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Newport 2014: Emerald Physics, tech heavy and price savvy

CT6A6694 hiresnewportlogoforweb"Price consciousness" is another way of saying, well, many things. Many good things. Given today's climate in audio's high-end, with million-dollar systems not only daring the light of day but stealing headlines along the way, I think it's worth taking a moment and celebrating those who don't have their heads jammed up some banker's rear end. Walter Liedermann has been selling audio for decades, and I'll happily admit that it was he, several years ago, that sold me my first new turntable. And a Peachtree Decco. And a few other things, I'm pretty sure. The point is, Walter was one of the first high-end dealers I worked with. Anyway, when he bought into Emerald Physics, I was intrigued. More than that, I was downright fascinated. "Have you heard these things?" he'd practically gush over the phone. "You can remove the room! You haven't heard anything like this!" Yeah, that kind of thing tends to catch my imagination. And at these prices, I had to look into it.

Emerald Physics speakers have gone through quite a few iterations and designs over the years, but as the product line has evolved, two things stay constant: 1) value; and 2) performance. Each time I run across an Emerald Physics demo at an audio show, these two things amplify into high traffic volume, where ‘high’ = “jammed”. This time, I wasn’t going to get shut out — I set a friggin’ appointment. Take that, crowds.

Here at Newport, Water was showing off a couple of new and interesting things. First was the EP-X, a prototype loudspeaker that deviates a bit from the Emerald Physics playbook. First, it’s a single-amp solution — no bi-amping or digital crossover required. Second, it’s not entirely an open baffle. I mean, it is — except for that “tube loaded bass propagation” system on the back of the speaker. The design is a controlled-directivity dipole, which helps limit harmful room interactions. Third, at $2,495/pair (with a “special introductory price” of $1,795), I’m pretty sure this is the least expensive speaker they’ve offered. ¡Viva la Revolución!

Sound quality was quite good, with excellent imaging, clarity and presence; bass enthusiasts will be encouraged to seek a sub to supplement the deeper registers. A new and improved coincident mid/tweeter array has been selected for production, but didn’t make it to the prototype (there’s a photo of Walter holding one, below). Expect some tweaks and refinements to the final look, too, once production spins up in a couple of months. All in all, another solid, low-cost entry into the lineup.

The EP-X were driven by the new $2,200 Emerald Physics EP100.2SE “hybrid digital amplifier”. This 100wpc Class D amp features an analog power supply, and can be run mono for 275wpc.

The system was fronted by a Music Hall MMF-7.1 turntable, into a PS Audio NuWave phono converter, which in turn fed digital streams into the PS Audio DSD DAC. I found this demo very approachable and quite refined sounding, though I’m sure many analog fans will wonder at the benefit of the A-D/D-A conversion on an analog front-end.

And that’s when Walter showed the Ace he’d tucked up his sleeve: the DSpeaker Anti-Mode Dual Core 2.0 he was using as a preamp. This room correction device operates in the digital domain, so it perforce includes another analog-to-digital/digital-to-analog conversions sequence. It can also be used as a stand-alone asynch USB DAC. At $1,200, this little black box has picked up a Class A rating from Stereophile for signal processing. Walter A/B tested this device for me, cutting the room correction in and out of the chain; the DSpeaker greatly cleared up the midrange and upper bass regions to an extent that I would have thought improbable. All I can say is: “more demo rooms at audio shows need this”. Assuming you don’t want to schlepp a couple hundred pounds of room treatments across the country, it really can nail down an unfriendly room, and do so with some shockingly great results. Wickedly cool.

Total price for the speakers, amp and DSpeaker (for DAC/pre): $4k. Yowza.

Another newbie on the floor was the the new Mark 4. This 3-way is cut from the more traditional Emerald Physics cloth and sports three sets of input terminals for tri-amping. A larger 4.7 model will also take a bow (shown in the Wyred4Sound room), which adds a second 15″ woofer and an improved tweeter/mid driver. More on those at a future show.

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About Scot Hull (976 Articles)
Founder, Editor and Publisher at Part-Time Audiophile and "The Occasional Magazine"