Esoteric K-03 or K-01

After many reads and auditions I am ready to pull a trigger on esoterik K-03 player. I also have the opportunity to get a new K-01 for a great price, but without being able to audition it and still a few $$$ more, so it is dificault to commit to.

Those who had a chance to hear/have both players, how much K-01 is better than k-03?

May be for my system K-03 will do fine and K-01 is overkill?

I intend to run Esoteric player direct to amplifier, how much K-01 may sound better direct to amplifier in compare with K-03?

My speakers are Marten Django XL that driven by ML # 532H.
Thank you.
Denon1, I have heard both K-01 and K-03 at RMAF for a good number of hours over 3 days... The sound was so involving that I kept returning to the Esoteric suite for more!

I then had the phenomenal K-01 in my system for over 8 months during 2012. I preferred it over K-03 because K-01 delivers even greater image density, harmonic specificity, and an marvellous musical presentation. K-01 can sound very different depending on upsampling and filter selection. With no upsampling it can sound somewhat "matter of fact" and perhaps a little hard... As you go up with upsampling it gets more extended and detailed. I prefered its 4X upsampling setting. Filters also behave in unique ways... FIR filters seemed to me a little artificial and seemed to compress dynamics.... But apodizing Slow Delay filters are extremely enjoyable... Slow Delay 1 + 4X upsampling is the warmest and most "tube like", but I much preferred the Slow Delay 2 combined with 4X upsampling... This offered an ideal combination of wide spectral resolution, staging, imaging, harmonic exposure, and imaging/staging.... and fabulous musicality. DSD was just a little etched for my taste. You must allow between 500 and 700 hours of break in per filter before the device gives you its very best.

K-01 and K-03 can be fed directly into an amp... In a pinch, but in this configuration they sounded in my opinion a little grainy and not truly enjoyable.

If you can afford it, I recommend K-01 + a good preamp.... But if you have some budget concerns, go for K-03 and add a preamp.

The rest of my system consists of an Esoteric X-01, Rowland Criterion linestage, Rowland M725 monoblocks, and Vienna Die muzik speakers.

You will find my compact review of K-01 in the 2012 writers awards of PFO:

Guido, thank you for your advice and great overview. Your opinion is always appreciated and you have a great system. As for my situation, in order to get better sound than K-03 and K-01 with digital volume control driving amp direct, I need to get preamp in the reference rang, plus ICs and power cord so the K-01 with pre amp is out of the question, out of my budget.
So it will come down to K-03 with pre-amp (something like esoteric C-03) or K-01 only that will drive amp direct. I am leaning towards K-01 only. But again, I am not sure that my speakers and amplifier will explode all potential of K-01.
I will appreciate advice of any experienced audiophile.
Thank you.
Denon1, thinking about it, there may be long term advantages in going with a pure K-01 without pre... While initially the sound may not be at the same level as K-03+C-03, you can add a pre like the C-03 at a later stage, and at that point you would exceed the performance of K-03+C-03 without the financial hit of selling a depreciated K-03..

By the way, both K-03 and K-01 are quite sensitive to the benefits of an external clock, which is something that you can add at a later time.

I would definitely agree with Guido. I have a recent K-03 in my office (a bit of overkill for an office system, I know) running through a Melody integrated. The sound is amazing. Having said that, I have also demoed the K-01 and it is in a different league as far as capabilities and sonics are concerned. If my APL NWO-Master ever blows up at home, the K-01 as well as P-02/D-02 are on the "short list".

Guido- long time, no talk! I'll be at Axpono in March - maybe see you there?

Fplanner, thank you for the advice, what a great system you have. Do you think K-01 will not be overkill for my modest system?
Marten Django XL speakers, mark Levinson 532h amp, all cables from hi diamonds HD XLR 3, HD 8 speaker cables and P3 power cords.
Thanks Denon1. The K-01 will sound great through the XLR 3s and the rest of your system will just come alive. It is absolutely not overkill - you will be amazed at what comes out of your "modest" system. Future upgrade path would include a preamp and P-4 pc on the K-01.
BTW, Guido is an excellent source of K-01 guidance if you choose to get one.
"BTW, Guido is an excellent source of K-01 guidance if you choose to get one."


Sorry = I left out "for a price" $$$ :-)
"Sorry = I left out "for a price" $$$ :-)"

Hahaha.... I only wish.... Sadly, my musings remain free of charge.... And are worth as much *grins!* G.
Fplanner and Guido so you are saying that the pre amp is a must in the future even if I go with k01? The absoulte sound latest review for k01
compares its line stage with his goldmund 22 ref lre amp and it is vary favorable comparation.
Hi Denon1, to be perfectly fair, I have listened to K-01 directly into an amp only on the demo system at RMAF. It is very possible that while various filters and upsamplers on the unit were properly broken in, the volume attenuator was still raw, hence my lack of appreciation for this mode of operation. If you get a K-01 without pre, by the time you have completed break-in of about 2100 hours (700 hours on each SDLY1+4X, SDLY2+4X, and DSD), the volume attenuator will also be totally broken in, and the machine largely optimized and giving you its best. If at that time you still have a concern, you can add a pre, otherwise continue with a direct connection. Guido
Guido, thank you, I am ready to proceed with ordering k01
I think you mentioned before that in order to burn esoteric in one does not have to engage amplifier and speakers, just spin burn disk thru CDP with amp on stand by or off. Is that correct?
That's totally awesome Denon1! Yes, you can do the breakin largely without engaging the speakers.... Just leave the power amp on standby, so that the amplifier's inputs are active and so complete the circuit with the operating player. Particularly important, I suspect, if you use XLRs. Find a good break-in CD/SACD and play that more/less continuously.... Harve and the rest of the gang have much more info on good break-in disks than I do, so I leave it to them to make meaningful recommendations. By the way, it is worth while to turn the player completely off once a day for about an hour, and then resume break-in... This cycles capacitor charge, etc.... The result is expected to be a faster and more complete break-in.

I have created a break-in spreadsheet with MS Excell that I use to keep trak of break-in, take notes, and project break-in time and completion date.... It is a lot of fun to use... If you like, send me a PM, and I will be happy to send the spreadsheet to you. By the way, do not write any e-m-a-i-l addresses in PM, or the Audiogonic server machine will prevent msg delivery.

Saluti, Guido
Hi Guido,

I have been passively following this thread for a while and you may be pleased to hear that I have just pulled the trigger for the K-01, replacing my 3-year-old dcs Puccini and U-clock. I trust your ears as much as mine as we both have and luvvv the Vienna Die Muzik speakers(Congrats! since we last chatted in another thread where you said you had the Mahler then).
I am curious whether you set your XLR output to XLR2 or XLR3 and if either makes a difference for you.
The manual does not say how to download the USB HS2 asynchronous driver. How does one install the driver?
Many thanks in advance.
Warmest regards.
I have just downloaded the HS USB driver to my computer and will be trying out the asynchronous USB input tomorrow.
As for the XLR output,I personally find that XLR2 gives better sonics than XLR3. Cheers!
Hi John, congrats on pulling the trigger on K-01. If I understand the manual correctly, XLR2 uses pin 2 as the hot pin, while XLR 3 assigns pin 3 to be hot. This means that, if the XLR connectors downstream are configured with pin 2 hot consistently, XLR 2 will probably sound best, but if downstream equipment is configured with pin 3 hot, XLR 3 is probably advisable. You will love K-01 on Vienna Die Muzik! Guido
I just checked the manual for my Bryston amps and Pin 2 is indeed positive, ie "hot". So, my ears did well,.... ahem! When you are free, do let me know about your USB input set-up - hardware and software. Cheers!
Hi John, I always used K-01 always with its transport: I never used the USB input option, hence I did not install the drivers on my PC. Guido
I am confused. Are you the same Denon1 that told us you sold your K03 because you said it had noise problems and bought another brand and never looked back?
Maybe I am remembering wrongly.
I remember telling that Den
......I remember telling that Denon1 how quiet I thought Esoterics were, and how wonderful they sound.

Anyway, if you are getting the K01 you are on for a treat!
Mike60, yes it is me, but than I talked to some technical people and was told, that noise issue may be related to brake in period and I need to spin it off at least 500 hours, bottom line I bought esoteric (this time again k-01). When I opened this thread, I new how k-03 sound, but needed know much better K-01 is. Well, after having K-01 in my system for about 300 hours I would say it is around 10% better in my system, may be some more (depends on the cd quality) and if one have highly resolving system it makes sense to go with K-01, but for medium level system the K-03 is awesome and even if it makes noise in the beginning it may go away after some hours, if not one should contact esoteric, their shave a different management team know and they provide great service and really take of the customers.
Sorry, made a typo, I was going to say that Esoteric have a different management team now and they provide with a great service and really take care of their customers.
I really trust the brand. All CD players give trouble but I believe that Esoteric is still amongst the best in reliability. The K01 sounds superb to my ears and I did hear and try other "top" brands much touted on these forums. As your K01 runs in, you will be amazed at its sound. I use the K01 as a pure stand alone DAC often, and the DAC part of the machine is outstanding too.
I believe you made a great choice, Denon1.
Mike60, thank you. Yes K-01 is great What is great about it to me, that it is a great cd transport, great DAC and (in my system) I use K-01 to drive amp direct with great results. It is a keeper for me this time for sure.
It sounds very much like you are having a great time with the K-01.
And you are also happy driving your power amps directly. Your amps and speakers clearly are all singing together in synergy with the K-01.
I am curious as to what filter settings you have settled into.
Jon2020, as for today my K-01 has about 300 hours on it and all that time I use 4 upslamping and SDLY1 filter. To me this combo sounds most dynamic and airy. But next step I will try is to burn 2x with FIR1 filter becuae this combo has a potential to sound great also.
Hi Denon1, after break-in of Slow Delay 1 and 2, I found 4X with SLow Delay 2 to be more harmonically interesting and open sounding than Slow Delay 1. Slow Delay 1 seemed instead more tube-like, and a little limited in bandwidth. G. with Slow Delay 2 to have
JON202, I think the Vienna music arequite efficient speakers and that the reason (yours and partially mine) that you have to set volume control almost to the max on your K-01 because Bryston has low input impendence and K-01 does not have enough juice to drive Bryston direct. My krell has much higher input impendence, but still I feel that I have to compensate with much higher volume setting to get better dynamics, bass and soundstage.
And you know that both Bryston and Krell are great with dynamics and bass.
So I think I have to agree with Guido advice and we have to get active pre-amp to get full potential from our gear. It will come with the price so.
You are correct about the Bryston"s impedance. Also, my listening room is rather large and the VA Die Musik speakers are not super sensitive, ca. 87 dB, while their impedance can drop rather low at times. So, they need to be cranked up for optimal sonics. But, since I am not losing much resolution(bits) at these digital volume levels, I might be happy to just carry on without a pre-amp for a while.
I am getting ready to pull the trigger on a new CD player. I've had an Accuphase DP-78 that sounds wonderful, but has developed some mechanical issues, so I think it's time for a new player. I've been offered a great deal on a new Accuphase DP-600, but also very good deals on an Esoteric K-03 or K-01. The only one of any of these I've heard is the K-03. I have a friend who has one, and we auditioned his against my Accuphase side by side, and found them roughly equal in sound quality, although they were different and we preferred one or the other, depending on what was playing. I'm interested in whether anyone has heard the Esoteric against the Accuphase, and also how much better the K-01 really is. The Absolute Sound review was pretty unequivocal, but I never know what reviewers are thinking, and there is a big price difference. Any advice would be very much appreciated.
Hey Skreich, I had a K-01 in my system and it performed flawlessly, though I could here the transport when I was right next to it , I can't say it effected the sound of any music I played, no matter how quiet the passage gets! As far the sound, detail, detail, detail! This deck is awesome , especially with good recordings. The delineation of instruments and sounds are so good they sound in the room at times. I have the X-01/D2 I use for multi channel, the K-01 is a big step up from the X-01. As far as the price goes, the K-01's are out there near 12K and thats not that far off from the K-03.
Thanks, but I haven't seen a K-01 for much under $14K.
I am an Esoteric dealer
Let me know if I can get you great prices or answer any questions
I find it interesting that all the post's I've read on the K-01 and the K-03 during the past year not once anywhere has anyone stated the Esoteric model's have a very organic
analogue quality and sound like vinyl. I have listened to previous Esoteric model's four years ago and found them to be antiseptic and a little too cool for my taste and understand the current model's have made slight improvement's to correct those sonic problem's. The Marantz SA-11S3 for $4K is all you will ever need with its warm, rich, outstanding quality that compare's to vinyl.
Music Direct recently informed me that every time a new batch of SA-11S3's come in they sell out within four weeks and are currently expecting their next shipment. I have heard the SA-11S2 a year ago and was floored. The sound quality was so incredible you completely forget about price and are drawn in and swept away by the full, fast, organic richness
that stop's you like a deer in the headlights. If you think
nowaday's that paying higher's prices will get you better performance from a disc player, think again. That was true five or six year's ago but with the technical R&D with digital technology player's currently priced in the $4K to $6K will equal the musical quality of player's costing $20K
five year's ago. The new Marantz SA-11S3 is a giant killer that just might make you consider putting your turntable in the attic.
Hi Audiozen, thank you for pointing out Marantz SA 11S3, I should look into it. Regarding the players under discussion in this thread, if you enjoy a "very organic
analogue quality and sound like vinyl"sound with a tube-like quality to it, you will achieve it by activating the Slow Delay 1 filter on K-01. I have never heard the Marantz SA 11S3, as such I have no idea if I would prefer it over the fabulously musical and definitely NOT sterile K-01... or my beloved old Esoteric X-01.

I need to audition the Marantz again. My previous experience, albeit brief gave me the impression that the Marantz was a bit too "thick" for my tastes. This could have been because of the associated electronics and speakers. Having owned the X-03, I would not say Esoteric is sterile or thin. In fact, I would say its definitely detailed and transparent. Its these details though that help make it sound organic to me. Anyway, looking forward to comparing the two. could be the Marantz you listened to had the filter's set to create a thicker sound. As I indicated, the SA-11S3 has filter settings like the Esoteric to vary the sonic character to sound thick and laid back or very open and neutral with no harshness or grain. According to one owner in a thread, silver IC's add benefit to the Marantz.
Hey Skreich , have you made a decision yet? Hope you end up with the K-01, you won't regret it. The K-01 is a better player the DAC is great, good listening whatever way you go !
2100 hours to break-in at 24 hours a day, Christ I never listen that much to my system in years. 700 hours for it to sound right for each filter setting. We must buy this then based on faith that we will like the final sound at $11,000 to $19,000 a try. That is asking a lot of folks on faith plus the human ear getting used to the sound of it then accepting it. How many combination of setting you could come up with this unit makes this unrealistic. What is a dealer return policy 3 days most of the time.
No need to break-in every possible combination of filters and upsampling... Start with Slow Delay 2 + 4x for about 700 hours; then ask yourself what you would like to hear more.... Are you enchanted already? You are done.... Add a few more hundred hours of further refinement, just lisening to music.

Or you want a flavor that More midrange-centric? Add 500 hours with Slow Delay 1 with 2X upsampling;

Or you would experience ultimate resolution? Add 500 hours to DSD;

Want a very different flavor? Put FIR2 for 500 hours with 4x upsampling...

By this time, the machine will be totally broken-in... filters off and upsampling off will come "for free".

Run through all possible combinations now, including the original Slow Delay 2 with 4X upsampling.... It is the favorite combination of several users, including yours truly.

Admittedly getting the best out of K-01 is a true labor of love... And it is worth it.

Very well stated, Guido. Similar settings work on my P-02/D-02. Have a Happy New Year!!
And a Very Happy New Year to you as well Harv... I bet your P-02/D-02 combo sounds totally awesome... Are you being tempted by the upcoming P1/D1?

Not in the least. With Tim leaving, I'll be very surprised if Integra/Onkyo will be able to support them very well. They should have been nicer to Tim.....

I'm still waiting for news on the DSD retrofit which was promised by the end of the year to my current pieces........
Hey Fplanner, Are you refrerring to Tim Crable? And if so, how does that relate to Onkyo/ Integra? And I believe the DSD upgrade will be available for Esoteric mid March?
Hi Guido, Crossing threads here, Great to see someone who hears the K-01 as I have. There may be many great " deals" out there, that perform highly, but for taste, you can't beat the Esoterics for overall sound and flexibility, at not such a bad price point if you start looking at there competition.
I'm in the middle of what will be a hard-fought upgrade transaction with a very difficult seller (have 40+ pages of email and other comms, glad to provide details on this challenge and the seller so people can avoid him,....communicate with me on in-mail) and after a month, finally have a P-02 installed in the system in place of my 7 1/2 tried and true P-03U Transport. The D-02 is still outstanding and will likely become a 'longer story' with a potentially legally troublesome ending (for the Valley Stream & Lynbrook NY-based seller in question) so the P-02 is feeding my existing D-03 Dual Mono DAC with incredible results.

The holy grail of this hobby so to speak, is to be able to achieve very detailed and accurate playback with all possible inner detail retrieved from the recorded medium while also having organic, musical and non-fatiguing playback. As much as I love the P-03U/D-03 combo all these years, it's hard to put into words what additionally the P-02 brings to the table. The difference and upgrade in all these key areas is not subtle and is incredibly impressive! I'm extremely happy with the P-02 after only 2-3 days and cannot wait for the D-02 to arrive!

I did think long and hard about the K-01X as a single-box path and almost went that route. The K's are the best single box players I've ever heard and I can only imagine the level of improvement the "X" upgrades will make.....I ultimately stayed in the multi-box domain for personal preference reasons alone.
Almost went for the K-01X but the change to P-02 and D-02 is finally complete with the help of another Audiogon seller while I work things out with the other (original seller) so that I could get a hold of a D-02. I am extremely happy with the result and blown away by the improvements over the 03 generation as great as they were...see my comments on my system thread and the other P02/D02 threads out there....