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October 2011
Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine
Electrocompaniet PD 1 and Optional EMS 1 Music Streamer
Taking your musical experience to a higher level.
Review By Anthony Nicosia

 

Electrocompaniet PD 1  My very first introduction to Electrocompaniet came about through a meeting with the companies US chief operating officer, Peder Beckman. Peder and I had previously met back in 2008 while working on another project and again ran into each other last year at a show in California where we discussed doing a review for Electrocompaniet. Months later when the new DAC PD 1 became available Peder emailed me with an offer to borrow a sample for review. For those new to Electrocompaniet it has been operating out of Norway since 1973 under the company’s managing director, CEO and owner Mikael Dreggevik. Looking through their web site you will see they offer a full line of CD players, amplifiers, preamplifiers, a phono stage, and loudspeakers plus the just recently a new DAC. The "Electrocompaniet slogan "Closing the gap to the master” i.e. reproduce the music as close as possible to the original sound in the concert venue or the studio (the master tape)." is a beautiful way of phrasing the philosophy of their dedication to the pursuit of musical reproduction for home audio use. With an offer on the table to review a product from a company with a track record as good as Electrocompaniet, how could I dare refuse, leading us to this point in time today?

 

Technical Information And Physical Description
Electrocompaniet PD 1 Rear PanelMy own new OPPO Digital BDP-95 CD player is known for having a very good built in DAC and this made me contemplate if the PD 1 would offer much of an improvement, happily for me it produced some fabulous results. For the initial setup my CD player was connected to the PD 1 via a Coaxial cable then run out through a set of XLR cables (in balanced mode) to the preamplifier. This particular connection resulted in a sampling rate of 24-bit/192kHz. Adding the optional EMS 1 Electrocompaniet Music Streamer allows for a wireless connection for streaming music from your PC/MAC to your audio system. Simply connect the Streamer to your computer via its USB input (with the supplied cable), set both the PD 1 and EMS 1 to the same channel and attach the factory supplied antennas to the back of both units. After that just sit back and experience music using your computer as the source. There is however no 24-bit/192kHz upsampling through its USB or RF link connections where it is outputted at 16-bit/48kHz.

Electrocompaniet PD 1 InsideBeing a DAC the PD 1 has a simple outward design yet was still elegant looking with its black faceplate fitting nicely into my décor. The digital display in the center of the front faceplate is for volume and source selection. Adjusting each can be done using the four buttons found on the front or through the factory supplied remote control unit. Powering up the unit can also be handled by using a button on the faceplate or from the remote control. Around back are inputs for coaxial, TosLink, USB and RF. Outputs however consisting of both the RCA unbalanced and XLR balanced variety. On the rear of the unit is a place to screw an antenna and to set channel adjustments when using the optional EMS 1. The factory included remote control is small, lightweight and easy to use but lacks a backdrop light for when the lights get dimmed in your room. All said though the remote was quite good and reliable with no problems occurring during its stay within my system. The PD 1’s dimensions are 420 x 340 x 50 (WxDxH in mm) with a weight of 9.5 lbs. As for the optional EMS 1 Music Streamer it is a small box with an antenna connection on one side, a USB input and Channel selector on the other. A simple screwdriver can be used to make any adjustments to channel settings and it was very easy to do. Both antennas are included along with a USB cable to connect to your computer. The antennas are the simple screw in type, no tools required.

 

Musical Selections
Jack Johnson’s To The Sea [Brushfire Records B0014266-020] is a nice peaceful album usually finding time within those soothing late night listening marathons at my house. Upon hearing "From the Clouds" it became quite evident that the PD 1 offered up extra bits of details found within the musical event. There was more of a "you are there" presence with both vocals and instruments the type that distinguishes the good gear from the great. On "My Little Girl" where you have Jack Johnson singing solo and playing guitar, small intricate nuances were clearly evident, framing a more complex texturing of the musical picture. His voice took on a welcomed three dimensional enhanced quality and some added power gave the performance a sense of realism that otherwise would have been missed. With "Redwine, Mistakes, Mythology" the opening harmonica solo in the background found just the right placement within the soundstage (far back and to the left). As each band member took their turn to join in, individual musicians within the soundscape both by width and depth was easily identifiable. Bass presence had a more refined feeling to it, perhaps because instruments and vocals had a distinct sense of space separating one from the other. Here the piano sounded just a tad move "lively" bringing up the level of excitement to where my foot and hands were tapping along to the rhythm of the music. Moving on to Fairfield Fours Standing in the Safety Zone [Warner Bros. 9 26945-2] where there are so many great songs to choose, the task of selecting just a few for this review was quite difficult. If you have not yet heard them you should be in for a pleasant surprise, particularly if auditioned along with the PD 1. Their voices took on a truer to life presence while sounding quite natural. The group sings A cappella, with no instruments to accompany them; just sweet magnificent vocals to provide all the entertainment you need. Singing gospel songs of the sort that makes one want to either get up and dance or sing right along they are such a pleasure to hear. "Children Go Where I Send Thee" never sounded as moving as it did that day through the PD 1.

This next CD Philip's Demo XIII was a demo disc given me by Philip Hanlon of On A Higher Note. This CD is filled with a great deal of exciting music from a large variety of different artists. As enjoyable as it was, never was it so revealing until heard by way of the Electrocompaniet PD 1. Peter Gabriel's vocals on "The Boy in the Bubble" took on a haughtily eerie quality as he sang this powerful and troubled song. It was so moving as to almost bring tears to my eyes. When a song can get you that involved you know your audio system is alive and well. Since the younger days of my youth, Jazz has always been a favorite of mine. During those early years it was not uncommon to see me hanging out at bars and night club listening to local groups. This love of Jazz made me appreciate Melody Gardot's "Your Heart is as Black as Night". Here is a song that would be at home in a small off Broadway nightclub where people go and reminisce about former lovers long since lost. The saxophone and piano with their truth of timbre as well as style of play added to the songs melancholy mood. The PD 1 with an ability to correctly size instruments help yield a small club ambience within the confines of my room. When called upon to deliver performances having a steady slow rhythm the PD 1 did so without complaint while sounding natural and magnificent. On the flip side when required to replicate a fast paced symphony or concerto it was again equally up to the task.

In an effort to explore this DAC's ability to drop down into the lower frequencies, where some of my bass loving friends love to play, exerts from Carlos Santana's Supernatural CD [Arista 07822-19080-2] were selected. Here with "Maria, Maria" the bass backed off a bit from what I was used to and it was not until hearing it several times that the realization struck me how more natural and less overemphasized it sounded. It is not uncommon for people coming from lesser systems, to first hearing a true audiophile setup, to complain about a lack of bass on old familiar recordings. This is partially because they have been listening to systems with an unnatural emphasis on frequencies designed to sound good in many cars or with lesser quality home audio loudspeakers. The PD 1 however was created for audiophiles seeking truth and did nothing but play music like that which was sent it. Feed the PD 1 deep bass and it will fill the room with it. Conversely if the recording consists of higher frequencies you can expect an open airy spacious soundscape. It was overall quite impressive indeed.

Bypassing the preamplifier by sending the PD 1 directly to the amplifier was a temptation not to be resisted. When meeting with Peder he mentioned this was something worth trying out. Not only did it sound just as good, minus some features and additional functions, but dare I say maybe even a tad bit better, with less electronics getting in-between me and the music. Playing back "The Girl From Ipanema" on the We Get Requests [LIM Records B002HTWYZ6] CD revealed what seemed like slightly faster attack transients with Oscar Peterson on piano. It actually made for an even more enjoyable experience than I had thought possible. When listening to the opening triangle solo on "Corcovado (Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars)" this instrument came across crisp and detailed rather than tinny or opaque. Switching from Redbook CDs to DVD Audio I found myself playing Neil Young's Harvest [Reprise 9 48100-9] album. Here the recording of "Old Man" took me back to that time when it was first recorded. The song was like I remember, raw and natural, a truly vintage product from Neil Young. Yes, very nice indeed. Now of course with my system sans preamplifier, gone was the possibility of hooking up more than one source at a time or using my phono stage connection for those beloved vinyl recordings (about one thousand at last count), plus other functions I find quite useful. Still if one were to assemble a system with only one source (as many do) and wanted to simplify without compromising quality this is something to look into. The cost of the PD 1 DAC even with the EMS 1 Music Streamer and the Oppo Digital BDP-95 CD player could easily set you back less than the cost of one quality preamplifier alone. This setup is worth pondering when considering the purchase cost of these two pieces from Electrocompaniet. Many audiophiles should find this combo extremely satisfying while not breaking the bank or tapping into that college fund set aside for the children.

 

EMS 1 Music Streamer
Taking things one step further by leaving the PD 1 in my system to be used as a DAC/preamplifier combo and adding the EMS 1 to stream music from my computer gave me a feeling of stepping into the future. Not being bound by a preamplifier, CD player or wires connecting my computer to the audio system made for a liberating feeling. It was quick and easy to stream Lou Reeds "Walk on the Wild Side", from the 1972 Transformer album, down through my computer and into the audio system. After a very simple one cable attachment of the EMS 1 to my laptop, the computer quickly found the new hardware device and that was that. No software to upload, less mistakes to make! Even though the song was heard by way of a 16-bit/48kHz sampling rate, rather than the 24 bit/192 kHz rate present when using the PD 1’s other inputs, it still sounded great. While there was a difference in quality I must say the overall experience coupled with the ability to stream music into my system went a long way towards impressing me. Enough so that long after this review ended, many more hours were spent listening by streaming music down from my computer into my system. However if a 24-bit/192kHz sampling rate was available it would be worth some extra expense from a consumer standpoint.

 

Final Thoughts
Please do not let its size or price make you overlook this incredible product from the good people at Electrocompaniet. It is a versatile product that can be used as a standalone DAC or even connected directly to your amplifier where the PD 1's remote control will handle volume settings allowing you to bypass the need and expense of a preamplifier. If purchased with the optional EMS 1 Music Streamer you can wirelessly connect your Computer to your Audio System. For its $499 price tag the EMS 1 should be considered a mandatory option for those with a computer, in other words nearly all audiophiles on planet Earth. It is difficult to put into words what one is hearing no matter how hard we try or what descriptive language we use. Music like love is to be experienced firsthand rather than written on a page and so auditions are always recommended. Let me say this, the PD 1 brought me closer to the original source making my other audio gear sound the better for it. Songs took on an added sense of realism as each performance was enhanced by the dynamic impact the PD 1 brought with it. To me that means a great deal. Well it’s time to go now as more music beckons and this PD 1 from Electrocompaniet is ready for another listening session. Set up an audition and see for yourself what you may be missing from your collection of CD’s. Highly Recommended!

 

The Listening Environment
The review room is eighteen feet eight inches long by thirteen feet wide with loudspeakers and equipment kept on the short wall. The cathedral ceiling starts at eight feet from the short wall slopping upwards to reach a height of thirteen feet in the middle than returning to eight feet at the opposite end. The hardwood floor is partially covered by a nine by six foot oriental rug lying down the long ways facing toward the loudspeakers, placed dead center between but not under the listener or the audio system. The room has no doors but there are two openings. One opening is in front of the right loudspeaker giving access to the hallway while the other is behind the listener’s position opening to a formal dining area. There are three floor standing acoustical panels one in each corner behind the loudspeakers and another in front of the fireplace with numerous Auralex Studiofoam panels placed around the room. All the audio equipment is located in a Synergy Twin S30 Salamander audio rack placed about a foot away from and in the middle of the short wall opposite the listening position. Power conditioners are all located on the hardwood floor behind and to the left of the audio rack with the exception of the Audience Ar2p-T0 which is plugged directly into the socket behind the rack.

 

Review Equipment
Von Schweikert VR-35 Export Deluxe Loudspeakers
Music Culture Technology MC 601 Preamplifier
Music Culture Technology MC 801 Amplifier
Oppo Digital BDP-95 Universal player
Audience aR2p-T0 power conditioner
PS Audio UPC 200 Power Conditioner
PS Audio Power Port Receptacle
Blue Circle Audio Mk III Power Line Conditioners (2)
Loudspeaker Cables: Cardas Golden Presence (2 pairs for bi-wiring)
Interconnects: Acoustic Revive XLR Balanced cables from preamplifier to amplifier, Monarchy Audio XLR DAB-1 Balanced cables from CD player to preamplifier
Digital Cable from CD player to PD 1: Anti Cable
Power Cords: Cardas Cross,

 

 

Specifications
PD-1
Number of channels: 2
Output Impedance: 100 Ohm
Output Level: 3.4 Vrms
Noisefloor: < - 140 dB
Frequency Response: 1 Hz to 48 kHz
THD + N: < 0.003%
Upsampling Rate: 192 kHz @ 24bit
Digital To Analog Conversion: 192 kHz @ 24bit
Input Sampling Rate Supported:
S/PDIF 192 kHz, 24 bit
USB 48 kHz, 16 bit
RF Link 48 kHz, 16 bit
Audio Outputs:
Stereo balanced line out (XLR)
Stereo single-ended line out (RCA)
Digital Inputs: Two S/PDIF via coaxial, S/PDIF via TosLink, USB Type B and RF Link
Dimensions: 420 x 340 x 50 (WxDxH in mm)
Weight 9.5 lbs.
Warranty: Three years parts and labor
Price Of PD-1 DAC: $2990
Optional EMS 1 Music Streamer: $499

 

Company Information
Electrocompaniet AS
Breivikveien 7
4120 Tau
Norway

Voice: +47 51741033
E-mail: sales@electrocompaniet.no
Website: www.electrocompaniet.no

 

United States Distributor
Electrocompaniet Inc.
97 Linden Street
Oakland, CA 94607

Voice: (510) 291-1222
Fax (510) 291-1224
E-mail sales-usa@electrocompaniet.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
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