|Emotiva ERC-1 CD Player Review|
|Home Theater Audio Sources CD Players|
|Written by Todd Whitesel|
|Wednesday, 18 November 2009|
Page 1 of 2
When people learn that I write reviews of A/V equipment, invariably I get asked, “Do you get to keep it after you're done?” I always chuckle and say, “Sure. If I pay for it.” Accumulating shelves full of gear is not my goal; rather, satisfaction comes from sharing my hobby and passion with others. If I uncover a piece of equipment that I believe is otherwise hidden from the public, share my findings and offer another option to outfit a system, then that's a success.
I live about 150 miles from Twin Cities of Minneapolis/St. Paul, making it mildly inconvenient to window shop on a whim. The closest “big” city is Duluth, Minn., which does field one electronic retailer offering gear from a couple recognized high-end audio manufacturers. Problem is, almost nothing is in stock. You can visit the store, look through a catalog, but the only way to buy the product is to have the retailer order it and then contact you when it arrives. Expect to wait at least one week for delivery and then another trip to pick up. Meanwhile, you could hop online, order it yourself and likely pay less. Better yet, look for a direct connection such as from Emotiva Audio, which sells hi-fi gear to consumers online from its Franklin, Tenn., headquarters.
Emotiva is the brainchild of Dan Laufman, a former audio manufacturer for other concerns, who wanted to bring his own product lines to market for fellow audio and home theater enthusiasts to enjoy. The company offers a range of amplifiers, interconnects, speakers and accessories, all for sale directly via Web. Emotiva sent its flagship ERC-1 CD player ($399) along with .5m pair of X-Series RCA interconnects ($16.99) for review. At those admittedly modest prices one could be forgiven for having lower expectations, but that would be a mistake. Big mistake.
At first glance, you might mistake Emotiva's ERC-1 for a McIntosh product. Its sleek black front panel is nicely book-ended with gleaming steel corner plates. Turn it on, and the display emits a blue light a la McIntosh and Marantz. Look for the drawer, however, and all similarities end. The ERC-1 is different than most CD players as it features a magnetic slot-loading mechanism and high-density foam clamps to maneuver the disc. When the player is turned on, the display waits for the mechanism to engage before prompting “Ready.” You place a disc into the slot about halfway, then the disc is transported into the player, it is read and playback begins. You can't really “see” inside the slot, but within resides a digital section housed in a steel substructure that prevents unwanted noise from interfering with the audio.
I had never seen anything quite like it and was curious about the reasoning behind such a setup. Lonnie Vaughan, Emotiva's vice president and chief technology officer, told me, “In regards to the slot load system, it is somewhat of an interesting story behind it. From a sonic standpoint there isn't any difference, but from a performance and stability standpoint this system is rock solid. You can actually pick up the player and drop it from a few inches and it won't skip which is a far cry from a tray system. In the original design there was a tray loader, but when I contacted all of the manufacturers that I consider to be highly reputable, none of them made a unit with a metal tray. They were all plastic and flimsy. In my opinion if you buy a $39.00 player and it has a plastic tray, well you kind of expect it. But when you pay a few hundred dollars or more, it should have a certain feel to it that inspires confidence when putting in your CD that plastic trays just don't convey.
So I started researching slot loaders and all I found were the old style which used rubber rollers to load and eject the CD. Now if you have ever had a CD scratched by one of these, then you will understand why this wouldn't work either. Then I came across a new design which is what is currently used. The loader mechanism itself has a partial tray internally with magnetic clamps on it. When you insert the CD, the mechanism recognizes it is there and the magnetic clamps come down to hold the CD onto the internal tray. The tray motors back into position, the drive motors up into the CD and the magnetic clamps release. This is a unique system not currently being used by any other company that I am aware of and best of all, it can't scratch the CD and is solid.”