whether it would sound as good, or better, than the preamp, and since my only source will be the player, it really would be a simple solution for me - player to amps to speakers. Another consideration is that even with the attenuator installed, I would still have the option to instead use the unattenuated outputs to drive an external preamp like my Lamm LL2 Deluxe, which I find to be sonically excellent.
Mitch..did you ever get your Erato??
It is in transit and scheduled to arrive on Thursday. I had them include the attenuator option since the cost as part of the upgrade was not that much and also because I can still choose to use it through a preamp with the fixed 2V output module without any sonic penalty. I will be comparing the output attenuator with the Model 3 Signature preamp and also with another very nice sounding preamp I have here now. The output attenuator module is in fact an active module that attenuates a higher 6V output. BTW, the upgrade took so long because they used a custom black finish that matches my other gear. They even sent me a sample of the finish for approval before completing the preamp.
Wow, what service. Please let me know how your comparison of the attenuator option works. Thanks, Bob
Mitch, did you ever receive your Erato? How did the attenuator stage work out? Bob Koch
Hi Bob. Yes, I have had the Erato II in house for a month or so and I am still in the evaluation phase. MUSE did this in black for me and IMO it looks great. At first, I did a brief sonic comparison between the MUSE Model Three Signature preamp and the internal active preamp in the Erato II. My quick assessment confirms Kevin Halverson's assertion that the sonic differences are hard to identify - they sound quite similar. However, I had an impression the Model Three preamp displayed more depth, but maybe because the internal preamp was not broken in? I also like the separate power supply and large volume display associated with the Model Three Sig so, all other things being equal, I would choose to use the Model Three Sig preamp over the internal preamp. However, for those not owning the external preamp, the internal preamp would provide the same level of sonics and a seriously easy operating interface - just the player and your amp(s). Having one remote control both player and preamp is very nice.

Not being able to leave well enough alone, I am currently running the Erato II through a Tom Evans Vibe with Pulse II, which is still the best sounding solid state preamp I have ever heard. The MUSE preamps are nice, and are tonally similar to the TEAD (I could live with either), but IMO the Vibe/Pulse offers improvements in resolution and bass definition - two areas where it is reported to be very good. Unfortunately, there is no remote control of the Vibe/Pulse and I am back to using the Jensen transformers into my amps, since the Vibe/Pulse is single-ended only.

I am also using and comparing both the Erato II and my Lector CDP 7TL MkIII as sources. I am fortunate that both of these players sound wonderful. However, they each have comparatively distinctive strengths sonically, mechanically, and ergonomically, and of course the Erato II has an advantage in that it can play hi-rez discs. I am not yet able to choose one over the other (and may keep both). I wish this were easier but I cannot complain too much since everything sounds so good.
I guess the most important thing is that everything sounds great. Glad to see the attenuator seems close to the Muse's preamp. Happy listening. Bob
hi people
few months ago i have bought erato II and is connected to karan acoustics 180mk2 by cardas golden reference xlr interconect cables,speaker cables are cardas golden reference and speakers are spendor a9's. none of those components are not burned in yet but its already sounds fantastic. erato II was an excellent choice as a digital source. only one thing annoying me about that very talented cd player and its disc tray...flimsy...i would expect better job to be done at it.
sounds wise i cant tell anything against.

I agree about the disc tray...wait until broken in...sound is fantastic
hey Rkochies
how long have you own this fantastic digital player ? what's your other components in chain ?
rkochies ignore second question mate :) i have noticed that all above. but still how long ?
Still have mine. Never a problem with the disc tray. I believe kevin spec'ed computer type dvd transports but it has always worked well and sounded great - I wouldn't worry about it. My computer set-up has just lately begun to rival the Erato II to the point where they are of similar quality but slightly different flavors. If I had to pick one over the other today, on SQ alone, it would be the Erato II.
hi mitch2
i was just a nit picking when i have mentioned the disc tray, it sounds fantastic and thats all it matters
I agree about the tray, but oh boy, what great sound for the money. Kevin is great designer.