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Addendum to EMM Labs TX2 and DA2 Review: V2 Firmware update

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EMM Labs firmware update to DA2 digital to analog converter

Read the EMM Labs TX2 and DA2 Review.

DA2 V2 Firmware Update Details:

More than a year in development, the DA2’s DSP engine has been completely updated. The updated DA2 now has a newly redesigned digital signal path that is built from the ground up for very high precision and accuracy in audio processing and conversion:

  • New very high-resolution up-sampling algorithms that offer vastly more sonic detail for all digital audio streams (PCM and DSD)
  • Audio filters and the delta-sigma process were significantly optimized for time and frequency response
  • Enhanced up-conversion algorithms especially for DSD, offering audibly improved ‘detail extraction’ from standard DSD audio streams.

DA2 Back_NEW

Late last week, Shahinn al Rashid, the Director of Sales at EMM Labs sent me an update to the firmware of the DA2.

While I had known that the upgrade had been in the works for almost a year, I was somewhat surprised when it showed up as an email attachment.  My friend, Paul, installed the update to my DA2 last night. The process was simple and straight forward with no glitches or problems and the results were nothing short of stunning. Given that I already thought that the EMM Labs DA2 was exceptional, what do you say when an update is so dramatic in its effect on the sound?

To place things in perspective, the improvement as heard through my Acapella Triolon Excalibur is basically equivalent to going from a really good and moderately priced cartridge, say a $6,499 Ortofon A95, to something like the $12,995 Lyra Atlas SL or the $15,000 Clearaudio Goldfinger. It is hard to know where to begin since so many performance perimeters are impacted; but if I had to choose one area with which to begin, it would be the lowering of the noise floor. To use an old cliché, backgrounds are blacker which significantly improves my ability to hear low-level and ambient detail. As my friend commented about Walter Becker’s recording, 11 Tracks of Whack, “on this album, I am hearing detail that in the past I only heard with headphones.”

At the same time, resolution has been dramatically improved. Subtle details now are easier to hear and the intelligibility of voices is enhanced. This was particularly evident in one track of the Becker recording that includes Buddhist chanting. The bass is also tighter and much better controlled. I would not have previously characterized the bass as overblown before the firmware update; however, in comparison with the sound prior to the upgrade, the bass now sounds much better controlled and has significantly better impact, particularly in things like rim shots, which now are explosive.

Coupled with this is an increase in midrange bloom. It’s almost as if some of the excess bass energy has been moved up in frequency to the midrange. Dimensionality and focus are also improved. On the Becker CD, the stage is now more voluminous, having more exceptional width and depth. Images are stable and tightly focused. All in all, this is a rather significant enhancement and Marius, who works for Ed Meitner, deserves kudos for his work on the firmware.

The upgrade is available directly from the factory and is user installable so long as you have a computer running Microsoft 7 or higher (preferably Microsoft 10). The installation is via the diagnostic USB port on the rear of the DA2.  Even better, the upgrade is free and is currently being rolled out to dealers.

All these improvements provide the listener with a more immersive experience and help bring music to life.

Very highly recommended.

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14 Responses to Addendum to EMM Labs TX2 and DA2 Review: V2 Firmware update


  1. Mike says:

    What is EMM Labs position on MQA ? Their competitors in this range are offering it. Dcs, Berkeley ,MSB.

  2. Andy Yuen says:

    Thank You Fred for the write-up. I had mine installed this afternoon. Wow! I am speechless. This is the break-through we’ve been waiting for!
    I was listening to C P E Bach Symphonies 1-4, Andrew Manze and The English Concert (Harmonia mundi sacd) and the Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4, by Dejan Lazic (piano) and the Australian Chamber Orchestra (Channel Classics sacd) this evening. The listening experience was stunning! Pure DSD, from recording to conversion. Explosive Dynamics, Fantastic Resolution, immersive Soundstaging, etc. I was transported to the recording venues. What more can you ask for?

  3. Fred Crowder says:

    Mike,

    EMM has purchased an MQA license and is actively working on adding this function to their already outstanding DA2. It is apparently not something that can be addressed by a firmware update. I know that Ed Meitner is committed to incorporating any features in his digital gear that his customers want.
    Fred

  4. andy yuen says:

    Fred, This latest firmware update shows that Digital can reproduced the dynamics (both micro and macro) and harmonics of live music. This is my impression after listening to Stravinsky’s L’oiseau de Feu, Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra Live SACD (esp. tracks 4-6), and Mussorgsky’s Pictures from an Exhibition, Freddy Kempf, Steinway D grand piano, BIS SACD, esp. tracks 7-16).

  5. andy yuen says:

    Fred, You must listen to this disc as I did (with the new firmware installed): Vivaldi 4 Seasons, Australian Chamber Orchestra, BIS SACD, esp. tracks 4, 6, 10-12. Absolutely stunning! You can hear everything, plus the explosive dynamics, as if you are sitting very close to the musicians, playing (an experience, reminiscent of the same piece I heard up close in Bangkok last year by a very passionate team). Highly recommended. The only caveat is the noisy air-con. at the recording venue.

  6. andy yuen says:

    And for those of you who had already installed the new firmware, I recommend you listen to this disc: Jacintha, Autumn Leaves, Groove Note SACD. The double bass on the first track (And the Angels sing) sounded so real (you can touch it!) and the drums/percussion on track 9 (Something’s Gotta Give) -absolutely stunning!

  7. Just completed the firmware upgrade. Great instructions, of note: use the correct usb cable, as a split usb cable (power and data leg type) will not work.
    * I found it easiest to pull the entire DA2 unit out of the rack; and place it on a work bench, with no connections…then hook up the the power cable and service usb port and standard generic usb cable to your computer.

  8. Andy Yuen says:

    Fred and all classical music fans, This is the SACD (Mahler Symphony No. 2 in C-Minor, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Ivan Fisher, Channel Classics) you must hear after installing the new firmware. Listen to the opening movement with the orchestra in full cry, the massive dynamic range is captured with no strain, even in the loudest climaxes. Stunning Experience!

  9. Fred Crowder says:

    Andy,

    I think that two of the areas where analog has until recently maintained its superiority have been harmonics with digital often being thinner and less complex In recreating the full harmonics of voice and stringed instruments and in its ability to capture harmonics, particularly at the soft end of the spectrum. The EMM DA2 does both superbly. In my system with appropriate software, it also creates a large stage with pinpoint imaging and layered depth. The new firmware is dramatically better and surprisingly is free. As I have commented in the past, EMM is one of the few digital manufacturers that updates its gear when possible, rather than bringing out a new model.

    Fred

  10. Andy Yuen says:

    Fred and those of you who had already installed the new firmware. May I suggest that you listen to this SACD: Yundi Li, Chopin Scherzi/Impromptus (2004 Deutsche Grammophone SACD). One of the best, if not the best performance/recording of Chopin Scherzo No. 2, 3, and 4. Note the sheer power of his performance. Most striking was his range of dynamics and the ability of the new firmware to reproduce it. Take note also the resonance phase. A very realistic reproduction of the Steinway D grand piano.

  11. Andy Yuen says:

    Fred,

    You are certainly right in saying, “The new firmware is dramatically better”. This is for sure not a honeymoon effect! And gratefully, the new firmware is free. Thanks EMM Labs for the generosity!

    Just my observation: It seems to me that high resolution PCM recordings are not able to fully reproduced the dynamics and harmonics of stringed instruments (Wind and Brass instruments are not affected). This is my impression after listening to Chandos (SACD) 96kHz PCM recording of Tchaikovsky’s The Sleeping Beauty. In contrast, pure DSD recordings are able to reproduced it. What are your thoughts on this?

    You must listen to this BIS SACD: Freddy Kempf, piano, Rachmanninov Variations on a Theme of Corelli, J S Bach, Chaconne from Paritita No. 2, and Stravinsky, Trois mouvements de Petrouchka. Explosive playing by Kempf and vividly captured in the recording. Especially the Stravinsky’s Petrouchka – every tiny nuance and subtlety gets recorded and reproduced.

  12. andy yuen says:

    Hi Folks, Sorry, I can’t help it – to find out how good the V2 firmware upgrade is, may I suggest that you listen to this: Russian Violin Concertos, Julia Fischer, Russian National Orchestra, Yakov Kreizberg (PentaTone SACD), esp. Khachaturian Violin Concerto in D minor. (A DSD recording, using the Meitner DSD AD converter)

  13. Sam says:

    DA2 am MQA
    How long will it take to implement this? What does this implemention mean to DA2 owners, do they have to ship it to dealer, factory once it is available? How does the EMM staff think about MQA?

  14. Sam says:

    DA2 and MQA
    See my post above. Anyone knowing something?

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