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Esoteric K-01X Super Audio CD/CD Player Review

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Esoteric K-01X-The Silver Disc lives on!

How we consume recorded music has been evolving steadily over the last 40 years. From analog records and tapes to the CD and now coming into its own, wireless streaming, from which I have found great success in the form of the Krell Connect streamer. While it is true analog records still enjoy a relatively small yet fanatical following, it is clear that streaming is the way of the masses and will carry us audiophiles along well into the future.

Caught between these disparate mediums we find the ubiquitous CD, the most prolific music carrying medium in the history of mankind while also, the most derided. Without airing out all the historical criticisms leveled against 16-bit playback, let’s just say many music lovers of the day found the sound lacking something inherently necessary to allow a real connection to music. Despite my exposure to some great high-end digital efforts from some of the most creative minds in audio engineering, I have to admit there has always been something lacking in CD playback. The closest I have come to ultimately soul satisfying CD sound came from the Linn Sondeck CD12 of some years back and most recently, Esoteric’s own K-07 I reviewed last year. The K-07 impressed me with its relaxed flowing, grain-free sound, though with the K-01X, we have a CD/SACD-based device that delivers such a densely rendered picture of the music, so complete and compelling a presentation as if all the nooks and crannies left by lesser players have been filled in with previously unresolved information. And that is with standard CD’s. Compared to the K-01X, the sound in my memory of the CD12 is a bit homogenized.

Let’s take a minute to become familiar with the K-01X. First off, the thing weighs a ton, well 68 lbs. at least. It is by far the heaviest CD player I have ever had to lift into place. The K-01X has all the inputs and outputs necessary to hold the court in any sophisticated system. According to the Esoteric website, “The USB input supports asynchronous transmission and rates up to 2.8/5.6 MHz DSD and 384 kHz/32-bit PCM. Esoteric’s original PC driver software provides playback of even studio-master-quality source files. DoP and ASIO 2.1 are also supported. The culmination of Esoteric’s most advanced mechatronics know-how, the VRDS system radically improves the reading precision of Super Audio CD/CD discs by mechanically correcting for surface run-out. The K-01X’s VRDS -NEO VMK-3.5-20S drive also features two sets of specially selected ball bearings supporting a duralumin turntable constructed to micron-level accuracy, and a 20mm-thick steel turntable bridge. The combined mechanical structure weighs an impressive 5.2kg (12kg including the rigid base).

The drive employs proven Esoteric technologies, including a high-flux-density magnet-driven coreless three-phase brushless spindle motor, a thread feed control derived from the thinking behind the P-0, and a shaft-sliding pickup which consistently illuminates the disk with a precisely perpendicular beam of laser light. Additionally, the disc tray features a silent shutter mechanism that further ensures the ultimate in operating precision.”

“The D/A converter uses the same design philosophy as our Grandioso D1. Incorporating Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corporation’ s 32-bit AK4495S DAC IC and MUSES 02 operational amplifier, this exceptional DAC uses 8 parallel/differential circuits with 16 outputs driving each channel to achieve outstanding linearity and low distortion.

Like the Grandioso D1, this D/A converter also features fully independent power transformers and power supply circuits for each channel to create a true dual mono configuration. The generous power supply capacity and total channel separation enabled by this arrangement provides excellent dynamics, with realistic stereo imaging and exceptional resolution of fine detail.”

5 Responses to Esoteric K-01X Super Audio CD/CD Player Review

  1. robert Schussel says:

    I would like to add some comments about Greg Petan’s review of the K01X. I purchased my K01X about a month ago. The K01X is special .To be blunt most of us have probably never experienced a player as good as the K01X. Some dealers claim that players like Solution etc. are better but they are 70% more expensive. For what it is the K01X is a bargain.

    1) For Redbook CDs the K01X offers 4 filter options, direct conversion to DSD and upsampling to 8X. Yet no mention is ever made about these capabilities. I will leave it to others to debate which setting is “best”.

    2) In plain English the K01X is the best $20K single box player available. It is a significant improvement over the prior generation that came out 4 to 6 years ago and comes close to the so called separate boxes reference systems.

    3) I owned a 4 year old $10K+ SACD player. The difference with the K01X was so dramatic it took me a week to stop focusing on the sheen of strings, the deep bass that could be heard ,the biting sound of brass ,rich and vibrating cello strings , the naturalness and fullness of sound (which eliminates the complaints about CD sound) and how good older CDs now sound . For the first time I am enjoying my older CDs and hearing things in them I have never heard before. While the sound is very full a lot of additional detail can be heard.

    4) I can now sit for hours. I had always assumed that my shortened attention span was due to getting older not my player

  2. Joe says:

    Congratulations Greg on the review. Did you run the K01x using XLR or RCA? Did you notice any difference?

  3. Vern says:

    I recently purchased this player two weeks ago to replace my Oppo BDP-105 that I was using for both SACD/CD in stereo and Blu-ray playback. The review is spot on regarding this unit. The soundstage was the first thing I noticed when I played he first CD disc! You do actually hear the individual instruments and their unique timbre on well recorded discs. Jeff Beck’s Wired disc on SACD sounds amazing. It, along with other CD’s and SACD’s reminds me of when I owned a turntable and would spin records. My foot is now tapping to the music again. That never occurred with my Oppo which is a very good sounding mid-fi player. I am running the K-01X XLR with Transparent cabling into an Audio Research Ref5 SE. I would suffice to say this is a digital player that doesn’t sound digital at all. You can tell on the older CD’s. What was harsh and hard sounding before has now turned into a listenable experience. I couldn’t be happier with the money spent.

  4. High Fidelity says:

    Can not see the point of a Stereo only over engineered obese SACD player,

    • Scott Petit says:

      Then you do not appreciate music reproduction that approaches that of the instrument’s live sound. It doesn’t matter what the box is, as long as it produces music in the best way possibly. You may like to know this obese box is also a DAC and that gives it a future and purpose beyond shiny round discs. K-01Xs.

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