Emm labs DA2 v2 upgrade

Yuen A.

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2018
144
23
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Hi guys,

Jason Victor Serinus ("MBL Noble Line N11 line preamp" review, June 26, 2020, Stereophile) says:

" After finding a hi-rez remastering of Led Zeppelin IV (24/96 MQA/Tidal), I marveled at how the [EMM Labs] DV2/N11 combo enabled me to feel how tactile the guitar sounded and clarified the textures of overlapping instruments. "Just perfect," I wrote in my notes, after I had turned my phone toward the Wilson Alexia 2 loudspeakers in a vain attempt to transmit a fraction of what I was hearing. "I've never heard Led Zeppelin sound this good at audio shows. The drum entrances are so exciting, and the music sounds really fabulous when everything gets going."
 

Yuen A.

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2018
144
23
83
Hi guys,

In his review of the Raidho TD4.2 loudspeakers (Enjoy the Music.com, July 2020), Tom Lyle (recording engineer, musician, etc.) described the EMM Labs DA2 as "overachieving".

Playing a DSD file of the album Ballads by John Coltrane Quartet, he says:

"Yet, on this album, his sax sounds radiant, otherworldly. And through a good system, it could serve as a demo disc. And through the Raidho TD4.2 instead of lulling me to sleep, my mind would lean forward, attempting to take a closer sonic look at the proceedings. Every instrument in the band sounded uber-realistic, and at the same time, I'll admit that it was not only a showcase for the musicians but also a showcase for the equipment in my listening room [that include the EMM Labs DA2], most of all the Raidho TD4.2. There was an almost indescribable something that seemed to be lost with any other speaker I've ever heard this album played through, these living, breathing human beings playing their chosen instruments as if they were their voices. It was almost as though I could hear each of them listening to each other. When they were playing the theme of the tune, there were these nanosecond pauses between one instrument playing a note, and the note that the other musician played. Each note they played faded into the ether, the space between the notes taking advantage of the speaker's transparency to both the recording and the original event. I didn't feel like a fly on the wall during the session, I felt as if the session had come to me."
 

Bar81

Well-Known Member
Mar 24, 2017
128
17
83
It's a little crazy to read everyone's reviews and thoughts (including mine) regarding the DA2 given how much was still left out there in terms of performance as evidenced by the DA2 V2.

Btw, if you guys with the DA2 V2 really want your brains to melt, see if you can demo the new Shunyata Everest for power ;)
 

Yuen A.

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2018
144
23
83
Hi guys,

If you want to be transported to the Royal Festival Hall in London via the DA2 V2 or DV2, listen to this recording: Shostakovich Symphony No. 1 in F Minor, by the London Philharmonic Orchestra, conducted by Kurt Masur (LPO-0001 SACD) A tour de force ... a sizzling performance! Even during in-between movements, the ambient sound of the hall could be heard!
 

Yuen A.

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2018
144
23
83
A review of the DV2 is out, written by Aron Garrecht (Soundstage! Ultra, 15 July 2020 - Emm Labs DV2-Preamplifier):


"I first set up the EMM Labs DV2 to function as a standalone DAC only, and was immediately rewarded with the most transparent and focused sound I’ve heard from my system -- and some damn fine gear has made its way through my room over the years. The DV2 set a new standard for what I can expect from a world-class DAC. The specificity of aural images -- their focus, body, tonal color, and density -- were exalted to new levels in my room."

And after removing his ARC Reference 6 preamplifier from the chain, he observes:

"It took a little while for me to understand and acclimate to how music was now being re-created in my room, but the more I listened and the deeper I dug, the more I liked what I heard. While the soundstage was a bit smaller, bass a smidge less pronounced, and images a tad freer, the DV2 was now better at lining the boundaries of the recording venue, refining the textural nuances of various bass instruments, and presenting images with the finest balance of precision and warmth I’ve heard in my room. “Hold On,” from McLachlan’s Mirrorball (16/44.1 FLAC, Nettwerk), had an uncanny sense of liveliness chock full of inner details and nuances I hadn’t heard before. For example, at the beginning of the track, as McLachlan plucks her acoustic guitar, I could better hear the crackle of applause and, as the audience quieted, one intricately delineated person still clapping on the left, who before had been barely audible, was now obvious. The senses of definition and distance that were communicated were uncanny, and they continued throughout the track, letting me further relish the taps of Ashwin Sood’s brass, their long decays, and the fervor with which McLachlan melodiously imbues every note she sings. ..."
 

micro13

New Member
Jun 15, 2020
3
0
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The DV2 is nearly a year in my system and I liked it very much, but the V2 upgrade amazes me every day - voices are carved out like the singer is in the room, separation of instruments was already good but is really great now, and bass and dynamics also is better than before the upgrade.

@Yuen A.: Thanks for the information about the Soundstage review. I also had a AR Ref 6, with a Dac2x upgraded to V2 before I got the DV2. But I sold the Ref6 and the Dac2x some time before I've got the DV2 and also changed amps therefore I can't really tell you the difference with or without the Ref 6. In summary the system sound better than before, that's the main thing.

But I'm still curious if the DV2 alone would be better than in combination with the preamps from CH Precision, Soulution, Audionet (Stern), etc. Would it be really better or just different? Does anybody here already had the chance to compare the DV2 with such uber expensive preamps? Or with with Emm Labs own new preamp Pre?
 

Yuen A.

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2018
144
23
83
The DV2 is nearly a year in my system and I liked it very much, but the V2 upgrade amazes me every day - voices are carved out like the singer is in the room, separation of instruments was already good but is really great now, and bass and dynamics also is better than before the upgrade.

@Yuen A.: Thanks for the information about the Soundstage review. I also had a AR Ref 6, with a Dac2x upgraded to V2 before I got the DV2. But I sold the Ref6 and the Dac2x some time before I've got the DV2 and also changed amps therefore I can't really tell you the difference with or without the Ref 6. In summary the system sound better than before, that's the main thing.

But I'm still curious if the DV2 alone would be better than in combination with the preamps from CH Precision, Soulution, Audionet (Stern), etc. Would it be really better or just different? Does anybody here already had the chance to compare the DV2 with such uber expensive preamps? Or with with Emm Labs own new preamp Pre?
Phil Gold of Enjoy the Music.com said:

"But in terms of quality, if the range and granularity on offer here suits you, this one is pretty much perfect. In practice, I could not differentiate between the sound coming through the EMM Labs PRE Reference Preamplifier into the Soulution 511 Power Amp and the sound of the DV2 going directly into that power amp." (Dec 2019)
 

micro13

New Member
Jun 15, 2020
3
0
1
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@Yuen: Many thanks for the citation of Phil Gold's review, I obviously missed that. Would still be interesting if anybody here in this forum could tell about own comparisons.
Or does anybody have an experience with the Emm Pre in comparison to CH Precision, Soulution or Audionet?
 

Bar81

Well-Known Member
Mar 24, 2017
128
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I guess I'm just obstinate but as much as I trust EMM Labs' digital prowess I can't imagine theirs or any other digital volume control outperforming an elite preamp - there's got to be some manipulation of the signal to lower the volume and that must result in degradation of the signal. But that's not saying much; the real issue is whether such degradation is so de minimus that you don't care (there is always a balance of cost and system complexity versus performance) or can't hear it in your system. The nature of everyone having different system components, cabling, room, etc. likely means that there's no objective answer - in one system, a preamp might sound the same or worse than the DV2's volume control and in another system the preamp sounds better. To be fair, even EMM Labs takes the position that for an all digital system, 99% of people won't notice a difference between the built in volume section of the DV2 and a preamp - the limited reviews seem to back that up.

Having said all that, the preamp has always been the foundation to a system in my experience. I was heading nowhere in terms of being happy with my (all digital) system until the Ayre KX-R Twenty - which is now the longest serving component in my system and for good reason - every time I changed a component the difference in performance was clear and when that change was an upgrade in performance, the Ayre never held the system back (recently reminded of this with the DA V2 upgrade earlier this year and the Shunyata Research Everest 8000/T power conditioner recently - man, that's a doozy - still not sure how a power unit can make that much of a positive difference...).

BUT, I'm almost always happy to be proven wrong so I was really curious to try out the DV2 but no dealers around here so the only real option given that it was highly unlikely that the DV2 would be better than the Ayre was to pay for the V2 upgrade to the DA2, which is the route I took. Ultimately though, I expect that if it wasn't for analog, EMM Labs would have EOL'd the DA2 upon the introduction of the DV2.
 
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Yuen A.

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2018
144
23
83
Hi Bar81,

EMM Labs’s VControl is a very-high-resolution (50-bit) digital volume controller. 50-bit allows for plenty of attenuation without any loss. The following is taken from Soundstage! Ultra:

"The DV2’s VControl was engineered by Pawlicki and Meitner for a single purpose: to attenuate the volume without sacrificing sound quality in any way. EMM says that they’ve inserted the VControl in the digital signal-processing (DSP) chain where it can optimally maximize resolution without degrading sound quality, and that it’s so transparent that it can maintain a level of resolution far exceeding the sensitivity of human hearing. Even at its minimum setting (-80dB), the VControl maintains a signal resolution of 18 bits. EMM also claims that the VControl is the only digital volume controller on the market that imposes zero audible degradation on DSD streams."
 

Yuen A.

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2018
144
23
83
@Yuen: Many thanks for the citation of Phil Gold's review, I obviously missed that. Would still be interesting if anybody here in this forum could tell about own comparisons.
Or does anybody have an experience with the Emm Pre in comparison to CH Precision, Soulution or Audionet?
Hi micro13,

Fred Crowder (a reviewer and a friend of mine) said to me via email: "The [Emm Labs] Reference preamp is exceptional, equal to or better than the best solid state preamp which I have heard which is almost three times the price but only with the right power cord and with Stillpoints Ultra 6 feet."
 

Bar81

Well-Known Member
Mar 24, 2017
128
17
83
Hi Bar81,

EMM Labs’s VControl is a very-high-resolution (50-bit) digital volume controller. 50-bit allows for plenty of attenuation without any loss. The following is taken from Soundstage! Ultra:

"The DV2’s VControl was engineered by Pawlicki and Meitner for a single purpose: to attenuate the volume without sacrificing sound quality in any way. EMM says that they’ve inserted the VControl in the digital signal-processing (DSP) chain where it can optimally maximize resolution without degrading sound quality, and that it’s so transparent that it can maintain a level of resolution far exceeding the sensitivity of human hearing. Even at its minimum setting (-80dB), the VControl maintains a signal resolution of 18 bits. EMM also claims that the VControl is the only digital volume controller on the market that imposes zero audible degradation on DSD streams."
Let's not guzzle the EMM Labs kool aid. By all accounts EMM Labs have achieved their goal of creating a top notch digital volume control; they deserve all the accolades they have achieved in that regard. However, anything more than that will need much more than what is effectively a press release placed in a review which in any case has a reviewer using components that imo are clearly below the quality level of the DV2 (if the DV2's volume control isn't clearly better than the colored tube preamp he's using then EMM Labs should be embarrassed).

Claims about transparent digital volume controls are old hat - I've heard similar claims for the last 20 years (although I'm sure the DV2 is miles ahead of my experience with Wadia's digital volume controls in their CDPs many moons ago). More generally, I've lost count of the number of times manufacturers have made statements that have not been borne out in my experience. For example, recently Shunyata insisted that my system should sound better with everything plugged into their power conditioner. That clearly didn't turn out to be the case and my amps remain plugged directly into the wall where they belong.
 
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Yuen A.

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2018
144
23
83
Let's not guzzle the EMM Labs kool aid. By all accounts EMM Labs have achieved their goal of creating a top notch digital volume control; they deserve all the accolades they have achieved in that regard. However, anything more than that will need much more than what is effectively a press release placed in a review which in any case has a reviewer using components that imo are clearly below the quality level of the DV2 (if the DV2's volume control isn't clearly better than the colored tube preamp he's using then EMM Labs should be embarrassed).

Claims about transparent digital volume controls are old hat - I've heard similar claims for the last 20 years (although I'm sure the DV2 is miles ahead of my experience with Wadia's digital volume controls in their CDPs many moons ago). More generally, I've lost count of the number of times manufacturers have made statements that have not been borne out in my experience. For example, recently Shunyata insisted that my system should sound better with everything plugged into their power conditioner. That clearly didn't turn out to be the case and my amps remain plugged directly into the wall where they belong.
But of course in the real world, it all depends ... The fact remains that 50-bit digital VC allows for plenty of attenuation without any loss of resolution (in practice). The proof is in the listening! Also, when I increased the volume level considerably, there was no change in noise floor through the DV2!
 
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Yuen A.

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2018
144
23
83
Hi guys,

I was listening to this original motion picture soundtrack Dances with Wolves, by John Barry (Epic Sony Music SACD, remastered for SACD) just now. It sounded like a studio master tape via the DV2! The strings sounded sweet and very smooth. Track 7: Pawnee Attack - the attack of the drums here sounded off the charts! I am talking about its impact, speed, and clarity - it was truly awesome!
 

Yuen A.

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2018
144
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83
The following is Aron Garrecht of Soundstage! Ultra (17 July 2020, "Letters") response to a reader's "It’s also great to read that $30k is a 'steal':


"The EMM Labs DV2: As a reviewer, I’m afforded the opportunity to demo and review a lot of expensive gear most people don’t have access to, and I stand by my assertion that the EMM Labs DV2 is something of a steal amongst its peers. Here’s why: I believe the DV2 has no peers. Now, I understand where you’re coming from -- $30,000 is a lot of money for any audio product -- but for those with the means to shop at this level, the DV2 poses a genuine value in terms of build quality, performance, and technology."
 
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dsdfan

New Member
Jul 28, 2020
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Thanks to all who posted their experience with the DA2 V2 upgrade . I had my DA2 upgraded to V2 status yesterday and was startled by the magnitude of change. The palpable presence of living breathing musicians, the physical force of instruments sounding and the immersive swirl of venue ambience - these all seemed to awaken and rise from a previous 2D sea of relative flatness. I've done EMM Labs upgrades before, having updated my DCC2/CDSD and XDS1 to Signature Edition. Those were significant, but this one is paradigm-shattering.
 
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Yuen A.

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2018
144
23
83
Thanks to all who posted their experience with the DA2 V2 upgrade . I had my DA2 upgraded to V2 status yesterday and was startled by the magnitude of change. The palpable presence of living breathing musicians, the physical force of instruments sounding and the immersive swirl of venue ambience - these all seemed to awaken and rise from a previous 2D sea of relative flatness. I've done EMM Labs upgrades before, having updated my DCC2/CDSD and XDS1 to Signature Edition. Those were significant, but this one is paradigm-shattering.
This update is paradigm shattering indeed! Listen to this SACD: Yo-Yo Ma & The Silk Road Ensemble - Silk Road Journeys (Sony Classical SACD). Yo-Yo Ma's cello and the percussion instruments (including the piano) sounded so real and palpable, from the tiniest clicks to the loudest crashes!
 
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manjy

Well-Known Member
Aug 31, 2011
33
12
348
Hi All,

Does the DA2 V2 accept native DSD?

Also, is ST optical the preferred connection or is USB better?

Thanks
 

Yuen A.

Well-Known Member
Jan 4, 2018
144
23
83
Hi All,

Does the DA2 V2 accept native DSD?

Also, is ST optical the preferred connection or is USB better?

Thanks
  • Up to 24bit/192kHz & DSD support over all inputs
  • 2xDSD, DXD (352/384kHz) & MQA® support over USB
  • EMM Optilink for EMM transport or EMM streamer (NS1) connection
The NS1 supports network and USB file playback including AAC, AIFF, ALAC, FLAC, MP3, WAV and WMA along with MQA® and DSD (DFF, DSF) files.

Use EMM Optilink for best sound.
 

manjy

Well-Known Member
Aug 31, 2011
33
12
348
So it will do 2xDSD over USB. Is this native or DOP?
Thanks.
 

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