CD Players

Emotiva ERC-2 CD Player


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.