Introduction to the Emotiva ERC-2 CD Player
Emotiva continues to occupy an interesting space in the audiophile realm. It is now possible to get an entire two channel or five channel system consisting almost entirely of Emotiva products, CD player or DAC, a preamp, a variety of amplifiers from one to five channels, a pre-pro on the way and interconnects, all at a fraction of the cost most of the competition. With all of this activity creating new products I was surprised to see Emotiva upgrade their ERC-1 CD player though. They have the DAC after all, isn’t that the upgrade path? Besides, I read somewhere that everyone is listening to music off their iPad. Not that I’m complaining. I still listen to CD’s, when I’m not listening to vinyl, and I prefer to listen to an entire album as opposed to a compilation so CDs still work for me. I’ll chalk up the new player to engineering restlessness. At $449 , the ERC-2 costs $50 more than the ERC-1 and has balanced outputs for low noise transfer between the CD player and your preamplifier.
EMOTIVA ERC-2 SPECIFICATIONS
- Design: 2 Channel Slot Loading CD Player
- Codecs: Redbook CD, HDCD, MP3
- Analog Outputs: 1 Set XLR Balanced, 2 Sets RCA Unbalanced
- Digital Outputs: 1 RCA S/PDIF, 1 Optical (TosLink), AES/EBU digital output via XLR
- Output Voltage: 1V rms (7V peak)
- MFR: 0 Hz – 20 kHz ± 0.1 dB
- THD+N: ?0.01? 0dB 1kHz
- Digital Output Filter: 24-Bit, 384 kHz (Analog Devices 1955
- Analog Output Filter Frequency: 80 kHz (-3dB)
- Dimensions: 3.75″ H x 17″ W x 14″ D
- Weight: 17.5 Pounds
- MSRP: $449 USD
- SECRETS Tags: CD Player, Emotiva, ERC-1, ERC-2, XDA-1
Design of the Emotiva ERC-2 CD Player
I suspected ‘engineering restlessness’ because you can detect the engineering enthusiasm when Lonnie Vaughn (Emotiva General Manager) describes the changes from the ERC-1:
A new high performance Toshiba slot loaded CD mechanism offers superior performance and even softer disc handling. Individually regulated and shielded power supplies feed the CD carriage mechanism. VFD display, microprocessor, and digital and analog sections. This design ensures a dead quiet ground floor noise, extremely low distortion, and complete freedom from interaction between circuit elements. We’ve kept the amazingly musical and accurate Analog Devices AD1955 DAC, with its 384k oversampling filter, high jitter immunity and outstanding overall performance. A newly refined IV conversion stage enhances conversion accuracy. Upgraded components have been incorporated in many areas in the quest for musical perfection. The ECR-2 uses a dual differential line amplifier stage for uncompromising dynamics, linearity, and high output current capability on its balanced XLR outputs . We’ve even incorporated completely separate discrete line stages for the single ended RCA outputs for absolute fidelity in every system type.
In addition: ½” shorter than ERC1. Frequency response now listed as 0-20kHz +/- 0.1db, was 20-20kHz.
“The quest for musical perfection” – that is what we’re here for. With a good remote. The ERC-2’s is identical to the 1 save the logo, it is indeed a good remote, solid and easy to use. I did find that it needed to be pointed more or less at the front of the player more so than other remotes in my collection but nothing to fret about unless you have an unconventional setup. I am in the process of setting up a Studiotech rack system for my components. I would like to have had this done in time for the review to see how the remote fared through the wire mesh front door but it’s very likely that it’s fine.
One thing Lonnie didn’t mention was the addition of AES/EBU digital output via XLR, call me conspiratorial (I am), but this may be the real reason for the introduction of the ‘2’ – to add this output type for connection to the Emotiva XDA-1 DAC.
Setup of the Emotiva ERC-2 CD Player
Setup is the same as most any CD player except for the addition of balanced outputs. I did most of my listening with the balanced outs connected to the lone balanced input available on my Simaudio P5.3 SE Preamp. This was done with some 1m Analysis Plus Copper Oval balanced interconnects. Single ended connections where with some old Audioquest Sidewinders. When I used the ERC-2 as a transport I connected it to my Naim Dac using the highly recommended Ixos Ixotica DX1 Optical Toslink interconnect (seems this product is no longer on Ixos’ web page – uh oh). I used only the stock power cord with the ERC-2. For break-in I put in a disk and let the ERC-2 run for about a day continuously before I listened. If there was any change in the sound due to further break-in I didn’t hear it.
The Emotiva ERC-2 CD Player In Use
The improved loading mechanism was readily apparent from that very first disk. With the ERC-1 the required pressure to trigger the loader is a little harder than you might think is necessary. With the 2, the loader wakes up with only gentle pressure on the inserted disk. This is a welcome improvement. Another improvement is that the ‘2’ seems to get to the ‘Ready’ state a little quicker. I wrote about a harrowing experience with the slot loading mechanism in my review of the ERC-1 when it trapped a CD I was trying to insert, pinching and making a small scratch in the outer edge. This happened because I didn’t wait for the player to indicate ‘Ready’ on its display. I didn’t care to try to reproduce that experience but if the loader is ready sooner it’s less likely to happen.
As is my wont of late the first CD I tried was Lida Husik’s Faith in Space. This is a 90’s electronica-with-vocals record that can reward or punish CD playback. In this instance there was reward as the ERC-2 successfully brought out the textures of the heavy synth and bass on the opening track. A bad rendition of this track attenuates the bass and loses the texture (timbre) of the synth, making it into a rather normal sounding tone when in fact it’s nuanced.
Another disk that I like to use for comparisons is Songs from the Cold Seas by Hector Zazou. This is a truly unknown gem of a record with exquisitely recorded good music and vocals from Bjork, Siouxsie Sioux, Suzanne Vega, John Cale and others. The opening track is a fiery African drumming affair with two singers going full bore. The ERC-2 again brought out the driving nature of this track, keeping the instruments well separated and had me wondering how they do it for $450.
When I reviewed the ERC-1 I was comparing it to my existing CD rig which was a Naim CDS2 with XPS power supply. I found that the presentation of these two players was rather different and my preference shifted from one to the other when I added the balanced interconnects to the Emotiva. These days the CDS2 is in storage while that same power supply is being used to augment a Naim DAC. In this case I detected less of a difference between the ERC-2 and the Naim DAC. In fact the two were amazingly close in overall presentation, soundstage and extension top and bottom. This was using the balanced outputs from the Emotiva. With the ERC-2 I only listened to the unbalanced for a short time but there didn’t seem to be as much of a change when I shifted to balanced interconnects.
Since I was using S/PDIF from the Emotiva to drive the Naim DAC it was easy to do an A-B comparison by scrolling through the inputs on my preamp. With most CDs it was not easy to identify a clear difference between the Emotiva from my Naim DAC on the switchover. This is rather amazing as the cost difference is enormous (an order of magnitude). On the new Keith Jarrett live solo piano CD Rio (the ECM jazz label doesn’t release on vinyl unfortunately) I could finally hear a clear difference in timbre when the applause came. It had a sound more like claps from Naim, more like rain from the Emotiva. Not that it sounded like rain – just more so. Not that the sound was completely like applause through the Naim either. Also if a disk had a lot of bass there seemed to be slightly more of it with the Emotiva. As Lonnie Vaughn noted the listed frequency response for the ERC-2 starts from 0Hz. Not too much bass by any means, nor did it seem out of balance. I listened to plenty of disks all the way through with the Emotiva and enjoyed them all but when I started doing these comparisons there was something somewhere in the presentation of the ERC-2 that would make me prefer to switch to the Naim though I’m not sure what. A small amount of grain perhaps, I’m guessing, and it’s certainly ‘down in the noise’ to such an extent that different interconnects might make it go away. These Emotiva products are so good at such a low price they introduce a new audiophile dilemma – does it make any sense to buy interconnects and power cords that cost more than the boxes you are hooking them too? I don’t have an answer for that, I prefer not to think about it.
Conclusions About the Emotiva ERC-2 CD Player
I wish I had an ERC-1 that I could compare with the 2 for those out there thinking about upgrading. If my memory is any good I would say it’s not urgent to do so on the basis of sound quality. While the difference between the ‘2’ and the ‘1’ is well worth the price difference, it’s not so much that you need to rush right out and upgrade. Specially if you happen to be able to use the balanced outputs from the ‘1’. The softer loading disc mechanism is another factor that might pull you to upgrade. While asking for the details on the ERC-2 I also asked how it compared to Emotiva’s DAC, Lonnie Vaughn reported that the DAC was a step up even from the ERC-2 so it seems the best Emotiva sonic upgrade path is their DAC (XDA-1, reviewed here:). Not that an upgrade is needed, the ERC-2 is a fine CD player at an amazing price.