Whats wrong with the dac in your X -05? I doubt any of the dac's mentioned will give you 3,000.00 better sound than what you have now. IMHO, it would be a step sideways
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I much preferred the Doge6 to the X-05. I really wanted to like the Esoteric, as it played SACD and was absolutely beautiful. I kept it for over 6 months to try and break it in, but I just couldn't learn to love it. I thought the Doge was much more musically satisfying and harmonically complete. Frankly, this was the first time I've ever preferred a lesser-priced component, and I almost want to believe that my X-05 was somehow malfunctioning. In any case, that was my experience. I also really preferred the Ear Acute to the X-05 and the used price would fit within your preferred range. You don't hear much about the Ear lately, but it's a great player for the money, IMO. BTW, I'm a big Harbeth fan as well, so perhaps our tastes would coincide on the CD player as well. Of course, if you must have the SACD feature, these players won't do it, but frankly, the CD replay was so good on both players, I ended up giving up SACD for better CD.
Why a new pre ?
I recently purchased the mc601 from Music culture and it is (to my ears) a hell of a pre and an excellent value alltogether. I didn't say i'm not happy with the x05 but rather seek an opinion if I will benefit (having a $3k budget) replacing it to something like a used k03 or adding an outboard dac.
I see the Esoteric K03 and K01 as superb DACs first, which just happen to have a great quality transports built in. When you use them as a pure DAC they act as a pure DAC and sound fantastic. I think this has been said before, and I agree with it completely. If I were looking for an excellent stand alone DAC I would still look at these two from Esoteric.