Review: Esoteric DV-50 CD Player

Category: Digital

I find myself writing this review inspired partially by the number of used DV-50's currently on Audiogon. This is a review of the CD portion only, as I have owned one for over a year and have never used the DVD video section.

At a range of $3400-3900 used, the DV-50 is quite simply, the best buy in a CD/SACD/DVDa player currently available. The build quality is fantastic. The transport is world-class. The overall sound quality is outstanding.

I have owned a Sony, Marantz SA-1, Musical Fidelity NuVista, and TriVista in that order before auditioning the Esoteric. The Esoteric is sonically superior to the group and these are all very good units. Superior in inner detail, openness, with an analogue type sound quality. Its 3 separate upsampling choices allow fine tuning of different recordings. I have found this to be invaluable.

The DV-50 does require the finest in associated equipment to do it's magic. My intention was not to sit down and write a full-blown review on this piece. It is, rather, to create at least one positive short review of the DV-50 for people thinking about purchasing one. Mine is not for sale, and I don't know anyone currently listing theirs, so this is not the motive.

Anyone who wants more detailed sonic information may email me. As I find the time, I will write a more extensive review of this unit. Until then, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND the Esoteric DV-50

Associated gear
Aesthetix Calypso, Sierra Audio Denali Monoblocks, Magnepan 3.6, Kimber Select Cabling. Richard Gray 600

Similar products
Sony SCD1, Marantz SA1, Musical Fidelity TriVista, Musical Fidelity NuVista, Lector, Proceed, etc.
Thanks, I am real close to buying a new DV50. I'm curious if you or anyone else reading this has compared the DV50 to the Arcam 27a. I realize the Arcam does not do SACD. My dealer is giving my a deal on either one. Basically it works out that the DV50 is about double the money for me.

Unlike you, I (read my family) will primarily use this player for DVD duties, however, when I listen to music, I want close to the best. So, does the Arcam have better or similar video? Better or ? on redbook? Same question for DVD-A.

I'm a analog junkie, however, I feel I'm missing some good music that's only on digital.

Any comments from anyone I'd appreciate. Thank you
I have also done an A-B comparison with the DV-50 and my pride and joy Linn Ikemi and though the differnces are suttle I feel the DV-50 is close enough to the performance of the Ikemi that I am considering selling the Linn and buying the DV-50. The Ikemi is offering a little more of an analog sound but a little more detail eminating form the DV-50 may out-weigh it enough to make the switch. I do want to hear the new Simm Audio Moon Orbiter first.
I listened to classical and rock -- Gilbert and Sullivan and Frank Zappa -- on a DV-50 in the local dealer's high-end room. The Esoteric was feeding BAT compoents and Joseph Audio speakers.

The sound of the system was extraordinary: pure, deep, detailed, melodic, completely engrossing. I've never heard such depth of soundstage, such purity of tone, such pace and rhythm from my Telarc recording of GandS's Yeoman of the Guard ("private buffoon...") (Telarc CD-80431).

Because I made no changes to the system (no ANOVA), I don't know and can't say how the DV-50 sounded. But if there's any truth to the audiophile truism that a system can sound only as good as its weakest link, then even if the DV-50 was the weakest link in that Esoteric/BAT/JA system it's an outstanding player.

It will be my next source component.
"The DV-50 does require the finest in associated equipment to do its magic."

I am also a proud owner of the DV-50. Have gone through my share of high end players. It finally came down to the point of diminishing returns. What a great solid player for under $4K discounted!! Built like a tank, great sound and I love the looks!
I mean come on, who but the person with money to burn wants to spend over $10K for a CD player? I love my audio but also like Porsches, photography, traveling, etc.
There really is more to life!
I make this statement to say that to realize the full potential of the DV-50 requires a chain of equipment that is very transparent. This includes cabling.

To come to this conclusion requires much time and experimentation. Most of my equipment, past and present, has been compared, auditioned, and evaluated in other audiophile’s homes as well as retail stores. We have found that the Esoteric has more sonic potential than many other current high-end components. For this reason, it is a great piece to build a high-end system around.

As an example, I recently changed preamps to an Aesthetix Calypso. After owning a BAT 50se, Levinson 32, Hovland 100, and Sierra Audio K2, the Calypso is considerably better at producing inner detail as well as some other things. The Calypso produces a wide soundstage with incredible air, presence, and detail around each individual instrument. I associate these attributes with components that are transparent in nature. When you run the DV-50 with the Calypso, you realize its ability was slightly masked by the other preamps. It literally brings the Esoteric to a new level.

As I said earlier- It takes much time and experimentation to determine a component’s transparency. Regardless of your system level, I believe the Esoteric will generally provide the best “source” to build a system around for the foreseeable future.
"I make this statement to say that to realize the full potential of the DV-50 requires a chain of equipment that is very transparent. This includes cabling."

You can say this for any CD player.

"When you run the DV-50 with the Calypso, you realize its ability was slightly masked by the other preamps."

Again, you can say that for any player used. If anything was realized, it would be the weakness of the other preamps. The DV-50 was sending the same signal to all. (I am ignoring any synergy issues.)

"It literally brings the Esoteric to a new level."

I don't think it brings it to a new level, but rather reveals its potential fuller.

Sorry, not trying to be irritating or a nit-picker. Do you view it differently?
Yes, I view it differently because of the performance level we are at. I clearly state that the conclusions are based on a lot of listening. This unit is at a level of performance that can be "stunted" by lesser equipment.

No, the statement it isn't true "for any CD player" because many sound digital and analytical when played through truly transparent, accurate equipment.

You can't make a blanket statement regarding preamps either, for the Levinson 32 has a distinct sonic signature of its own. It sounds better with a more aggressive sounding player that may sound bright on what I consider a neutral preamp. Is the Esoteric the best choice with the Levinson? Maybe not. I should have used “neutral” along with “transparent” to get my point across.

The fact is that the current state of the art is beyond the days of matching. I won’t disagree that there are some combinations that seem to gel. But “transparent” is a word that I find myself using more and more when describing the best available equipment today. The Esoteric is in this realm.

I believe my current system allows more music to pass with little to no sonic aberration. I wouldn’t have said that in 1979, 1989, nor 2000 even though my systems of that vintage were all state of the art.

Yes, I think your last statement about revealing its fuller potential is more accurate than my statement. I would have been more careful if I'd known I was going to be critiqued.
I had hoped my comments / views wouldn't offend, upset, etc., but it seems they have. We have differing views, I'll leave it at that.

A side note, no comments were made against the DV-50, a player I would like to own myself.
I am interested in knowing wether CD replay on Marantz CD 7 is superior or equal to CD relpay on MArantz SA1 ?

Best regards
Reading this, knowing it is an old thread, I would like to say I the Esoteric DV 50 and 60 are about the top of the heap for universal players. With SACD, I like the Krell SACD MKIII a bit more, yet with my system, audio only the Krell may balance with my ARC and VTL gear?