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