Esoteric Grandioso D1 DAC, P1 Disc Transport, C1 Linestage, and M1 Monoblock Power Amplifier

Attention to Detail

Equipment report
Solid-state power amplifiers,
Disc players,
Digital-to-analog converters
Esoteric Grandioso C1,
Esoteric Grandioso D1,
Esoteric Grandioso M1,
Esoteric Grandioso P1
Esoteric Grandioso D1 DAC, P1 Disc Transport, C1 Linestage, and M1 Monoblock Power Amplifier

Another telling example is the SACD of the Wes Montgomery Trio. The Grandioso stack exposes every last ounce of the recording’s abundant atmosphere. Further, the nuts and bolts of Montgomery’s stellar acoustic guitar work—his dynamic shadings, vibrato and deft touch—come through with fascinating clarity. The level of detail wrought by the Grandioso stack made me want to hunker down and listen to each track just to see what Montgomery would do next.

On the analog front, I treated myself to the L.A. 4’s direct-to-disc LP, Pavane pour une Infante Defunte. Through my Goldmund phonostage and the Grandioso C1, its music poured out with uncommon smoothness and effortlessness, and dynamic emphases really popped. In keeping with the theme of purity, the sound was free of any specter of electronics.

Nor does the Grandioso stack short-change other sonic virtues. The swinging rhythms on Mingus’ “Better Git It in Your Soul” will have your whole body moving. The Grandioso stack renders this track exactly as it’s meant to sound: fun! Dynamic transients, which occur in abundance on this piece, never veer out of control. Similarly, Miles Davis’ trumpet on “Summertime,” from Esoteric’s own SACD of Porgy and Bess (if you can find it, buy it), is incisive but never piercing. The same track reveals a soundstage so full and deep, my reference electronics sounded squashed by comparison.

The Grandioso’s tonal balance is well-nigh perfect, too. The stack blessed my reference speakers with the most bass weight and definition they’ve ever exhibited. Listen, for instance, to the profundity of the lower registers of Michael Wolff’s Bösendorfer and the thrum of the upright bass on his 2 AM CD for two examples of the Grandioso’s way with bass.

I’m happy to report that these virtues are apparent regardless of source. I’ve already cited CD, LP, and SACD; but the stack, specifically the D1, is equally accomplished when it comes to USB. Hi-res PCM and DSD material via this interface sounds much the same as the HDMI-borne hi-res stream from the P1. That’s the sign of an excellent USB implementation. Unfortunately, the C1 doesn’t support streaming. For that, you’ll need to add a stand-alone network streamer. There isn’t one in the Grandioso line, but Esoteric’s flagship N-01 streamer should fit the bill nicely..

Although I treated the Grandioso stack primarily as an inseparable whole, I did listen to the M1 monoblock power amps on their own. I would describe them as refined tigers. “Refined” because they demonstrate the same sense of purity, control, and effortlessness that characterizes the C1. As for the “tiger” element, I used the M1 in conjunction with some challenging loads—most notably the new B&W 800 D3. These speakers won’t give their all unless they’re fed droves of current. Several amps I’ve tried have failed to bring out the B&W’s best, leaving them spatially flat and dynamically lifeless. Not so with the M1s. These amps allowed the 800s to achieve all of their formidable glory, and proved to be the best match I’ve yet found for these speakers.

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