Reviewers constantly see gear come and go; but, as you can imagine, we regret the parting of some pieces more than others. Roughly two years ago Esoteric had to pry their K-03 player from my clenched fingers. Why did I love this thing so much? Let me count the ways.
The $13,000 K-03, to my mind, represented a perfect combination of capabilities. It was—and still is—a CD/SACD player, a full-fledged S/PDIF DAC, a USB DAC, and a linestage of sorts. (There is a high bit depth digital volume control, allowing it to directly drive a power amp.) Most importantly, it scored at least “very good” in every single category. I still have never heard a better SACD player, and the DAC impressed me mightily as well. My only quibble was that CD playback, while still very good, wasn’t quite in the same league as the rest of the K-03’s functions.
Even as I relinquished the K-03, I began lobbying to get my hands on the K-01, Esoteric’s $23,500 flagship. Naturally, I was highly curious as to whether it would sound even better than the K-03, and also whether the CD performance would achieve parity. But the company’s distributor at the time could not come through. Since then, I’ve been pouting.
Now, though, Esoteric has a new North American distributor and they’ve already done two things that warm my heart. First, they have lowered prices on many models, including the K series. The K-03 is now $10,900 (a fantastic value) and the K-01 has dropped to $19,500. Second, they promised to get me a K-01, and made good on it! Even now, that gorgeous machine is undergoing its mandated, arduous three week break in period, and I’ll be hooking it up to my reference system in the next few days. Needless to say, I can’t wait.
But that’s not the only salivation-worthy Esoteric model in the bullpen. I’m also warming up the brand new, $5,000 D-07x standalone DAC. I recognize that Esoteric is best known for its transports, the guts of which are also used by many other companies. But I have a particular affinity for its DACs. Suffice it to say, if the D-07x is anywhere near as good as the DAC within the K-03, it could set a new benchmark at its price point.
The full review of these products will take several months to see print; however, I promise to post a peek of their performance once I have a handle on it.