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CD Players - Emmlabs CDSA SE 2

1-.A few words on the context.
A few months ago , in a famous French auditorium located in Paris, I had the opportunity to lesson to the EMMLABS CDSA player (I mean the version 1).

I had not been convinced by its performance: the overall presentation was too "cold" for my ears, with a lack of life and swing, so i had abandonned my research of pleasure with this brand.
Last week, I have had the opportunity to lesson to the version SE2 (i.e the updated version of the abovementioned player). A friend of mine who previously owned the very good
BENCHMARK DAC-1 already reviewed on this site, had decided to get something better and had bought the EMMLABS CDSA SE2 player, a high end integrated CD player.

2-.The EMMLABS CDSA SE2 presentation.

The menufacturer of this EMMLABS device has also previously collaborated with SONY on the SACD format: Mr Ed MEITNER is therefore a true expert of this format and obviously of the 44.1kHz CD format.
Ed MEITNER has preferred to develop his own convertion circuitry based on the use of DSP integrated circuits: this is not a new approach because a few other "high end" manufacturers (such as Wadia or Theta for example) have already explored this way in the past.
I was not really excited when I installed the CDSA SE2 in my
Reference System #2 because I had not been positively surprised by my initial listening of the SE1 version.
The EMMLABS CDSA SE2, front view

The EMMLABS CDSA SE2 is rich in terms of possible connections, particularly for an integrated CD player:
  • RCA and XLR analog outputs
  • XLR digital output : to be used with an external DAC, and the comparison between internal and external is much easier than usual because the remote control allows an immediate switching between both...
  • RS-232 input for updating the internal software
The EMMLABS CDSA SE2, rear view

3-.The listening sesions

As soon as the listening begins, a word comes immediately in mind: NATURAL...
This DAC really creates a surprise by its ability to generates and pass so much emotion, simultaneaously with a lot of highly regarded qualities: the soundstage is depth, wide, high, opened. The voices offer a true presence , the bass is here, as well as the density of the notes. Close to perfection for an integrated CD player...
The high frequencies have been perfectly integrated with the rest of the range, with a musicality close to what we normally find on an very good turntable such as a TW Acoustic for example.
The CDs that were not correctly "resolved" by the first version of the CDSA are therefore OK.
This device is a pleasure machine... the improvement compared to the first version is simply incredible !

The EMMLABS CDSA SE2, internal view

To date, we have reviewed only 3 DACs able to compete or  to beat the CDSA SE2: the last version of the fully upgraded COUNTERPOINT DA-10 with the Rapture Premium card
(the upgrade is realised by Mike ELLIOTT), the FIDETECH DSP-3 with a tube output stage, and the DCS Puccini. As you can see, there is not a lot of competitors at this high level of quality...
Is this EMMLABS CDSA SE2 a CD player for the entire life ? Its price in Europe (at least in France) is around 12,000€; We congratulate the designer for this player, getting our highest ranking.

  • Very natural, a lot of emotion flows out of the music
  • Variable output voltage
  • Ready for future manufacturer upgrades, software upgrades are possible through the RS-232 connector
  • Excellent ergonomy
  • The musical performance with the CD (and SACD) is amongst the best

  • It could be slighly faster
  • Price is high, at least in France
  • You must care about the modulation cable: if it is not good enough , the EMMLABS becomes an ordinary player
  • Generates some heat on the left part
  • The remote control is a poor plastic model

Article written by Florent (provence13 on our Forum)

Creation date : 05/06/2011 @ 22:50
Last update : 07/11/2014 @ 23:19
Category : CD Players
Page read 788 times

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