dCS Puccini+U-clock vs. Esoteric K-01

I would like to share my personal experience with these 2 components as a comparison guide for those thinking of purchasing either.

Below is a summary of my comments for each component relative to the other :-

1. Puccini + U-clock as a combo (NOT Puccini alone) :-
a. More forward perspective, as in Row B-C
b. Higher noise floor, sounds coarser
c. Brash and bold
d. More dramatic transients and orchestral crescendoes
e. More dynamic when set to 6V but noise goes up
g. Music is lined with more grain and burr
h. Limited to 96/24 for high res unless hardware is upgraded at a cost

2. Esoteric K-01 :-
a. Row G-H perspective
b. Deeper and better layered soundstage
c. Greater refinement, more resolving
d. More liquid and transparent, more air around and through instruments
e. Bass goes lower with better pitch definition
f. Less dynamic when used direct to power amp even with XLR set to +6dB
g. More musical, easier to follow the ebb and flow of music
h. More natural and analog-like
i. Does high res up to 192/24

Overall, I find the K-01 a better-sounding player and a better value at a lower cost than the dSC combo. But then, the dCS combo is a bit long in the tooth now, certainly in terms of digital ageing.
Jon2020, thank you for posting the results. I recently placed order for k-01.
Looks like you are running esoteric direct to your Brystons mono. Did you compare the sound of k01 adding preamp?
Hy John, what is your favorite upsampling/filter setting on K-01, and why? Saluti, G.
There is a magical point in the break-in period when the treshold is crossed after which the sonic improvement is most dramatic with further improvement wrought in gradual smaller and smaller increments.
When my unit crossed that treshold, I am happy to update my initial impressions above.
The initially perceived K-01's negatives about dynamics, transients and orchestral crescendoes can now all be swept away. Direct to the power amps, the K-01 cedes NOTHING to the dCS units and in the same breath, takes EVERYTHING away. Cymbal crashes, piano transients, instrument body/airiness, female vocals and orchestral climaxes are as life-like as they sound compared to the dcs combo and a lot more. Now the perspective is still the same but uncannily, there is more detail, more resolution, transparency and more life-like image size.
Denon1, i have not tried it with a preamp and will not be doing so for now as I am extremely satisfied with what i am hearing now. I believe that to hear a significant difference, a very high quality preamp like Guido's Rowland Criterion is in order. That for me at around $40k is way off my budget limit.
Guido, i have set the filter to your preferred one, that is Dsly_2 at 4× upsampling as indeed I trust your ears and may be better for Die Muzik speakers than Alan Taffel's preference for dsly2 with 2x upsampling in his TAS report but i may try that another time. For now, i am simply enjoying every musical moment.
Cheers, everyone!
Jon2020, thanks for update, this is exactly my thinking when I was ordering k01 and not other models or brands, that to beat its digital volume control one has to have costly line stage. I will run it direct to amplifier and concentrate on a very good IC. I will follow Guido advise about burnig it in, but ones it burned, do you keep k-01 on all the time?
Hi John, I found SDL1 to be very pleasing, but too "tuby" for my taste. On linestages.... Criterion is now withdrawn, but new it retailed for about $18K rather than your feared $40k. the Corus linestages instead seems to be at $13.6K.... Unless you have extremely dirty AC, it should sound the same as Criterion.

Denon1, it is perfectly safe to leave K-01 on all the time, unless there is a thundrstorm, in which case all should be turned off and unplugged from the wall outlet. The only thing I would recommend is to turn off the display by default, and let it turn itself on only when operating a control.... Displays have a limited lifetime. I found that if I left X-01 or K-01 off for several hours, it might take several hours to one full day of operations for them to reach peak performance. When left on and idle instead, they seem to reach full performance after about 1 hour of playtime. G.
I would go with Guido's guidance about keeping it on.

I might add the Corus later going by RH's glowing review in TAS. But for now, the performance gain from the dcs combo to the K-01 will keep me very, very happy for some time to come.
To summarise my conclusions about the K-01, it would be :-"Bold and dynamic with a rock-solid foundation, it is at once with much grace and pace, utter refinement and articulation."
Here's another update of the K-01.

I hope you have received your unit and started breaking it in. As Guido has mentioned, things get better and better with more and more hundreds of hours of break-in. I have also tried out the USB input and it works wonderfully. The uncompressed wav file sounds better than the CD original. I use my Sony VAIO desktop with JRiver Media Centre software and the ASIO driver as recommended by AT at TAS. The HS_2 asynchronous driver downloaded online does a great job of playing Redbook wav files and hi-res up to 192/24. So far, I have only played 96/24 and the difference from Redbook is very significant.

With regard to your previous question about the settings, in my system, I find that ORG upsampling + FIR 1 gives me the best balance for resolution, transparency, mudrange silkiness and bloom, speed and timing. Since we have the same source and speakers, the difference in optimal settings would be due to our system synergy - no preamp for me, different power amps and cabling - interconnects and speaker cables. For my system, the 4X + SLDR2 sounds a little bit dry and bright. With the ORG FIR 1 setting, my system is elevated to audio nirvana, or at least to my ears, nearly there.Let me know when you start on USB playback. I can assure it will be as good as it gets. Cheers!
Jon2020, I should get my k-01 by the end of following week. Using computer audio is my next step, once i get esoteric burn and running. Did you do anything special to your desktop PC in order to optimize its performance for audio use, or it is just regular PC? I am thinking to buy windows based laptop and set it as dedicated music server. But I don't have any expertise in this area. If you can send me email (using audio gown contact member) with step by step instructions on computer setup and ripping to computer files that I can play via esoteric k01, it will be great.
Thank you for all you updates, they are very helpfull.
Hi John, your findings are fascinating... K-01 is such a flexible machine that it can be largely taylored to individual preferences. At this time, for reasons of pure practicality, I am using once again X-01... K-01 requires eyes for operating the menus, and I have, uhrn.... "embraced darkeness", a few decades ago... I require sighted assistance each time the menu needs to be tweaked. Guido
Once you hv your unit broken in, let me know. I will be more than happy to help. I use a regular Sony VAIO desktop with Windows 7 and JRiver software. You can download this plus the ASIO4all driver online. Do not use Win 8. Once you hv set up the JRiver music software, download as instructed in the manual, the Usb HS_2 driver. After this is insralled, your computer shd detect the K-01 and use this as default for SPDIF out.

I am sorry I do not understand. Do you have a medical sight condition or is it sonething else?
Yes, I am totally blind... Retinitis Pigmentosa... real pain in the RCA (Royal Canadian Arse)! G.
Hi Guido,

I am sorry to hear about your RP condition. I just so happen to be an ophthalmologist in Singapore but I am afraid research has not come up with any viable treatment for the time being but you may have read about a prototype retinal implant with a microprocessor to improve vision. There are very good eye centres in Canada that may make this available in the very near future.

I agree that the K-01 is very flexible in tailoring the sound to suit one's system and also individual recordings, i might add. It is a bit of a digital chameleon, almost as good as having 20 different brand players in one box.

It is very heartening to note that your sense of hearing is as acute as ever. Cheers!

Warmest regards. Jon.
Hi Jon, amazing coincidence really you being an Ophftalmologist.... I guess I am an "absolute" audiophile... Would love to chat about prosthetic/bio implants... We should do it offline though, so we return this thread to its "originally scheduled programming". I'll send you a PM tonight! Saluti, Guido
Guido, I dont even no what to say, I am so sorry to hear about your condition, but looks like you are in a good spirits, I wish you the best!
Hey Denon1, no worry.... I gotten used to cabling my entire system using the sense of touch alone... Works flawlessly on a balanced system. On speaker wires I mark the positive leads at both ends with a piece of electrician's tape to avoid phase mixups... Only some advanced CDPs can occasionally be a challange. For the rest it's just a matter of doing things in a different way... Plenty of technology out there to let me do that, including a screen reader software to let me use the computer, including post on Audiogon. G.
Anytime, my friend. Meanwhile, enjoy the music and die Muzik!
I also owned a Puccini and now a K-01. I did not try a U clock. My Puccini was not reliable so I never got around to purchasing the clock. My K-01 is a significant improvement over the Puccini. I agree with your assessment above. Mine has about 200 hours on it now and continues to improve. I am using org up sampling and 1 sldy... filter. I also am using a preamp. A Mark Levinson 326S. My speakers, Kharma Mini Exquisites have diamond tweeters. It is very detailed and dynamic. I also had a K-03 for awhile. Very very good but not as good as the K-01.
CarCommander, congratulations. I just got k01 two days ago and started a burn process. What exactly changed within 200 hours of your burn in process. Can you try k01 direct without your ML preamp? Very curious what difference will you hear.
Thank you.
It is a good thing that you did not upgrade your Puccini with the U-clock. You made the right decision to go straight to the K-01.
About your settings, if your system is on the warm side, the SLDY filter is the way to go. Music sounds faster as it leans out a bit. But if your system is on the lean side, the FIR filter fleshes things out with more body and warmth to instruments.
As I have now burned in most of my filters, I wish to update that I am rather disappointed now with the USB input. As good as the USB input is on its own, it is beaten out in all departments by the sound of the original CD in the transport. I have read elsewhere online that the new VRDS NEO transport is the one that makes all the difference and this would explain the price difference between the K-01 and the K-03 which uses a lesser transport mechanism. So, I now listen only to hi-res files thru the USB input.
If you have tried the USB input, kindly share your personal experience.
Jon2020, thanks for the update. What combination of filter and conversion did you find the best in your system. As for USB,it may be that your laptop needs to be grated to dedicated music serverwith Greta linear power supply , also using high quality USB is important. This is why I am still deciding which way to go just a laptop with good music software or dedicated server that is pricier but may sound much better.
For my system, I am now rather settled with ORG(zero) upsampling + FIR1 filter. This gives me the best balance of tonal richness and speed.

I agree that I would probably need a higher quality music server set-up to get the best out of USB but later.

Right now, I am just too happy listening to Redbook cd spinning in the Neo transport.
Jon2020, agree, the computer based front end can wait some, we still can enjoy the red book sound from K-01. Btw, are you happy with your Brystons, did you compare them with any other amp before settling with them? I can get them for a great deal but with no audition.Once broken, how you can describe their sound warm, dry, emotional? besides power what is different about them in compare with 7b sst2?
Thank you.

About the Brystons, I bought them way before the K-01 and have not compared them with any other amp after the K-01 arrived. The current 28B SST2 monoblocks replaced my old Mark Levinson monoblocks which put out 400W per channel. The Brystons are in a different league altogether compared to the ML's which could not drive my speakers with the ease, refinement and slam of the 28B's. The 28B's were well received by HP in the pages of TAS and I bought them based on his assessment. I did not compare them to the 7B or 14B models before my purchase. The 28B;s are very neutral and excel in all frequency bands and I did not know how good they can be until I got the K-01. They are also very fast which explains why I prefer the FIR1 filter. The SLDY filter made my system sound even faster but the sound got too lean.
I guess everything depends on system synergy and so, results may vary with your speakers, cables and power cords/conditioner.
Hope this helps.
I auditioned the Puccini + u-clock and Paganini 3 box set. When upgrading from my ARC CD5. The U clock did improve the Puccini, I had the combination at home for a while but did not really warm to the dCS machine.
I eventually went for a Playback MPS-5, it does not have any facility for altering the sound with filters.
However, I find it produces a surprisingly non-digital like sound, running my vinyl set up close.
I agree with you about the dCS sound but I did not know how much more musical other gear can be, or how much less musical the dCS can be in my system, until I hear the K-01.
I have not been able to get to hear an Esoteric player, unfortunately.
there is no substitute for listening to gear before buying, preferably within existing system.
I agree that it would be ideal to have a home audition before a purchase but not all dealers allow it. So, we have to depend on the assessment of audio journalists and online hobbyists who graciously share their experience. For the K-01, I was mostly inspired by Guido's favorable comments since we share the same speakers. There are also other positive reviews in TAS and websites like www.high-endaudio.com which helped too. The worrying thing about any new component purchase is its synergy with the rest of the system and with the K-01, I have indeed been fortunate.
When I first got the K-01 after 150 hrs of burn in, I liked the F1R filter better as it broke in I like the 1 Sdly1. My amp as a Dartzeel NH108B which I believe to be pretty neutral. The K-01 can be tailored to your system. I bought mine without hearing it but it wasn't that much risk. I did have a K-03 that really sounded great as well. The k-01 is 10 percent better. Over a couple of hundred hours the K -01 continues to improve. I had a meridian control 15 with a bunch of hi res stuff but I think CD's sound better.
Indeed, the CD sounds better via the transport than the high res files via the USB input. Referencing Denon1 above, the computer set-up, both hardware and software, would need major upgrading before sounding their best. Even then, I suspect the USB input sonics may never be on par with the that of the transport, high res files not withstanding.
I also had a very extensive demo of the 3 box dCS Paganini. I felt the Playback delivers a weightier more fluid sound.
I agree that CDs sound better than reproduction of the same file from the computer.
Hi rez files sound excellent but I have not got a CD to compare them with.
The playback has it's own propriety usb x-box which sounds much better than the straight USB input.
As a matter of interest anyone know anything of the ModWright, Sony and oppo players, valve mods?
Someone was raving about them on another thread.
My take is that they take an inexpensive player (relatively) and make it sound better. I doubt it sounds as good as a Puccini or K-01. 2 to 3K verses 20 to 25K.
JON2020, I know that you are running your K-01 direct to amplifier(s). In average, what is your volume number set on esoteric for normal listening volume? I know it dependson amp and speakers bit still interested what is your level.
Currently I am running direct to krell 302e and often using -28 or -30.
I just installed the K-01 and connected G-3 clock but cannot get it synchronized ie.the clock light will not go on.Any advise??
I just found the answer

In my system, I set the volume from -6 to 0 depending on the recording. My speakers need a lot of power/current to sound fleshed out at realistic levels. I will update you on any of the pre-amps mentioned should I get to audition at home. We could go back to your original thread for further discussion on this and the K-01.