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                                                                                 R E VIE W

                                                                           bout 35 years ago, a
                                                small Norwegian company named Electrocompaniet
                                                arrived on the HiFi scene with a new approach to
                                                amplifier design that concentrated on minimizing
                                                tIm (transient Intermodulation Distortion). In case
                                                you aren’t familiar with tIm, it was first pointed
                                                out by Finnish engineer Dr. matti Otala, who has
                                                a pretty amazing background in electronics and

                                                    Electrocompaniet’s first amplifier was a 25-watt
                                                per channel solid-state model, featuring a stark,
                                                black front panel with the logo on the front. It wasn’t
                                                much to look at, but along with the mark Levinson
                                                mL-2 monoblocks and early threshold amplifiers, it
                                                became part of an elite class of solid-state amplifiers
                                                that sounded musical for the first time. they
                                                extended this design philosophy to preamplifiers

                                                and eventually CD players, while they enjoyed a
                                                tremendous amount of success worldwide. About
                                                five years ago, however, they left the US market.

                                                    this fall, thanks to the help of U.S. importer
                                                Peder Beckman, Electrocompaniet is back and
                                                is doing well. the company’s dedication to high
                                                performance with minimalist casework is still intact,
                                                with a number of their models still in the current

                                                lineup. When our publisher had a chance to chat
                                                with him, Beckman said, “Electrocompaniet does
                                                not produce new models just for the sense of
                                                fashion.” It is worth noting, though, that the sparse,
                                                machined aluminum front panel has been replaced
                      A NorwegiAN MAsterpiece
                                                by a thick Plexiglas front panel (though still black)
                      By Jerold O’Brien         that is very sexy in an understated way. It’s tough
                                                not to be highly impressed by the build quality in this
                                                player as soon as you take it out of the box.

180 TONE A U D I O NO.29                                                                May 2010     181
       RE V I E W

                Setup, etc.
                    the EmP-1/S is straightforward to un-
                pack and set up. It features five balanced
                XLR outputs (no RCA’s), an SPDIF output,
                outputs for composite video and HDmI.
                the remote guides you through a quick
                setup menu so you can adjust the usual
                    though I’m not a video expert by any
                means, I did just take possession of a new
                55-inch Samsung LED tV, and
                I must say that I was im-                           Listening very carefully to the SimAudio               the EmP-1m makes a great             ing more than enough punch to              the biggest question that
                pressed with the DVD                            750 player that I also am currently writing about     case for saving the SACD format.          play my favorites from the ’60s        potential buyers will have to ask
                video quality of                                created an interesting comparison. the Sim            Listening to the Jung trio’s cur-         and ’70s. Actually, the slight bit     themselves before writing the
                the EmP-1m. I                                   has slightly more inner detail and dynamic slam       rent SACD, Piano Trio in F Minor,         of warmth this player adds to the      $9,990 check for the EmP-1m
                can’t imagine you                               (and can be used as a DAC, which is a big bo-         Op.65, was a fantastic experience.        presentation made these discs          is whether they can live without
                could wring more                                 nus for those requiring that functionality), but I   this player has a subtlety and lack       sound much less digital, and that’s    blu ray capability. While it uses
                performance out of                                kept coming back to the natural presentation        of grain that really puts it in the big   a good thing. If you are someone       Faroudja technology to scale up
                these legacy discs, and                            of the EmP-1m. It reminded me a lot of a           league. the Groove Note recording         who never invested in the analog       to 1080i, it’s still not blue ray. the
                the multichannel audio                               great solid state class-A solid-state ampli-     is exquisite, the amount of detail        side of the fence or got rid of your   good news is that even if you
                performance was excel-                                 fier, which just happens to be what Elec-      and decay of the piano and violin         LP collection a long time ago, this    don’t plan on using the EmP-1m
                lent. the EmP-1m is cer-                                 trocompaniet specializes in.                 is reproduced in a very convincing        player could keep you from going       for video, you can purchase the
                tainly a great way to maxi-                                                                           way, these being two of the tough-        back. It’s that good.                  EmP-1/S. though I’m not much of
                                                                              As my reference system is
                mize your enjoyment with an                                                                           est instruments to nail.                                                         a videophile, I do love multichan-
                                                                           slightly on the warm/lush side of
                existing DVD collection if you                               the tonal scale, with a pair of              Spending some more time with          Conclusion                             nel audio and I would have liked
                weren’t feeling the pressure to                                Vandersteen 5’s driven by a pair       acoustic music, I listened to a fair           So to recap, the EmP-1m is        to see this excellent multichannel
                upgrade to blu ray just yet.                                    of Audio Research Ref 210t’s,         share of the Stones’ and Dylan            by far the most musical digital        player work with DVD-a discs as
                                                                                  the EmP-1m was a perfect            catalogues on SACD as well, both          disc player I’ve had the pleasure      well. most of the multichannel
                The Sound                                                           compliment to my system           being great examples of the me-           to listen to in my system. It easily   enthusiasts I know have a hefty
                                                                                     and taste in sound. If your      dium. Again, I was able to hear           exceeded my reference Ayre C-          collection of DVD-a discs, so this
                     If you have a large collection of
                CD’s and SACD’s and don’t require                                     musical taste runs more         further into these rock recordings        5xemP by a considerable margin         would be a deal breaker for that
                video or multichannel playback, the                                     to solo vocalists and         than I am used to with my current         in every category, with more bass      crowd.
                EmP-1/S might be the perfect player.                                      singer/songwriter style,    reference player, with Dylan’s voice      slam, a more natural upper register        Regardless of whether you
                Should your needs change, it can be up-                                     it will be easy to be     taking on a further level of raspi-       and better low-level detail resolu-    choose the EmP-1m or the EmP-
                dated to the EmP-1m. Currently, the EmP-                                      fooled into thinking    ness and phrasing.                        tion. In short, more analog-like in    1/S, you will be rewarded with su-
                1m has an mSRP of $9,990 while the EmP-                                         you are listening         While the EmP-1m did a great          every way, with a tonal balance        perb audio performance and rock
                1/S costs $8,250, making it an even better                                       to analog with       job with all of the audiophile stan-      that is slightly on the warm side of   solid build quality from a company
                bargain, considering the level of sound qual-                                       the best source   dards, it was a ton of fun with my        neutral, but in such an unobtrusive    that has a 35-year reputation for
                ity offered is the same for both decks.                                              material.        favorite rock recordings, possess-        way that it was always pleasing.       building great gear.

182 TONE A U D I O NO.29                                                                                                                                                                                                     May 2010   183
Second Opinion:
How does it stack up to the big boys?
By Jeff Dorgay

Having a few top-line CD players             In my reference system, the        The Electrocompaniet
on hand from Naim (the CD555),          Naim and dCS players had a              EMP-1M Multichannel player
Wadia (781 SE), SimAudio (moon          clear edge in terms of the level of
                                                                                MSRP: $9,990
750) and a full Paganini stack from     detail they could resolve. Both
                                                                                (EMP-1/S, 2ch playback only -
dCS, I was curious to see how           these players offer more dynamic
much of the cost-is-no-object           contrast as well, but again, this
performance was available from          is playing music on a relatively        www.electrocompaniet.com
the EmP-1m.                             cost-is- no-object system. When
     the player is beautifully built    compared with the Sim and Wadia         PERIPHERALS (JD and JO)
and would be a visual compliment        players, it became more of a ques-      Digital Sources Naim CD555,
to the rest of the gear on which        tion of which flavor of reproduction    dCS Paganini, Ayre C5-mPxe,
it shares rack space. the remote        one prefers. Either way, the EmP-       Wadia 781, SimAudio moon 750
control is a plastic unit not quite     1m more than held its own in terms
                                                                                Preamplifiers ARC Ref 5,
in keeping with the high level of fit   of tonality and musicality. When I
                                                                                Burmester 011, mcIntosh C500,
and finish that the player presents,    reconfigured my system to a more
                                                                                ARC SP-17
but as US importer Peder Beck-          reasonable setup (Harbeth 40.1’s,
man told me, “We are introducing        ARC SP-17 pre and moscode               Power Amplifiers ARC Ref
a deluxe remote soon, that will be      402au power amplifier), the dif-        210t’s, Burmester 911mK.3,
optional. the basic remote keeps        ferences between the $30k-$60k          mcIntosh mC1.2KW, moscode
the cost down for the customer          players and the Electrocompaniet        402au
that does not want to pay for it.”      were greatly minimized.                 Speakers Vandersteen 5A,
I love fancy remotes, but feel the            though I’m a newcomer to          Gamut S-9, Harbeth monitor
thought process is sound. And           the world of multichannel and           40.1, Verity Audio Finn
you can always add it later.            high performance video, I would         Cable Shunyata Aurora,
    Jerold’s description of the         strongly recommend the EmP-1m           Shunyata Stratos SP, Cardas
EmP-1m is spot on in terms of           if it is compatible with your disc      Golden Reference
tonality. It has the slightest touch    collection. Otherwise, I’d go for
                                                                                Power Running Springs
of warmth to the presentation,          the EmP-1/S (featuring identical        Jaco, Dmitri and maxim power
which I found very attractive and       sonics, but only two channels of        conditioners, RSA mongoose
made for extremely long listening       output and no video capability) as      and HZ power cords, Shunyata
sessions – not always easy to do        one of the best players in its class.   Python CX power cords
with digital. I’d go as far to say      Your music and video library will
that if you don’t have a superlative    determine which one of these two
analog front end (or a large collec-    players is right for you, but the
tion of records), you could easily      sound quality is a home run out of
do without it and just listen to the    the park, regardless of which one
EmP-1m.                                 you choose. l

184 TONE A U D I O NO.29                                                                                        May 2010   185

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