Review: EMM Labs DA2 V2 Reference Stereo DAC (Twittering Machines, November 3, 2022), by Michael Lavorgna, a past Stereophile reviewer.
"The EMM Labs DA2 V2 DAC paired with the EMM Labs NS1 Streamer (review) felt custom made for my musical preferences, getting the balancing act just right between resolution and body, making digitally stored music feel human, again. ... The DA2 offers a host of digital inputs including EMM’s proprietary Optilink interface, which I used throughout this review along with the EMM Labs NS1 Streamer (review). To my mind, they are to be considered permanent partners seeing as they were literally made for one another. I used Roon to control playback and connected the DA2 to a few different amps with a pair of AudioQuest FireBird RCAs.The DA2 got an extensive workout during its Barn stay. Beginning with the Big System (review
) where it was partnered with all EMM Labs electronics driving the Credo Cinema LTM Speakers, ... Let's start with a standout quality—the DA2 delivers bass that’s plump, rich and ripe ready for picking like a Roxbury Russet in late September. I’m not sure I’ve ever heard better from digital. Whether we’re talking about fat acoustic bass, slappy electronic boogie bass, or Barn shaking electronic nearly subsonic rumble, the DA2 gets every aspect of these distinct sounds so right, I nearly laughed out loud listening to familiar tracks sounding reinvented and more fully fleshed out down low than I’m accustomed to. This kind of difference is obvious and infectious, something I’ll surely miss when it is gone along with the DA2’s return to its maker. Delicate acoustic music sounded as plucky and delightful as I’ve heard, with acoustic guitar sounds glistening off its strings just like real life. I’ve got a few Barn guitars, 2x acoustic and 1x electric, that I play (poorly) so I’m reminded of what different guitars sound like whenever the feeling moves me. So when I say that the DA2 gets the sound of an acoustic guitar right, I’m speaking from a real life regularly heard reference. When the sounds of instruments startle with live-like realness, music reproduction morphs into a direct experiencing of the music and performers at hand. No barriers, no distractions, just a mainline to the heart of the matter which is all I want from a hifi. The DA2 also gets the space of the recording damn near perfect (perfection is overrated), turning the Barn into an intimate studio setting, massive cathedral, bedroom, barroom, ballroom, stadium, and more, turning my space into the recorded space like some architectural magician. From the crazily long reverb trails on Fritz Hauser’s Solo Drumming
recorded in the Martin-Gropius-Bau’s glass roofed massive courtyard, to the hotel room intimacy of Springsteen’s Nebraska
, the place of the recording took up residence in Barn, effortlessly moving walls and ceiling to fit the recording. Nice. Digital reproduction can have a hard time with sweet and sour, the subtle tonal shadings that give things their unique voice (otherwise known as harmonic structure). Whether we’re focused on Adrianne Lenker’s “music for indigo” from instrumentals
and its acoustic guitar mixed with the natural sounds around her, to Anohni’s trembling vocals on “One Dove” from Antony and The Johnsons The Crying Light
, to Frances-Marie Uitti’s cello on Giacinto Scelsi Natura Renovatur
, I was served a rich palette of flavors that felt fully formed and fleshed out. To my way of experiencing, getting the voice of things right gets us a long way to real emotional connection, which is exactly where I want to be. The Rolling Stones “Lady Jane” from Flowers
offers a lovely bouquet of sounds with distinct voices and the DA2 gave as rich and distinctive a rendering as I’ve had the pleasure to hear in Barn. Part and parcel of an engaging experience that transcends reproduction is an appropriate sense of scale. It’s the little things presented as such and in relation to bigger things that creates a sense of drama in music reproduction and once again the EMM Labs DA2 worked as sonic excavator from micro to macro in perfect, OK damn near perfect, proportion. Hauschka’s “I Can’t Express My Deep Love” from What If
pairs prepared and player pianos with electronics (Roland Jupiter 4 synthesizer and an Eventide H3000 Harmonizer) in a vast space and the DA2 presented this wonderful assortment of sounds, from tiny blips to clustered chords with amazing dexterity. Balkan: Honey and Blood
from Jordi Savall and Hespèrion XXI is a deep dish of music belonging to many living traditions that make up the vast mosaic of musical cultures of the Balkan peoples and their Gypsy and Sephardic diasporas.
As wide an array of sounds and textures as you’re likely to hear in one helping, the DA2 conveyed the mosaic of textures, tones, and movements from the tiniest pluck to swarm of strings with balletic grace. Stunning."