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Once the network player has logged all connected sources, it needs to scan them. This integrates all meta data and tags of albums/videos and tracks into a data-tree index as a structured catalogue of songs, albums, artists and such. Now the libraries are accessible to the user. Any data newly added must be scanned manually as it’s not something the ECM2 is automated to do. Here it's lovely that this function will shortly be available from the apps. To drag your telly into the listening room each time one rips a new CD would obviously get tiresome quickly.

About the app, the Norwegians did good. The look is minimal but classy. Most importantly, it runs briskly without issues. I did have a few crashes but then I’ve never yet come across an app which wouldn't. On that count Electrocompaniet’s seemed more stable than most. A special highlight is the turbo-charged search function. It’s the quickest I’ve yet met. Each letter one enters shrinks the remaining options. Enter ‘Frank Zappa’ for example. There's no need to type in the entire name, then wait for another 5 seconds. Once you get to ‘Zap…’, you’re done. If you’re familiar with JRiver and its search function via the paid-for JRemote app, EC’s solution is every bit as fast. I can’t think of a bigger compliment.

Before we get to sound, a few more tidbits on how this streamer handles data. If you add an onboard hard drive, the ECM2 doesn’t merely play music and video from it but also makes that library available to your network via Samba filesharing. You could thus access from your laptop in the home office music that’s stored on the ECM2 in the living room (or any other UPnP client for that matter). Essentially it turns the deck into a network-attached storage device or NAS.  What it doesn’t yet do is turn it into a music server in the sense that from it, you cannot centrally dispatch data to different zones/rooms. I do seriously suspect however that such multi-room functionality is on the horizon once the EC Living suite of products goes for sale.

Since the ECM2 communicates via UPnP, it’s clear how one writes to its hard drive. It appears as a standard drive in the explorer window of any computer which is connected to the same network. A simple copy‘n’paste moves existing data to it. Obviously a USB drive connected to the ECM2 is merely read, not written to. That’s standard protocol. And in case this hadn’t yet registered: to actually rip any CDs still requires a separate drive. At least for now, that's true also for downloading music files from the Internet. Personally I nearly prefer it that way since it implies that you'll have a backup copy somewhere else.

Dual-mono Cirrus Logic DACs just like in the standalone converter model

If I were lazy, I could answer questions about the general sonic signature of the ECM2 by referring you to my prior review of the ECD2 DAC and call it a day. The short answer is that tonally, the network player is balanced for a more tidy than warmed-up midband, for taut bass and for a tick of extra polish on the highest octaves. Aside from resolution, particular strengths are very high rhythm and timing—what our Brit colleagues call PRaT—and soundstaging which in equal parts delivers precision and an involving open slightly forward perspective. This mix of qualities makes for a very lively reading which imbues music with immediacy. The ember jumps quickly.

So much for the basic overlap between Electrocompaniet’s DAC and network player. A music lover disinterested in video streaming might view the DAC as a far more suitable option since he already possesses a notebook. A basic USB cable will be easily added and arrive at the same sonic result for €2’000 less. Sadly it’s not that simple. Fortuitously I was able to A/B between both decks. My colleague Jörg Dames had recently acquired the Norwegian converter. I briefly stole it, reached for my laptop and played some mano i mano in proper Norse Viking style.

Whilst general characters did match, differences remained in the nuances. Over the DAC for example, the song "Fall" by Dutch group Melphi was a bit less clear and embodied relative to the placement of performers in the room (from their Through the looking glass album, available as a 24/96 FLAC from; if you like dynamic very expressive female vocals, take Lotte van Drunen for a spin). The bass of the network player had more colour and a tick more contour to render the DAC a bit milky and pale by contrast. I had similar observations with "Love knows no borders" from Howe Gelb’s ‘Sno Angel Like You. His pipes had more sonority and in-room presence in the sense of someone actually being there. I quickly suspected that cause for this wasn’t D/A conversion per se—it’s the same for each deck after all—but the data delivery pipeline. How relevant that remains for USB audio I recently revisited during my review of the Audiodata Musicserver MS I. Since that machine was still on hand, I quickly wired it to my laptop for a comparison.