Fine differentiation also factored on women's voices. Erika de Casier's Sensational album with the cut "Drama" materialized so believably embodied and realistically scaled that I looked around just to be sure. The Aries Femto rendered timbres a bit cooler and less fleshy. Extra precision then lit up space behind the voice noticeably more. Switching back to the Elac and Aries Mini, the tacit freedom disappeared and the voice slotted into its environs more narrowly. Despite its slightly sonorous profile, WED had plenty of finesse and I always felt moved and involved. That wasn't just due to tonal flesh. On image specificity and soundstage sorting, the Swiss played proverbial teacher's pet whilst projecting the virtual stage forward at the listener. This was apparent with the ProgRock/Psych formation Causa Sui and their treble-intense "Sole Elettrico" from Szabodelico. WED didn't respond with clipped vivisectionist sharpness but instead feathered out ethereal layer upon layer for a far more organic gestalt which should appeal to analogue fans. Where the Emerson captured plenty of micro information at the stage's outer edges, the Aries Femto's and Innuos Zen Mini MkIII's uprated power supplies went even further also on depth. That's worth repeating. These competitors arrived with upgraded linear power whilst WED drew from its switch-mode wall wart. I already mentioned how even low-draw small kit like network bridges and streamers can really benefit from more elite power supplies. And indeed from this Emerson both a Keces P8 and early Waversa WLPS/HP uncovered more treble air and transparency, even space. These extra goodies mixed into the existing detail-rich warmth really had my sun rise. For less money, already iFi Audio's iPower 5V switcher is an upgrade.
At first glance, Wattson's Emerson Digital looks obvious quality but insignificant on size. Actual listening soon confirms the wisdom of the purist approach with its bare-essentials reductionism. So WiFi and Bluetooth are AWOL. Some punters could also pout for lack of USB-B. Then Roon-Ready tips the other scale heavily. D/D converters which are this sonically charming by injecting the perfect dose of warmth whilst going a tick easier on explicit treble aren't that common. Here one sacrifices ultimate HF lucidity but upgrading the power supply quickly rewards with noticeably more brilliance and added dimensionality. Experiments are thus recommended. On the usual price/performance ratio, I was particularly impressed by made en Suisse. Whilst the raw PCB come from Asia, their parts population occurs in CH. I also loved the small form factor, no-nonsense user interface and general 'invisibility' during an era where back-lit displays can't be bright and big enough. This is an unpretentious pleasure tool, a barely-there empathic music butler. Merci, monsieur Emerson.
Psych profile for the Wattson Audio Emerson Digital…
♦ builds a powerful and substantial bassment without sacrificing precision, then plays slightly on the warm side of neutral.
♦ captures vocals and instrumentals across the midrange in sonorous color-intense fashion.
♦ does it more silky and long-term friendly in the treble. This won't overlook detail but with the stock wall wart does miss a bit of air and brilliance.
♦ the perspective is slightly forward to create involving plasticity for the on-stage action. PSU upgrades benefit depth layering and lateral stage sharpness.
♦ macrodynamically nicely pressurized, microdynamically more flowing than expressively jumpy.
♦ the Wattson Audio App (iOS) is very user-friendly and embeds Tidal, Qobuz, Internet radio and UPnP access. Roon Ready is a major plus. 3rd-party UPnP apps on Android/iOS apply, ditto Audirvana's software player on PC or Mac.
♦ Concept: Pure streaming bridge/network player without DAC
♦ Trim: black
♦ Dimensions and weight: 87 x 38 x 104mm WxHxD, 371g
♦ Data support: 24/192 PCM as WAV, FLAC, AIFF, ALAC, MP3, AAC, Ogg Vorbis, WMA
♦ Digital inputs: RJ45 Ethernet
♦ Digital outputs: AES/EBU and coax
♦ Embedded streaming clients: Tidal, Qobuz, Internet radio, podcast
♦ Compatibility: UPnP/DLNA, AirPlay, Roon Ready
♦ Warranty: 2 years standard, 3 years with registration in the Wattson Audio lounge
Postscript. A few days past publication, this Wattson press release broke: "We've changed the profile of the volume taper to be smoother and better balanced across the range. We've implemented Leedh Processing to avoid information loss due to quantization errors and made this non-optional. New firmware is now available from our website to update existing machines."