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  #21  
Old 10-20-2018, 02:59 AM
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So ... been playing the K-01Xs non stop now for about a month about half and half on original sampling rates vs 16X Upsampling. On DSD I like it better without the filter. On PCM you have no choice. So ... for starters there is no doubt this is a world class cd player although I almost feel bad about calling it "just" a cd player because it is also a really incredible dac. I think probably better than a big percentage of the seperate dacs out there. That said ... this thread is about how it stacks up against one of the better dacs out there today ... the EMM Labs DA2 Reference. I'll start by saying that had I not ever heard both of them I could have been completely happy with either of them.

They actually have quite a bit in common in their sound in some areas ... high frequency extension and detail. I could not tell any difference at all in how they portrayed cymbals in either timbre or naturalness. They were both very good here on all formats. Female singers like Diana Panton singing destination moon sounded very similar while male vocalists did at times sound a bit different ... the EMM Labs seemed to carry a bit more weight in the bottom end of the vocal range so tracks like Mark Knoplers 5:15 AM sounded a little more solid. Which is more correct .... I certainly can't say! In this case though I can say I liked the sound of the EMM Labs better.

There are a couple of areas where the two units differed quite a bit ... the first is the bottom end. The bass extension and detail on the Esoteric is very extended and very very detailed. No muddiness here at all. The EMM Labs has a tiny bit of bloat in the lowest octaves by comparison. Had I not had both units here I might not have noticed so its not all that objectionable but I do have both units here and having heard them both score the win here solidly for the Esoteric.

The next area of difference I noticed was in the overall portrayal of the musical event and I'm going to be quoting someone here I just don't remember who ... the Esoteric allows you to hear every single detail in the music and all of the individual components ... The EMM Labs shines on the musical event as a whole. Which you'll prefer will be a matter of preference and while the difference here isn't gigantic it is noticeable. Here I'm completely torn because on some recordings I like the detail of the Esoteric especially on orchestra's ... you really get the sense of how many different instruments are actually playing. On vocalists with a guitar or small jazz groups I tend to like the smooth presentation of the EMM Labs. Here I have to declare it a tie based on liking all different kinds of music.

The last area that was really noticeable was that of imaging and soundstage size. The Esoteric cut images out of granite with laser precision. The EMM Labs etched them out of a bit softer stone but still presented them with good separation if not quite the edge definition of the Esoteric. When it came to sound stage I didn't notice much difference left to right ... both units threw images way outside the speakers and when appropriate outside the room as well. Front to back though was a bit different and this in my opinion is where the EMM Labs shines the brightest in that it presents the most 3D holographic sound stage of any dac I've ever heard. Listen to Beck's Heart is a drum and while the sound stage on the Esoteric is huge with great presence ... the EMM Labs makes you feel like you are totally immersed in the sound ... on this track it really fills every corner of the room ... which was the recording engineer going for is anyone's guess but in this case I liked the sound of the EMM Labs better.

So as you can tell I've struggled in making a decision. On the one hand I love the detail, solid imaging, and bottom end detail in the Esoteric. On the other hand I love the overall smoother presentation, richer vocals and absolutely holographic sound stage of the EMM Labs. All that said I really want to stress that these differences I'm noting while present are not very big at all but while they are small still created a preference for me and that was for the EMM Labs DA2 Ref. I found that when I listened to the Esoteric I marveled at the detail and when I listened to the EMM Labs I marveled at the music and the artist more often than not.

So ... I still needed a good disc spinner and I can't think of a better transport than the one in the K-01XS which means that I'll end up keeping both units. I may swap over to the Esoteric in a few more months to see if a few more months of playing has changed my mind but for now I'll just enjoy the combo playing cd's and the EMM Labs on everything else. I'd give them both a strong thumbs up though!

George
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  #22  
Old 10-20-2018, 05:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gadawg View Post
So ... been playing the K-01Xs non stop now for about a month about half and half on original sampling rates vs 16X Upsampling. On DSD I like it better without the filter. On PCM you have no choice. So ... for starters there is no doubt this is a world class cd player although I almost feel bad about calling it "just" a cd player because it is also a really incredible dac. I think probably better than a big percentage of the seperate dacs out there. That said ... this thread is about how it stacks up against one of the better dacs out there today ... the EMM Labs DA2 Reference. I'll start by saying that had I not ever heard both of them I could have been completely happy with either of them.

They actually have quite a bit in common in their sound in some areas ... high frequency extension and detail. I could not tell any difference at all in how they portrayed cymbals in either timbre or naturalness. They were both very good here on all formats. Female singers like Diana Panton singing destination moon sounded very similar while male vocalists did at times sound a bit different ... the EMM Labs seemed to carry a bit more weight in the bottom end of the vocal range so tracks like Mark Knoplers 5:15 AM sounded a little more solid. Which is more correct .... I certainly can't say! In this case though I can say I liked the sound of the EMM Labs better.

There are a couple of areas where the two units differed quite a bit ... the first is the bottom end. The bass extension and detail on the Esoteric is very extended and very very detailed. No muddiness here at all. The EMM Labs has a tiny bit of bloat in the lowest octaves by comparison. Had I not had both units here I might not have noticed so its not all that objectionable but I do have both units here and having heard them both score the win here solidly for the Esoteric.

The next area of difference I noticed was in the overall portrayal of the musical event and I'm going to be quoting someone here I just don't remember who ... the Esoteric allows you to hear every single detail in the music and all of the individual components ... The EMM Labs shines on the musical event as a whole. Which you'll prefer will be a matter of preference and while the difference here isn't gigantic it is noticeable. Here I'm completely torn because on some recordings I like the detail of the Esoteric especially on orchestra's ... you really get the sense of how many different instruments are actually playing. On vocalists with a guitar or small jazz groups I tend to like the smooth presentation of the EMM Labs. Here I have to declare it a tie based on liking all different kinds of music.

The last area that was really noticeable was that of imaging and soundstage size. The Esoteric cut images out of granite with laser precision. The EMM Labs etched them out of a bit softer stone but still presented them with good separation if not quite the edge definition of the Esoteric. When it came to sound stage I didn't notice much difference left to right ... both units threw images way outside the speakers and when appropriate outside the room as well. Front to back though was a bit different and this in my opinion is where the EMM Labs shines the brightest in that it presents the most 3D holographic sound stage of any dac I've ever heard. Listen to Beck's Heart is a drum and while the sound stage on the Esoteric is huge with great presence ... the EMM Labs makes you feel like you are totally immersed in the sound ... on this track it really fills every corner of the room ... which was the recording engineer going for is anyone's guess but in this case I liked the sound of the EMM Labs better.

So as you can tell I've struggled in making a decision. On the one hand I love the detail, solid imaging, and bottom end detail in the Esoteric. On the other hand I love the overall smoother presentation, richer vocals and absolutely holographic sound stage of the EMM Labs. All that said I really want to stress that these differences I'm noting while present are not very big at all but while they are small still created a preference for me and that was for the EMM Labs DA2 Ref. I found that when I listened to the Esoteric I marveled at the detail and when I listened to the EMM Labs I marveled at the music and the artist more often than not.

So ... I still needed a good disc spinner and I can't think of a better transport than the one in the K-01XS which means that I'll end up keeping both units. I may swap over to the Esoteric in a few more months to see if a few more months of playing has changed my mind but for now I'll just enjoy the combo playing cd's and the EMM Labs on everything else. I'd give them both a strong thumbs up though!

George
George,...outstanding write up!!!
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  #23  
Old 10-20-2018, 07:02 AM
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Very informative comparison.
Thanks and enjoy the music!
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  #24  
Old 10-20-2018, 02:19 PM
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George, magnificent and very valuable comparison!
Thank you Sir!
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  #25  
Old 10-20-2018, 06:52 PM
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Excellent review George!

You are quoting Mike and Neli from audiofederation when they compared the Emm XDS1 and the Esoteric K-01 from 2011!
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  #26  
Old 11-07-2018, 11:19 AM
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Thanks George, you're helping me to narrow the field.
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  #27  
Old 11-07-2018, 03:05 PM
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Outstanding review, George! As a K-03X owner, I'd make one suggestion r.e. upsampling rates. Although my player doesn't have a 16x option (only goes to 8x), I found the intermediate settings, 2x and 4x, to be better overall, finally settling on 4x. I felt like the no upsampling setting was a bit on the bright side for some music, while 8x seemed to significantly diminish detail. Full break-in for each setting is l-o-n-g, and obviously YMMV, but I think worthwhile trying.
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  #28  
Old 11-07-2018, 03:51 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by SL1800 View Post
Thanks George, you're helping me to narrow the field.
You're very welcome and looking forward to hearing more about where your system is headed in the months ahead! Exciting times for sure!

If you're ever on Dallas on the weekend and want to stop by let me know as you're always welcome!

George
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  #29  
Old 11-07-2018, 03:54 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by GSOphile View Post
Outstanding review, George! As a K-03X owner, I'd make one suggestion r.e. upsampling rates. Although my player doesn't have a 16x option (only goes to 8x), I found the intermediate settings, 2x and 4x, to be better overall, finally settling on 4x. I felt like the no upsampling setting was a bit on the bright side for some music, while 8x seemed to significantly diminish detail. Full break-in for each setting is l-o-n-g, and obviously YMMV, but I think worthwhile trying.
I definitely will try it so thanks! I'm going to make sure I get at least 200 hours on each of the filters over the next many months then give it one more try to see which I like and how the best compares to the EMM Labs at that point. It may be next spring by the time I get around to it but I'll post my results.

George
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  #30  
Old 11-07-2018, 04:48 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by gadawg View Post
You're very welcome and looking forward to hearing more about where your system is headed in the months ahead! Exciting times for sure!



If you're ever on Dallas on the weekend and want to stop by let me know as you're always welcome!



George


Thanks George I may take you up on that. I would really like to hear your system sometime.
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Pre and Power - Audio Research Ref 6 Preamp, Audio Research GS150 Amplifier, Emotiva UMC-200 Pre/Pro movies only, Emotiva XPA-3 amplifier for center and surrounds.
Cables and Accessories WireWorld Eclipse 7 Speaker Cables. WireWorld & Nordost Interconnects. GIK Acoustics Soffit traps, Q7D Diffusors, 244 as cloud traps. PS Audio P10 Power Regenerator(x2) Shunyata and WireWorld Power cords.
Speakers - Martin Logan Expression 13A, Martin Logan Balanced Force 212 sub, Martin Logan Stage X Center Channel, Martin Logan FX2 Surrounds.
Screen Panasonic 60" Plasma.
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