RAM modified Esoteric P70/D70 Review

Category: Digital

For all who are reading this review I will first emphasis I do not consider myself an audiophile, however I do label myself as a “music lover” who happens to have invested a nominal amount of time and money into my music system. The primary objective of this thread is to convey findings of an Esoteric P70 Transport and D70 DAC modified by Doug Jesse of Reference Audio Mods (RAM).

I will begin by listing my existing system components along with all associated equipment, this should provide the reader a bit more information in order to correlate my findings/observations. Forgive me if I don’t include a bunch of technical info or audio lingo, as previously stated I am only in this for the music. I felt passing on my first experience with having a component modded will help someone out there who may be considering having a component modified.

Components List

Esoteric P70 Transport (RAM Modified) Ultraclock PSU, power supply mod etc
• Bright Star IsoRock3 Reference platform
• Bright Star IsoPod
• Stealth Dream Power cord
• (2)ea Stealth Sextet digital IC

Esoteric D70 DAC (RAM Modified) power supply mod, silver wire transformer, etc
• Audio Points 1.5
• Stealth Dream Power cord
• Stealth Indra IC

• Stealth Dream Power cord
• Herbie HAL-O Tube Dampeners
• Monument Reference Signature Sound posts
• Stealth Metacarbon IC 3meter
• Bright Star IsoPod

Adona Component Rack

McIntosh MC-501 Monoblock Amps
• (2) ea Stealth Dream Power cord
• Sistrum SP-1 Platforms

Von Schweikert VR5SE Speakers
• Sistrum Platforms SP-101
• MIT Oracle V1.1 Speaker Cables
• 2 Sets of Bybee Special Effect Speaker Bullets

Velodyne DD-10
• Sub Trap

3 Dedicated Power Circuits
• Oyaide SWO-XX Wall Covers
• Wattgate 381 Silver Outlets

Echo Busters
Double Busters

Shakti Hallographs
Shakti On-lines

Room size is small (17 x 13x 8)

I will begin by letting you know my interest with modifications initialized April 07, I had considered purchasing a new Esoteric P03/D03, however living in Wichita KS there are no Hi-End dealers within a 200 mile radius, not to mention Esoteric dealership. I felt if I was to invest that type of money into anything I should have the opportunity to at least listen to it.

I have owned my P70/D70 setup for 3 years, I took the chance of purchasing upon reading reviews, although I was happy with taking the chance, I just was not comfortable shelling out over $20,000+ for another unit, especially since there is so much competition out there.

After dealing with a very knowledgeable and extremely friendly guy named “Bob” at Audionut in Phoenix AZ, he suggested I look into having my two Esoteric pieces modded. So, after much research I gave a few mod companies a call, and to make a long story short I decided to go with Doug Jesse at RAM, we had numerous conversations, the guy is very knowledgeable, friendly and extremely upfront, not to mention his pricing in my opinion is very reasonable

I first sent the D70 for a maximum upgrade, he gave me a schedule of how long it would take to complete the mod and to my surprise, he was right on the money. When the unit arrived that afternoon around my lunchtime I immediately hooked it up, inserted a Cardas burn-in CD, returned back to work. Four hours later upon return, I plopped in a CD and began to listen, first impression; everything sounded ok, I was more relieved that all was functionally operating, although my listening expectations were somewhat let down. Ok, so here is where patience comes into play, I decided to let the unit run continuously for another 24 hours.

The next day I put the same Dan Siegel CD in, (I am a contemporary Jazz nut), only this time things began to open up, you know all the things people talk about, soundstage, dynamics, etc, so I let the unit continue with the burn-in CD for another 24 hours, this is when I received my first set of Bybee Bullets. Upon installation and a few hours of burn in, my system literally took off. I mean I was experiencing sonics I never knew were possible, especially coming from a home system. By now I am so excited, I ordered another set of Bybee Bullets, by the time these arrived I had over 200 hours on my D70 and it was sounding absolutely superb, however when I installed the second set of Bybee Bullets on my VR5SE the playing field was off the charts. I felt no need to send the P70 to Doug, I have all I want and probably could stand.

Well, after keeping Doug informed, he convinced me to have the P70 done also, after compteplating (not spelled correctly), I decided to sent it, I figured what have I to lose other than some money (smile). Doug installed a new power supply, caps, transport outputs, we decided to go with the new UltraClock and PSU (best decision I’ve made in my short audio career). Doug did the work and I had my unit returned back to me within 8 days.

As with the D70, upon receiving I put in the burn in CD and this time I just let it play, that is after Doug and I figured out a small problem (no fault of his). I say that to imply, I am impressed with how personal the guy is with his customers. Anyway, after 24 hours, the unit sounded magnificent, but that was only the icing on the cake, after about 200 hours, it was as if I had purchased a million dollar system. Not only did the speakers disappear, everything vanished and “live musicians showed up”. Everything from sonics, to dynamics, to soundstage, was so much more focused, the ease of listening took on an entirely new positive meaning, listening fatigue was no longer an issue.

As the hours elapsed, (400 hours), it simply got better and better, all that I briefly described, went to another level. I have since added a pair of Shakti Hallographs; now take all that I previously described and add 100% improved clarity with much air between instruments (not exaggerating, this actually happened). I failed to mention vocals are astonishing.

What are the negatives; at around the150 hour point on the P70, I began to pick up some very annoying high frequency etch, however after another 100 hours it disappeared. Burn-in on the cryoed Ultraclock takes a fair amount of time; I don’t think it’s completely burned in yet.

To say the least, I am ecstatic with the work and service RAM has provided me. I am now considering sending my DAC back in for the Silver Rock upgrade. As of right now I think I will just enjoy the music, time for other upgrades later. For those who have read this review, please understand I am definitely an amateur, however when it comes to my present home system, I consider myself a prominent professional.

Any comments or need for additional information, my e-mail address is mmitch7711@aol.com

Footnote: Before the mods and additions, my system sounded extremely good.

Thanks for the review Mitch. I am in the same position you were in earlier this year. I am seriously considering the P3D3 since I absolutely love my X-03SE. But the price scares me a bit. I have heard that a modded X-03 by RAM would compare favorably to the P3D3. Right now I am on the fence. It is a relief to hear of your positive experience with RAM.

Thanks again.
Wow! Nice system. That must have taken a lot of guts to mod the Esoteric pieces!! I'm not sure i could have done that - or could even do it to my Levinson pieces.
Anyway, I'm actually looking at upgrading to
an "audiophile" equipment rack and am interested in your thought about the Adona you are using? Any comments would be helpful.
Thx. Happy listening.
Jim Chalmers
Nice review. Though it is hard to believe that small changes can make repeated "100% improvements" in a system, I know what you mean. As you approach finishing an audio system, the sonic window is cleaned up to the point that even tiny smudges are visible and the removal of those smudges can be revelatory.

The RAM guys know their stuff and it is refreshing that, unlike some modifiers, they openly discuss their methods.
Regarding the Adona Rack, I am very pleased with its performance. For the money, it's well worth it. The rack is not cheaply manufactured, very sturdy and heavy. You cannot go wrong with Adona IMO

Yes, I was extremely apprehensive at first, however Doug at RAM did an excellent job explaining each step of each modification and the results I would get. He was dead on each time. Doug gives you that personal touch, you're not just a number, you are one his personal clientel.

My review was written quite some time ago, since then both units have opened like floodgates, sometimes I sit and listen in awe that a system can bring out so much detail and resolution. I believe the UltraClock took some time to come into it's own, now that I have more than 600+ hours, my front ends are singing like a bird.

I was not too sure about doing two subs in the beginning, however the JL Audio F112 subs add so much. The normal person would think in terms of just Bass response when adding subs, not in the case of JL Audio subs, they actually help clean up the mids and highs also. The subs frequencies are so pure, they allow the mids and highs to do their seperate things.

I have since added a pair of Synergistic Research Resolution Ref Sub cables (end of story). The JL's jumped to another level, don't ask me how that is possible, maybe my system has some type of gremlins running around tweaking things, but I can honestly tell you, my last two purchases have been a thing of audio beauty.

Next will come the Vcaps added to my Cary SLP-05, as soon as Doug (RAM) gets back from CES, we will do this. I will definitely post the results.

So for now as they say in the audio world "Happy Listening"