Steven Eshita's 
Date of "Visit":
25 June 2000


Rear view

Digital front-end

amp connections with fixed 

an example of fixed passive

CD connections

Turntable connections

2 x PS Audio conditioners


e-mail to:
Steve Eshita


I've been an audio hobbyist since 1972 (age 13).  I am a research scientist by profession and one of the reasons I enjoy this hobby is because it is both scientifically and artistically stimulating, incorporating science and technology in the service of music.  I grew up in Southern California and there was a large audiophile community in that region, including professionals in recording and mastering studios, high-end equipment manufacturers, and high end retailers (most notably Jonas Miller), consumers, and DIYs.  I moved to Central Ohio at the time that the audio market in Southern California was hit by the "80"s recession.  Central Ohio has fewer high-end retailers, but the ones we have are very good by any standard.

My current system is in a shoebox-shaped room with dimensions of 7.1 x 4.0 x 2.4 meters (volume = 69 m3; or for Americans, 2400 ft3).  Although relatively small for the Nautilus 801 speakers, I have achieved good results with placement near the halfway point of the long axis, yielding excellent depth reproduction (at some expense to soundstage width) and reducing excitation of room bass resonances.  Because I believe in using short cables, I have the equipment arranged near the speakers, spread around the center of the room, further degrading potential WAF.  I am single, in case you had any doubt, but my system would have a decent WAF if I was married... to the Blair Witch! :-)

An Aggressively Passive Approach

I am embarrassed to admit that most of my system components are stock and not custom-made or DIY like many at this site.  However, there are three unusual aspects to my system.  1) There is no line-stage preamp.  At any given time, the system is single-source dedicated (not convenient).  The two sources (vinyl and CD) are played back through the Krell amp by alternating cable hookups and the corresponding passive attenuators (single-ended for vinyl, balanced for CD).  This maximizes transparency, immediacy, and low-level information retrieval.  2) The balanced passive attenuators for CD playback are of the fixed-value, single 1 kohm series resistor/single shunt resistor per signal leg configuration, and plug directly into the XLR inputs on the amp. I made 7 pairs with 7 different Vishay resistor sets.  I have my CD collection sorted into seven sets for appropriate playback volume of each.  To change volume, I have to change the pair of attenuators.  Inconvenient, but transparency is maximized.  3) Vinyl playback circuit path is DC-coupled. The AHT phono preamp has no roll-off or DC-servo circuitry; DC offset is nulled by manual pot adjustments.  The Krell amp is DC-coupled, of course. The Townshend turntable's damping front-end trough/paddle eliminates the 6-7 Hz low frequency resonance of the arm/cartridge combination.  Combined with three layers of Seismic Sinks, vibration and feedback are minimized.  The result is taut, extended, and thunderous bass response from analog playback that nearly rivals the bass from the Theta digital playback source.

Listening and Music Preferences

Vinyl, if I can get it.  Vinyl sounds clearly superior on my system, despite my considerable investment in CD playback equipment.  I listen to a wide variety of music:  rock/pop (40%), folk (10%), jazz and blues (25%), classical (25%)

Evaluation Software (a baker's dozen of each)

Ambrosia: Ambrosia, 20th Century
Bach: Brandenberg Ctos 4 & 5, Ars Musica, DCM TimeGate
Bill Berry: For Duke, M&K Realtime (D2D)
The Beau Brummels: The Beau Brummels, Warner Bros. BS 2842
Fulton Gold Vol. 1, ARK-4170
Handel: Water Music, Szell & LSO, Decca SXL 2302
Michael Hedges: Watching My Life Go By
Human League: Human, 12 inch single
L.A. Four: Pavane Pour Une Infante Defunte, East Wind (D2D)
k.d. lang & Roy Orbison: "Cryin", Hiding Out OST
Images Galantes de la Renaissance, Polyphonia Antique, Pierre Verany
Rick Ruskin: The Six String Conspiracy
Stravinsky: L'Histoire du Soldat, Chicago Pro Musica, Reference Recordings
Bare Naked Ladies: Gordon
Benedetto: Cembalomusik, Hirsch, Jecklin-Disco 
Britten: Young Person's Guide, etc., Davis & BBC SO, Teldec
Dorian Sampler Vol. II 
Terry Evans: Blues for Thought
Jellyfish: Spilt Milk
Mahler: Sym. #1, Judd & Florida Phil., Harmonia Mundi
Sasha Matson: Steel Chords, "I-5", Audioquest 
The Mavericks: Trampoline
Kenny Rankin: Because of You, Chesky
Nina Simone: "My Baby Just Cares For Me" Peter's Friends OST
Toolbox: More Toolbox, VTL014
Toto: Tambu
System's Components
Record Player: Townshend Rock Mk III, Townshend-modified RB 300 with Cardas wiring, Grado Reference cartridge, Townshend CD sink and Seismic Sink 2HD platforms, AHT Non-Signature Phono stage with nude Vishay resistors and lead brick damping, VPI HW-17F and Allsop Orbitrac record cleaners
CD player: Theta Data III transport, Theta Pro Generation Va Balanced DAC, MIT Digital Reference cable, Bright Star Big Foot and Air Mass platforms, 12 Navcom Silencers, 34 kg lead shot
Preamp: None
Attenuators: For vinyl, Electronic Visionary Systems Nude Ultimate Attenuators (1 kohm Vishay version); plus XLR toggle switches shorting Pin 3 INV to Pin 1 GND for single ended operation of the Krell, the throw switches short Pin 2 NON-INV to Pin 1/Pin 3 for source muting.

For CD, homemade Vishay fixed value in-line balanced attenuators using AudioTruth/Wako FPC XLR cable-mount connectors, Kimber AGSS wire, and WBT silver solder

Power Amp: Krell FPB600, 4 AWG homemade power cord, dedicated 40A circuit
Speakers: B&W Nautilus 801
Interconnects: Harmonic Technologies ProSilway Mk II: single-ended (for vinyl playback) 1 m turntable to phono stage, 1.5 m phono stage to amplifier; and balanced 1.5 m (for digital)
Speaker cables: Two 1.8 m pairs Harmonic Technologies Pro-Nine Plus for biwiring
Power cords: Kimber PKACs and Tiffany TPC60
Power conditioners: Two PS Audio P300s on a single 20A circuit, one for the phono stage and the other for digital sources or the turntable motor (for speed control)
Cable suspenders: All cables are suspended above the carpet using ceramic electric fence insulators.
Room treatment: Michael Green Room Tunes
Headphones: Sennheiser HD-600, either powered by a HeadRoom Maxxed-Out Home, or directly driven by the Theta DACıs single ended output with 1 kohm resistor attenuation (much better, except in the bass)

Steve's comments about his System:

AA: "Steve, how would you describe your system's sound?"

SE: "Dynamic, immediate, compelling, high intensity (not laid-back), high resolution, low distortion, wide bandwidth, excellent midrange and bass, excellent depth, but limited soundstage width (due to tradeoff in proximity of speakers to side walls).  Reproduction of male vocals, drums, brass, and piano is outstanding." 

AA: "Do you think there is room for improvement?"

SE: "Definitely in convenience (due to lack of preamp), purity of tone, delicacy, reduction of texture and grain in CD playback.  The N801s are not as refined and naturally extended in the treble as the electrostatics on my InnerSound Eros.  Also, I need a better-looking carpet and a better shirt (I won't bother asking this site's Tapani Lappi about the latter)." 

AA: "Have you got plans for upgrading?"

SE: "I'd like to try a better cartridge, maybe a Grado Statement.  Second, I'd buy a SACD and/or DVD-Audio player when/if the software selection improves.  Third, I'd like to get a really good line stage preamp (I tried a few years ago and rejected AI Modulus 3A, AR LS-5 Mk II, and Krell KRC-HR); maybe an AR Ref Two, BAT VK-50SE, Spectral DMC30, or ?"