Review: Emm Labs DCC2 DA converter

Category: Digital

Initial impressions:
I have had the Emm labs DCC2 in my system for a little over 75 hours- break in time- so far and am in awe of its performance(I have about 12 hours listening time so far). I will post a follow up this weekend at some point, but I know many inquiring minds want to know if this piece is the "real deal" or not. Let me say this IT IS!

Upon installing this component in my system I noticed an immediate improvement- more so then ANY other product I have tried. The first note I heard played was unlike any reproduced sound I have ever had in my system. It was closer to the original performance then I have ever been. I've used the term "palpable" in the past to describe the sound of various systems or upgrades, but only now do I truly understand the meaning of it. Strings have texture and body that jump out at you, voices have a presence I can not put into words, percussion has weight and speed unlike anything I have heard before. The soundstage is DEEP and WIDE, with so much resolution I find myself hearing things I have never heard before on recordings I have listened to literally hundreds of times in the past. Detail and resolution so overwhelming that I get confused about everything that I am hearing- the best way I can describe it is: imagine you were deaf and never heard music before and for the first time you hear a song. That is the overwhelming that I am talking about, its down right scary sometime, but a real good scary. Keep in mind this unit is still breaking in and will get- I am told- a lot better.

The one thing I can not stand about a system is a fatigueing sound, this is a big problem with most digital sources. The sure fire way to test this is to listen...... a lot, do you get bored? lose interest in the music? if so its fatigueing. Up until I had the Audio Aero Capitole mkII in my system that had been the case for me, I just could never get into long listening sessions. Upon installing the Cap. I found myself listening and listening and staying up WAY to late rediscovering all of my music- I felt I had finally "arrived"- well I was wrong. However good I thought the Cap. was/is it can't keep up with the DCC2- its not as resolving, detailed........ you know all of the audiophile goodies. Compared it sounds dull and lifeless, and that is an accomplishment because I LOVE(d) the Audio Aero Capitole MkII because it allowed me to enjoy digital for the first time. But like all things something better came along, and this plays SACD's too!

I have been listening to way to many discs the last few days to list them all, however it is clear that SACD is MUCH more resolute, dynamic, faster, more defined soundstage and palpablity(is that even a word!) is increased yet further. This is really clear on Ryan Adams "Gold", James Taylor "Hourglass", Roxy Music "Avalon", Muddy Waters "Folk Singer", Beck "Sea Change", The Soprano's "Pepper's & Eggs"(one of my favorites right now), Szell- The Cleveland Orchesta Grieg*Bizet*Mussorgsky. As the unit breaks in further and I have more time to listen I will compare more of the Redbooks Vs. SACD's- I have around 200 SACD's and have listened to maybe 50 of them on this unit so far- so I have a long joyful road ahead of me.

The bar is raised. Redbook disc's have been brought to the next level. Greg Brown's "The Poet Game"(one of my favorite discs of all time), is even BIGGER then before, the soundstage has become much wider and more defined. I can almost feel the growl of his voice as he is telling me about his "'64 dodge". The bass is more articulate and detailed and slightly faster, with NO sluggishness or coloration. Just accurate, tight bass with a natural harmonic feeling which I have never heard from digital before. Aimee Mann's vocal's on "Bacholer no. 2 or the last remains of dodo" her voice is so fragile and delicate, yet smooth and refined with not even a hiccup of sibilance. This disc is due out as a MoFi hybrid soon, so I wanted to pay attention to the differences from the original to the remaster/sacd.

So far I have not explored much of my classical collection, I am not sure where or when to start but I have to start soon. My collection is probably about ½ classical so it will take some time to go through it accurately. So far what I have heard LAGQ "Latin" is snappy fast, dynamics galore, very well defined stage for the four musicians and a very natural sense of decay as the guitars are playing independently together- if you have this disc you will understand that, if not you'll think I am even weirder. I have listened to some of the Szell discs that I have and they seem to be hit and miss, some are FANTASTIC recordings, some are just fair- but the performances are all really quite good.

At this point the only flaw I can find with this piece was the delay to get it, but after waiting for nearly a year in only three days it seems like a moot point. After the few days of living with this piece I can not think of a single piece I would rather have at ANY price to replace it- maybe the Emm Labs DAC6e if I wanted multichannel. The conclusion I have so far about Emm labs is that Ed Meitner(the man behind Emm labs) has an understanding of digital that NO one else has- his digital front ends are amazing, something is turning in his mind that makes sense to him but baffles everyone else.

With the 3+ days of use on it, the sound has smoothed out even more, more detail is coming out, it seems like resolution is a little better(didn't think that was possible!). Out of the box it sounded fantastic, now it is just settling in and perhaps the sound is a little more laid back, its hard to tell going from one recording to another it could just be the mastering of the various discs. In the next few days if anything is to change a lot I will be sure to post it other wise expect the second part of this review on Sunday when I have more listening time and the unit is a lot closer to being broke in. If your thinking about purchasing this unit, do NOT listen to it if you are not prepared to buy it, because you will do what EVER it takes to get it when you hear it.

Associated gear
Click to view my Virtual System

Similar products
Have used in my system:
Accuphase DC-300 + DP-90 combo
Accuphase DP-75v
Audio Aero Capitole MkII
Philips SACD1000
Sony 9000es

Have heard:
Pretty much EVERYTHING at various shows- dCS, Burmester, Audio Mecca, Electrocompaniet, Wadia, Resolution Audio and Ayre to name a few.
Gerry- I hate to do this to you, but your system will thank you :o) As much as I liked the Cap. II and as good as I still think it is- there is a new king of the hill and it bears the name Emm Labs. Don't get me wrong in its respected price range I still think the Cap. II is hard to best, however, when you spend a bit more you get a lot more. The Cap. II was/is very easy to listen to its not fatigueing in the least and as I am sure you know, you can listen all day and night long and lose track of the time in a hurry listening to every CD in your collection over and over again. This is where the differences start(in particular with SACD) with the Emm labs gear your not so much listening as experiencing music- its an all out assault on your aural senses! There is so much more resolution and detail then the Cap. II its hard to believe understand with out hearing it. The soundstage is so huge its almost sureal, instruments have a real sense of size to them, an upright bass sounds like its 6 feet tall- percussion is so accurate, fast and detailed. Voices are so uncolored and natural it can be a little unsettling. I had a friend up a few weeks ago who had heard the system before and after and I was telling him what I was experiencing and he didn't believe me- not a single word! He was shocked to say the least, I told him you can hear imageing from behind and along side you very vividly, the first time he heard it, he was at a loss for words- he simply could not believe that a 2 channel system could image behind and along side the listener.

As I type this I am listening to Alison Krauss' Live SACD and it sounds like they are playing in the room next to me its amazing! In particular because I don't consider myself a blue-grass fan, it just sounds SOOOOOO good. If you have the money to invest in your system find a way to audition this gear, but be prepared to have a new digital front end in your system ASAP- it is probably better then I am saying. For once I am at a loss trying to describe something so that it makes sense to others- I hear things that I have heard NO other system do in my life(and I've been around the block a time or two).

I wish I had better news for you Gerry, I real do :^)
tireguy, jtinn...

i know very little about the techology, but do appreciate good sound, & trust my ears.

running the DCC2 to a power amp....does the power amp's impedance matter? my amp, which r linns, r only 7.5K.
Tim: As always, thanks for your time and comparison to the Cap MKII. Looks like I need to start a dedicated savings fund and then call Mr. J Tinn.

I am somewhat confused at your statement that it is unlike ANYTHING out there today. I mean you obviosly haven't heard every possible combo and you make it seem like amps and speaker, (which actually play the music),don't make a difference. I use a Levinson 37 transport into a Lavry DAC (pro dac) you know they use it in studios to actually make the music. Anyway it is an excellent piece Clean, clear, wonderful! Into a Levinson #32 pre-amp out to 33h and into the Salons. Now I can sit here and give all the adjectives, but I won't. I highly doubt it is BETTER than the #32 as a pre-amp. If it is close to equal than it is doing something. As everyone knows the #32 is at the pinnacle of pre-amps along with the Boulder.

In closing, a statement like it is better than anything I have heard is more appropriate. It certainly shouldn't be held as the holy grail until a/b against the top stuff out there.

Joey- Instead of trying to troll, take a listen yourself. I am so happy with the sound I am hearing I have no desire to argue with you. other words, it really is THAT good.