As the model numbers might imply, the ADC8 is an eight-channel A-to-D converter while the DAC8 is an eight-channel D-to-A converter. What makes these converters unique is that both are designed to work in either the 1-bit DSD world or in the more well-known PCM domain.
Product PointsApplications: Studio, mastering, post production
Key Features: PCM or DSD A-to-D and D-to-A; Balanced analog in and out; ST fiber optic and BNC for DSD; AES/EBU XLR for PCM
Price: ADC8: $6,500 DAC8: $6,500.
Contact: EMM Labs at (403) 225-4161; Web Site
Starting with the ADC8, the eight analog inputs are balanced on XLR connectors with front panel, 15-turn input trim pots that range from +14 dBm to +24 dB. Analog clip indicators are provided for all eight channels. PCM outputs are AES/EBU 24-bit with stereo pairs on four XLR connectors. PCM sample rates are 44.1, 48, 88.2 or 96 kHz. The DSD outputs can be taken from either ST glass fiber optic or BNC connectors in the SDIF-2 or 3 (Sony Digital Interface) format.
DSD uses one ST optical for clock and a separate ST for all eight data channels, making it possible to connect all inputs to a Sony Sonoma DSD recorder/workstation with just one pair of fiber optic cables, and of course an additional pair for the D-to-A side. A total of nine BNC coax cables are required for the eight data channels plus clock. The DSD data stream output is at 64 fs, which is 2.8224 MHz/sec. (64 X 44.1 kHz). Normally the ADC8 provides the master clock for an original DSD recording session using the Sonoma system; however, an external clock input is available on BNC.
The ADC8 can also be used as a D-to-D format converter with the ability to convert from DSD to PCM or from DSD BNC to DSD optical. These conversion capabilities can be very handy.
A power factor-corrected phase-locked switchmode power supply isolates the ADC8 from AC power contamination while making sure it does not pollute the AC line itself. This supply is synchronized with the clock in the ADC8 so that no beating or heterodyning is possible between the converter circuits and the PSU. Typically, in high-end audio, switching power supplies are taboo since many of them are noisy and can cause distortion and noise in the audio signal itself. In this case, EMM Labs’ PSU was stringently designed to meet the performance of an equivilent bank of lead acid batteries.
The DAC8 has eight balanced outputs on XLR connectors with trim pots covering an output range of +14 dB to +24 dB. The output impedance is 50 ohms. Digital input formats are DSD on BNC or ST optical selectable via a front panel switch.
The eight PCM inputs are on four XLR connectors. Base sample rates of 44.1 kHz or 48 kHz and can be increased to 88.2 kHz or 96 kHz by simply changing the 1 fs switch to 2 fs. The DAC8 has an internal clock or it can be clocked from PCM input XLR #1 (channels 1 and 2). DSD clock input can be either BNC or ST optical. Because the DAC8 has such a low-jitter, rock-solid internal clock, I have found it desirable to make the DAC the master clock, and lock the source to it in certain situations. A front panel blue LED illuminates when the DAC is locked.
Format conversion from 24-bit PCM to DSD is possible at either 44.1 kHz or 88.2 kHz. DSD optical ST can be converted to DSD on BNC connectors as well.
I have used the ADC8 and the DAC8 on my last three record projects and have never had such an overall satisfying recording experience. The ST optical connections were used to interface with the Sony Sonoma DSD workstation, which served as the recorder and editor.
These converters are so transparent and accurate that they have changed the way I work. I find that fewer microphones are needed to get satisfactory results. No more than seven microphones were used on any of these recordings and that was for a six-channel surround recording!
Not only do these converters work well in DSD, but I can safely say these are the best sounding, most accurate PCM converters I have heard. I attribute this to EMM Labs’ totally balanced, differential analog design, extremely low jitter and the switchmode power supply.