If the Esoteric K03Xs CD/SACD Player has harsh leading and trailing edges...

infinitely baffled

VIP/Donor
Jul 2, 2015
910
148
135
Scotland
Thanks for sharing this experience IB. I’m still one for holding the original sound sig to account on the design of the unit.
Asking about voicing as DA has in their post is an interesting question. Recently in another system I’ve deployed a Luxman D-06u. It is a very different presentation, with similar dynamic range but sweeter - rolled-off? - treble.
I guess every good character - transparency for example, has it’s too extreme downside. In listening comparisons between the latest Esoteric K03XD and Luxman D10X the differences are dramatic in sound signature. The Esoteric's transparency and clear note presentation is preferred over the Luxman’s softness. Of course personal preference rules. Yet the differences are dramatic. Is it only this model or is it this series, the Xs series that has this character?
Do the their Japanese customers give the same feedback?
On the matter of tweaks like grounding, according to your experience, and in my experience, internal EMI RFI treatments at their limits, can change the sound signature. For me these tweaks should not be necessary to achieve satisfactory performance. Nor am I asking for the stars after buying the moon.

But given the amount you have invested, you presumably want to get optimal performance?

Further down the food chain, say, Tascam, units will be designed to work whatever the situation and be forgiving of inadequate setup. Moving up to the Esoteric level there will be an expectation that the unit is well isolated on a rigid rack, some distance from the speakers. Personally i feel that your current setup, as seen in the pics you have provided, is sub-optimal and i would expect to experience the kind of artifacts you are reporting.
Perhaps if you require the player to function in it's current environment you should consider, as you are, something less resolving and less sensitive.

Personally i would keep your current player, because it's an awesome bit of kit, and optimise setup.

One final observation, if i may.
This is the second recent thread i have read (& contributed to) where the OP has a Pass xp pre-amp and is experiencing an etched, forward presentation....although not attributing it to the pre- amp. In the other thread the OP's finger was being pointed at his Boulder 2060 power amp as the cause of the brightness. Once myself and some other forum members with experience of the Boulder suggested that the pre- amp may be the culprit, the OP auditioned a different pre-amp....and instantly solved the issue

From my experience i don't recognise your description of the Esoteric 'sound': harsh leading or trailing edges, at all. I believe your player is not at fault and instead the issue lies elsewhere. I would begin with providing a decent, massive, rigid support platform for you player before changing components, try to locate it further from your speakers and experiment with high- quality interconnects, my personal recommendation being Entreq as i can say from experience this is a magical combination

Happy hunting
 
Last edited:

thedudeabides

Well-Known Member
Jan 16, 2011
1,438
139
485
Alto, NM
From my experience i don't recognise your description of the Esoteric 'sound': harsh leading or trailing edges, at all.


Many folks, including Esoteric dealers (who decided to switch from Esoteric to dCS) have had a similar issue. And there are numerous user posts out there in the audio blog that indicate the same. It appears that the Esoteric brand may need some serious component / wire / system matching for it to sound good. That was certainly my personal experience with the K01. I ended up selling the unit and eventually purchased the Lux D06u. No bash on the brand intended, just an observation.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: CKKeung

infinitely baffled

VIP/Donor
Jul 2, 2015
910
148
135
Scotland
Fair enough:)
 

GSOphile

Well-Known Member
Sep 4, 2017
284
122
113
Many folks, including Esoteric dealers (who decided to switch from Esoteric to dCS) have had a similar issue. And there are numerous user posts out there in the audio blog that indicate the same. It appears that the Esoteric brand may need some serious component / wire / system matching for it to sound good. That was certainly my personal experience with the K01. I ended up selling the unit and eventually purchased the Lux D06u. No bash on the brand intended, just an observation.
As a K-03X owner I can identify with what I'd call a treble glare problem on some recordings. After home demoing Luxman's D-08u last year, the new D-10X is of great interest; however, from all accounts the new Esoteric XD models, with their in-house developed discrete component DAC technology, have cured the glare problem and are very impressive. The new models and the apparent resolution of some business issues look promising for the brand.
 

infinitely baffled

VIP/Donor
Jul 2, 2015
910
148
135
Scotland
Which models are afflicted?
I'm circling a pre-owned Grandioso K1 as we speak. Reviews speak of a liquid sound from the ak4497 - based dac
 
Last edited:

GSOphile

Well-Known Member
Sep 4, 2017
284
122
113
Which models are afflicted?
I'm circling a pre-owned Grandioso K1 as we speak. Reviews speak of a liquid sound from the ak4497 - based dac
Their SACD/CD Players with Master Sound Discrete DAC technology are the Grandioso K1X and Esoteric K-01XD, K-03XD. The K1 is the best of all their prior generation players that used AKM chip DACs.
 
  • Like
Reactions: infinitely baffled

thedudeabides

Well-Known Member
Jan 16, 2011
1,438
139
485
Alto, NM
As a K-03X owner I can identify with what I'd call a treble glare problem on some recordings. After home demoing Luxman's D-08u last year, the new D-10X is of great interest; however, from all accounts the new Esoteric XD models, with their in-house developed discrete component DAC technology, have cured the glare problem and are very impressive. The new models and the apparent resolution of some business issues look promising for the brand.

Thanks for the post. So Esoteric, after how many years and how many models, has cured the treble glare problem and are very impressive by all accounts? Assuming that's true, I wonder what owners of previous models (prior to the new XD series) would think / say. :oops:
 
Last edited:
Mar 3, 2018
74
34
23
Thanks for the post. So Esoteric, after how many years and how many models, has cured the treble glare problem and are very impressive by all accounts? Assuming that's true, I wonder what owners of previous models (prior to the new XD series) would think / say. :oops:

I have the K-03XS. It's better with the Grimm CC1 ( Clock), but I use it only as drive, because I prefer listen my CD with the Mark Levinson N°360S.
This DAC 360S is better then the DAC inside the K-03XS in every aspect.
 

GSOphile

Well-Known Member
Sep 4, 2017
284
122
113
Thanks for the post. So Esoteric, after how many years and how many models, has cured the treble glare problem and are very impressive by all accounts? Assuming that's true, I wonder what owners of previous models (prior to the new XD series) would think / say. :oops:
I am one of those owners. I bought the Esoteric a few years ago and have enjoyed it, but now I know that 'better' is available. If the XD models are as good as reported, I'm open to staying with the brand. But first I'd like to hear one - and the Luxman. Severing their dependency on vendor DAC chip development cycles with an advanced in-house developed DAC technology was a major move for Esoteric.
 
  • Like
Reactions: infinitely baffled

infinitely baffled

VIP/Donor
Jul 2, 2015
910
148
135
Scotland
I wonder how a s/h Grandioso K1 compares to a new K01XD?

Pricewise it wouldn't be a huge stretch to go from pre-owned Grandioso K1 to a new K01XD
 

GSOphile

Well-Known Member
Sep 4, 2017
284
122
113
Not the same thing, but I think there was a Japanese YouTube shootout on the net (linked on one of the forums in 2019) between a K1 and the then brand new K1X. They played back-to-back musical excerpts from a number of different musical genres. Regarding buying a used mechanical player, to me, and based on experience, warranty takes on more significance than for other equipment. I would be inclined toward the K-01XD.
 
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: infinitely baffled

infinitely baffled

VIP/Donor
Jul 2, 2015
910
148
135
Scotland

thedudeabides

Well-Known Member
Jan 16, 2011
1,438
139
485
Alto, NM
But first I'd like to hear one - and the Luxman.

I love my D06u. No harshness, plenty of detail, great dimensionality and a full saturated sound. In your price range, you should definitely try the 10X. It will need 300 to 500 hours of break in before you'll hear what the unit really can do. But I suspect the major sonic differences between the brands will remain.
 

justubes

Well-Known Member
Aug 10, 2015
154
73
113
As a user of Esoterics over the years starting with the K-01 till my current D-01x, i share some updated impressons over the vaious models.

Background is that i have never liked the earier Esoteric sound till my acquiring a K-03, which i had always found bright and sterile sounding which i never warmed up to.

My earlyfront end include the Forsell air bearing transport and dac, Mark Levinsonss, MBLs, Marants SACD7 and DCS Pucinni.

The Forsell combo has never been beaten which gave the most musical sound and has a 300B tube like vocals when used as a combo, but over the years lacked that drive and dynamics on more upbeat and dynamic music.

I then demoed the k-03 due to the raves on the new K series, after a few tracked, called the dealer and ponied up.

2 days later, i found everything i ever wanted withthe K-03 and called the dealer again to upgrade to the K-01 and liked it very much even using it direct, but it was short lived as less than a year later, the K-01x with the new AKM chipset and DSD usb input was announced.

Advance order was promtly made with an agreed trade of the K-01.

The development of the AKM dacs was fast and furious with year a new Esoteric models released in a short 2 years and felt it was time to move to other brands with the FPGA dac for so when the D-01x was announced and ditching off the shelves dacs.

To date i find that the progression has been a shift further along the lines of slightly more warmth and texture, yet retaing "most" of the power, dynamics and bass which the Esoterics players always had, but nt failing straight to the warm sounding players camp.

Doyou buy an Esoteric for the new programmable dac? I have lost faith that any update software improving the sound is forthcoming or will even be realeased by Esoteric.

It has been 1.5 yrs now with the D-01x and nothing! Do not even expect any forthcoming.

So it works out that you should be buying into a shft in direction of sound. I would have been perfectly happy with the K-01x and invest in a very very good powercord or interconnects which finding the right synergy cabling, would very possibly bring one towards the new Esoterics sound signature.

Its not a whole big shift in the sound of the new Discrete dacs and it still has the Esoterics balance of details, clarity, bass and slam, but with a new sense of naturalness.

So cabling towards a warmer set of cables will be in the order with a shootout with the units using AKM dacs and the new models is called for before contemplation the discrete dac models.

I feel they would be sounding much close and for one to get off the upgrade cycle ;and i will take back everthing i said only if or when the D-01x and the xd's gets an update firmware to the dac before the new of Esoteric units are released.

If the holds true, Esoterics new models should not be out in the next 5 years and they should be bust coming out with improved firmwares made for sonic enhancement, which is the the main highlight and sole purpose of having a programmable discrete FPGA programmable dacs.
 

thedudeabides

Well-Known Member
Jan 16, 2011
1,438
139
485
Alto, NM
As a user of Esoterics over the years starting with the K-01 till my current D-01x, i share some updated impressons over the vaious models.

Doyou buy an Esoteric for the new programmable dac? I have lost faith that any update software improving the sound is forthcoming or will even be realeased by Esoteric.

It has been 1.5 yrs now with the D-01x and nothing! Do not even expect any forthcoming.

I feel they would be sounding much close and for one to get off the upgrade cycle ;and i will take back everthing i said only if or when the D-01x and the xd's gets an update firmware to the dac before the new of Esoteric units are released.

If the holds true, Esoterics new models should not be out in the next 5 years and they should be bust coming out with improved firmwares made for sonic enhancement, which is the the main highlight and sole purpose of having a programmable discrete FPGA programmable dacs.

Interesting insight.
 

GSOphile

Well-Known Member
Sep 4, 2017
284
122
113
As a user of Esoterics over the years starting with the K-01 till my current D-01x, i share some updated impressons over the vaious models.

Background is that i have never liked the earier Esoteric sound till my acquiring a K-03, which i had always found bright and sterile sounding which i never warmed up to.

My earlyfront end include the Forsell air bearing transport and dac, Mark Levinsonss, MBLs, Marants SACD7 and DCS Pucinni.

The Forsell combo has never been beaten which gave the most musical sound and has a 300B tube like vocals when used as a combo, but over the years lacked that drive and dynamics on more upbeat and dynamic music.

I then demoed the k-03 due to the raves on the new K series, after a few tracked, called the dealer and ponied up.

2 days later, i found everything i ever wanted withthe K-03 and called the dealer again to upgrade to the K-01 and liked it very much even using it direct, but it was short lived as less than a year later, the K-01x with the new AKM chipset and DSD usb input was announced.

Advance order was promtly made with an agreed trade of the K-01.

The development of the AKM dacs was fast and furious with year a new Esoteric models released in a short 2 years and felt it was time to move to other brands with the FPGA dac for so when the D-01x was announced and ditching off the shelves dacs.

To date i find that the progression has been a shift further along the lines of slightly more warmth and texture, yet retaing "most" of the power, dynamics and bass which the Esoterics players always had, but nt failing straight to the warm sounding players camp.

Doyou buy an Esoteric for the new programmable dac? I have lost faith that any update software improving the sound is forthcoming or will even be realeased by Esoteric.

It has been 1.5 yrs now with the D-01x and nothing! Do not even expect any forthcoming.

So it works out that you should be buying into a shft in direction of sound. I would have been perfectly happy with the K-01x and invest in a very very good powercord or interconnects which finding the right synergy cabling, would very possibly bring one towards the new Esoterics sound signature.

Its not a whole big shift in the sound of the new Discrete dacs and it still has the Esoterics balance of details, clarity, bass and slam, but with a new sense of naturalness.

So cabling towards a warmer set of cables will be in the order with a shootout with the units using AKM dacs and the new models is called for before contemplation the discrete dac models.

I feel they would be sounding much close and for one to get off the upgrade cycle ;and i will take back everthing i said only if or when the D-01x and the xd's gets an update firmware to the dac before the new of Esoteric units are released.

If the holds true, Esoterics new models should not be out in the next 5 years and they should be bust coming out with improved firmwares made for sonic enhancement, which is the the main highlight and sole purpose of having a programmable discrete FPGA programmable dacs.

According to the Esoteric website, there have been firmware updates to the D1X and K1X in April and to the K-01XD and K-03XD in June. These added MQA support and several misc improvements.
 

justubes

Well-Known Member
Aug 10, 2015
154
73
113
Yes, you are right, there has been no update to the FPGA for the dac itself to improve the performance from the date of release, since the development must have been coming 2 years now.

I have always had niggling reservations on how manufacturers could control the sonic performance between the different price offerings between different model, how do we ever know.

I just came across an article that another very popular bands dac which is a ladder dac which cost even more than the D1x which i did consider switching brands and was the 2nd tier model.

This most interesting report stated that upon the pre-release model2nd tier model sounded as good as double the price top model, however, all this changed after the unit was actual was released.

I did not bookmark the article, but it looks like a handbrake was put in place simply in the final firmware release in order not to decimate sales if it own higher product line.

There is very little different if you looked at the design except for double the ladder dacs and chassis design, otherwise the other main parts look to be identicle!

The increase in price was astronomical and going to cost my kids university fees alone.

I feel the development of dacs reaching a bottleneck in term of build ever since the K01 was release with only rather minor improvements or rather, using the latest AKM dac for the next to upgraded models!

I cannot see how Esoteric can improve upon a single chassis per channel dac apart from upgrading the sonic via the FPGA.

I would like to see a paid firmware upgrade offered instead.

I cannot see the slight increase in prices for the 1 box models being able to cover this development cost.

I would imagine another 50% markup would be appropriate for software development for the next 7 to 10 years more realistic.

I will definately not be supporting such a move on any new replacement model in the next 3 years.

That is way i urge all fellow audiofriends to at least do a side by side comparision together with a good powercord or interconnect that has more warm and texture on your current dac or player first before making a jump.

The build, resolution and sq of whatever older K01, D02 or N01series is already an extremely well engineered product.

I sadly have to say this, since i have had zero improvement via new software development coming 2 years this was not what i expected.

MQA update was also more than 1 year to finally receive an update and i was not impressed and frankly got tried of waiting and lost any interest in MQA update - the honeymoon period was well over and interest has literally all but dried up after a year!

Heck, i would throw away any unconsumed sealed packet of coffee beans out if i forgot or missed consuming after half a year! It's a proven fact that even a beautifully roasted batch of quality coffee beans will have lost most of its flavour after just 2-3 months!
 
Last edited:

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. A place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss existing and new audio products, music servers, music streamers and computer audio, digital to audio convertors (DACS), turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel to reel, speakers, headphones, tube amplifiers and solid state amplification. Founded in 2010 What's Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing