Yep... it's the output of the EMU that doesn't match. Supposedly, from head phone fanatic forums, the EMU1212 is supposed to have great DAC's rivaling 1000-2000 cd players. However, I feel headphones are a different animal. I received a meridian dvd player (albeit a 586.2 which is supposedly 80% meridian unlike the 596/598 and on - thing is heavy as hell), which is also supposed to be great for cd play, gave it a whirl and there it was. Much richer sounding yet still detailed. Dunno if it's some special meridian tweak that creates their sound because it's very similar to how my dsp5000's (in family room surround system) sound. Like a trademark tone... Yet never had that quality using meridian prepro's (561 & 568.1) with analog amps & speakers. Oh well, that's a diff tangent. I didn't have a complete level match when A/B'ing, but could hear the difference distinctly. EMU was very clean and detailed, but didn't have that "body" or weightiness (but not veiled) sound to it. I imagine it falls in line with 'pro studio' sound, as it's roots are. But the meridian was destined for my family room but at least isolated it. Made me realize how neutral the NHT 2.9's are, respond very well to changes upstream.