DCS Vivaldi stacks vs Esoteric Grandioso G1, D1, P1 stacks

Hey all,
For my digital front end source components I am currently using the DCS Vivaldi stacks which include : Vivaldi master clock/streamer unit, Vivaldi upsampler unit, Vivaldi DAC unit, Vivaldi CD/SACD transport unit. They sound and perform phenomenally well and have great sonic synergy with the rest of my equipments. 

But I'm thinking to make a switch to the Esoteric Grandioso stacks : G1 master clock, D1 monoblock DAC, P1 CD/SACD transport, to see how these Esoteric would stack up against my DCS Vivaldi stacks in my system. I'm using the Dan D'Agostino Momentum analog linestage stereo preamp and the Dan D'Agostino Momentum M400 monoblock amps (2 pairs) in bridge mode. My speakers are Wilson Audio Alexx. Speaker cables, interconnects and power cables are Transparent Opus. 

Has anyone get to compare the DCS Vivaldi stacks up against the Esoteric Grandioso stacks? 
I would be eager to find out how the Esoteric Grandioso stacks would sound in my setup especially in direct comparison to my existing DCS Vivaldi stacks. We don't have a single Esoteric dealer in our area so I have no way to demo the Esoteric Grandioso especially in the same setup as the one I have at home. I would love to give the Esoteric Grandioso stacks a try in my own setup at home. I've read nothing but outstanding reviews on the Esoteric Grandioso stacks, so I thought I might want to give them a shot. The Grandioso D1 DAC is monoblock configuration. 

Your advise, inputs and opinions will be much appreciated. Thanks in advance.


hello caphill,

first off, congrats on owning the dCS Vivaldi stack, it is wonderful sounding digital. certainly considered by most to be among the best sounding digtial choices, and obviously at a high price point too.

and you have a system that can fully take advantage of top level digital, congrats on such a top flight system.

i have no opinion about the newest Esoteric Grandioso gear, i heard the newest Esoteric gear at the L.A. Show but it was the level below the Grandioso.....which was good but it’s a show situation so hard to know what is doing what.

since you already own top level digital, but for whatever reason seem to not be fully satisfied, i would like to mention a different product that I think sets the standard for digtial performance, the MSB Select II dac.


i own a Select II with a single power supply and the Femto 33 clock upgrade. there will be a matching transport coming out soon.

I think that the Select II would sound great in your system.

my system is focused on ultimate analog vinyl and tape, and I can tell you that the MSB Select II looks analog straight in the eye. it has astonishing performance and goes places I’ve never heard digital go. I heard the Select II 2 years ago at a show and then tried to find a more reasonably priced alternative, but could not and so gave in to my desires.

best wishes on your quest, and hopefully someone can help you about the Grandioso question better, but in the price range you are playing, you might as well think about the best possible digital.

I don’t know where you live, but if you get to the Seattle area you would be most welcome to visit me and listen to the MSB Select II for yourself.



Hello Mike,

Thanks for the response. I am fully satisfied with my current DCS Vivaldi stacks and IMO sounded and performed really well in my system. I am just curious how my DCS Vivaldi stacks would stack up against the Esoteric Grandioso stacks and if the Esoteric Grandioso stacks turned out to better than the DCS Vivaldi stacks I will make a switch to the Esoteric Grandioso stacks. But I have no way for me to demo the Esoteric as we don't have a single Esoteric dealer in our area.

I also do have a turntable. I have the Linn LP12 Klimax version with all Klimax upgrades and accessories : Linn Ekos SE tonearm, Linn Kandid mc cartridge, Linn Urika phonostage fitted internally, Linn Radikal power supply unit, Keel sub-chassis, Trampolin suspended aluminium base board.

Mike, you mentioned that you still own a tape deck player. Which cassette deck player do you have? The Nakamichi Dragon or the 1000 II? My dad used to own the Nakamichi 1000 II and the Dragon tape deck player back in the day. Phenomenal sounding decks.


i respect that for whatever reason the Grandioso stacks have your attention to try, but not others at this time. best wishes with that and i hope you get the feedback you are seeking.

back in 70’s and 80’s i did own a Nakamichi cassette deck, but it was not the esteemed Dragon. :(

however; even the Dragon was not close to the performance my current RTR tape decks. i own 2 Studer A-820 master recorders (from the same era as the Nak Dragon, but these were what the recordings were made and mastered on), one 1/4" and one 1/2". here is a link to my system.


unfortunately the pictures and descriptions are now 2 years old so my new MSB Select II that i mentioned is not yet listed.

I will add that when I say that the MSB Select II looks analog in the eye, it's analog in my system including my tape decks.

Hi -- as a fellow owner of the Vivaldi stack I'm not sure what you're looking for with this change. At this level of equipment it's not clear that path A is necessarily better than path B or C -- instead each approach may sound different and your preferences are going to be more a matter of personal tastes and system synergies. I've heard the full Esoteric stack in shows and sometimes thought it sounded great, other times awful. The same is true of my experience with DCS gear in shows

Nevertheless if you do want to change what you have to do is hear the Esoteric in your system and over an extended period. Any reputable dealer at this level will loan you a set to test at home -- you'll need to put down a deposit of course.

However if I was in your shoes the first thing I'd ensure before this is that I'm getting absolutely everything I can out of the equipment I have. It's a paradox of high end digital that it is very accessory sensitive -- in my case I've got add ons to my Vivaldi that cost almost as much as I spent on the 4 box system. In no particular order have you
  1. Upgraded the power cords and installed a power conditioning solution
  2. Upgraded all interconnects including clocks to Transparent Ref XL or above level
  3. Installed all pieces individually on a (ideally) ball/floating rack system, potentially going so far as exploring using Herzan platforms under each piece
  4. Explored footers under each piece (I use Marigo F8)
  5. Explored damping on the top plates (I have Shakti stones over each transformer and 2 on the transport, the second over the disc mechanism)
  6. Installed a grounding solution on each piece
  7. Capped every unused outlet (Telos caps are good)
  8. Considered using a CD mat (again I use Marigo)
Every one of these changes had a big impact and once installed I could not consider going back

Finally there are so many options on the Vivaldi that if it's a change you're looking for all you have to do is change the filter and mapping 😏  I currently prefer Dual DSD, Filter 5 and Map 1 but others swear by PCM, Map 3 and different filters -- all of which only goes to show that without having a piece in your system you've no idea if it will meet your ideal of "best"

Hope this helps

folkfreak, thanks for the response.

That's exactly what I'm trying to find out to see if I like the Esoteric Grandioso stacks better in my system or will have better synergy with my own system. However, the DCS Vivaldi stacks have great synergy with the rest of my equipments in my system. But unfortunately we don't have an Esoteric dealer in our area and my dealer does not carry Esoteric otherwise I would have asked my dealer to loan me a set to try it out at home in my own system.

All my interconnects, speaker cables and power cables are Transparent Opus. I'm not using some mediocore ones. I'm also using all Audioquest Niagara 7000 power line conditioners for all my setups and systems. I installed some isolation feet/pads.

It isn't that my system doesn't perform optimally, it does. I'm fully satisfied with the sonic fidelity and the performance of my system as a whole.    I've optimized all the cables, interconnects, power cables, PLC and other associated accessories that go with my system. However, I was just curious if the Esoteric Grandioso stacks would have better synergy in my system. That's all I need to find out to see if any of you guys happen to have same or similar setup as the one I have. I disclosed the rest of my equipments in the very beginning of the thread. Because we don't have any Esoteric dealer in my area so there's no way for me to have a loan to try it in my own system at home.

As you have no local dealer can you deal with someone further away? Scott Walker audio are first rate and carry Esoteric. In the same area Katli Audio are also very good and also Esoteric dealers. I've no idea where you are but I have no difficulty working with dealers thousands of miles away from me with whom I have a long established relationship.
As I see there are only actually 2 Grandioso dealers for the entire USA I’ve got to assume long distance and loaner sales are part of their business model ...
The dealer in MA has a full Grandiso set up to hear. 

Try contacting Scott,[email protected] he is the go to guy for Esoteric USA.

Congrats on such a fine system, definitely you are the bleeding edge of audio reproduction. 

I have not experienced the level of DACs you have in question, I am currently with Emm Labs stack, but nothing like yours. 

I would also consult with Ivan of AA, he has the Grandioso stack.  
Thanks for the link. Sure your MSB DAC looks very analog visually. Awesome setup. Those speakers are huge. 
My dealer here carries MSB but they never had the MSB products on display or available for loan. Otherwise I would have asked them to loan me one. 
I just read your post again and you said you live in WA. I do live in Seattle, WA. 
My dealer is Definitive Audio in Seattle. They are awesome. Did you go to this past Music Matters this past March? 
I was invited to the debut of the Wilson Alexis series ll couple weeks ago but something came up and I couldn't go.


i know Definitive very well, for over 20 years. they (the owners) know me well too. it is a great organization. i was not able to attend the Music Matters this year, i had a conflict.

thank you for the kind words about my system.

as far as listening to the MSB Select II, you would be most welcome to visit me and listen to it, to see what you think about it. you might enjoy listening to those ’huge’ speakers.

I live in North Bend (30 miles east of Seattle). message me and I will send you contact information if you are interested. I hope it happens, as I always enjoy meeting with and listening with other audiophiles....and do it often.

best regards,


Post removed 
Thanks for the invite Mike. I will have to find sometime to go visit you and have a listen to your awesome system. Those DarTZeel monoblock amps are something. I've read outstanding review of them on Stereophile. Michael Fremer of Stereophile claimed that they are the best amp he's ever heard in his setup. 
They are expensive too (around $145k). Again spectacular setup Mike.

I wished we had more hifi stores and more selections here in Puget Sound area.
I would hate to work with those dealers outside our area. It isn't very convenient for me. 

I would love love and look forward to meet you and have a listen to your system one of these days. I'd always look forward to meet another fellow audiophile like yourself. I don't really have many audiophile friends. Most of my friends are very ignorant when it comes to hifi. 

folkfreak, thanks for the info. I realized there are only couple Esoteric Grandioso dealers in the US because the Grandioso line is quite a bit more expensive than other Esoteric lines or series. I live in Seattle, WA. I might have to contact them to see if they will loan me the Grandioso G1 master clock, D1 monoblock DAC, and P1 CD/SACD transport. Actually, our DCS Vivaldi CD/SACD transport was based on the modified Esoteric Grandioso CD/SACD transport.
But I will be more intrigued with the Grandioso D1 monoblock DAC units and how it will compare against my Vivaldi stereo DAC.  We'll see. 
Or I might just stick with my DCS Vivaldi stacks. 


This is going to sound like sacrilege but I would keep what you got digitally. 

In reality you can get way better electronics and cabling and that is what I would recommend you look at if you are itching to make a change. 

Yes the Dgastino stuff looks fantastic and does sound good, but there are many industry insiders that are not bowled over by Dan's stuff, we have heard this same setup at shows and were not impressed, it is very good hifi but pales in comparison to some of the other reference lines of electronics currently on the market. 

If you want to hear amazing electronics listen to Gryphon or T+A, add a really fantastic non current limiting power conditioner, such as what Audio Magic makes, and look at Enklein  or Tara Labs cabling and I think you would be amazed at how much closer to real music your new system would come compared to the old. 

We did a interesting demo of a $120k Krell Master Reference Amplifier vs a T+A HV 3000 power amp and power supply $32k for the pair and they crushed the older Krells, yes those are older Krell designs and yes Dan has moved on with some faster output devices and switched mode power supplies but the design of the MRA was the best that Dan could build and in comparison spec wise was was on another planet compared to his new stuff.  In terms of many amplifiers the Krell MRA was the ultimate beast of a Pure Class A power house amplifier, with only the largest Boulder amplifiers today that are the clone of those amplifiers. We have always found the Boulders to be a little on the dry side for our tastes.

Again this is only our opinion, but until you dare to question some of your choices you might not know if you are on the right track or not.

That same client was also using Transparent Opus and the Enklein cabling was better. 

We are also not saying you shouldn't try an Esoteric stack if you are that curious, you should ,but again perhaps making some of these other changes might work even better for you. 

We would also argue just because Wilson uses brand x y or z at a show doesn't necessarily mean that is in reality the best pairing, sometimes politics is behind some of what you hear at shows.

So perhaps different electronics might be an even better thing to change or perhaps not your call, 

Troy and Dave 
Audio Doctor NJ>

audiotroy, thanks for the advises.

I don't have any T&A dealer in my area. We only have dealer for Dan D'Agostino, Ayre, MSB , Audio Research, Linn, Naim, Classe, McIntosh, Musical Fidelity, Devialet, Rega, Arcam, NAD, Rotel among others. We don't really have that many selections and options here.

Reach out to Ivan over at audioaficionado. He runs the site. He has the full stack at his house in MA, and he’s a dealer. 
Caphill, thanks for this inquiry--it's fun to read a discussion about this level of gear because few have addressed every system detail as you have.  If you had said you were not satisfied, the Zen response, "If you are not happy with what you have, you will not be with what you want" may have appeared.  Since you say you are only curious, though,  I would think a dealer would come out personally with a set for you to try--or at least send by white-glove courier.  Did I read somewhere about rubidium clocks guaranteed accurate--at least prior to shipping?  I guess I would even drive for a day or two to pick them up at that price--would love to hear your in-home review of anything you would try--can you describe what you are hearing at present?   
Caphill: Did you ever get to hear the Grandioso stack? You may wish to communicate with users colekat and hddg who have the stack for some time now and can give you alot of feedback. Personally, it’s the finest I’ve ever heard including several other competing offerings and my plan is to do a step-wise upgrade to the Grandioso from the 02-level stack I have today.

A note on Grandioso dealers; yes, there are only 2 in the entire US from what I’ve been told and at least 1 great dealer in Toronto. Ivan at Legend AV (check out AudioAficionado as previously suggested) has a wealth of knowledge and experience with the entire Esoteric family of products as well as having heard many of the competing offerings and decided to stay with Esoteric. I do doubt however that anyone would ship out a demo stack of Grandioso to anyone given that would take having 2 entire stacks at their disposal (1 to retain for in-dealer demos, 1 to ship out for weeks at a time), a financial due diligence process (we are talking about a $80K liability for the dealer) that transcends a mere deposit, etc....

You may also wish to look to hear a P-02X/D-02X or a Grandioso K1 single-box player wherever you are able to; they will give you an in-depth hearing into just how good these products are and the key differences between Esoteric and DCS. The Grandioso full stack is on an entirely different level above all that, but you’ll be hooked quite probably (IMHO).

The C1 pre-amp and M1 Monoblocks are also excellent,...you are definitely on a right path to achieving an ultimate system with a different sound than the one you already have.

+1 on the suggestion to reach out to Scott Sefton whose contact info is given below; he’s a great guy and has really sunk his teeth into the Esoteric line. He can give you some detailed listening impressions and suggestions as well.

+1 on the fact that if you are looking for something different than the DCS stack you are already extremely fortunate to own, that you consider the MSB and TotalDAC or T+A top of the line products. Several people, including Mike who has already commented here, have 1 or the other of them and love them. They are amazing products in their own right.

For clocking any high-end setup, 10 mHz "master clocking" is the way to go. The Esoteric G1 is a fantastic reference-level piece as are any of the Cybershaft or Sforzato reference pieces.

Sorry I was late to the thread....I’ve not been spending as much time keeping up with audio forum threads over the last few months as I would have liked to.

To those having Esoteric K1 or D-02x/P-02x unit’s Which is better sound quality between the 2 models? Not interested in other manufacturers.
thanks in advance 
Well, Ivan "Masterlu" at Audioafficionado said that the Esoteric K1 was better than the D-02X, and surely also better than the K01X.

Also have read about a direct comparison in another system that the K1 is in another league against the K01X and the T + A pdp 3000 HV.

I planned to purchase the K1 later this year, unless something better for less money will show up.

Hmm, I have heard the K01 CDP/DAC combo player, and it didn’t impress me. It was owned by a buddy of mine, and I heard it at his place on 3 day long sessions.

Believe it or not, he sold it for a huge loss and bought the Yggy DAC, which he likes much better. So price doesn’t always equate to performance.... it just sounded sterile to me, very cold and unnatural. Yes impressive for an hour, but left me feeling bored.....
We have an audio club in Dallas, we compared Esoteric K03x against an Emm Labs Dac2x, the Dac2x was significantly better.  We had all listeners convert to Emm.  The Esoteric was put on the market. 
Hi Joey,
how you say about the reliablity of the EMM Labs?? I have now owning a esoteric k01, think to upgrade to K1 or keep the k01 as transport and add a EMM Labs DA2. What do you think of this combination? And what you think the K1 and DA2?

@ blacklouis514

I had been using EmmLab Dac2 ( the earlier model of Dac2x) for 8 years with no problem at all.

I let it turn on all the time,  Once I turn it off, I need at least 12 hours to get the best sound of it.

It is built like tank with thick aluminum.
Hey guys,
I’m still using the DCS Vivaldi full four stacks which consists of Vivaldi master clock, Vivaldi upsampler, Vivaldi DAC, Vivaldi CD/SACD transport in my reference stereo setup. I’m now wondering how would my DCS Vivaldi stacks compare to the EMM Lab DAC2x? Has anyone compared between the two?
I know they are system dependent, depending on the associated gears such as downstream electronics, speakers, cables, etc. My local dealer does not have EMM and there’s no dealer for EMM in our area.
I’m also contemplating to trade mine in for the MSB Select 2 DAC with dual powerhouses (dual PSU, one for the digital side and another for the analog side) but I’m planning to keep my DCS Vivaldi CD/SACD transport.

Recently I went through setup/system upgrades or changes. Previously I was using the Audio Research Reference 10 linestage preamp paired with 2 pairs of Dan D’Agostino Momentum M400 monoblock amps driving the Wilson Audio Alexx speakers. They’re all gone now. The only things I have left from the previous setup are the Audio Research Reference 10 phonostage pre for my Kronos Pro turntable. My analog front end rigs are still the same.
Now I am using the Naim Statement gears which consist of the Naim Statement NAC S1 linestage analog preamp and the Naim Statement NAP S1 monoblock amps. My new speakers now are the Magico M6. The Naim Statement gears have better synergy with the Magico M6 than the Wilson Alexx. My speaker cables are Transparent Magnum Opus. My analog interconnects and power cables are Transparent Opus. My digital cables are Nordost Valhalla 2.
However, the DCS Vivaldi stacks pair well with the Naim Statement gears and the Magico M6.

I wonder if the MSB Select 2 DAC with dual powerhouses will perform better in my current setup and system. My local dealer happens to be a dealer for MSB but they don’t have the MSB Select 2 DAC with dual powerhouses on display so it isn’t possible to compare between my DCS Vivaldi stacks and the MSB Select 2 DAC with dual powerhouses in my own setup and system or in any setup / system. Can anyone comment? Which one will pair better with my current setup and system thus better synergy? Any inputs, advises, comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Before trading out of your DCS stack you owe it to yourself to try adding a master reference clock, I use the Mutec but the best results may come from the Abendrot Stute http://www.kjwestone.co.uk/collection/stute/overview

i was in KJ last week and discussing this item with them, every DCS owner they’ve had try one has bought it ...
Thanks folkfreak.
I will give it a try. What are the rest of your setup and system? 

Caphill - Too bad you are in Seattle area. I am in central OR. It’s possible I could drive up sometime however.

I exhibited at RMAF a couple years ago and there were Wilson speakers in the next room driven by Vivaldi stack and the other side was Scaena speakers driven by Vivaldi stack. I listened to both. My Overdrive SX DAC was superior to both of these IMO. It’s even better now and comes with integral Ethernet interface which delivers extremely low jitter:


What digital sources are you using to drive the Vivaldi stack?

Steve N.

Empirical Audio

Thanks @caphill my system is as described here - https://systems.audiogon.com/systems/5707
Sorry @caphill that was a rushed response. Hopefully you have a chance to check out my system.

My experience with adding the Mutec is described here -- the optimization via footers and ancillary cables is key -- with these included it's a $10K add on. The Stute on the other hand is, if I recall correctly, $37K and not sure if there is even a US dealer, they're based out of Japan. There are a number of other purveyors of master clocks and there's extensive discussion of the topic on WB among other places