Esoteric SA-50 opinions

scubasteve

Well-known member
Jul 6, 2007
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18,540
Has anyone had a chance to listen or review the new esoteric SA-50 CDP. On paper it sounds like a great piece of kit especially with the various digital inputs. It is obviously pretty damn expensive though so may need to consider a DACx and CDxtse combo instead.

I would be feeding the output to a Classe CAP-2100 and B&W 805s.

The reason for these players is that we have a lot of music in lossless format on an apple TV
 
T

the record spot

Guest
Steve, the chances are - and not wiahing to offend anyone else on here - but you'll probably find there aren't too many folk around these parts either owning or having heard such high end equipment.

Esoteric make some excellent kit, but with the price tag to match and I don't recall seeing any of their gear for less than £2000 a shot. Most people on here are unlikely to shell that amount or more out on a single item (with the odd exception) so the likelihood that many people will have heard the SA-50 is unlikely (WHFS&V staff not included for obvious reason!).

However, do please feel free to arrange an audiotn and let us know!

You might also try on some other forums out there that look at high end kit, and although not hifi specific, the USA based Steve Hoffman site has a forum subsection on audio hardware of all types, so someone may have heard it there.
 

Babur72

Well-known member
Nov 25, 2007
63
0
18,540
scubasteve:

Has anyone had a chance to listen or review the new esoteric SA-50 CDP. On paper it sounds like a great piece of kit especially with the various digital inputs. It is obviously pretty damn expensive though so may need to consider a DACx and CDxtse combo instead.

I would be feeding the output to a Classe CAP-2100 and B&W 805s.

The reason for these players is that we have a lot of music in lossless format on an apple TV

Allright Steve,

Can't exactly help you with regard to direct experiences with the SA-50.

I currently use,the SA-50's immediate forebear,a modified SA-60.Which i was fortunate enough to procure from a friend who upgraded recently.The only differences i can distinguish between the two models are:

SA-50 - CD/SACD playback only(no DVD-A).AKM AK4392 32-bit DAC in dual-mono configuration(1 DAC chip per channel).Supporting max. 32-bit/176.4KHz,192KHz PCM & DSD.USB(PCM) input.S/PDIF & optical inputs.

SA-60 - CD,SACD & DVD-A playback.Cirrus Logic CS4398 24-bit DAC in dual-mono config.Supporting max. 24-bit/192KHz PCM & DSD.5.1 multi-channel analogue outputs.

Not having heard the new player myself,the 32-bit dual-mono DAC's should potentially help to improve the SA-50's sonic performance over the SA-60(in standard factory issue form) by adding depth & dimensionality to soundstaging,more sharply focussed & greater solidity to imaging.Also the addition of the USB input can only serve to prolong it's usefulness.

They both share a similar balanced circuit design & 2 XLR outputs.The same VOSP disc-drive mechanism,power-supplies & PCM>DSD signal-conversion capability.Therefore,i can't imagine the SA-50 sounding too dissimilar from other players within the Esoteric stable.

Being hyper-critical & having previously heard some entry-to-mid level Esoteric players in standard/stock form,they can betray a slightly cool & metallic tonal character.On occaision lacking a little in openness & a presentation which may border on the almost oppressively forward.Imparting them with qualities which may be perceived as a tad clinical & lean sounding.Particularly from the upper-bass to upper-mid range.

Sonic traits which are exagerated when partnered with less than sympathetic associated componentry.And even more so when playing recordings of less than decent quality.Although,i must say that these minor complaints do largely diminish & disappear completely as one moves through each successive model in their range.

On the flip-side.They do have a deserved reputation for excellent bass performance,exceptional detail retrieval,expressive dynamics,low background noise,rock-solid timing & bomb-proof build quality - some Esoteric players weigh as much as(if not more than) many amp's.So,i don't think you'll have much cause to regret your purchase.

The only misgiving i have is that your B&W805s' won't have the frequency range to fully exploit the SA-50's capability to extract the smallest details from high resolution recordings.And more especially when it comes to the players replay of lower frequencies.

I only intended to use my modified SA-60 as a stop-gap,before eventually graduating to a more senior/sophisticated CD/SACD player.But,i can see myself holding on to this player for a good while yet.

Hope this helps.

Regards.

BABUR.
 
A

Anonymous

Guest
hi,

My cdp is sa-50, i bought it because of the digital in as well, the sound is very neutral(+great treble & bass extension), it actually is a lot more lively sounding than i expected knowing most of the high-end stuff are just refined and laid back, esoteric has power and pace for rock and pop, it has finesse on genres like classical and acoustic music. i like to play around with the in-build digital filter and upsampling setting, it's a bonus that it has DSD filter which is the format used for some classical recordings.

Mind u it takes really long time to break in, and be careful with the matching cables, go for warmer sounding cables like Cardas IC and SC otherwise it could sound too thin, which can be too much treble if u know what i mean. I match sa-50 with Plinius integrated which is laid back sounding which brings a good balance.

in case of computer compatibility, i found that better the digital cable & files, better the sound, i've tried Flac files they do sound pretty decent, better than my Havana tube Dac in terms of dynamic and details, though esoteric doesn't sugar coat bad quality files either. Also esoteric holds value very well, it will most probably outlives me, can't find anything better built than esoteric.

good luck

andy
 

ID.

New member
Feb 22, 2010
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karmatogdral:My cdp is sa-50, i bought it because of the digital in as well, the sound is very neutral(+great treble & bass extension), it actually is a lot more lively sounding than i expected knowing most of the high-end stuff are just refined and laid back, esoteric has power and pace for rock and pop, it has finesse on genres like classical and acoustic music. i like to play around with the in-build digital filter and upsampling setting, it's a bonus that it has DSD filter which is the format used for some classical recordings.
Mind u it takes really long time to break in, and be careful with the matching cables, go for warmer sounding cables like Cardas IC and SC otherwise it could sound too thin, which can be too much treble if u know what i mean. I match sa-50 with Plinius integrated which is laid back sounding which brings a good balance.

While I haven't listened to the sa-50 extensively, this pretty much was my experience wit a brief in store listen, as well as my RZ-1 which uses the same DAC chip. Surprisingly long burn in, a little lean so matching it with Nordost cables made my RZ-1 a bit lean (bass depth was still good). Now with some warmer cables I almost find the sound a little rich with both my 685s and PMC DB1is. I too fiddle around with the filters and it is a nice capacity to have. I find my RZ-1 to be very neutral and supremely natural. I listened to the SA-50 instore running into a slightly laid-back/smooth Marantz amp and I was stunned by just how natural, effortless and real it sounded, so matching with something smooth and warm is a great match, Not sure how it would sound with Esoteric amplification, but definitely audition and try to keep balance in mind or depending on your tastes, you may find it a bit too clinical.
 

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