For what it's worth, in the Stereophile recommended compents the XA9000ES is rated A+, the Esoteric SA-60, presumably better than the DV-50 for audio, is rated A. As they say, that knowledged and $5 will buy you a cup of coffee at Starbucks.
Stereophile specifically rates SACD players on the high-res performance (read the intro), so the ratings can be consistent with the Esoteric having the best CD playback.
That said, I don't put much value in their ratings. Treat the list as a list of components that they have tested (or tried) which doesn't completely suck.
If you remember the review of the XA9000ES, you will remember that it got it's A+ rating because of:
1) SACD playback quality was exceptional
2) The best available and most flexible multi-channel adjustment capabilities and bass management (in the analog domain).
Now, if items 2 and 3 mean nothing to you, then you might not want this particular machine.
Having said that, I own the XA9000ES. AND I don't use iLink or Multi-channel. However, I have owned other SACD players and this is the only player that has FLAWLESSLY played all my SACDs. Every other player has had one or more problems with SACD playback. One player had so many problems that I detailed all the problems and sold it on auction for $1500 less than I paid...
The DV-60 is almost assuredly (I only heard it once) better sounding in red book, and may even be better in SACD, but the XA9000ES is the only audio component in my system that I would not consider upgrading.
I'd take Esoteric DV-60 (or SA-60 if you don't care about video) anytime over XA9000ES. The Sony sounds clinical, IMO, and the transport inside is not even remotely close to the VOSP transport in the DV-60.
The DV-50 was somewhat Pioneer based (transport and DSP), sounded nice too, but I think the new SA/DV-60 are more desirable.
Better yet, you might want to save for the new Esoteric X-05.
Thanks Alex. I haven't heard of many complaints about the XA9000ES transport or anything else, seems reliable. I have found isolation and conditioning a great benefit. Any chance you used them with the Sony? Could you comment on the differences in detail & transparency, dynamics & bass between it & the 60 for Redbook CD replay? Is it possible the 9000 has the potential to sound as good in a different system as the 60 does in yours?