Any experience with Esoteric K-05?

I have an aging Cary Audio 306 SACD and thinking about a replacement soon. The K-05 is in a similar price range (at around US$8k) and I wondered whether there was any experience out there with this relatively new machine?

I would be interested in hearing from owners or people who have auditioned the Esoteric K-05. What are the players strenghts and weaknesses? What are its sonic traits? If you listened and did not buy - why not?

The rest of my system is a Gryphon Diablo integrated amp, Raidho Acoustics D-2 (diamond) speakers and Nordost Valhalla cables. Thanks!
I haven't heard the K-05 but I can tell you that your Cary is an extremely good unit. I wouldn't even consider getting rid of it unless you're absolutely sure that you would like the K-05.

Considering you have one of the world's most revealing speakers and one of the best integrated amplifiers, I would go for an even higher quality source.

The K05 is a lower quality version of the K03 and even though it has superior resolution to the Cary, I would still like to see you with an player matching the lofty intentions of your system.
I've owned the K-05 for the last 3 months. It is. Beautifully made player. Cosmetics and mechanics are terrific. Quiet player. Top is extended and detailed yet non fatiguing. Terrific soundstage. Bottom end is controlled and with adequate detail. A very musical and satisfying player.

The K-05 replaced an Oppo 83se and ARC DAC8 in mys system. Yes, to my ears, the Esoteric sounds better than the Oppo/ARC combo.

Thanks for the comments Zd542 and Ritmo.

I like the look of the Esoteric players - particularly the K-05. The K-01 and K-03 look like they have eaten too many steak pies :-)

Still, it is sound quality that counts and I will be auditioning.
Thanks for the comment Audiooracle. What player would you suggest?
As much as I like the K-05, if I could do this all over again, I would seriously consider the K-03. I feel the 05 is outstanding at its price point and a top contender in the sub $10K price point. The K-03 is better but the price is 30% more as well.

FYI, there's an Esoteric forum/room on audioaficionado with plenty of k-series discussion.
Agree with you Gordon. I'm part of that discussion in AA as well. Many audiophiles have purchased the K-03 and some have even upgraded to the K-01. The Esoteric K series players are outstanding.

Thanks Gordon and Mike. I have also read the commentary on AA including Mikes excellent overview. Looking for expanded input because the AA site seems to be a bit of fan club. Nothing wrong with that - but no product can be perfect for all systems and tastes and it is a very significant worry that there is vertually no criticism of the product. I have not been able to get hold of a K-05 for demo but have managed to get a K-03 to try and I am doing so at time of writting.
Kiwi, I had K-05 (in black),also had K-03 and now have K-01. K-05 is a good player but not as resolving as K-03 and K-01, it is very musical so. Also the one I got for the first 50 hours made audible noise (mechanical) during playback, but it went away after. I think the sweet spot in current esoteric line-up is K-03. I agree that AA forum is more like a fun club, especially that its moderator is a dealer for esoteric, but current K models when burned for at least 500 hours become very natural sounding players with great dynamics and details. When new they sound dry and little harsh.
You have great integrated and speakers, I think to hear their full potential you have to go with K-03 if you set on esoteric brand. Based on my personal experience, the esoteric service is outstanding. When I expessed my concern that my k-05 making noise they offered new player or upgrade to higher models without any hesitation.
Thanks for the comments Denon 1. My K-03 demo unit has over 500 hours on the clock. What filter settings are you currently using? 4x oversampling and no filter seems the most open in my system - but I find the presentation tonally cool. Remarkable resolution though.
Kiwi, in my system I differ between those two combos
4x overslampling and SDLy_1 filter or
2x overslampling and FIR1 - I'm still braking this one and starting to like this one more and more.

Please remember that each of the combinations need to be broken separatley (300-500 hours on each combo)

But if you looking on a warmish sound, I don't think the esoteric is the best choice. The K series are neutural sounding and when properly broken present with dynamic, highly detailed but natural sound without any coloration an digital glare. I also prefer esoteric K series for their ability to serve as a great DAC.
kiwi, would love to hear your continued observations. I too was getting swayed by the AA fan club, as well as Alan Taffel's incredible reviews of the K-03 and the D-07x dac. However, while there is no doubt the Esoteric line offers great sound, upon a little more investigation combing through the web, it's definitely a specific sound that may possibly border on the analytically neutral side, or as you call it, a cooler presentation. Thats not necessarily a bad thing, but it implies (as is usually the case) that personal preference as well as system synergy will still matter. If you have a cool system or prefer a warmer sound, this may not be the perfect solution, as Denon1 properly suggested. I don't know what to make of this characteristic, but I'm still very interested in the K-05 or K-03. My only concern is, at this price point, can I find anything else that has this much detail and dynamics, but also provides possibly a more fleshed out, soulful, and dare I say warmer sound.

I have the K-01 and agree that the sound of the K series is indeed very neutral. If you are looking for a warmish sound, you can still get the K-03 but add a tubed pre-amp. A very good tubed pre-amp to consider is the ARC Ref 5SE. I used to own the Ref 3 and am now considering the Jeff Rowland Corus and Ref 5SE. I am waiting for a home audition of these 2 pre-amps before making a decision but currently am unable to get hold of well broken-in units for audition.
Jon, I have a combined HT/2ch system with the 2ch gear being Revel Salon 2s as mains, a Mcintosh MC452 amp doing mains power, and a Krell S-1200 processor doing double duty as preamp and processor. Source is Oppo BDP95, the final necessary replacement. Im about to run out of money, lol, so the DAC or CDP/DAC will be my last purchase along with a music server for the final piece of the puzzle, computer audio. No more money or room for a separate tube pre. Hence my concern. Looking forward to more commentary from Kiwi, as the K-03 (or 05) could be an excellent one-box solution as both outstanding CDP/SACD and DAC

I own the Salon 2's driven by ARC (Ref 5SE and DS450). The K-05 sounds terrific in my system. I will confess that I've been tempted to upgrade to a K-03. I do not find the K-05 to be too neutral or "cold" - it is quite musical, not fatiguing with nice extended highs, nice and wide soundstage and darn good imaging. Compared to my ARC DAC8 (which I still own along with the Oppo 83SE), I feel the K-03 sounds better.

Hi Kiwi,
Have you considered the Modwright-modified Oppo 105? Just a thought. I'm extremely impressed with it.
So Kiwi, how is it sounding compared to your Cary 306? I'm also considering the 306 Pro but it may be a bit older in techynology.
In reference to my comment on 4/12 - the last sentence should state - "I feel the K-05 sounds better."

I incorrectly, typed "K-03".

Hi Jeffkad,

In my otherwise neutral playback system as described above
the scorecard on the Cary Audio 306 Pro vs. the Esoteric K-
03 reads like this.

The Esoteric trumps the Cary for outright resolution, sound-
stage depth and object edging, treble extension and bass

The Cary trumps the Esoteric for image specificity and
density, mid-bass weight, overall musicality and engagement.

I was very surprised at just how different these two fine
machines sounded considering they are both fully solid state
designs with large linear power supplies and both running
four quality DACs per channel.

There is much more to the story including a rather unusual
finding with the K-03 - which I will write up in due course
in my audio blog.
Thanks Kiwi. Very interesting and distinct comparison. I was really leaning towards the Esoteric units, but you stopped me cold with the Cary win-points. You used the word "trumps", which in my mind means decisively better. Is either unit actually weak in the areas it was trumped, or are they still very good, but noticeably weaker just in comparison to the other's strengths?
Kiwi, btw, where is your blog?
Hi Jeffkad,

Trumps as in plainly elevated above or prevailing...

Remember though, this is all subjective stuff; a comparison using my ears and my reference system does not mean one machine is better than the other.

All I can say is that located within a strictly neutral playback chain the Esoteric is simply not engaging enough. Little wonder then that many living with the machine are using either a valve pre-amp and/or warm cabling systems in a quest to connect to the performance.
04-14-13: Jeffkad
Kiwi, btw, where is your blog?

My blog is
I have owned both the Cary 306 (not pro) and numerous Esoteric unit (X-03, P3/D5 combo). To my hears, I just love the way Esoteric cdps sound. To me and my system, the Esoteric sounded more resolving and energetic. Dont get me wrong, the Cary 306 was very good but it sounded too lush for my tastes. At the end of the day, it was like splitting hairs for me between these two units but ultimately I chose the Esoteric.

I am now getting back into audio after a bit of layoff and am seriously considering the K-05 or -03, probably leaning towards the -05 only because I want to keep the amount of money I spend on this system in sane levels unlike my other system.
Hi Kiwi,

where do you source the micro diffuser blocks?

Are they available online?

Hi Kiwi,
I too have the Gryphon Diablo, but am using the Evolution Acoustic MMMicroOnes. Source is Resolution Audio Cantata which is a wonderful allrounder with CDP and DAC that even includes UPnP (which isn't ready for prime-time yet). A few days ago I got an Audio Aero Prima DAC (the DAC from the Capitole) for my brother and tested it in my system. I was very surprised as to how well it fared. I still prefer the Cantata in HF and LF extension, precision and overall resolution, but I have to say the the AA nails the mids.
Since we both have very neutral speakers (yours being probably in another level) I'd encourage you to take a look at Audio Aero. I know that I'm starting to look for that midrange and will probably look into AA (if I find something that gives me the resolution, extension and details that I want and need), PBD and maybe even AMR. I still want all the resolution in the world (I occasionaly use my system in order to evaluate mixes and masters), but I feel that the sound could be a wee little more engaging and musical without losing neutrality and details. Would appreciate suggestions.
Best regards