And under the hood? TI's Sitara processor sits in the center of the Swiss-red four-layer PCB which goes to 8 (!) layers for the piggy-backed LAN module. Population is by top parts. Being in the OEM trade, Wattson report that their network interface factors in far costlier converters from other brands as well. The Emerson project in fact was motivated by their established successes in the original supply as well as DIY markets. [One Engineered client are French firm Vermeer whose €15'000 Model Three DAC/streamer French contributor Joël Chevassus recently awarded for his magazine – Ed.] Whatever they felt might compromise the signal path was pruned not just in hardware but code. Bit-perfect low-jitter transmission, so Wattson Audio, is the core requirement for any streamer of sonic ambitions. Critical in this regard were the power supply, clock and S/PDIF drivers. WED thus sports the very latest in voltage regulators, clocking and synchronized switching including top isolation transformers.
Incoming data encounters a 44.1kHz or 48kHz-based low-noise 50fs precision clock. All the way to the outputs, there's no extra signal processing save for defeatable digital attenuation. That does eat into bit depth. Alexandre Lavanchy assured us that their internal software is equally bespoke and was developed in-house over many years. The transmission protocol is asynchronous of course to not rely on any source clock.
There are still people who claim that all digital sources sound more or less the same. One could likewise insist that all red wines taste of the same tannin, fruit and a bit of sour hence aspects like location, elevation and soil are purely imaginary. Uncork a 2016 Foradori Granato bottle of Teroldego grapes from Trentino and instantly smile all such nonsense off. Just don't for what comes next. I found myself unexpectedly mutter under my breath when during already the very first session WED clearly didn't sound like my usual streamers. Powerfully sonorous without overdoing the intensely saturated perspective, it was quickly apparent in which direction of the sonic track I was headed.
With Vince Staples still on a playlist, his eponymous album hit the Swiss via Roon then saw the Waversa WslimLite playing Elac's Vela FS 408. The Kii Three and Nubert's nuPro X-8000 also saw action via AES/EBU. On the slightly hypnotic "Taking Trips", WED offered up bass more pressurized and black than over my €1'200 Elac Discvery music server. This reiterated how influential bass is for triggering emotions whilst uncorking spatial cues one didn't expect. The Emerson was more lively and lusty on bass mass, punch and reach. The groove felt more direct and my shoulder's time keeping on "Take me home" clearly wasn't solely from the wine. Even my oft-praised Auralic Aries Mini sounded a bit flatter and dimensionally not as expansive. At €1'500 the Auralic Aries Femto and Innuous Zen Mini MkIII with linear power supply did play it still more precise in the bass but also a tad more textbook neutral. That roped in my involuntary hip swaying to feel less infectious than the WED. To investigate the midrange, I cued up the title track of Angus Stone's Broken Brights whose relatively lit-up vocals would be a good test. Here WED administered a dash of warmth and fullness. This underlined body without diminished transparency. The Swiss clearly wasn't tuned for excess beautification. In fact minor vocal modulations and venue reverb were far more intelligible than with both Auralic Aries Mini and Elac Discovery. Only the Aries Femto added a touch more air or lucidity. Both decks impressed with their AES/EBU feed, coax played a close second.