Esoteric SA-60 - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 25 Old 01-01-2007, 04:42 AM - Thread Starter
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Remember the first time that you traded in that old used vehicle for the new shiny faster quieter state of the art vehicle. The used car was reliable and provided safe transportation and got you where you needed to go. The new vehicle was also reliable and safe, but took you there via a much smoother and faster and comfortable ride.

This analogy is extremely applicable to the final piece de resistance to my music system. I have demoed or owned Jolida, Arcam, Ayre, Denon, Cary and Cambridge Audio CDPs over the past year. They all have their strengths and deficiencies, but all (except for the Jolida) were very reliable and did the job they were designed to do.

When I first demoed the Jolida player at Spearit Sound, I had the opportunity to listen to and use the Esoteric X-01. I did not want to go near it because it had a $13,000 msrp. But, this would not be my hobby of choice, if I did not venture into the so-called high-end room. Without doubt, the best cdp that I ever had the opportunity to listen to. But, I could never think of spending such a sum of money for a compact disc player. After all, my parents first house only cost $12,500. But the Esoteric sound always lingered in the back of my mind.

A few weeks ago, I had the opportunity to borrow a friends Benchmark DAC 1 for use with my Denon 2900 as a transport. Its detail was inspiring to me. I had been thinking about a number of tube cdps. The Benchmark helped me to make the decision that I would keep my cdp source solid state and that I would opt for a tube based phono preamp for my analog end (Eastern Electric Minimax).

I started looking on Audiogon for a nice transport or better one-piece solution, when I came across a ridiculously low priced Esoteric SA-60. The SA-60 is the new audio only version of the DV-60. It is designed and built in Japan and contains no video circuitry. It is tweaked for 2-channel playback, but also offers multi-channel and 2-channel sacd and dvd-audio. The trickle down of the Esoteric X-3 transport horizontal sled and vertical pickup/optical assembly from the 5 figure players is what helps make the SA-60 a bargain (gulp) at its asking price. User selectable upconversion and proprietary filter algorithms, along with PCM digital audio to DSD conversion make this player extremely appealing.

So, I bid on the player about an hour after it was placed on A-gon. But, it was already gone. The Seller was from Providence, RI and I had made a cash local pickup offer. He was kind enough to give me the name of his fairly local custom installer dealer and I jumped on a brand new Esoteric SA-60. I had never listened to it, but I knew that, if I did not like it, then, I could simply bail and get my money back with no problem. After all, the player was only about $100 more than I paid for my Cary CD303/300.

I picked it up two weeks ago and it has been burning in on the 2 channel (some multi-channel burn in also) non-stop. Physically, it is a hefty 37 pounds. Strikingly simple, yet beautiful. It fits in aesthetically right above my Cary Cinema 5 amplifier. The remote is like a piece of sculptured lead. Heavy, baby!!!

Now to get to the sound. After all, that is why we are in this game, isnt it. I cannot even begin to describe how good this cdp sounds. It is akin to finding buried treasure in some of my jazz and female vocal cds. Last evening I listened to Ray Charles Genius Loves Company. I have listened to this disc so many times. My wife walked in when Natalie Cole and Ray were singing Fever. We both agreed that the SA-60 made this song sound so much more inviting than ever before. The unit is detailed and quiet, yet there is a reality of warmth to it. It is not in your face as I found the Benchmark DAC 1 to be with my B&W speakers. The Esoteric is precise and detailed with plenty of bass depth. Lately, I have been listening to Coleman Hawkins, an old tenor sax player. I have to admit that as good as my vinyl analog system is, that for the first time, I am now able to put on a cd and listen without fatigue. I was going back and forth the other evening between my LP and cd versions of Night Hawk. They each had something very special going for them. So far, the SA-60 is all that I could imagine for a source player for my digital end.

The bulk of my listening has been using the FIR+RDOT upconversion better confused as Finite Impulse Response and Refined Digital Output Technology proprietary filter. FIR is a standard Red Book cd playback. The RDOT upsamples to 24 bit/32x and the manual states that there is a slow rolloff characteristic and a smooth immersive sound. My Cary had upconversion with like 7 different choices and the ability to go between ss and tube outputs, for about 14 total choices. For all of its fancy technological terms, the Esoteric takes away all of the confusion of having so many choices. It actually simplifies things by giving the listener three choices for cds along with its multichannel abilities. It just lets one sit back and listen to the music. The Esoteric is surprisingly warm sounding, and its detail and presence is simply amazing.

I have not yet had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with the cd to dsd conversion. but will do so as the unit breaks in. I have been playing some of my sacd and dvd-audio discs that have been in mothballs, but, to be honest, the red book cds sound so spectacular, that the dsd and multichannel abilities of this player may not get much use in my household. Nice to have as an option though, now that my Denon 2900 is permanently retired to the bedroom.

Here is some information:

 

SA60Sheet.pdf 270.9921875k . file

Stan
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post #2 of 25 Old 01-01-2007, 06:11 AM
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Mate congrats on the upgrade and I hope you will enjoy the CDP for many years to come. I am really getting interested in this player provided it plays back redbook at least as good as my CD3 MKII coz thats my primary passion.

I would be very interested in your observations regarding the rebook upsamling to DSD because if it makes redbook sound anything like SACD that would be a killer feature. The other products that can do this like EMM Labs and DCS are so ridiculously priced.

I will see if I can find any Esoteric dealer in Switzerland who can provide me a demo or better still loan me an SA 60 for in house demo as that is the only way I would know for sure how it comapres to the CD3.

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post #3 of 25 Old 01-04-2007, 06:32 PM
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Stan,
I know the price of the DV-60 is around $5600. What's the price of the SA-60? Thanks.
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post #4 of 25 Old 01-04-2007, 10:50 PM
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retail is 4.5
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post #5 of 25 Old 01-29-2007, 04:58 PM
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I am looking primarily for player that can do redbook CD SACD and DVDA well. Based on the comments here, I am thinking about picking up a used DV50. The SA60 also appears to be a great choice but considering the higher cost, I would like some opinions whether there are significant differences between the DV50 and the SA60 (audio only). Also how do the Esoterics compare to the Denon 5910CI?
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post #6 of 25 Old 01-29-2007, 11:10 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arvi View Post

I am looking primarily for player that can do redbook CD SACD and DVDA well. Based on the comments here, I am thinking about picking up a used DV50. The SA60 also appears to be a great choice but considering the higher cost, I would like some opinions whether there are significant differences between the DV50 and the SA60 (audio only). Also how do the Esoterics compare to the Denon 5910CI?

Take a look at the new ARCAM FMJ DV139!
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post #7 of 25 Old 01-30-2007, 02:00 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arvi View Post

I am looking primarily for player that can do redbook CD SACD and DVDA well. Based on the comments here, I am thinking about picking up a used DV50. The SA60 also appears to be a great choice but considering the higher cost, I would like some opinions whether there are significant differences between the DV50 and the SA60 (audio only). Also how do the Esoterics compare to the Denon 5910CI?

Ihave a friend with a DV50 and he has nothing but praise for it. One thing I do know it has without doubt the finest transport ever built and the quality continues throughout. Finding a primo used one would be a fine acquisition for sure !!
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post #8 of 25 Old 01-30-2007, 02:20 PM
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I use a DV50 for audio only and bought it used 18 months ago. I love it. At the prices now on Agon for a DV50 I don't see how you can go wrong for the price. Denons never seem to come up much in audio discussions except for the ones that the modders work over.

I prefer to have a "2 box" solution for video and audio. Video changes too quickly and there will never be a one box that is at the top for both audio and video. Or you may want to upgrade audio and keep your video or vice versa.

The new Arcam on paper looks like it can be a stellar video performer and they have a good reputation for audio. USD-wise, it looks to be at the same price as the Denon 5910.

larry[

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -- Thomas Alva Edison
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post #9 of 25 Old 01-30-2007, 07:10 PM
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Thanks. The Esoteric DV50 and Arcam FMJ DV139 will be on my short list for consideration. The Arcam does sound enticing especially if it can match up with the Esoteric on the audio side. Besides these two players are there any other options I should be considering?
As background, I am in the process of upgrading my current HT setup and will soon be adding a pair of SimAudio Moon-W10 monoblocks to be paired with Aerial 9s or 20Ts (still trying to justify the cost). I currently have a MC12 HD but will also be looking for suggestions to add a preamp (used ok) for 2 channel music.
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post #10 of 25 Old 02-01-2007, 03:16 AM - Thread Starter
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My existing combo of the SA-60 for audio and the Oppo 970 for video with both mated to the Anthem D2 has been very rewarding. The Esoteric is the only cdp that has given my modded AR-ETL turntable and vinyl collection some real competition.

Stan
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post #11 of 25 Old 02-01-2007, 10:03 AM
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I will also be going with a two box solution with one of the Oppos to cover the video side.

For audio how big a step up is the SA-60 over the DV-50?

Over the holidays, I started putting all my music on a server in anticipation that I will also pick up a Slim Devices Transport/Squeezebox. I really like the idea of having all my music readily accessible.

So, the question is what makes more sense:
DV-50 and SD Transport or SA-60 and SD Squeezebox
The attempt is to keep things under budget
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post #12 of 25 Old 02-01-2007, 10:32 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Arvi View Post

I will also be going with a two box solution with one of the Oppos to cover the video side.

For audio how big a step up is the SA-60 over the DV-50?

Over the holidays, I started putting all my music on a server in anticipation that I will also pick up a Slim Devices Transport/Squeezebox. I really like the idea of having all my music readily accessible.

So, the question is what makes more sense:
DV-50 and SD Transport or SA-60 and SD Squeezebox
The attempt is to keep things under budget

I'm a little confused. How would you be using either/all of the pieces you listed?

I would think the DV-50 and SA-60 would sound similar except that one option on the SA-60 lets you convert PCM->DSD. Stan could problaby say how it differs than the other filter options. It's interesting that they did this because on the X-01 they convert DSD to PCM.

I liks Stan's 970/D2 combo. I've been thinking along the same lines myself.

larry

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -- Thomas Alva Edison
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post #13 of 25 Old 02-01-2007, 12:03 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by PooperScooper View Post

I'm a little confused. How would you be using either/all of the pieces you listed?

I would think the DV-50 and SA-60 would sound similar except that one option on the SA-60 lets you convert PCM->DSD. Stan could problaby say how it differs than the other filter options. It's interesting that they did this because on the X-01 they convert DSD to PCM.

I liks Stan's 970/D2 combo. I've been thinking along the same lines myself.

larry

Hope this clarifies.......
The SA-60/Squeezebox/Oppo or DV-50/Transporter/Oppo would be fed independantly to the Preamp currently a Lexicon MC12B HD. The Oppo would be via HDMI, the Esoteric via anlalog, the Slim Devices via analog or digital.

The MC12 is great for HT but I will consider adding a more suitable preamp for two channel if necessary.
Arvi
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post #14 of 25 Old 02-01-2007, 04:31 PM
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I have been considering the Esoteric SA-60 to replace a sony 777es which has served me well for many years. I now have quite a few DVD Audios I would like to explore as well as some 24/96 DVD videos (mostly Neil Young) that I would also like to hear at their peak. I currently use an oppo 971? for the DVD Audio/Video playback.I have two questions. DO you think the Esoteric will sound as good on SACD's as my sony? And finally with no video how do you nagvagate playing DVD Audios (both 5.1 and 2 channel)? Thanks for your feedback. Mel
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post #15 of 25 Old 02-03-2007, 04:50 AM
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Don't take this "tale", personally, about some rarified CDPs (all >$10,000) being replaced in favour of a DVD player with a reputation of sorts. I expect reaction to run the gamut from crying to insane laughter.

cheers,
PeAK
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post #16 of 25 Old 02-03-2007, 12:30 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by peakrc View Post

Don't take this "tale", personally, about some rarified CDPs (all >$10,000) being replaced in favour of a DVD player with a reputation of sorts. I expect reaction to run the gamut from crying to insane laughter.

cheers,
PeAK

Maybe it's true! If it really is just $40 I may just pick it up and compare it to my DV50. Although some of those guys are talking about using external DACs. Is the Tosh being used just as a transport or with its DACs in play? Also, I've seen pics where people have 10's of thousands of dollars of gear in a room with no treatments and the speakers are tucked in the corners. A $40 player may sound as good as a $$$ player in setups like that. And then there's the power of suggestion...

larry

Opportunity is missed by most people because it is dressed in overalls and looks like work. -- Thomas Alva Edison
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post #17 of 25 Old 05-19-2007, 10:35 AM
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Hi All,

Has anyone use the SA-60 with other brands of I-Link preamp? I was just wondering how the DSD conversion effects ILink transmitted audio and if compatiblity with other brands was any good.

I'm using Dali Euphonias, EAD Powermaster and an IR RDC-7.1.
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post #18 of 25 Old 05-20-2007, 09:06 AM
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If you are gonna use i.Link, I'd just pick up a used Pio 47ai. Of the few reports I've seen on the SA60 the FIR+RDOT is still the way to go for Redbook, just like on the DV50. PCM -> DSD probably only makes sense if the entire "back end" is built around DSD decoding like in the Meitner and dCS offerings. And those units are CD/SACD only.

larry

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post #19 of 25 Old 05-20-2007, 03:07 PM
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Hi PS,

I've already have an SDI modded DV-868AVI but I was just curious to know if anyone had tried the CD->DSD->ILink setup with this player. I know my own preamp can run direct DSD to the DACs and was curious as to thoughts people have on CD DSD upsampling. Sony just released a PC with DSD upsampling in Japan and it seems to be offered by more manufacturer than ever but is there any real benefit in SQ?
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post #20 of 25 Old 05-20-2007, 03:58 PM
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My cousin uses an Esoteric SA-60 in a system comprised of an Audio Illusion preamp, a pair of Cary 805C monoblocks, and Innersound Eros 3.5s. I am impressed by its smooth, yet detailed sound, excellent imaging and depth of soundstage. It's far superior to his fully modded Sony complete with tube output and separate power supply. When he visits, I look forward to comparing it in my system with my Sony 9100. A bit unfair because the SA-60 will use balanced input whereas that's not available for the 9100.

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post #21 of 25 Old 05-20-2007, 04:22 PM
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Gee, where's PULLIAMM?

Surprised he hasn't chimed in with his usual BS .................

"All men are frauds. The only difference between them is that some admit it. I myself deny it."
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post #22 of 25 Old 05-20-2007, 08:42 PM
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How does the SA60 (since it has no video) play DVD Audio discs correctly? In other words how do you tell the player to play the 2 channel or 5.1 channel option?
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post #23 of 25 Old 05-27-2007, 06:34 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by guapote View Post

How does the SA60 (since it has no video) play DVD Audio discs correctly? In other words how do you tell the player to play the 2 channel or 5.1 channel option?

It was only very early DVD-A releases that needed a display. 95%+ of them will work fine without.
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post #24 of 25 Old 05-27-2007, 09:25 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Krobar View Post

95%+ of them will work fine without.

I don't think the number's that high.

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post #25 of 25 Old 11-10-2007, 04:28 AM
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I am also looking into the SA10/60. They both have received a couple of rave reviews.
However, I have not yet seen any direct comparison.
Can anyone shed some light on this?
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