Esoteric K-03 or Luxman D-03x


I'm looking for a new/used player and I have an opportunity to buy a used Esoteric K-03 at a reasonable price and close to what a new Luxman D-03x would cost. My system is set up primarily to play vinyl and cd's. I recently owed an older Esoteric X-03se, which I really enjoyed, until it developed a transport issue so I ended up literally giving it away because of the difficulty getting it repaired at a reasonable cost. Whatever player I ultimately buy will be run through my Aesthetix Janus preamp even though I understand that the X-03 has some type of volume attenuator while the Luxman does not. New technology vs old, excellent build quality vs very good, manufacturer's warranty vs "if it breaks I pay to repair it". I don't own any sacd's but might consider buying a few of the better titles. Don't own any. MQA cd's but might buy a few to hear what they're all about. Help a brother out! No right or wrong answer but I'm just looking for other members honest opinions if you have owned and used either of these two players or which one you night chose and why. Thanks, Skip      
ucmgr
About 10 years ago the clocking mechanisms got REALLY good and even Redbook CD’s / 44.1/16 bit started sounding truly excellent.

In this one area I usually recommend, hard, buyers stay away from older gear.


I don't know the pieces you are mentioning, but if the Esoteric is more than a few years old, I'd strongly suggest you look for newer.
ucmgr

Consult each company about their availability of critical parts for repair/service later down the road. It appears that Esoteric uses TAP electronics in California. Not sure about Luxman authorized customer service / repair here in the U.S. ?

Happy Listening!
I am surprised that after having one problem with Esoteric you are willing to go down that road again.  I play a lot of CDs and SACDs but I think that the transport plus DAC route is the way to go.  CD transports can develop issues as they age, but DACs can last forever, and if you want to use them with other digital sources in the future then you are ready there as well.  I use a Bryston DAC that can accept the outputted DSD from my SACD player, although I suspect that most of your listening will be Red Book CD
You all make valid points. I've never owned anything other than a one-box unit so I really hadn't seriously considered a separate transport and dac. Maher123, I agree that most every issue that I've had was a transport related one while the dac component of the players I've owned have been trouble free. I really don't have enough budget for a "newer" Esoteric player that might be more reliable. When stuff breaks, it's a real PIA to get it repaired because either the cost is ridiculous or the equipment takes a long time to repair. Is there some reasonable amount one would have to spend to get a decent separate transport and dac? I primarily play red book cd and I never owned any sacd's. Are the transports that play one vs both less expensive or more reliable? There appear to be a million dacs available today and I've seen some that are ultra expensive and others that seem reasonable in comparison. How about the cabling between the two? I'm not that technologically competent enough to be able to chose a average dac from a better one. I know it seems like a lot of questions but maybe that's why I've always chosen a one-box solution in the past. Any suggestions?      
Look for Esoteric transport threads, lots of complaints about how hard they are to get serviced in the US.
With all due respect erik-squires, you are exaggerating and misrepresenting the repairability of Esoteric transports. The complaints only have to do with certain older models, with the early generation X-03 being one of them. TAP can repair the model that the OP is considering, the K-03. They will also fix some older models like the DV-50. My suggestion is to contact TAP before buying a used model to make sure it can be serviced.

I bought a used UX-3pi which needed to be repaired right after I received it (it would not play hybrid SACD’s). This model is over 10 years old. TAP did the repair and treated me well. The price for parts is dirt cheap. For example, the laser mechanism was only $85. While their hourly labor rates are somewhat high, they did my repair in around two hours. I was able to drive to TAP’s facility. The OP might have to factor in the cost of packaging and shipping in assessing whether it would be worth it to buy a used player.

I bought a Square Trade warranty with my UX-3pi. Highly recommended if one is available for your purchase if you are going the used route. They covered the cost of the repair, no hassles, and would have paid for shipping too.

As for the sound, my 10 year old UX-3Pi is very good, and I can only imagine how much better the K-03 would sound. I owned 6 dac’s in the past 3 years. All current production. My Esoteric player sounds better, or at least as good, as most of the dac’s that I owned. Maybe not as good as my Mojo dac, but it’s a close call.


The current version of Exoteric K-03 is the K-03XD. Before that was K-03XS, and before that the K-03X (if I am not mistaken). 

I agree with Erik, I would look to buy a newer version Esoteric SACD player
How many threads have there been about problems with Luxman CDP repairs?

Hint: 0.
I tried to contact TAP earlier today and they're closed until January 2021. Not much they can do to help at this point 
I'm not at all an Esoteric fanboy or statistician.  I'm only going by what I see on Audiogon, so I defer to others for a definitive opinion.

I suggest the OP do his own searches and judge them with better guidance than me.

Best,
E
OP -- is the application strictly limited to playing CDs, or do you think you will be getting into streaming later on? When I was shopping for an integrated amplifier, the dealer played music via the Luxman D-03X. To be honest, I wasn't impressed. The dealer suggested that the dac-only Luxman model, DA-06, although discontinued now was significantly better. I bought a used one on his recommendation and absolutely love it. I feel the sound signature lies somewhere in the middle ground between R2R and Delta Sigma DACs, i.e. retains the rich, smooth character of R2R, while not sacrificing details like some R2R dacs.

Either way, I agree with other posters to keep the transport and DAC separate.
Simaudio 260D is an excellent player and is $2000 new for transport only. It also has a DAC version. 
I'm getting more confused. I want a simple set-up but the more I investigate the options, being locked into a one-box unit has its' disadvantages as well as its' advantages. I've just always had the one-box option but it hasn't worked out too good so far. It appears that the transport being the mechanical part of the equation is the weakest link. Do others, like yourselves, run into the same issues with transports with a one box platform?  
I have the D-03X and have been very happy with it. I only play CD’s, don’t stream. MQA disc’s sound great on the player along with standard disc’s, very detailed with a big soundstage, slightly warm sounding. I had the D-05U prior to this and never had any issues with it.
I can not commit on the Luxman player. But i do have the KO 3x player and could not be happier. I purchased it right after they came out with the "x" changes.  Was looking at the KO 3 at the time. After doing some research and talking to the sales rep for Esoteric i went with the newer model at that time KO 3x. Big changes between the two No volume control on the newer model, they claimed removing the volume control cleaned up a lot of noise in the unit. They also add a new higher grade chip set. They also add a USB port on the rear so you could plug a computer direct and play music using the DAC in the newer unit. Have never has any problems with the unit. It is left on 24/7 unless i gone over night then it is unplugged from the power. I use it just about everyday for a couple hours each day.
All CD/SACD players will need some type of repair at some time. Laser ware out and so do drawer  mechanism.
I have talked to TAP about upgrading my Esoteric pre amp (CO 3x to the CO 3xs -cap and output board change) I never did follow through with it . But they where easy to talk to and willing to do the upgrade very quickly providing all the parts where in. I live in N. Ca. and TAPs is in S. Ca. about a 7 hour drive from me. If i dropped the unit off in the am they would have it ready to go the next day late afternoon.
I would talk to TAP about the KO 3 unit and see what a check up would cost or laser replacement. I would look for a newer model they do show up here on Audiogone. There is a Esoteric dealer that sells here on Audiogone out of Arizona. They maybe able to help you get into a newer player.
Good Luck
I have D03X and D10X had D08U before.
I think that the best product luxman makes is their CDP.
Zero issues.

trebor32,
In your opinion, after owning the D-05u, how does the D-03X compare? I've heard some say the the D-03x is better than the D-05U and compares favorably to the D-06U. I only play Red Book cd's and really don't miss not having SACD capability now. I don't stream and might consider attempting it in the future, but currently not a deal breaker. Thanks, 
Skip  
mountainsong402,
I appreciate your input. I don't think I've heard or read anything negative about Luxman players. You have a very, very nice group of Luxman players so I'm guessing your experience with Luxman would be far better than most others. I suppose there are always going to be players that will be better than others in certain respects, but I'm trying to buy a reliable player that has relatively current technology without paying an arm and a leg. In the perfect world, I guess my first choice would be an Esoteric unit of some level only because I really thought the X-03SE that I had previously owned was a very nice player. It was very well built and sounded good and I am curious as to how the newer mid-level players would be in comparison. I recently had a Marantz SA-10 that I just sold that while a very nice player in its' own right, didn't do anything special in my opinion. So here I am again!
Thanks,
Skip
68pete,
Thanks for your reply. I had an older Esoteric K-03 that I was close to buying but things just didn't work out for a few reasons. I'm sure it would have been an excellent player but I was so afraid of buying an older player because of the difficulty getting it repaired if there had been an issue. I understand TAP does a good job but when you live across country(SC to CA)from the repair facility, it can get expensive just to ship it let alone the cost of repairs if they can be done there.  You obviously have been more than satisfied with your K-03X, which would work for me not having any volume attenuation capacity, because I run my player into a preamp. Maybe I'll keep on the lookout for a "newer" K-(x) player that might have been a demo unit or the like. 
Thanks,
Skip  
ucmgr
may all of these companies continue to produce CD/SACD spinners in 2021.
Happy New Year!
Happy New Year to everyone. Thanks to all those Goners who graciously offered their experience and advise
Skip. Compared to my D-05U I found the D-03X is more detailed, bigger soundstage, more holographic perhaps. I don’t miss the SACD function as I only have a few hybrid discs anyway. MQA discs sound incredibly clear, but for me it’s just a great CD player. The quietest player in operation too, when loading and playing discs. It's a joy to use.
ucmgr

those are 2 sweet looking spinners. You have a tough choice my Audiophile friend. Have fun!

Happy Listening!
Thanks. I ordered a Luxman D-03X player based on reviews and the input from other members here and now just have to wait for it to arrive. It will be a while since the distributor, Luxman USA, is waiting for new product to arrive in the US from Japan. I'm excited because it's been years since I've bought a brand spankin new anything audio-wise. I'm listening to more vinyl these days because that's my only other option. I still love pulling an album out and playing it. I have a modest system but it's truly amazing how much pleasure I still get from it.