Esoteric Mods

I own an Esoteric P70/D70 Transport and DAC, I am considering having both modded. I have been doing some limited research, however I would like to hear from anyone who has had their Esoteric units modded to get some feedback. My units are still under warranty for another 6 months. I would like to know the names and websites of some reputable companies I can contact. Bottom line is it worth investing into. Thanks for your help
RAM (reference audio mods) and Kern (audiomod)have very good reputations. I have also heard good things about (VSE) vacum state electronics. I believe music technologies (Bill Thalmann of cj fame) is the north american installer of their mods. Sonically, depending on the mods chosen, you should hear a substantial improvement in the players performance. But resale value will most likely take a hit. And obviously you will void the remaining portion of your warranty. I think Kern advertises that he backs his work with a one year warranty.
I am a strong advocate of mods done by qualified, reputable folk. Richard Kern at Audiomod made a very nice improvement in my Marantz SA-1.
Hi Mmitch7711

I believe I mentioned to you at another thread that I am thinking in sending a unit to RAM to be modified and posted the website with the numbers to call. Actually I am writing because I spoke to Douglas Jesse again from RAM because I was having problems deciding which unit to send to him to be modified and I wanted his advice. I currently own a Musical Fidelity Trivista SACD player which it is at Signal Path being service and I also want them to check the unit thoroughly because I was considering selling it and I want to make sure it is in optimal performance before I put it up for sale at Audiogon. I also was thinking about getting the Esoteric DV50 or 50s and sending it to RAM to be modified. Since both units are excellent sounding SACD/CD players I was having difficulty choosing which will be a better choice to modify.
That's when I need it the expertise, advice,and knowledge of Douglas Jesse. We Spoke for about half hour and told him about my choices and he explained to me the very differences between both units.The Esoteric has a Solid State Output Stage and the Trivista has a Tube Ouput Stage. I have to say that Douglas is a very knowledgeable and experience person in doing modifications. He took the time to tell me with specific details what will be the best mods for each unit. At the end he felt that In his own experience the Esoteric DV50 or 50s will be the better sounding unit after all the modifications are done but he still made it clear that it is always up to the listener to make that choice.I really trust his advice and that is why I will be doing my mods thru RAM.
Mmitch If you have a chance please give Douglas a call. Talk to him and tell him what you will like to do.Then take it from there. At least you will have an idea where you stand from the advice of someone who is very knowledgeable in doing Modifications.

Carlos Reyes
Queens, New York.

I will certainly give him a call. Thanks for the info. This process can be very confusing, especially since there are numerous modifiers out there.
I ask again, why would you imagine a modder would have more expertise than TEAC, except possibly replacing cost sensitive parts with more expensive alternatives? You folks alll seem to believe modders know better. I'm skeptical.

Dbphd, I suppose the only real answer to your question is that the moder has cheaper labor and may be more able to ignore the parts cost as he or she is not working through a dealer network. Price point concerns are the only real difference.

If this was the case then why is it that there are Professional Car Mechanics that will do High Performance Modifications to car engines to enhance the performance of such? Why don't we let the Car Manufacturers do it? As a Matter Of Fact Many Car dealers sell High Performance Vehicles in their respective Dealerships but if you look at the window sticker it will show you were was the car sent to have all this modifications done by a Professional High Performance Modification Place.
That is why you have an MD who practices General Medicine but in many cases he may send you to see an Specialist"
I hope this will help you in understanding why we believe in professionals doing modifications to High End Audio Equipment. It is all made to Enhance the Performnace of an Already Excellent Built Unit!


I don't think your analogies work well. Specialists have additional training in medicine. It is cheaper for MB to have another company mod. its cars for the performance range. I doubt seriously that moders of audio gear know anything more than the people at Esoteric.

Moders can put more expensive parts in as they have no interest in a price point. I am not knocking moders and indeed have a personal friend, John Tucker, who does this, at least part of the time.
Production tolerances can stack up in many different ways.Modding a mass-produced item frequently means just building it to the blueprint. True in a lot of areas outside audio, as well. :)

The analogies were Carlos, not mine, but I agree they don't seem to apt. Two modders that come to mind, AMG for MB and RUF for Porsche, don't improve the product, they make it different in ways unlikely to appeal to most of the buyers of the original product. I think AMG may be a subsidary of MB; the cars are sold by MB dealers. (My next wagon may be an MB E 63 AMG, or the 2010 equivalent.)

I doubt a modder is more specialized in the design of an Ayre C-5xe or Esoteric SA-60 than Ayre or TEAC. I also doubt that modders have labor rates lower than OEMs. As in so many aspects of high-end audio, mysticism seems to rule.

Dbphd, yes I thought you were talking about AMG. I too think they are owned by MB. RUF is definitely not owned by Porsche. I have a Cayman, and what they do with it is scary and expensive.

I think most audio moders are more like local mechanics who put a fast chip or wider tires on a car.
Hello Mmitch7711,
My Esoteric X03 is at RAM for the $2190.00 mod as recommended by Julian Price a fellow Agoner who had his Esoteric modded.
As soon as I get back I will post some info how it sounds against the stock unit, a second unit which I have just purchased.
If the RAM SOTA turns out worthwhile, then I will have my second X03 fitted with RAM's flagship the $2970.00 mod this time.
In the mean time I will contact Audiomod and VSE as suggested by Czbbcl, to find out what they offer.

thx Terry
What is the time frame for performing you mod at RAM. I look forward to your feedback. Thanks
APL hifi, not a mod, just IMHO the best digital, regardless of $$$$
+++I think most audio moders are more like local mechanics who put a fast chip or wider tires on a car+++

That's what you get for thinking
I apologize.That was just plain rude.I am a mechanic and have taken a beating (stress-wise) lately , but that doesn't justify taking it out on Tbg. especially when I think he's right. Again , I apologize for my behavior.
I've talked with Doug at ram mods a few times to help me with witch esoteri. to mod. he is very knowledgable on esoteric mods. I've purchased a new DV50, that I'll be sending him for a full mod. Kenny
Has anyone had a Mod done by RAM, if so which option did you choose the Silver or Copper transformer output wiring. If either were chosen how did it work out for you. Please advise. Thanks
I just recently purchased and had the opportunity to pickup a RAM modded ($2709) Esoteric DV 60 from Kyle/RAM, with the new Ultraclock upgrade (which is an additional charge). While I didn't have a chance to compare it to a stock DV 60. There was an unmodded Esoteric X-01 on hand and all I can say is that after spending about an hour playing the same song repeatedly on the DV 60. When the X-01 was compared to it, I wanted to run out of the room! The X-01 was cold sounding and lifeless compared to the modded DV 60. It was a complete beat down in everyway from top to bottom (and believe me, I'm not a placebo effect type person). I would also like to add that Kyle is a really cool guy to deal with and doesn't exhibit any of the eccentric egotistical nut job behavior that's out there.
I have a RAM-modded DV50, with the $2200 upgrade. It is phenomenally good. On CD, it's only slightly below my $25,000 front end, and only in such areas as fine detail retrieval and maximum nuance. Otherwise, given the same cabling, it sounds almost identical and just as musical. The same capability is there on CD, SACD, and DVD-A. Doug Jesse did my mods but the mods are probably equally good from both locations.
Mmitch, I've not used the RAM/Audio Consulting copper transformers, but I used both the "standard" OPT48 Silver and the Silver Rocks. The Silver Rocks sound quite a bit more refined but are not the most cost-effective mod you can throw into a high-end player.
What unit did you have the silver mod done to? When you say refined could you be a bit more specific. I have never had a Mod performed before, neither have I even heard one, however I am trying to get as much info as possible to feel more comfortable about having one done on my DAC.

I tried both kinds of Audio Consulting silver transformers in a DIY modded SCD-1 and ended up with the Silver Rocks. Many of the ideas & parts in the project came from RAM-- Kyle has always shared ideas freely. The sound of both transformers is natural & smooth & resolving, yet with a purity & sweetness in the treble that surprises relative to EMM, DCS, et al. The Silver Rocks sound less compressed & have better dynamics & bass control & fine detail. Audio Consulting transformers are expensive, but there is less labor involved in the mod project, since the stock output stage is jetisoned instead of modified piecemeal.

Add a Superclock 4 (or Ultraclock) & some judicious mods to power & that CDP should sound great.
Thanks a bunch for your input. I was really apprehensive about having this mod done, now I feel much better, I will have my DAC modded first, followed by my Transport.
I waited three years for Kyle of Reference Audio Mods to complete the personally hand selected components for my "World Class, West Coast Showroom System". $28,000 later I have one of the MOST BEAUTIFUL BOAT ANCHOR SYSTEMS you ever made. I traveled over 35 times taking 3 1/2 hours in each road trip to your parent's house to watch you work on your mother's kitchen table, only to find that half of our appointments were not kept as you hadn't made it home from the night before, that's what you treated my business!!

Here is a list of unresolved issues from day one:
1. Custom Marantz 8260 universal CD/DVD transport W/Cocobola Chassis that from the 1st day didn't play anything more than a few select Cd's in redbook and within the first year stopped playing altogether. Marantz refused to service the dreaded TOC error as Klyle's work negated the warrentee which he also refused to honor.

2. Silver Rock TVC preamp in a Custom Cocobola Chassis that despite my repeated requests STILL only has ONE input. Too difficult for you Kyle? I only paid excess of $5000 for this little GEM!

3. Custom made Carver ZR-1600 D Class Amp that he smoked right in front of my eyes and dispute a world wide power advertisement campaign between he and his last Carver client he quickly discontinued as unreliable but refused to take back. Oh yes, he matched this 600 watt pro audio amp with his 98db efficient 60 watt $10,600 bent wood horn speakers that blew the tweeters in the first 2 months of use. A short in the way he wired up the output RCA's caused the problem with the AMP and the speaker failure in one swift act! To his credit was repaired yet I still couldn't stand the high frequency hiss that remained and could be heard over the music, I never was able to use and I replaced. Later I found two HUGE Oil In Paper capacitors (a $300 charge for these) that were NOT even hooked up & super glued inside, his excuse was that he tried to cure the lack luster bass response (which didn't work out and said he left in place for me to try again later). Nice eh?? This piece O' Crap cost me $4,500!!! Oh, did I mention the 30 LB. $1500 custom transformer? Later I learned that this amp was sold for $1000 and returned from another dissatisfied customer who didn't like the sound either and threatened to sue. Thanks for the memories!! !!

4. Kyle delivered his custom $5,500 power filter system that amounted to a series of coils, capacitors and a huge transformer that sat loosely on two pieces of 2x6 boards he found behind his father's garage. His promises to install in a covered hard wood box for my protection left unfinished and proved to be a fire hazard and with open wiring had to be removed so my dogs didn't electrocute themselves. Kyle are these products UL approved???

5. AS a 30 yr veteran jeweler I watched Kyle work with limited tools, a cheap Weller solder iron and his fathers Fluke Multimeter. What no scope or any other testing gear? I observed and heard his excuse for absolutely the worst soldering techniques where he feels that globs of solder, like super glue was excessively used as he had past problems in shipping returns as his work was such a mess. Real "CRAPS MAN SHIP" here folks, I personally bought him a MetCal solder station which did help but his sloppy workmanship remains a genuine problem. I can't trust him to fix and can't sell for parts.

His response to all of these issues was "Jim if you want MORE sound, you'll have to pay for it"??
There are always two sides to every story.

Time rebuttal
35 times? More like 10. And much of the reason why is because Jim kept bringing over different pieces of wood for his custom chassis' he wanted. Back in 2005 I was a bit naive on what projects I should take on or not take on. I clearly admit I was in the wrong for taking on thi project. Yes, it took 3 years to finish but also 3 years for him to pay!

Marantz Rebuttal
Problem here has nothing to do with the mods but rather the inherent TOC problem with the Marantz SA8260. We recently put approximately 800+ in free upgrades and replaced the mechanism and faulty Marantz board free of charge
Price for Custom made marantz was $3550. this included complete custom made chassis for $450.00 Marantz stock player(~1000) for and mods! Silver rock transformers alone were $1600 retail so when one does the Math we did this at cost at best.

Silver Rock Rebuttal
Jim paid $2350. The TVC's were alone were $1700 retail. Again do the Math and we broke even at best. Seems like some large discrepancies in prices???

Carver Amp Rebuttal
The Carver amp was the hottest modification at the time and we too felt it was a great amp for the dollar. With mods it sounded superb. Yes, there was an inherent his to this amplifier. Jim paid $2400 for full custom mods and chassis and stock amplifier

AC Correction device rebuttal
Jim needs to take responsibility for his DIY purchases. These are superb AC correction devices from Audio Consulting which costs a total of $2900.00

I believe this is a good point as it took you 3 years to pay and even then I was shorted a grand. I developed a program where jim could assemble diode bridges for me in order to reduce his debt. The bottom line is that the price for the three items(Player, TVC, and amplifier) was as follows:

3550 for Marantz SA8260(custom chassis and silver rock mods)
2350 for Silver tvc and custom chassis, AC wooden knobs,Wbt
2400 for Carver( stock amp, mods and chassis)

9300 total for all 3 customized pieces of which I provided a refund check for $2200, 800 in free upgrades, and more work on the TVC.

So at the end of the day and after 3years of work with Jim I refunded him completely for an amplifier we did 0ver 6 years ago. We have completely fixed his marantz and even did 800 in free upgrades. Doing more free work on his Silver rock TVC as well. So at this point the war has stopped I know I am not perfect and will never claim to be but I have to at least present my side when plenty of the information provided is untrue and exaggerated.


Kyle Takenaga

I had a similar experience. About 4 yrs. ago I had Kyle upgrade a previous mod that he had done to my Marantz
8260. It was already fully modded with the wooden chaise made with curly maple wood and signature parts. I
sent it back to him because they had the new Ultra regs, Ultra-clock, etc.... So I sent the unit in and paid
everything up front. Little did I know it would be nearly three years before I would finally be taken care of
after countless phone calls, ignored phone calls , unanswered messages and e-mails, threats, and

I never got my Marantz back!!!! I don't know what has become of it!!! I never seen it again. After nearly
three yrs. of persistence and threats to go on public sites he finally shipped me a Statement Modded Oppo 83
SE with a super clock 4, which with further persistence on my part he sent me the Ultra-clock Mk2, Which I had
to install myself. The player had issues the I had to trouble shoot myself. I finally got everything working
properly. I fixed the problems myself because I was not about to risk sending it back to Kyle and maybe never
seeing it again.

Since then Doug Jesse at ASi Technology has taken the player to new heights by adding By bee music rails and
battery supply its truly a world class player now and is currently the best I've heard at any price.Doug Jesse
at ASi Tech has been a God send he is truly knowledgeable and is a man of his word and is doing some cutting
edge modifications. I can't recommend him enough.

In the end Kyle finally satisfied me but after 3 yrs of waiting and pleading for him to keep his word and do
what I paid him to do.

What can I say? It was a bad experience for me. But a lesson learned. I now use Asi tech for all of my

After going the mod route once, with a very nice and reputable person, I have come to the conclusion that if you are not satisfied with what you have, sell it and buy something you like better. That has been my experience.
And then there is always the truth....

Time rebuttal:
Seriously if you didn't have the respect of even the presence of mind to be onsite for our appointments, then how would you actually know how many times I stood there for hours waiting for you. Kyle, is there an apology in there somewhere???

Finished??? just what do you think we are doing here, you've been paid and still 6 years later I'm still trying to coerce you to finish your work!!

Marantz Rebuttal:
Yes, we all know there was an inherent TOC problem with the Marantz SA8260. The problem showed up immediately while you were first working on the mod and refused to do anything about it! After several months of complaining, you hand me another transport and tell me to replace it myself. So, I was forced to bring you here, in front of the world to humiliate you into fixing these problems. You signed an agreement to return it within 2 weeks and 5 weeks later instead of delivering it the Saturday as promised. You asked for an extension in which time you would update it. This $800 mod consisted of removing 24 capacitors, replacing the buffer stage and diodes with different parts.
When delivered, we both observed the sound to be closed down and rolled off on both ends, again you hand me parts so I can fix myself, some $2 bypass caps. You kept the removed parts I paid for to be re-purposed to your benefit, thank you very much. It now plays SADC's for the first time but now sounds like crap. I now have to pay someone else to finish your work, as you have gone into hiding.

Silver Rock Rebuttal:
Funny story here folks, this TVC was Kyle's personal Silver Rock he bought when he first joined Audio Consulting back in 2002 and repackaged it in the wood chassis for me. Now really folks, who uses something for years, sells it again for retail and then cries that he didn't make a dime???

Yes, Kyle there seems to be many discrepancies here. The problem was that I had given him the selector switch and WBT Pure Silver RCA jacks to add 2 more inputs as I had requested from the very start and after delivering and returning this twice in the past month, it still squawks like a duck!
I gave it to another tech for evaluation before sending to Switzerland for factory repairs. It turns out that this was way beyond Kyle's skill level and he actually had this switch wired backwards AND inside out to the primaries on the transformers. A $260 repair bill is why Kyle refuses to communicate further, with this level of incompetence of work performed, I can't afford his work anyway. Kyle referred this work as being worth $600 for HIS time alone. I think I'll pass....

AC Correction device rebuttal:
I feel that paying RAM $2900 certainly IS taking as much responsibility as a customer should, as this was sold a package deal, wired and installed in my house by Kyle and as usual he leaves work behind left unfinished. He promised to return with a wooded box to house these components.
UL approved?? I think not!

Carver Amp Rebuttal:
This one is my very favorite.
The very first thing Kyle did to resolve the open issues he left behind was to sign an agreement to deliver and take away that ridicules AMP, but insisted that he was paid the $905 owed to him. So, the refund less the $905 came to $2365.00 paid to me. Once again Kyle, there seems to be many discrepancies here. I have a signed agreement to prove this.

Kyle you wrote: The bottom line is that the price for the three items(Player, TVC, and amplifier) was as follows:

3550 for Marantz SA8260(custom chassis and silver rock mods)
2350 for Silver tvc and custom chassis, AC wooden knobs, Wbt
2400 for Carver( stock amp, mods and chassis)......actually $3270.00 Kyle, as per your signature.

I don't know about Kyle's math here but my trusty calculator tells me that this adds up to; $8300 not $9300 as reported. Now let's add the $11,500 for the speakers, the $2900 for mains correction and all the Pure Silver parts and $2000 of exotic wood that I provided and we have a completely different story than the one Kyle has painted for us to believe.

So, what we have here is a person named; Kyle Takenaga who represents himself as a Electronics business. "Reference Audio Mods" capable of performing work on electronics at his Mother's kitchen table, with no formal electronics education, absolutely no licenses to be found, who's website is still in his brother and ex-partner Craig's name, Terminated the business and relationship 6 years ago. Delivering defective workmanship over and over again. Modifications amounting to 10's of thousands of dollars and does not stand good for poor workmanship without coming to forums like this one. We even have a supporting victim and his cousin reporting similar horror stories of incompetent work and hiding from his customers for years on end, rather than face the issues and correct as any honorable businessman would as normal course of events. Who sometimes sells used/re purposed parts and components for retail and claims to barely broke even!!!!

The choice is your where to go for your modifications.

Check out

It appears that Kyle has closed up shop and disappeared from view.

Is he gone and gone for good?

Only time will tell for sure.

Time Heals all Wounds and Time Wounds ALL HEELS!!!