Boy, do I need help

You can see my system posted. I have struggled for over a year with really hard edges on certain piano pieces (actually two specifics) on two CD's and it just told me I had problems. I took the CD's in question to my dealer, who has the same CD player, albeit different system (Ayre MXR/KXR, Dyn C4-I know-no comparison to what I have, but the discs--and the player were fine. I did EVERYTHING (PC, IC, isolation, line conditioners, racks--you name it--) and finally figured out my Esoteric just didn't like my preamp. I just hooked up the CD player to my amp directly (it has a volume control and remote) and problem solved-pure bliss. Here is my problem - CD player now on the floor on a butcher block (on cerapucs) in the middle of the room (actually in front of the amps-worried about housekeeper vacuming)and instead of having my Acaconda PC into my hydra, its into my Richard Gray (and still sounds awesome but expect would sound better into hydra). And, to hear my other sources (which sound great through the preamp) I need to reconnect cables. Would you suggest geting another hydra (I can get away with a '4') and a new three shelf rack (for amps & CD player) (please see photos of room) or shop for another preamp? I respect alot of you guys here, and you have helped me tremendously over the years.

OK, you need to do ONE THING! And that's to call Roger Sanders on Monday (after sending him an email with a link to your system page) and ask HIM what the problem is.

He designed your speakers, amps and preamp, and can give you a pinpoint diagnosis. It sounds to me like there is something (probably the preamp) being dynamically overloaded by the CD player (they always have more output than other sources) and there should be a way to internally select a lower global output from the Esoteric X03-SE. But don't take my word for it, Roger will know for sure.
Good point. Roger is awesome. Thanks.
Cerrot, it just occured to me that Monday won't be a good time to call Roger because he'll just be getting back from CES.

You can certainly email him though, link to your system, and explain the problem. Say you're planning to call him in a few days when things settle down. But provide your phone number anyway -- he might call you; he's very good about that.


Thanks. I have dealt with Roger in the past and know his ways well. He sets a standard other manufacturers should follow. Not sure what can be done, though. I opened the preamp and there aren't any jumpers, toggles, etc. May just be a mismatch. I'm running balanced from cd to preamp. I will speak with him. I may leave it as it is (CD soungs just amazing) or demo the ARC LS26. I'm wondering now if I am missing anything from my other sources.

Thanks again for your help.

have you tried using RCA instead of balanced on the CDP?

There would be less gain involved with RCA, and that might help out for now.
You can do it yourself.
Thanks, Blind Jim. The CD is sounding incredible into the amp directly so that may be a permanent solution-though switching cables to play different sources may not be what I want to do long term-still not sure, but CD's I dismissed as inferior recordings previously now sound superb.
I really don't want to go single ended. I don't have any more single ended inputs on my preamp and have a $2,500 balanced cable I don't want to give up. I know I can just unplug something just to try it, and do have the same cable in a single ended configuraton, but that would just be a band aid. Obviously a problem with the Esoteric/balanced preamp combo. I don't have a problem getting a new preamp and would go $6,000, if that sounds good. I will try my benchmark dac into the balanced inputs to see if its a balanced issue with preamp, just to try to make sense of it. I am aware that balanced out has a higher gain (usually 6db, or so). I can lower the level on my amps (from 0db to alot of db's) and that did not solve the problem.
EEEGads...Try the system without the Richard Grey stuff. I have Ayre, and it just ruined the sound. I also believe that my system sounds so good because all my stuff is from one company....all designed by the same guy, with interaction problems taken care of at the factory. I found plugging dispirit excellent components into each other usually results in garbage sound. Also, 2500 dollar cable does not mean good sound. ..for the hell of it, get some Anti-Cables (return accepted if not liked), and hear if some of the magic returns.
Thanks, Stingreen. The CD player/amps, preamp (were)plugged into a Shunyata Hydra, not the Richard Gray. The CD Player now plugged into a RG 1200 and does sound incredible. (I can't overstress "incredible" - sounds as good as my buddy's Puccini/Magico Minis-actually). I know price doesn't necessarilly mean good sound with cables or other-but I auditioned cables extensively and found the Tara Labs The One (throughout the enire system and speaker cables) were the best sound I could get for my budget, in my system. I believe in system synergy as well, but the Esoteric was definatley overmodulating the balanced in on the preamp. I did unplug everything from the preamp except CD player - and plugged everything into wall itself, and still had the same problem. (also tried Monster Sigma Retro balanced cables as they were the only ones I had, along with generic and Signal cables). I've now listened to the CD player into the amp for 10 hours now, since last night, and am amazed by the sound. I almost don't want to change anything but the convenience of a preamp is something to desire. I will listen to my turntable carefully after lunch (through preamp). If I feel the preamp is holding it back, then I have no choice.

Thank you very much for your input.
I would lose the Richard Gray and Hydra 8 stuff completly.
Hello, just thought I'd throw my 2cents worth in. I have a very complicated system, with a mish-mash of components, home theater, multi-channel, integral separate 2 channel system with passive pre., solid state, and valve amps, along with an analog front-end as well. I have three different power treatment options, all in use, first in line is PS Audio Soloist in-wall unit, then a Furutech TP-80 passive unit, then a PS Audio P300 to control voltage to the VPI Scout motor. Phono pre, DAC, and Genesis Digital Time Lens are also plugged into the P300, as well as recently, a modded 10 watt Sophia Baby amp that runs hot as a small toaster oven, and sounds killer, too.

Bottom line, everthing sounds beautiful, no noise, ground loops, everything just as it should be. Maybe I'm lucky. Or it may be due to the separate 20 amp dedicated line to my system. I had my system running a long time just through the Furutech, with no noise problems at all.

You can gather what you will from this, but the Furutech, at a fraction of the price of all the most notable power conditioners, is all many of us need for power conditioning.
I didn't want to say it before, and be accused of trashing Shunyata or RG, but I totally agree with Ozzy. Conditioners have their place; but as far as I'm concerned, they represent old technology; there are better types of devices for addressing dirty power these days.

I think it has pretty much become accepted by 'audio culture' that power conditioners negatively affect good amplifier dynamics because their filters and chokes limit fast power transfer. (So do undersized power cords.)

What is not well known, is that for the same reasons, they (conditioners) also limit DAC performance (or anything with digital processing onboard like a CD player). And as with amps, another important item to use with digital processing equipment is a power cord with at least 12AWG or larger conductors (shielded of course). Though not power hungry like amps, digital decoding/encoding also requires the fast power transfer afforded by big power cords. A fat cord will make your desktop PC go faster too ;--)
Thank you again, for all your input. I'm not looking to upgrade power conditioners right now. If I do, it would be an Audience (T). What I was trying to find out was if I could get the audio nirvana I am experiencing now with the Esoteric directly into the amp, by getting a new preamp. The reviews on the Puccini and the Berkely (2 of the best sounding digital) all say "...and you really have to try it direct into an amp". Trying to find out if that, indeed, is the best way to go or if a preamp (right now, for me, $6,000 budget) would get me there.

Not looking for new cables, power cords or power conditioners - just trying to figure out if I should get a preamp.

Cerrot, you will probably find out more when you talk with Roger Sanders. But a few points:

Most people who fairly compare direct vs. thru--preamp settle on using a preamp, even in those extreme cases where the CD is the only source!

Second, I don't think your preamp is the problem but I defer that one to Roger definitely! And another call/email you should make is to Esoteric, explain the problem and ask if the unit's output might be too high.

Third, I don't understand what you'd expect to accomplish by changing conditioners -- it would be a horizontal move. If you like using them, fine. The ones you already have are as good as any.

What you should be doing at this point, for your own edification if nothing else, is plug the amp(s) and digital equipment directly into the wall using power cords with > 12 gauge conductors as I already mentioned. This would be a free (or very inexpensive) exercise, and you'd learn a lot!


Doesn't the PP300 get hot on the carpet?

I admit it could get hot on the carpet, and would, had I not put longer "feet" on it to raise it off the carpet aways. I occaisionally take the cover off, and give it a good blast of air and clean the intake, fan, and the rest of the unit. Thanks for mentioning it though, you have reminded me I now have some extra Vibrapods and Cones available, and get more clearance from the carpet!

Sorry I was no help to you Cerrot, hope all works out well for you.

Regards to all,

Spoke with Roger. He said no worries. He had a few options but we agreed on sending preamp back and he will install some resistors on the balanced preamp input. I will ship it to him this weekend.
Cerrot -- so it WAS the output from the Esoteric that was a bit high? Did you ask Roger if, rather than de-sensitizing his preamp input, that maybe you should first call Esoteric and see if there is a way to lower its output?

Most high-end CDP's and DAC's, especially those that have their own remote control volume/mute, make provision for internally adjusting their output range; so that when you have the unit's volume control wide-open, it doesn't overload the preamp. (Actually, I thought that's what Roger was going to tell you to do -- call Esoteric ;--)

Neil, Roger said that the resisters won't effect the sound. I wouldn't want to change anything in the Esoteric. I will give the resisters a try as it will be inexpensive (knowing Roger, he may not even charge though I would gladly pay) and relatively inconvenient (easy to ship as preamp is very light). If it comes back and doesn't sound as good as CD player direct to amp, no biggie as I have aleady resigned myslef to the fact that switching cables when I want to listen may be the way to go. The system just sounds so incredible now, tough to think putting the preamp (albeit modded) back in the line will put me in the same place, though Roger does think that it will.
Neil, BTW, my Esotriic does not have a volume control. I adjust volume when it is hooke direct to amps with Rogers Active Crossover.
I understand everything you say, but I still feel bad that Roger has to modify HIS stuff (which I'm sure is right on the money to begin with.)

I know if you follow his advice, you will be saved from cable-swapping hell and everything will sound terrific -- it's not that -- I have total faith in Roger (especially because he claims NOT to be an audiophile!!

I am however, disappointed with Esoteric, maybe, because I think (if you haven't yet) you should make contact with them at least once, to determine if there are any internal adjustment to made. Most maufacturers do not spell out ALL possible options and adjustments in their owner's manuals. If you've already tried that, then please ignore my comments. But in my view, the problem is theirs, not Roger's, and they should fix it ;--)

Thanks again. I have heard the Esoteric through many other preamps and none distorted. True, Esoteric is cheating a little as I am sure they are exceeding their published output 2v spec, but it sure sounds good. Really good. I did find that the preamp (actually a Coda) does have an input bandwith problem on the balanced in that, although very rarely, can modulate hot passages on certain digital gear. I don't think anyones fault (or problem-other than mine). System synergy and matching is key. I think we have become spoiled that most gear just matches up but to acheive that pure bliss musical experience takes persistance, time and alot of discipline. I can only imagine how many of us upgrade, abandoning gear that we feel doesn't do it for us, and in reality, it's just an impedence or voltage mismatch. My experience taught me alot. I love my stats but I almost pulled the trigger on new speakers. (Glad I did not as I still don't think I have heard better than Rogers Panels--or amps). I invested thousands on room treatment-as I thought the issue was room related. I got lucky bypassing my preamp and have entered audio nirvana in doing so. I don't mind the journey as now, with all the tweaks I installed (line conditioners, upgraded cables, power cords, isolation footers, etc., etc., I am now experiencing sound I previously dreamed about. Okay, it probably cost me $10,000 but all things I may have eventually done, anyway. I'm quite a hapy guy right now. And Roger is still, well, my audio God.
Only $10,000 ? ;--))
Anyway, if it's OK with Roger, it has to be OK with us, right?

Neil, I actually am having thoughts about having the preamp sent back for the ressitors to be added. Your remark about "desensitizing" made me think. The issue with the Coda (Innersound) is "limited input overhead margin (later increased in subsequent iterations) means that the occasional digital source with an above-standard (>2v) output level may cause input overload distortion when playing peaks in programs of disks that are themselves mastered hot". I am thinking that adding resistors reduces the incoming signal flow, not expand the aforementioned limited input overhead margin". Roger can change the unit to the "later iteraton" (from a 5v mac logic control to the new 15v one used in the newer gear) but he said that would reduce signal to noise ratio. I'm thinking the resisters will, indeed, effect the sound of my CD player, and I'm thinking not in a better way (reduced dynamics)? What are your thoughts on this. The system is sounding amazingly good and I don't want to degrade. Thanks again for all your help, Neil. By the way, you have an awesome system.
Dennis, obviously I don't know the technical design details of either the Esoteric OR the Coda, but my 'audio intuition' tells me something will be compromised; and I think I may have now infected you with that notion! Which is OK, because it leads to deeper thinking. Such as . . . .

. . . . after reading your post, I suddenly had this realization that we'd been talking about an older model preamp!! I know money is (always) an issue, but since you're having compatibility troubles with that earlier unit, perhaps you should simply sell it, and ask Roger if he could give you some consideration on the purchase of his latest. I know for sure he'd send you one to compare directly with the Coda, so what could be better!? My 'audio intuition' further suggests the latest model very likely will NOT present any of these matching problems. In fact, it will probably perform as well, if not better than, your 'direct connection' solution. And you can't sneeze at a lifetime transferable warranty (just remember Roger's new company is a one man operation! ;--)

And thanks for the kind complement! By the way, my Wadia T-2000 transport was Wadia's first transport (ca.1990 @ $7500!) and is in fact an Esoteric (TEAC) w/ a separate power supply and the updated TEAC heavy-duty VRDS disc-clamping mechanism! It still works like a charm after 20 years, although I now have a (relatively recent) Wadia 27 DAC.

The one outrageous update ($950 and worth every penny it turned out -- thank God!) to which I treated myself a couple/three years ago was the purchase of one of Tommy Dzurak's tuned aperature, glass fiber AT&T interconnects [url][/url] I was blown away, but told no one (because I was just too embarrassed about the price!) and I started getting the same comment over and over: "You have the most analog--sounding digital I've ever heard. What is it!?"
Buy a new preamp.

Thanks for the extra info on your rig.
I would like to hear something on your speakers. Have you had the Innersound Stats and how do your now compare?

Roger had advised the new preamps had the 15v throughput on the logic servo but had less signal to noise than my pramp, so not something I want to give up. Ddd1, a new preamp may be an option but as I have said, the no preamp for my CD is just sounding magical (and the more digital reviews I read, all seem to agree that preamps don't necesarilly help). I listened to some vinyl and R2R last night, through the preamp, and really no need to upgrade it as it sounds great. I have decided to, for now, live with the cable swapping. Thanks, everyone. I really appreciated your input.
what about using attentuators on the output of the Esoteric?