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Emotiva ERC-3 CD Player Preview

Emotivas latest source component, the ERC-3 CD Player

Emotiva's latest source component, the ERC-3 CD Player


  • Product Name: ERC-3 CD Player
  • Manufacturer: Emotiva
  • Review Date: November 21, 2013 20:40
  • MSRP: $499
  • First Impression: Pretty Cool
  • Analog Audio Outputs: Stereo XLR balanced analog audio outputs, Stereo unbalanced analog audio outputs
  • Digital audio outputs: 1 Coax S/PDIF, 1 Toslink optical S/PDIF, 1 AES/EB
  • Formats Supported:Stereo audio CDs, (Red Book standard), prerecorded or computer recorded MP3 audio CDs, prerecorded or computer recorded with stereo audio files Hybrid SACDs with stereo audio CD layer (Red Book standard)
  • Output Level:Balanced outputs: +12 dBV (4 V RMS; 11 V P-P)
  • Unbalanced outputs: +6 dBV (2 V RMS; 5.5 V P-P)
  • Frequency Response:10 Hz - 20 kHz +/- 0.04 dB
  • THD:< 0.002% @ 1 kHz, < 0.015% (20 Hz - 20 kHz)
  • IMD (SMPTE 4:1):< 0.005%
  • Crosstalk:< 92 dB @ 1kHz
  • Phase Deviation:< 0.6 degrees (20 Hz - 20 kHz)
  • Power Requirements:115/230 VAC +/- 15%
  • Weight:21 pounds (unboxed); 26 pounds (boxed)
  • Dimensions:17 “W x 14”D x 4” H (unboxed); 23” W x 18”D x 7” H (boxed)

By now, it’s likely that Emotiva is a name most Audioholics are familiar with. Well known for delivering low cost, high value amplifiers and other electronics, Emotiva is now hoping to take their source offerings to the next level with the ERC-3 CD player. With a retail price of $499, and currently available for $449, the ERC-3 isn’t exactly inexpensive. However, Emotiva packs in a few goodies including an Analog Devices Multi-Segment Delta Sigma DAC and their Differential Reference circuitry which may improve its value proposition. So how does the ERC-3 stack up to a first look by the Audioholics? Keep reading to find out.

Appearance & Features
At first glance, the ERC-3 is just another Emotiva, albeit styled to match the latest Gen 2 XPA amplifiers. In other words, you get a nice black brushed aluminum faceplate with black “cheeks” on both ends, and a flat black chassis. Controls are standard fare for a CD player, with a nice blue halo effect on the buttons, as well as Emotiva’s standard power button which also glows blue when active. Continuing the blue theme, the CD loading tray will also be illuminated in a cool blue light when open. Flipping over to the back of the chassis, you’ll find a pair of balanced & unbalanced analog outputs, as well as coaxial, optical, and AES/EBU digital outputs. 

ERC-3 Rear Panel

The rear panel of the ERC-3.

In terms of features, what can we say? It’s a CD player... The ERC-3 does of course play standard Red Book CDs, as well as HDCDs, Hybrid SACD’s via their standard CD layer, and MP3 files burned onto a CD. The Emotiva also boasts a solid machined aluminum remote control, though it could possibly do with some backlighting to help those who might use the player in darkened rooms.

ERC-3 Tray

ERC-3 with the tray open.

So What Does It Do?
If you’re feeling underwhelmed about the fact that the ERC-3 is neither adorned in diamonds nor able to brew a cup of coffee while you listen to music, it may be worth noting that what the Emotiva does, it should do very, very well. The Analog Devices AD1955 Delta-Sigma DAC combined with fully differential circuitry promise the best possible analog output (when used with the balanced analog outputs), and combined with Emotiva’s XSP-1 Differential Reference Preamp and one of their Differential Reference amplifiers, will give you a fully balanced signal chain to reject noise as well as reduce distortion. Beyond DACs and differential circuitry, Emotiva is also boasting of the ERC-3s build quality, which includes a well anchored transport to reduce vibrations, as well as multiple isolated and filtered linear power supplies for the analog and digital circuitry, which should further reduce system noise.

As one might guess from the above, the ERC-3 doesn’t disappoint in terms of specifications. Distortion is vanishingly low with <0.015% THD from 20Hz-20kHz, and <0.005% IMD. Crosstalk is kept at <92dB at 1kHz, which is more than adequate. We’d also guess that should the ERC-3 make it to Gene’s test bench, that noise will also be commendably low.

Want a top notch CD player? Are you enamored with the colors black and blue? The ERC-3 might be just the ticket. The combination of a heavily anchored transport, high end DAC, and fully differential circuitry should provide reference grade performance. Thankfully, as is Emotiva’s tradition, such performance doesn’t have to break the bank. While the ERC-3 isn’t dirt cheap, the quality of components used appears to be quite high, and when used with a full Emotiva Differential Reference setup via its balanced outputs, should yield low distortion, low noise goodness. While it may not be gold plated, we’d call that a winner any day of the week.

Unless otherwise indicated, this is a preview article for the featured product. A formal review may or may not follow in the future.

About the author:
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Steve Munz is a “different” addition to Audioholics’ stable of contributors in that he is neither an engineer like Gene, nor has he worked in the industry like Cliff. In fact, Steve’s day job is network administration and accounting.

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