Emotiva ERC-2 CD player Follow-Up

Follow-Up, from January 2012 (VOl.35 No.1):

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-1001—the 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 years—he'd bought a bunch of them back when they were still selling for just $15 on eBay—so 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 voices—Mark Hollis was in the room with me—but 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 while—the sound will only get better and better. Michael Lavorgna never turns his off.—Stephen Mejias

Emotiva Audio Corporation
135 Southeast Parkway Court
Franklin, TN 37064
(615) 790-6754

M.'s picture

Am I the only one to see this player bears more than a passing resemblance with the Electrocompaniet products?

jhamill1's picture

Where are Emotiva products manufactured? China? Could you give me one more way to funnel our US dollars overseas, please? When will these units be on sale at Costco alongside Vizio TVs?

Patrick Butler's picture

Are you really whining about a $449 cd player made in China? 

jhamill1's picture

Buy American. Buy Canadian. Just don't need any more startups handing large amounts of our cash to China while scraping of their percentage. It's a free market. If people want to send the rewards of their hard labor overseas to satisfy desire and short-sighted greed, so be it. It should be called what it is, though.

Patrick Butler's picture

I understand your desire to purchase North American goods.  Last year I bought my first American vehicle- a Ford Focus.  Love the car.  While that car is produced in North America, it is made of components that are manufactured in China.  Many manufacturers today rely on a global supply chain that blurs notions of national identities.

Emotiva is no different.  They have headquarters in Tennessee that employs Americans.  Check their website right now, and you'll find two positions available.  Their business model is commendable.  Offer great sounding components that real people can afford, made possible by American engineering, design and customer service coupled with efficient Chinese manufacturing and a direct to consumer sales model.  That's what made those two jobs being offered in Tennessee possible. 

jhamill1's picture

A handful of people are skimming a small percentage off of the money cheap consumers seem all to willing to send overseas. Wouldn't it be better to add a factoryworth of (hopefully union-free) jobs for skilled Americans? Short sighted and greedy.

wozwoz's picture

> Because I am an audiophile, I want to hear that music through the best possible source component


If the author wanted to hear music through the best possible source component, he wouldn't be listening to low-resolution CDs, still stuck at 44.1 kHz sampling. This machine can't even play hi-rez SACDs. History. Time to move on to hi-rez.