Electrocompaniet EMC 1 MK V CD Player

hfncommendedRemember when a CD player was just, well, a CD player? No DAC input, streaming or other digital goodies. Electrocompaniet does – say 'hello' to an old-school disc spinner

By coincidence, I started writing this review of Electrocompaniet's EMC 1 MKV CD player on October 21, which serious film nerds will know is 'Back To The Future Day', the date, in 1955, that intrepid time traveller Marty McFly (Michael J Fox) arrives in the smash-hit sci-fi movie. Marty has bent the spacetime continuum to head back 30 years, and I had a similar feeling with this silver disc spinner, albeit by a decade or so less and without aid from a DeLorean.

The £4999 EMC 1 MKV is reminiscent of a CD player from another age, because it is just a CD player. Transport, DAC and analogue output stage combine to shunt music from disc to amp, but there's no other way of making use of Electrocompaniet's digital conversion circuitry – no optical, no coax, no USB. In the modern hi-fi arena, where almost every CD player you come across is really an outboard DAC with a disc mechanism added for good measure, it feels highly unusual, almost wilfully old-fashioned! The EMC 1 MKV therefore plays to a narrower audience than most CD spinning rivals, though the brand has a respected heritage.

Origin Story
Norwegian-based Electrocompaniet was formed in 1973 but really broke onto the audio scene in 1976 with a radical solid-state preamp and power amp [The Two-Channel Audio Power Amplifier – HFN Dec '11]. The product line now extends to a preamp and phono stage, integrated, mono and stereo power amps, DAC and CD players, plus a range of wireless speakers and network streamers.


An 'old-school' CD player – no digital inputs and fixed analogue output only on RCAs and balanced XLRs alongside S/PDIF digital out on coax and Toslink optical

This 'new' CD spinner is, of course, the latest generation of its flagship EMC 1 strand, which debuted in 1998 and was last revised with the EMC 1 MKIV in 2016. Electrocompaniet changed ownership in 2007, being acquired by Norwegian electronics specialist Westcontrol and moving to a new facility near Stavanger, where it designs and assembles all its products. Yet this hasn't resulted in a change of aesthetic philosophy. Put this machine next to its EMC 1 predecessor and you'd notice little physical difference – although some of the turn-of-the-century catchphrases ('24-bit High Resolution') have been scrubbed away, leaving the player's black Perspex front panel entirely clean of legends beyond the company logo and model name.

The EMC 1 MKV's acrylic fascia and black steel chassis, heavy at 18kg courtesy of the player's PSU and mass-damped transport mechanism, is then offset by gold details (including the power button and transport controls). This is a flourish found on models throughout the company's 'Classic' series, one of which being the ECM1 MKII streaming DAC that Electrocompaniet sells as a system partner.

Undercover Evolution
Upgrades over the previous generation of EMC 1 are a new (unspecified) drive unit for the player's top-loading mechanism, refinements to the balanced analogue circuitry that sits downstream of the Cirrus Logic upsampling and DAC chips, and improvements to the vibration-cancelling properties of the chassis. Connections are exactly the same, however: balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA, plus coaxial and optical digital audio outputs enabling the EMC 1 MKV to be paired with an outboard DAC, operating in transport-only mode.

Back around the front, the display's illuminated blue text is large, making it easy to note track number and time elapsed, and it can be dimmed fully. The supplied plastic remote control is less impressive – lightweight compared to the player itself – and festooned with buttons that are of no use here. However, it makes operating the EMC 1 MKV a breeze with keys for direct track access, search, shuffle and various repeat play options.

EC Living AS
Tau, Norway
Supplied by: Elite Audio Ltd, Fife
01334 570 666