Review: Esoteric DV-50 with Superclock 3 mod CD Player

Category: Digital

I previously posted a short review in response to what I thought was a large number of DV-50’s for sale on Audiogon. Since that posting, I’ve had many emails asking whether I felt the same now. My answer has always been yes. I’ve also had many questions as to whether I would ever change players, to which I have responded “maybe to the Esoteric X-01”.

Since I have owned a number of high-end players and prefer the sonic signature of the DV-50, the logical step would be to the X-01. That train of thought is based on the reviews of these higher priced Esoteric units. The consensus has been that each is essentially a refined form of the DV-50 with better resolution.

I have also been following the current rage about the modified Denon 3910. I believe many of my emails have to do with the modified Denon being compared to the Esoteric. To date there are at least 5 people and/or companies doing these modifications. Having owned a 3910 for use in my theatre room, the modified unit is quite an accomplishment. The stock Denon is quite simply…dead. Why not modify the Esoteric? Upon researching possible mods for the DV-50, four of the five people doing mods weren’t interested. I was actually told the DV-50 was inferior by one person.

Along comes Douglas Jesse of Reference Mods in Warren, MI. He made several recommendations to possible modifications but the one I opted to try first was the Audiocom Superclock 3. Doug indicated the Superclock 2 had improved almost every unit they ever installed it in. “The Superclock 3 is supposed to be a dramatic improvement“. He stated. This would be his first DV-50 upgrade, so he was also interested in the outcome. At $295 installed, this was a very cost effective attempt at improvement.

The theory behind the Superclock is a reduction in jitter. This is also a complaint that I heard about the Esoteric during my mod research. Supposedly, even the most expensive CD players have inferior jitter reduction circuits (clocks) and the Superclock remedies this. If the high jitter factor in the Esoteric was true, the mod should make as big of a difference as in the cheaper players.

I called Reference Mods this morning to see about picking up the completed unit. Doug said that he had listened on his system and thought there was a dramatic improvement. There was surprise in his voice as to the extent of the change. I was fortunate not to get a speeding ticket on my way to Warren.

The unit is now burning in and is at about 7 hours. The full burn-in period is 200 hours.
In its current state, the improvement is very evident. More musical with better timing, air, transient attack (it was already fast), and definition. Should I dare use the word analog? – It has moved two levels up on the goosebump scale. The only negative thing I have noticed during this break-in is the extended high-end is compressed and changing by the hour. Soundstage width is slightly thinner and also getting better with each CD.

As always, the music used to evaluate my equipment consists of both SACD and Red Book, covering the gamut of musical categories. Specifically this evening, I have evaluated with Joe Sample “The Pecan Tree”, Boston Pops “Summon the Heroes”, Joyce Cooling “This Girls Got To Play”, “The Very Best of Dave Grusin”, Peter Gabriel “ Shaking the Tree”, Bob Baldwin “Standing Tall” and Keb Mo “Keb Mo”.

This modification may put the DV-50 ahead of the X-01 in performance. The mod is that good. Before you sell your Esoteric to get that newest rave unit, I recommend spending the $295.

Associated gear
Aesthetix Calypso Preamp w/Tungsram NOS
Sierra Denali Monoblocks
Magnepan 3.6 with Mye stands
Aurios bearings
Kimber Select interconnects
Monument Stage 3 speaker wire
Richard Gray 600
Supra Lorad Power cords
Zsleeve Ultras
Walker SST
Cable Risers

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Thanks for your response. I now understand better where you are coming from. I apologize for the tone of the post, which was somewhat gruff in nature.

The player is now passing the 50 hour point. I listened a little today, and everything is still right on, with no changes.
The player has past the 220 hour point and has not gone through any other changes. It is, as expected, just slightly better than at 50 hours. VERY Impressive. Doug did a great job on the install, and has many other options in mind. Power supply mods will be next.

Although the unit has become a little more refined, the original improvements outlined in the first post stand as stated. I'm anxious to go to the Chicago "shootout" hopefully scheduled for Feb 5th. Also hope to find someone with a UX-1 or X-01 to compare with.
It is truly amazing that your slightly modded Esoteric DV-50 was neck-and-neck with the FULLY MODIFIED APL Denon and Modwright Sony in the shoot-out!
Wow! Thats saying something!
Great to hear about how the mods improved this all ready great model. I'm going for the full upgrade and will receive the DV-50 back hopefully by the end of May. More later!
Great info on the Superclock 3 upgrade....Thanks for taking the time to share with us. Please do keep us updated as you continue with your upgrades.