Esoteric E-03 Phonostage Preamplifier
Knowing just how much Esoteric's president Ohmachi-san loves vinyl, I expected the latter and was not disappointed. What I was not ready for though is just how much of a statement Esoteric would make. I have not reviewed all of Esoteric’s gear but have written about quite a few components, have heard many more and even own an X03SE. Yet to date, the E03 is simply their best piece of equipment—or at least my favorite of those I have heard—and that includes the Blue Moon recipient C03 preamplifier.
Like in the C03 and A03 previously reviewed, components are placed symmetrically on the boards to provide mechanical stabilization in addition to each board being in its own enclosure to minimize resonance. To finish introductions, the E03 provides two inputs, one for MC (66dB gain) with seven loading options; and the other for either MC (66dB gain) or MM (40dB gain) cartridges, this one with four resistive and three capacitive loading options for MC/MM respectively. This second input is very useful for people who switch regularly between MC and MM but have only one tonearm. At least they do not have to change input cabling each time they change cartridge type.
Selection of loading and input occurs at the front panel through rotary selectors which activate relays on the input boards. Why cannot all manufacturers of high-end phono stages implement such a convenient solution? Instead they force us to deal with small jumpers to be inserted at the back or inside the component. I just don't get it. And don’t drink the Kool-Aid meant to preserve transparency either. The E03 is by far the most transparent phono preamplifier to come through this house at any price - and it has no jumper in sight.