EMM Labs TSD1 CD/SACD Transport & DAC2 D/A Converter (Hi-Fi+ 68)

Multi-format disc players,
Digital-to-analog converters
EMM Labs DAC2,
EMM Labs TSD1 CD/SACD Transport

Rather than using a PLL (phase locked loop) to synchronise the system EMM Labs has its own proprietary MFAST system which is claimed to be able to lock onto any digital source more quickly than a PLL and completely eliminates source jitter because it doesn’t depend on the incoming signal for clock generation. The Optilink system that transfers the signal from transport to DAC uses an ST coupling to a glass fibre optical cable, and as the TSD1 has its own MDAT upsampling processing this part of the DAC is shut down when the two are operating in tandem.

All this technology, and to be frank that is just the bare bones of the system, is reflected in a high price and a very high standard of build and finish. The casework may look straightforward but the way in which the cover mates to the rounded corners of the fascia suggest an extremely high level of care has gone into their design and construction. It’s relatively easy to stick a thick slab of aluminium on the front of a folded piece of sheet metal, it takes a lot more effort to get the two to meet so perfectly with no overlap.

One thing that confused me initially is that the display on the DAC2 shows no indication that it is receiving a DSD signal, the indicators merely show 44.1kHz or 48kHz which gives the incorrect impression that a PCM signal is being received. In fact these indicators show the base frequency and as DSD’s 2.8Mhz is 64 times 44.1kHz this is the light that shines. If you were to connect the 96kHz output of a DVD player to the DAC2 the 48kHz light would come on.

Hooking up alternative digital sources can be done via AES/EBU, RCA coaxial or two Toslink optical inputs alongside a USB socket which covers most of the options. Output from both balanced XLR and RCA phono can be varied between 2V and 4VdBu on the latter and 4V and 7.2V on XLR with a single switch. The TSD1 offers digital outputs in Optilink which is marked DSD and AES/EBU via XLR but the latter will only stream CD and MP3, the other connections are for an external clock link on a BNC, external remote sockets and service sockets.

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