Emotiva ERC-4 CD Player / DAC Review

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by purr1n, Mar 9, 2022.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Introduction and Background

    The is a continuation of our foray a few years back into delta sigma DACs a few years back (Dangerous Music Convert 2, Crane Song Solaris, Burl B2 Bomber). I know there is a crowd here that prefers R2R to delta sigma DACs, and a subset of that who prefers NOS DACs, (read here: https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/delta-sigma-an-inconvenient-truth.9480/). However, I also know there are a more than few folks who have no problem with well executed delta sigma DACs, or may even prefer them because they sound less colored. (I guess this is a matter of opinion and perspective).

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    Personally, I feel there a some truth that delta-sigma DACs are less colored, mainly because this is what the majority of DACs out there are, especially in the mixing and mastering stages. To the end effect, I will cite a few examples: the weird (or charming mids depending upon how we look at it) of the Grado RS-2X (with F-pads) are more evident with the ERC-4 than with the Yggdrasil LIM. Same with the less extreme imperfections (bumps at 4.5k and 8k) of the JAR600.

    I had planned on getting a Cambridge Audio Azur 851N in for review until COVID messed up the world. Like the Convert 2, the Azure 851N uses the AD1955 part. This is a part that I feel could be one of the best delta sigma chips around, along with the prior generation AKM4399 (used on the Burl B2). I've simply never heard a bad sounding DAC using the AD1955. This is where the ERC-4 comes along. I'm a cheapskate, and I also look for very basic functionality. The Azur 851N is $1500 and has a lot of functionality that I don't need. This is when someone reminded me of Emotiva. Of course! How could I forget them. After all, I've been recommending Emotiva Class AB amps as entry level alternatives to Class D horrors for years now. The Emotiva ERC-4 comes in at $600, which is a bargain. It also can be used as a CD Player (or transport). I know this is extra functionality; but I still have old CDs around and my wife prefers physical media instead of having to mess with Roon.

    The downside is that there is no USB input. The ERC-4 only has coax and optical inputs. If we want USB functionality, grab a cheap used Schiit Eitr (good synergy) or Singxer USB to SPDIF converter. A little bit extra cost, but the ERC-4 at $600 is somewhat of a steal. The sound is closer to that of the well-regarded Convert-2 than the Lavry DA11. The tl;dr version is that the ERC-4 doesn't have the murkiness in the lows of the DA11. It exhibits the clarity, excitement, and sweetness of the Convert-2, and may actually be more resolving...
     
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    Last edited: Apr 6, 2022
  2. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    Ever tried the Emotiva Stealth DC-1 DAC?

    I was gonna sell mine, but if you want to try it first I can send it your way.
     
  3. YMO

    YMO Chewbacca's hairy brother

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    I had the ERC-3 Years ago as a CD Transport. I thought on my setup with the Audio-GD Compass2 using the WM8741 Dual-Chips it made the whole setup more colder than it should. I sold off that transport when I realized I didn't like how it sounded. Was using the PS500 and RS1s.

    ERC-3 is a balanced CD player and I remember accepting AES input.
     
  4. Erroneous

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    How is the performance as a CDT? There's one of these available locally and my CDT (which I love) isn't reading discs all the time. Might be good to have a backup.
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    The CDT is really good. It's not like we have much choice today, but the CDT feeding the measly Modi 3E has exceeded expectations. I was previous using USB Unison from a regular USB port on my PC or from the laptop. The ERC is touch less warm which I think suits the 3E better. I would say that the shift is minor, overall the 3E is still an inherently warm sounding DAC. However, there's more focus, less USB fuzzies and indistinctness if you know what I mean. What gets carried forth is the headstage. The ERC-4 has an open expansive headstage, and this quality carries forth most when using it as a CDT. Also, it just sounds "better" without my being able to explain.

    I actually feel the ERC-4 sounds a little better than the modded Marantz I used which started to break down. The chassis construction is sturdy. The sheet metal is sufficiently thick on top where I feel I can put a heavy component of top of it, unlike the Marantz. The faceplate is thick and solid. I don't feel that I need to resort to mass loading to make the ERC-4 as a CD transport sound better.

    My intention for the ERC-4 was also as a transport because I still have my CD collection and my wife is old school and prefers physical media. The fact that it sounds good as a CD Player (with DAC) is a bonus.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2022
  6. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    With respect to the ERC-4 as a DAC / CD Player sonics and other notes:
    • The soundstage reminds me of the wrap-around of the Convert-2 where the sides of the stage and pushed outwards and then converge towards the listener, but to a lesser extent. I think most headphone listeners would love this effect, particularly since there's a great sense of openness and expansiveness.
    • Tonal balance is a bit brighter than most. The ERC-4 isn't outright slamming or bassy like Convert-2 or Bifrost 2. There's good punch, decent extension in the lows, but there is nothing overemphasized here. The highs are a bit brighter than most other DACs on average. As I mentioned in the first post, there's a honesty here that won't make Grados or HD600s more palatable. That being said, I don't have problems replacing my reference DACs with the ERC-4 and listening to Grados or HD600s. A good week of warm-up and acclimatization is recommended though. The ERC-4 was bright when cold upon first use.
    • Timbre is good considering this is a delta-sigma DAC. No, we are not getting a R2R sound. There's no R2R thickness or density. Clarity is excellent. The ERC-4 at times pulls off a certain sweetness of the Convert-2 (also AD1955). However I do think the Convert-2 does is better with timbre because it's more consistent. Still, I'll take this over ESS or AKM VELVET sound. There's no such thing as a bad sounding AD1955 implementation. There no lean or headache inducing nonsense exhibited by Chi-Fi, e.g. Topping, Soncoz, etc.
    • Microdetail could slightly be better than Convert-2 and is about on par with good ESS 9018 implementations. I do think it falls short of today's higher-end R2R and well implemented AKM4493. The ERC-4 is also fairly strong in microdynamics keeping me engaged, however I still feel the Convert-2 just edges it out.
    • Using the ERC-4 as a DAC and pi2AES, the sound is just slightly warmer and less bright with better microdetail and microdynamics, and more intimate stage compared to the internal CD player. The differences are not huge, but I would say that the microdynamics are kicked up to the equivalent of the Convert-2.
    • Balanced output is 2Vrms same as single-ended.
    • Sounds much better than other CDPs on the market < $1000 including Denon, Onkyo, Marantz. These tend to sound worse than a Modi! The ERC-4 is Modius level if not a bit higher overall - to give you guys some perspective. The price is right considering that we do get a transport. Although it would have been nice for Emotiva to offer a DAC only product at lower cost.
     
    Last edited: Apr 6, 2022
  7. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    PXL_20220406_164415819.jpg

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    LOL, nice touch with the cylindrical film caps. Note output buffer opamps are LM4562.

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    Single AD1955. To the top looks like a Cirrus receiver. LM4562 opamps for IV.
     
  8. Greg121986

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    Is there anything to be gained by using this as a CD transport with AES/EBU out to something like a Holo Spring? I've always thought something like an Emotiva CD player would be a nice thing to have as just a CD transport. Could it just be better to use the CD player as it is with its own DAC? I would love a simple CDT with AES/EBU or COAX SPDIF and nothing else, but I'm not sure if that exists.
     
  9. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    PS Audio Lambda et Theta Data Basic come to mind. But they're oldies.
    Schiit is working on a CDT, but it'll have a USB output in addition to AES and Coax.
     
  10. Bourne Perfect

    Bourne Perfect Friend

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    My Jay's Audio cdt does just that, but it's not cheap. It does AES/EBU, I2S, BNC and rca coax. Transport only.
     
  11. Paul Scandal

    Paul Scandal Rando

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    I find r2r more transparent although more colored than ds.
     
  12. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Ah, R2R more sins of commission with less sins of omission? Fair enough, although I would argue much of this is also DAC specific. I can name some really crappy R2R DACs with massive sins of commision and omission.
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2022
  13. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Whole can of worms we just opened up. In the not too distant past, I preferred using spinners, aka CD transports, over anything USB. The primary reason was sound quality. USB in general has never sounded quite as good to my ears. There is also a lot of dependency upon the source, the sender (people only think about the DAC end, the receiver). The secondary reason is that I have a lot of CDs and really like physical media. Basically all my DAC reviews in the past were with one or two CDTs, until they died. I did miss out on streaming this entire time.

    It was only until the pi2AES, and now Unison with outboard USB PCI cards specifically, that I stopped using CDTs. These solutions finally offered sound quality on par with good spinners. However, I'm now in a situation where my wife doesn't use the hifi anymore because she was so used to CDs.

    With respect to Holo, I don't remember how good the USB implementation sounded and I am pretty sure I either used pi2AES or a CDT. What we get out of CDTs is this:
    1. Possibly better sound quality, or different.
    2. Being able to use physical media, CDs, if we really want to.
    Now, the ERC-4 is a pretty good sounding player in it's own right.
     
  14. Psalmanazar

    Psalmanazar Most improved member; A+

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    Seems like a killer product at a killer price
     
    Last edited: Apr 7, 2022
  15. k4rstar

    k4rstar Britney fan club president

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    @purr1n do you have any Yeah Yeah Yeah's CDs you can put through this thing as a player to tell if it gets fatiguing? preferably Show Your Bones or Fever to Tell
     
  16. hikergrl

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    Its interesting to read thoughts about the erc-4.

    Not sure if this is relevant, but I've had an erc-1 (Analog Devices 1955) for many years. Its been very reliable as a cd player and is not "fussy" with discs - plays them all despite scratches (although its got a loud, slot-front-loading cd-loading mechanism). The erc-1 a very dependable tank (heavy).

    I much prefer the erc-1 analog output into headphone amps; compared to erc-1 coax output into Schiit SD Gungnir to headphone amp. And I very much prefer both of these to my laptop to eitr to Gungnir.

    The erc-1 dac has a deeper "soundstage", sounds a bit sweeter to me and instruments have more "texture". Whereas the erc-1 coax to Gungnir has a wider but flatter soundstage and sounds energetic and bombastic (greater slam?).

    In my 2-channel system I prefer the Cambridge Audio 840c CD player over the erc-1. But this may be due to synergy factors (the 840c has a wider soundstage is a bit "colder" sounding and sounds more "resolving" than erc-1).

    (Since Clemmaster mentioned the Emotiva Stealth - I owned the Emo Stealth for a while, but didn't keep it for long as the erc-1 sounded so, so much better in my 2-channel system at that time, it was not a subtle difference.)

    Appologies for my lack of terminology for describing differences in sound - I have zero practice describing sound - I just enjoy listening to cds.
     
  17. kukur9

    kukur9 Acquaintance

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    I keep waiting for Schiit's CDT to use with all their DACs I've acquired over the years. I keep reading Jason bemoaning parts/supply issues. CDPs by Rotel and Cambridge keep looking more interesting. Lather, rinse, repeat.
     

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