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Measurement and Review of Emotiva DC-1 DAC

amirm

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#1
This is a detailed measurements and review of Emotiva DC-1 DAC. It is kindly loaned to me by member Sal1950. It retails for $499 including shipping from Emotiva direct. The features and size is very close to my recently reviewed Topping DX7 DAC.

Emotiva DC_1 DAC.jpg

As you see in above picture it has extensive set of inputs and outputs. We get USB, Coax and Toslink S/PDIF, and balanced AES/EBU digital input. But we also get an analog input! On the output side we have both balanced and unbalanced. It includes a built-in power supply with a toroidal transformer which I appreciate at this price point.

Headphone output is oddly limited to 3.5 mm headphone jack. With such a big box why not put a TRS style one too so that I don't have to use an adapter with headphones like Sennheiser that come that way? The Topping DX7 comes with such a connection and a balanced one for good measure.

The unit came with tall, rubbery and super flexible feet. Not sure if this is a tweak from Sal or it comes this way from the factory. Either way, subjectivists should rejoice that this tweak is built-in. :D

This is a strictly PCM DAC supporting sample rates up to 192 Khz. On this front, the Topping DX7 is superior by supporting DSD formats (although it lacks the analog input of Emotiva DC-1).

As you see there is a blue OLED display. The industrial design is not to my taste with those curves and such but I assume that is the same "design language" they use in their other products. Case work is thin sheet metal compared to machined aluminum one from Topping. So somewhat cheaper looking and feeling. The two optical encoders for the input and volume feel good though and work well.

Let's measure the unit and see how it does. Note that rest of the measurements are from my previous work and not repeated here again.

Measurements
As usual let's start with our jitter/noise test using the USB input:

Topping DX7 vs Topping D30 vs Emotiva DC-1 DAC Jitter Measurements.png


Not a good first impression there. The Emotiva DAC-1 has higher noise floor, fair bit of low frequency jitter around our main tone of 12 Khz and an "idle tone" at 17 Khz. At > -100 db, not an audible concern but from engineering hygiene, better work could have been done to avoid these. There are also some noise spikes at low frequencies.

Let's jump into one of my favorite tests, linearity using Coax S/PDIF input. Here, an ideal DAC would produce a flat line. No real DAC does though and deviations occur as the amplitude of our digital signal gets smaller and smaller (to the left):

Topping DX7 vs Emotiva DC-1 DAC Linearity Error Measurement.png


We see performance that is better than 16 bits using my (arbitrary) 0.1 dB of deviation to the tune of 17 bits. The topping DX7 does better getting us 18.6 bits using the same criteria.

Jumping to the other extreme of a boring measurement is the frequency response:

Emotiva DC-1 DAC Frequency Response Measurement.png


Seems like its reconstruction filter is a bit more gentle than the Topping DX-7 DAC in its "fast" mode.

Let's look at the classic 1 Khz distortion+noise test where the 1 Khz tone itself is filtered out and the spectrum of the rest shown:

Topping DX7 vs Emotiva DC-1 DAC THD Measurements of Spectrum of 1 Khz 0dbfs 24-bit 44100 Khz.png


Overall the distortion is lower with the Emotiva DC-1. As a measured number its THD+N is 2 db better than Topping DX7 DAC.

Another test that I have started to like is the SMPTE Intermodulation Test. As the name indicates, this uses two tones and measures what extra distortion is created due to any non-linearities in the DAC:

Topping DX7 vs Topping D30 and Exasound E32 vs Emotiva DC-1 DAC SMPTE IMD Distortion Measurement.png


We see an issue here with Emotiva DC-1 where below -30 dBFS, more distortion is generated when levels are reduced below -30 dbFS. Whether that is noise, distortion or both, is hard to say here.

We get more insight when we look at the spectrum of distortion products:

Topping DX7 and  D30 vs Exasound E32 vs Emotiva DC-1 DAC Distortion Noise measurement.png


Interesting results. The Emotiva DC-1 does very well in low frequencies but there is a sudden jump in noise/distortion above 10 Khz. For that matter, my expensive $3,500 Exasound E32 suffers from the same illness.

Conclusions
The Emotiva DC-1 has excellent connectivity especially given its one analog input. Objectively though not playing DSD is a miss. And measured performance often falls below that of Topping DX-7 which is $100 cheaper. If you don't need the analog input, my recommendation remains to purchase the Topping DX-7. If you do, currently the Emotiva DC-1 is the only DAC I have tested with analog input.

Edit: headphone measurements in this post: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/...ew-of-emotiva-dc-1-dac.2306/page-2#post-63288
 
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stunta

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#3
This is very good, Amir and demonstrates that even "budget" companies like Emotiva have serious competition from the likes of Topping.

Given it has an analog input which I assume is variable output, is the DAC output volume control analog then? Does the Topping use digital volume control?

EDIT: From Emotiva's website: "Muses 72320 precision digitally controlled analog ladder volume control".
 

Jinjuku

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#5
I have the DC-1 (I use it's analog in with a BT receiver). It's competent DAC but the Topping is downright impressive.

I like the pre-amp function it has.

Luckily I got it for $300 shipped NIB from a c-lister.
 

Blumlein 88

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#6
I seem to recall the Emotiva has a really hefty headphone amp. Might be worth looking at the output of that.
 

Jimster480

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#8
This is very good, Amir and demonstrates that even "budget" companies like Emotiva have serious competition from the likes of Topping.

Given it has an analog input which I assume is variable output, is the DAC output volume control analog then? Does the Topping use digital volume control?

EDIT: From Emotiva's website: "Muses 72320 precision digitally controlled analog ladder volume control".
Yes the DX7 has digital volume control.

@amirm you wrote "DX-1" a few times in the review instead of DX-7.

"The Topping DX-1 comes with such a connection and a balanced one for good measure."

"The topping DX-1 does better getting us 18.6 bits using the same criteria."

:)
 

amirm

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#10
I seem to recall the Emotiva has a really hefty headphone amp. Might be worth looking at the output of that.
I will test that next and report back.
 

mindbomb

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#11
With this and the teac nt503, is it the internal power supply that is hurting noise performance?
 

amirm

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#12
With this and the teac nt503, is it the internal power supply that is hurting noise performance?
No because the Topping DX7 also has internal power supply and doesn't have such issues. It is just design problems allowing leakage from one part to the other. I will do a quick teardown to see what is in it.
 

amirm

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#13
Little strange thing. When using the thing under USB, it identifies itself as "Modi" and Roon reported it as my Modi device. I wonder if there is something in common with Schiit Modi???
 

Sal1950

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#14
The unit came with tall, rubbery and super flexible feet. Not sure if this is a tweak from Sal or it comes this way from the factory. Either way, subjectivists should rejoice that this tweak is built-in. :D
The feet are small Sorbothanes from Audio Advisor. I added them, not for any isolation properties, but simply for the added height. If you noticed I found the unit to run fairly hot and the factory feet were simply 4 small rubber pads that for all intent and purpose totally blocked any air movement thru the bottom vents. The unit did seem to run a bit cooler after I added them though still surprisingly warm for a simple DAC?
Many have spoken out about the mini headphone jacks around the web, we'll see if Emo responds with the DC-2 if it ever really does arrive. It's been being discussed for some time now.

Thanks for the review, hope our members found it interesting.
 

amirm

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#16
What is the DAC used in it, its configuration, Amir?
I have not yet opened it to do a teardown. Emotiva says it is Analog Devices AD1955.
 

Thomas savage

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#20
The feet are small Sorbothanes from Audio Advisor. I added them, not for any isolation properties, but simply for the added height. If you noticed I found the unit to run fairly hot and the factory feet were simply 4 small rubber pads that for all intent and purpose totally blocked any air movement thru the bottom vents. The unit did seem to run a bit cooler after I added them though still surprisingly warm for a simple DAC?
Many have spoken out about the mini headphone jacks around the web, we'll see if Emo responds with the DC-2 if it ever really does arrive. It's been being discussed for some time now.

Thanks for the review, hope our members found it interesting.
It was great, Iv wondered about that dac for awhile so thanks for lending mate.
 
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