The K-03X all-in-one player is designed to offer as much of the stellar performance provided by the K-01X as possible. Using the same design philosophy as the K-01X, it also derives its leading technology from this model. Its VRDS-NEO VMK-3.5-10 drive mechanism now incorporates Esotericâ€™s advanced VS-DD servo driver for even smoother spindle operation. Its dual mono DAC, also found in the K-01X, is configured with 4 individual converter circuits operating in parallel and summed to optimize linearity and minimize noise. It also employs Esoteric’s innovative 34-bit D/A processing algorithm.
With a pedigree extending directly back to the Grandioso D1, the K-03X is clear in its stunning sound quality, ease of use and wide functionality, including such recent developments as its DSD compatible USB interface.
VS-DD Spindle Servo Driver
The proprietary VS-DD spindle servo driver previously used only in Esotericâ€™ s top-end models is now made available to the K-03X. Its discrete three-channel ampliï¬er circuitry optimizes the waveform of the current supplied to the motor for quieter and smoother spindle operation and high-precision servo control.
Dual Mono D/A Converters Follow the Design Philosophy of the K-01X
Â Due to the exceptional performance of its D/A converters, the K-03X offers a level of sound quality on a par with the K-01X in terms of clarity and musical presence. Its multiple DAC design philosophy, carried over from the Grandioso D1, allows extremely accurate digital to analog conversion. This is exempliï¬ed by the outstanding linearity and low distortion achieved by the arrangement of 4 individual DAC circuits operated in parallel in each channel. The K-03X uses the same AK4495S DAC chipset featured in both the Grandioso D1 and the K- 01X. To minimize noise, two large toroidal transformers supply power independently to the digital and analog circuits in each channel. The excellent channel separation and stereo imaging of the K-03X’s converters provide listeners with a mesmerizing musical experience.
Analog outputs: RCA single-ended, XLR balanced
Digital outputs: SPDIF on RCA jack, AES/EBU on XLR jack
Inputs: SPDIF, TosLink, and USB digital inputs; word clock input
Formats supported: CD and SACD discs; PCM up to 192kHz/24-bit, USB PCM up to 384Hz/32-bit; DSD64 and DSD128
Dimensions: 17.25″ x 6.4″ x 13.25″
Weight: 61.75 lbs.
Before I turn to the K-03X’s performance, I freely admit that as a dyed-in-the- wool LP listener, my early history with digital audio was a spotty one. Digital playback seemed to pack on a lot of generally positive sonic qualities: low noise, tight, extended bass, flat frequency response—a lot of calories if you will, but ultimately less filling musically. The spatial and dimensional components in particular, seemed like more of an afterthought. And the actual physical expression of the artists on the stage whether solo or in full orchestral song appeared flat, dry, almost wraith-like in its lack of texture and harmonic verisimilitude.
With these reservations in mind, the K-03X provided a level of sonic micro and macro thrills in more areas than I’ve ever encountered before in a digital component. Regardless of format—CD, SACD, and high-resolution over USB—recordings that I’d heard dozens of times before suddenly didn’t sound quite as blandly familiar. My most common impression was an elevation of dynamics and image layering, elements that I more closely associate with analog playback. The satisfying crackle and pop of percussion dynamics during the Police’s “Tea in the Sahara” and “Murder By Numbers” presented even wider gradations of expression and audacious impact. Listening to the latest Mobile Fidelity SACD transfer of Kind of Blue revealed heretofore-undiscovered nuances—the breezy rush of wet, textured air over a sax reed, or the metallic nasality of Miles’ muted trumpet during “Blue In Green.” On SACD discs like these the Esoteric is in its zone, delivering a more settled, dynamically unshackled performance. READ MORE