+ 30 Day In Home 100% Refund Period
+ 5 Year Parts & Labor Warranty with Every Signature Edition Upgrade
+ 100% GUARANTEED to beat ANYTHING else on the market!
Nothing we sell ever comes back.
We don't even have to advertise. Once our clients experience for themselves the extreme high performance & "bang for the buck" we deliver, they keep coming back as funds permit.
The Upgrade Company would not continue to be A+ rated on the nationwide BBB algorithm month after month unless we were delivering on our promises.
EMM Labs Testimonials
Unsolicited Customer Testimonials - Every client has paid The Upgrade Company LLC in full. No kickbacks, no commissions, no fees of any kind for recommending our products and services.
$25,000 EMM LAB XDS-1 "Signature Edition" upgraded CD/SACD player delivered new to client
Here comes my testimonial:
Okay, you love Ed Meitners Emm Labs products and do not know which CD player you should buy. Here's my advice: Buy both the CDSA-SE and the XDS-1 and get them upgraded. I started my high-end life with a brand new CDSA-SE and loved especially the grip of the machine. It definitely affects your emotions, especially with its edginess. One year later I came in touch with David Schulte and The Upgrade Company and decided to purchase a new XDS-1 in addition, of course the Signature Edition upgraded version. What can I say? The Signature Edition upgraded XDS-1 sounds so good, so free, so effortless & sovereign that you gasp for breath during the first minutes the machined pops out of the box. The player does not sound good, it sounds extremely awesome: vivid and mature in its balance without even being burnt in! It sounds definitely different than the CDSA SE which was not upgraded to Signature Edition but the stunning result is: I am going to keep both Emm Labs players, the CDSA-SE especially for funk music, chill out, trip-hop and electronic music, because the smaller brother CDSA sounds a bit sharper, like an aggressive little dog which performs fine in the area of funk music or new electronic sounds. The upgraded XDS-1 plays excellent with all sorts of classical or jazz music. You will adore it and never hear a classic guitar so natural as if recorded in 3D with David Schulte's upgraded machines. I am a feature film director and novel author and I know what I am talking about. So - if you can afford it, buy both Emm Labs players in The Upgrade Company's "Signature Edition" upgraded versions, the marvelous, stunning, extraordinary "Signature Editions". I am extremely happy with the Signature Edition upgrade by The Upgrade Company.
Obviously, David's team did a great job on the machine. Ed Meitner's machines never sounded better than in David's capable hands.
Steve Lem, writer-director on the 21st of December, 2011
Have a joyful Christmas, David and an extremely happy New Year.
EMM Labs CDSD-SE & DAC6e-SE SACD/CD Transport & DAC Upgrade
I originally became interested in the Upgrade Company, because EMM Labs, the manufacturer of my digital front end, had just released a new and "improved" pair of CD transport and DAC; and, I was not prepared to spend an additional $20K after only two years: EMM offered no upgrade path from what I had.
As a composer and professional musician, I have exposure to the sound of live instruments and voices on an almost daily basis. The chief deficiencies in recorded sound usually involve the sense of timbral rightness and instrumental weight, which give instruments and voices the stable image and the sense of being in the listening room. Traditionally, the best LP's can provide much of this illusion, but at the expense of real dynamic range and image clarity. The digital format in general, and CD's in particular have the potential to provide an adequate dynamic spectrum with greater channel separation, but until the last few years, all CD front ends have fallen short. I selected EMM Labs CDSD and DAC6e (both Signature Editions) because the pair came close to the "believable illusion."
However, I was not prepared for the quantum leap in performance these units exhibited after being upgraded by David Schulte of The Upgrade Company. All the residual flatness of the image disappeared, and the sense of each instrumental or vocal space was created after the manner of the finest analog reproduction with the preservation of dynamic and frequency range. Schulte's upgrade unlocks the potential in CD's which I would have not thought possible. The most revealing feature is the ability of each instrument to occupy its own space, independent of other instruments and within the balance of the total ensemble. This particular advantage I have never heard in recorded sound, primarily because the apparent loudness of live instruments is an illusion created by their presence, rather than real acoustic power (e.g. and violin playing as loud as it can generates about .02 acoustic watts, while the bass drum in a normal loud passage will generate 20 acoustic watts).Obviously, high end manufacturers cut corners on their basic components, like resistors and capacitors. In addition, I suspect that power supplies are largely short changed and leads which should be shielded are left exposed to RF and vibrations.
With an archive of over 10,000 CD's and SACD's, collected over the last 25 years, it would be an understatement to say that I was more than pleased with the upgrade. As an added bonus, the sense of background quiet and three dimensionality was something I had never heard with any format, save a few direct-to-disk LP's. In my collection of over 15,000 LP's I have many CD counterparts, which allowed me
to compare the analog with the digital. I would say that largely, the CD's played on the modded EMM pair surpassed the LP's.
I really feel that my digital front end is unquestionably now "the best of the best."
In retrospect, what I wonder is: in very high end units that cost in excess of $25,000, why are the manufacturers not seeing the huge potential in their mostly excellent designs? Dave Schulte is a person who has the ability and experience to realize this potential. He even generously gave me tips on upgrading my Sound Lab speaker crossovers, which I performed while my EMM units were at The Upgrade Company. To top it off, having another stock EMM LABS CDSD-SE and DAC6e-SE set directly on hand for comparison lent total precision to my evaluation of the upgrades.
My advice: send your equipment to the Upgrade Company and find out what you have been missing.
Paul Reale, CA
UCLA Professor of Music & Composer (retired)
See also Paul Reale's Bel Canto Pre-2 upgrade testimonial under Bel Canto Testimonials
When it comes to music, I am impossible to fool. I have absolute pitch and can tell you the manufacturer of a recorded piano. Major performance organizations, electronics companies (like Wadia, Bybee and others), as well as MAJOR record producers have relied on my ear for accuracy. I don't care to know details on what you do to dramatically improve my gear/sound, you get results, and that is GAME OVER.
The Emm Labs CDSA-SE with Upgrade Co. Signature Edition Upgrade
First of all thank you to David for excellent service, advice and support.
My CDSA was only 3 months old and just broken in when I discovered The Upgrade Company
website with info and testimonials.
I liked the standard CDSA-SE very much. The Upgrade Company SE upgraded version is like a new and different player. Their upgrade dramatically enhances the stock "For Profit" CDSA. More music and no thinking about what is missing. I am so pleased with this EMM Labs upgrade that I sent my Esoteric UX-3 for the same treatment, and my Theta Gen 8 dac.
Thank you again David.
Finn Erik, Norway
Emm Labs CDSA-SE- Signature upgrade by The Upgrade Company
I have owned many so-called Hi-End CD players in the past including the top Esoteric 5 box P-01 setup, the top Wadia, the MBL 1611 dac and 1621 transport, and the Burmester 969+970. Although they were good in their own strengths, and truly some of the worlds very best digital to be had, they did not do everything right for me. There was something always lacking in every one versus the very best analog or live sound.
One day, a friend of mine who is also MAD in regards to HI-FI called me saying “you have to listen to my new Emm Labs CDSA-SE” and this was just a few hours from when he received the player back from David. He was so excited with what he heard saying it is the best of the best regardless of price. I know it had to be very good for his excitement so I drove over to his house for a demo.
I’m a bit of a Bob Marley fan so I know how it should sound especially the CD “Legend”. We played the 1st track and my jaws just dropped to the ground with amazement. Nothing had prepared me for what I heard, I heard scale, naturalness, resolution, detail and most of all, it was LIVE just how it should sound. It was really difficult to absorb it in so we took the player back to my house for a listen in my system.
I also own a Clearaudio Master Reference AMG turntable with their Master TQ arm and the Goldfinger. 1st off we played the same track on vinyl as a bench mark then onto the Emm’s and the bizarre thing was, the upgraded CDSA was so good that it was like 95-98% the sound quality of the turntable. Before break-in. Simply incredible right out of the box.
The upgraded CDSA was so great that I bought it from my friend cash on the spot. I had to have it. My friend immediately bought another Emm Labs CDSA-SE and shipped it straight to The Upgrade Company for the same work.
The player has had about 500 hours or so of breaking in now and it’s still getting a little bit better by the day with surprises every time I turn on the system, since I leave it playing 24/7 to speed up the seasoning effects. This upgraded CDSA is truly the ultimate in liquidity, musicality and warmth, with the last bits of detail laid out, zero digititus. The Upgraded CDSA-SE is really and truly better then the majority of my vinyl collection, which I find absolutely amazing since I have what are supposedly some of the very best components made, the FM Acoustics Models 255 preamplifier and Model 122 phono preamp fed by the Clearaudio Goldfinger, into top line EDGE NL Reference monoblocks feeding a pair of $180,000 Nola Grand Reference speakers.
I don’t know what David@ The Upgrade Company did to this player and I don’t care. All I can say is I that I have found my final player.
To conclude, this Emm Labs player with the Upgrade Company Signature upgrade has rewrote the rule books for me in terms of digital replay. I cannot say this about any factory made digital.
John, London UK
Ed Momkus' take on
The Upgrade Company-modified Esoteric P70 CD transport/D-70 DAC digital system
(and a note on a modded EMM Labs CDSA SE)
“Get on the phone or computer and call or email David Schulte right now!”
The Upgrade Company
1222 Walkabout Lane
Harbor Springs, MI 49740
THE 'MAD MODDER'
Well – not really – I was just looking for a cute subtitle. I’ve never met David Schulte, but I’ve spoken to him on the phone and corresponded via email.
When you talk to David on the phone, it becomes evident that you are speaking with a sincere and earnest man who has a passion for taking good audio equipment and making it sound better. However, if I hadn’t previously spoken to him over the phone and only communicated via a few emails, I probably would have imagined David Schulte to look like Einstein, but with the crazed look and maniacal laugh of a demented audiophile genius. After all, who else would send you an email at 2:00 AM to let you know that the mods are done and that the modified equipment is being cooked in anticipation of shipment in a day or two? I’m sure that the engineers over at Esoteric, Mark Levinson, Krell, Acoustic Research, and the other audiophile manufacturers are dedicated, hard-working music lovers who work late when necessary, but not at 2:00 AM….
THE UPGRADE BUG STRIKES
I have had the Esoteric P-70 transport and D-70 DAC for three and a half years now. The pair together was Esoteric’s “statement” redbook digital five years ago. About fourteen months ago, I began to get the itch to upgrade to an SACD player. However, even though I’d purchased many hybrid SACDs under the assumption that I would one day purchase an SACD player, I had yet to hear an SACD player that sounded better playing redbook than the P-70/D-70. Moreover, I discovered that the P-70/D-70 combo often sounded as good or better than the SACD layer of those hybrid discs. This included several good SACD players (such as the Music Hall Maverick and a Marantz DV8300) and even some top-tier players (such as the EMM Labs CDSA SE player – more on this later). Not content to simply wait for someone to make something clearly better, I set out on a search for potential mods.
Once I started seriously thinking about modding my Esoteric P-70/D-70 combo, I also started to research various “mod shops” and their philosophies. The first thing I discovered was that no one had attempted to mod the Esoteric P-70 or D-70. This made me very nervous.
If I owned a Lamborghini Diablo and wanted to improve horsepower and handling, I would sure as hell want to have it done by someone who had done it before. Alas, I was going to have to trust someone to do a good job the first time. Given the relatively unique technology used in the P-70/D-70, I wasn’t comfortable with anyone who was going to radically change the guts of the units, after all I liked the P-70/D/70 and was attracted to The Upgrade Company/Dave Schulte’s philosophy of substituting better parts. I also saw that David had modded many other Esoteric products and I figured that his experience with those other Esoteric products would help. Finally, I’d come across the names of The Upgrade Company and David Schulte in the past when reading reviews of various mods, and the comments were very positive.
Mod One and Mod Two
I decided to “interview” David and exchanged some emails and spoke with him on the phone. He was very confident and reassuring, but I just couldn’t pull the trigger. Months went by while I continued to avoid making a decision. Finally, in March of 2007, I took a deep breath and sent the Esoteric pair to David along with $3,000 ($1500 for each unit). He got them on March 20th and shipped them back to me on March 26th. I reassembled my system and deliberately avoided listening for 24 hours.
When I finally sat down for some serious listening, I could immediately tell that the performers were larger and that the soundstage was deeper and more layered. This is unusual in my experience. In the past, “larger” performers invariably meant a more forward soundstage perspective. It was the first time that I had this experience when upgrading any component. I was quite satisfied with the value I had received, since added soundstage depth had been one of my primary goals in getting the units modded.
Two weeks later, I received an email from Dave Schulte which surprised me.
First, he had liked the Esoteric P-70/D-70 system so much that he went out and bought one. Second, he had been playing around with his new P-70/D-70 and had found a whole new series of mods that would elevate the combo to yet another level. Finally, he said that if I would just send the units back to him again he would perform these additional mods at the parts’ cost and not charge me for the labor. I was very impressed with Dave’s offer, but I had some downstream components I had in for review and couldn’t send the Esoteric combo back just then. “Besides”, I thought, “how much more improvement can you squeeze out from an already cream-of-the-crop component?” I liked what he had done and was reluctant to part with my babies a second time.
Three more months went by, but Dave didn’t give up. He again reiterated his offer to do the additional mods for just the parts’ cost. Finally, in July I gave in and sent the P-70/D-70 back to The Upgrade Company right before leaving on vacation. As before, David Schulte got the upgrades done promptly, but he also called and asked me if I’d also like to get the combo’s fuses replaced and upgraded with Hi-Fi Tuning fuses. I previously had great success with upgrading my amp fuses and would have also upgraded the fuses in the Esoteric combo, but they were located internally, so that you had to disassemble the units to replace them. I told him to go ahead.
Let’s go Live!
Let’s get to it. The Esoteric P-70 and D-70 took a few weeks to fully break in the new components, but the change was immediately evident. The improvements I noted before were much more obvious. First, the soundstage was even deeper and more layered. Second, the performers were not just larger, but they sounded more natural and created the impression of being more fleshed out.
In addition, and quite incredibly, both the lower bass and the upper treble became more extended and more detailed. I was particularly surprised by the improvement in bass, because the Esoteric P-70/D-70 was particularly good at rendering bass – in fact, the best of all the players I’ve heard.
All of these individual improvements stood on their own, but the real benefit was their cumulative effect. I had never heard, or should I say felt, an all-digital/solid state system to sound so immediate and “real”. I’m not saying that the modified Esoteric P-70/D-70 sounded “rich” (it did not, nor did I want it to). I’m not saying that it would sound equally “real” in a different system. I am saying that in my system, the modified Esoteric P-70/D-70 was finely balanced on that razor-sharp dividing line between richness and accuracy and produced music the way I hear it when it’s live in an excellent acoustic venue.
An encore with a CDSA
This experience was plenty to convince me of The Upgrade Company’s high quality work, but I should also tell you that Dave sent me an email seven months ago stating that he had performed mods to a EMM Labs CDSA SE, and if I would know anyone who might be in the market for one.
As it turned out, I had just been asked by a client to recommend a top-tier player. I had actually told him that he’d love the CDSA for classical, but that in my prior audition in my system, he’d be disappointed with its performance on rock and roll. He loves bass; in my opinion, the CDSA I’d compared to my P-70/D-70 just didn’t have it. Dave’s email specifically stated that he had corrected the CDSE’s “light” bass, so I called my client and told him that if Dave says it, it’s a good risk.
My client’s listening room was still under construction, so he asked me to hold the CDSA for him for two months. When I put the unit into my system, I could immediately hear the CDSA’s renowned clarity and airiness, but now the bass was visceral without losing any PRAT or dynamics. More evidence of the value a knowledgeable “modder” can add to your system.
Lo and behold, I received another email from Dave last week indicating that he’s found another mod that he says will upgrade performance of the P-70/D-70 another 25%! Based on my past experience, how can I not do it? I’ll have to wait a month or so to complete evaluation of speakers I’m reviewing, but I’m definitely going to do it.
Based on this short review, you’d probably guess that I recommend The Upgrade Company and David Schulte for your upgrade needs. Well, you’d be right – and in spades! My experience was very positive. If you’ve got any of the components that is on Dave’s mod list (check his website and email him), send them to him for some amazing improvements. If, like me, you have something he’s never modded before, send it to him with confidence. You will not be sorry.
Page information last updated: 06/05/2020
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