Esoteric F-03A Integrated Amplifier Review

January 1, 2019 § Leave a comment

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“The F-03A’s moving-coil setting provided plenty of gain for the Sumiko Blue Point No.2 cartridge’s high 2.5mV. The phonostage was dead quiet even on the higher-gain moving-coil setting, delivering black backgrounds and good resolution of very low-level detail. I didn’t hear quite the midrange liquidity and treble smoothness through the phonostage that I do when using the Berkeley Alpha Reference DAC MQA. I attribute that difference to the Sumiko Blue Point No.2 cartridge, not to the Esoteric. Although the Blue Point No.2 is a good cartridge for the price, I suspect that the F-03A will be partnered with higher-quality cartridges. Nonetheless, LP playback had that wonderful feeling of openness and life, with bloom and air around instrumental outlines.

If the F-03A’s output power and bottom-end dynamics aren’t quite enough for you, consider doing what I did: add a JL Audio Fathom f113v2 (or f112v2) subwoofer. Although I evaluated the F-03A without the JL sub for this review, adding the f113v2 for my listening pleasure vaulted the overall system performance into another tier. Forget about any limitations in dynamics, or loudness, or bass impact; the Fathom f113 frees up the Esoteric to do what it does best—deliver delicious Class A sound—while handling the bottom-end duties and bringing 3000W to the party. This combination was the most successful mating of a subwoofer with an amplifier and speakers that I’ve experienced.”

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