Emotiva ERC-2 CD player Follow-Up
One gray and rainy day, just weeks before I sat down to write last month's column, DeVore Fidelity's John DeVore zipped across Brooklyn, through the Holland Tunnel, and into downtown Jersey City, where I sat waiting for him at a gas station on the side of the highway. He slowed down just enough that I could jump into the car through the passenger-side window. We traveled west along Route 78, through dairy farms and deep woods, to the home of Michael Lavorgna, editor of AudioStream, Source Interlink Media's exciting new website devoted to computer audio. Our mission: to help Michael set up a new listening room.
It was not as easy as we'd hoped it might be. Unfamiliar listening rooms manage to confound. After many hours of messing around with speaker positions, swapping amplifiers, and mounting acoustic panels, we were finally satisfied with the setup, and it was time to go to the Princeton Record Exchange. But before we set out, Michael handed me a box. In it was an original Sony PlayStation 1, serial no. SCPH-1001the good one, the one with the RCA output jacks! (See Art Dudley's great review.)
"Hope you like it," ML said.
The PlayStation has been Michael's reference CD player for the last six or so yearshe'd bought a bunch of them back when they were still selling for just $15 on eBayso I was anxious to hear my new old PS1 ($299 when new) in my own system. After a few weeks of casual listening, I matched the modest Sony against the immodest Emotiva ERC-2 CD player ($449) that I wrote about last month. I was surprised by what I heard. Most obvious was the Emotiva's advantage in the low end: The Sony couldn't equal the ERC-2's weighty, musical bass. Alva Noto and Ryuichi Sakamoto's version of "By This River," from their outstanding Summvs (CD, Raster-Noton R-N132), felt looser and more diffuse through the Sony, but, surprisingly, was no less rhythmically assured. And while the Emotiva also produced cleaner, more extended highs, the Sony's midrange had great presence and was remarkably rich and detailed. The PS1's midrange clarity especially benefited voicesMark Hollis was in the room with mebut it also gave greater tactility and life to the hypnotic, pulsing electronics in "By This River."
The Emotiva favored frequency extension and overall clarity, while the playful PlayStation sacrificed the extreme highs and lows for a fleshier midrange. But there was also a smoothness and ease to the Sony's overall sound that the Emotiva, despite its quiet backgrounds and impressive dynamic range, simply couldn't offer. With certain discs, such as the mps, the debut album by my old band, the Multi-Purpose Solution (CD, Mint 400 M4R00 18), the Sony was considerably more listenable. I was able to just sit back, relax, and be transported by the music. Such were the Sony's charms that it was always easy to ignore what wasn't there. The Emotiva, on the other hand, was impressive in its own way, illuminating artifacts of the recording that, for better or worse, I'd long forgotten. With the Emotiva, it was difficult to ignore what was there.
If you're like me, you'll be easily seduced by the Sony's smooth, expressive midrange, but will end up addicted to the Emotiva's bass weight and overall clarity. What to do? Fortunately, at these prices, you could have it both ways. If you've got $449 to spend on a CD player, the Emotiva should be on your shopping list. For a guaranteed good time, however, search your local Salvation Army or Goodwill for a functioning PlayStation 1, or visit eBay and place a bid. Try to spend no more than about $75. If you find one, be sure to plug it in and keep it turned on for a whilethe sound will only get better and better. Michael Lavorgna never turns his off.Stephen Mejias