Esoteric K03

Good Day,
I've chosen to replace my mod Primare CD31 with the Esoteric K03 after a lengthy audition (an order has been placed!).
The K03 was chosen not only for their CD/ SACD capabilities but also for their Digital input DAC.
However, I'd like to listen to others' experiences on the K03 in term of their sonic characters, reliabilities and whether it is the best bang for your bucks player (32 bits, CD/SACD, DAC, Clock Input, etc).
Will USB cable affect the overall computer playback sounding?
What brand of USB cable do you use?
My system:
Wilson Sophia 3
McIntosh MC501
Audio Research Ref 3
Mod Primare CD31 is out. Esoteric K03 is in
Linn LP12, Dynavector 17D3, Ittok, Lingo
Linn Uphorik
Grover Huffman Sx SCs
Nordost Quatro Fil ICs
LessLoss Sig. PCs on mono blocks fed by Weizhi PRS6
Stefan Audio Art PCs on CDP and Pre fed by Shunyata Hydra 2
TG Audio Black & White 9awg to feed into Weizhi and Shunyata
Vibra Pods & cones on CDP, Pre and TT
Custom Hifi stand using thick mdf and steel rods!
Music pref. mainly Jazz and classical
There must be someone out there who own the Esoteric K03. Your opinion/ experience is much appreciated
If you had a lengthy audition you should have a pretty good handle on its sonic signature. I had the K03 in my system for a few days and found it had the typical digital glare that I could not live with. Built quality is top notch and should be trouble free for many years.
I thought I saw a K-03 thread Please be prepared for well over 1,000 hours for break in. Don't start thinking it is too bright or analytical. It needs major breakin. Seriously.
Much appreciated for your replies

I'm aware that my dealer's K03 has been fully broken in. His rig is almost identical to mine except cables. However, the dealer room has been acoustically treated! I'll let the K03 break in for around 1000hrs! and may resource in acoustic treatments at that stage to smooth out some frequencies. Acoustic treament is the last step in my system building project, at least for now!

Bobheinatz, it seems that you've the Shakti Hollowgraphs? Can you please let me know if they work wonder comparing with bass trap, absorbtion and diffusors?
I think you mean me with the Shakti's, Primare. I have stats so I don't really have any first order or side reflections and its a small room so I only have the shaktis in each corner with an echo buster 4/2 behind each shakti. You can actually hear the soundstage diffuse when you swivel the shakti's. I found that it (the shakti's) improves focus when set up correctly. One tweak that stays with these speakers. They actually feel like a sound rudder for the panel(s).

TAS has recently published a review of this player:

As I'm seriously considering this player myself (as part of a complete Esoteric-system) and would like to get additional feedback regarding the performance vs. K-01 as well as the Redbook CD performance in general. The conclusion from TAS is as follows:

"In sum, the Esoteric K-03 is a brilliant concept, and delivers in nearly every category. Though its builders went overboard on configuration options, the rest of the design is unassailable, as is its sonic performance in all but one area. CD playback is good, and disappoints primarily compared to the K-03’s SACD, DAC, and USB performance, all of which are of reference caliber."
I've had a K-03 for about 6 weeks. I use it mostly for USB and SACD and I am still in awe of how good it is. I didn't really see the complaint from TAS on regular CD's but to be honest I am 60% usb/25% SACD/15% redbook. Again, it's an amazing unit. I don't know what can be improved. I now have one of those stereos I hear at shows. My speakers are outputting details I didn't think they were capable of.
I had k-03 for 5 months. Great player if playing scads, if your most listnening is with red book cds, it is not worth that much money (digital glare still there) and you can find better alternative (ayon cd-5s, marantz s7a).
But k-03 has USB and can be used as a DAC (for $13K!)
Also please make sure that cd tray on k-03 does not make any mechanical noise when playing cds.
I've had a K-03 here for over a year and used it with USB, Coax, redbook and SACD. It's a wonderful machine. The only downside is the amount of time required to really sing.

I wouldn't pay too much attention to the rookie at tas.

Dealer disclosure
I have heard the Ayon 5s in various high end configurations as well as the X03SE, K01 and other high end Esoteric players and i would have to believe the K03 is at least better than the X03SE and approaching the K01 which would make it an outstanding player. I have not heard the K03 but i would be more inclined to trust Esoteric to put out a replacement player that sounds better than its highly regarded predecessor than a reviewers comment. To my ears the Ayon did not quite have the definition, imaging or soundstage of the high end Esoteric players but it has other attributes and is a very nice machine for its price and i can see it having appeal to some tastes in some systems...all in my opinion.
To the Audiophile’s point, all esoteric cd players require huge ( mayb 800-1000 hours) amount of braking to hear their true potential. Many people don’t beleive in it or getting inpatient (including myself) and making conclusions (hear comes digital glare). My only complaint with esoteric and I saw some other related to this issue posts (form DCS gear owners who use their transports), that their cd mechanisms make audible noise during playback. I had x-03se, x01d2 and k-03. All brand new from dealer. Two of them (x03se and k-03) started making a noise that was audible form my sitting position (11 feet) after about 100 hours of playing. I don’t thik it is acceptable for this level of gear.
I've had dozens of their products here over the past 7 years and none of them were problematic from a noise standpoint. All have been dead quiet.

Esoteric makes the finest transports in the world. Even their competition, at times begrudgingly, agrees.

Dealer disclaimer.
Yeah, the Esoteric transports are terribly noisy. I can't believe NO one ever talks about this.

Made me get rid of the MPS5 from Playback Designs, the Esoteric OEM was awful.
Badwisdom, hang on for a while here and Audiofeil with his 100 years experience will tell you that it is not true.
I have owned 2 Esoterics over the years and they both were absolutely dead quiet. Maybe i was lucky but i have always thought their build quality is second to none. Cant say the same for some other exotic brands in my experience. I think of all components CD players are the most fallible. No surprise there.
I just bought a brand new Esoteric K03 and so far not liking it. The transport is noisy and my much older players sound better. Now I only have a few days of listening to the K03 but very disappointed initially. Will give every benefit before I scream and sell it.
Hello ! first please forgive my english, i'm french, nobody 's perfect !
Just my actual experience :
I 'm really surprised of what I just read : I own a K-01 since 3 weeks (300 hours break-in), and I don't hear any noise (before deciding, I tried a dCS Puccini that WAS noisy). And his sound is much more subtile than my previous marantz SA7-s1.
Perhaps it depends on what it's linked with, in my case Jeff Rowland WITH (very important) PC-1 feeding and Tannoy Kingdom Royal speakers, connected by Synergistic research cables.
A friend of mine has got a K-03 and is like me astounished by its musical sound, but hears no disturbing noise.

My unit has been quite. If I am stand close without music playing I can barely hear it.

frenchman here too :)

Anyway, the noise i'm complaining about comes from the machine itself: you can clearly and loudly hear the spinning motor of Esoteric drive on the K03 & MPS5 (and many more).

It has nothing to do with associated equipment or quality of music reproduction. Its a mechanical thing and is a deal breaker for me and others.

I guess I'm going old, but I thought not that old : I hear a little hum when i'm just 50 cms near it but nothing more, certainly not "noisy" and definitively nothing at my hearing place. Maybe I'm lucky, for once !
If Esoteric makes such noisy mechanisms why do so many manufacturer's buy their transports? I dont doubt the experiences you guys have had at all, and i would be very upset by it myself, but i think maybe it is the exception. I think they are still producing the finest transports probably available and have an amazing reputation. As to the sound -- i have heard Ayon and dCS and others vs various Esoteric models both in and outside my system and my strong preference was Esoteric for its detail, soundstage, and the extra life it breathes into the music (to me anyway) but this is a question of taste i think. I do hear some very small amount of glare when they are new so run them in mercilessly if it offends you. I think they sound great even out the box and the run in time does not offend me.

my MPS5 was sent for a checkup and was deemed as operating in accordance to manufacturer specs (i.e. all MPS5 sound like it).

The same MPS5 was used at a local dealer for a system setup (they had never even seen a MPS5). While playing a Dead can Dance SACD, we could clearly ear the spinning from 15 feet away. To which one of the guys said "thats an insane amount of noise". I could only sadly nod.

I had the same experience with the K03 and the D50.

I have no idea why everyone uses them, but could it be for durability and reliability more than silent operation ?
Badwisdom, that is an awful experience. I conclude you have bad luck in CD players and good taste in music. I also like Dead can Dance and have their sacds :)
You made me paranoid so i again quickly listened to my K01 and it is quiet with my my ear pretty close. My X03SE was also quiet. I have a friend in EU designing this stuff who told me esoteric transports are seen as the very best in the business and i heard other brands want to use them in their machines but esoteric only sells their lesser drives and at very high cost to their competitors. I did lots of back to back tests with them and bought for the sound quality and their reputation for a reliable transport was a bonus. I definitely would buy Esoteric again, but primarily because i think they sound wonderful. Best of luck!
I have an APL NWO-4 Master CD/SACD player, which is a highly modified Esoteric with a UX-1 transport. THERE ARE SEVERAL DISCS I HEAR NOISE ON - ITS NOT THE PLAYER, IT YOUR DIScS!!

BW- If the noise happens on every disc you own, then maybe you have loose bearings in which case Esoteric can replace them. I also thought it was the player at first - glad it wasn't - their transports for the most part are pretty bulletproof. The fact that you are getting the same poor result with multiple players also points to bad discs. Try a friend's discs in your machine and see what happens.... just a thought that could save you a bunch of $$$$ and frustration :-)
Bottom line for any user with a problem is to contact your local Esoteric dealer or Esoteric directly.

Their customer service is as good as I've experienced.
Look guys, i appreciate your experience and willingness to defend Esoteric and try and find an explanation...

I wasted 6 months of my life trying to identify the problem on my MPS5: it wasn't bad discs, it wasn't bad luck, it was just a shitty OEM transport.

I could write a book about how they switched the transport several times over, measured the DB in the room, etc.. My machine made several trips to and from engineers in germany who couldn't find a fault anywhere !

The conclusion was: "normal operation". Nothing to see, move along.

Only explanation is that some people are less sensitive than others to mechanical noise, but then if thats the case, god help us all because all this online talking is like the blind leading the blind.
Well, another person is complaining about transport noise in the "Best Sounding CD / SACD player under 15K" thread.

What player ?

You guessed it, Esoteric (K01).

Never again as far as i am concerned, because even in the most optimist scenario, it shows such inconsistency that you have 50/50 chance getting a noisy version of their transport.
Unless i am mistaken, it is not 'another person'. It's the same person as in this thread. Read the posts carefully and draw your own conclusion.
I agree with Audiofeil on this. Did you EVER contact Esoteric about this? I know they don't sell their best transports to other manufacturers, but they sure don't sell them "noisy" transports. I can't speak to the MPS5 because I've never had one, but have had 3 Esoterics and never heard a peep unless I had a noisy disc. Before you condemn an entire manufacturer, try some new discs. If all discs are noisy, you probably should have just returned the player. 6 months? wow.
Mike60, I respect your expertise and opinion, but to my original point, some esoteric players exhibit mechanical noise during playback and it is a fact( I had it on two brand new players x-03se and k-03). One can leave with that or fix it paying some substantial chunk of money for shipping and only having back player praying it will not be damaged during shipping with conclusion that nothing wrong – functions according to the specs. But for $13000 player and famous reliability reputation, it should have NONE to sell to customers. Like badwisdom, the noise from k-03 drove me crazy (otherwise a very good player) and it was until my friend who plays violin in Philadelphia orchestra came to listen to the new CD, all of a sudden noticed - were is this annoying noise coming from? I regretfully sold it, bought another brand, and never looked back
No problems Denon and i do trust what you tell me and my best wishes on your new CD which has a good following. I suppose i dont have wide enough experience here but i have a friend who is part of a very large dealer of many high end brands and they do lots of repairs. He does not have or sell Esoteric, but when i asked him awhile ago about CD players he told me he thought they all give trouble but said Esoteric is about the best. He did not like the sound of them, but i do! I really dont have much more to offer on this thread.

you think i just sat on my a$$ complaining for 6 months ? i guess you didn't read my posts.
I have an Esoteric X03SE and I did need to move it over to the other side of the rack because I did notice the spinning, at times - but by far the best player I have ever had and won't part with it anytime soon.

But, I did send an email to TAS years ago asking them why were their reviews silent on CD Player noise?
I have heard that the Meitners (about 5 years ago) sang like birds but never a mention in a review.
Sure I did - doesn't sound like you ever contacted ESOTERIC, yet you are slamming their gear.
Badwisdom I also had the Playback Design cd player. Yes it created noise, but I had to be close to it. I sold it because in the end I did not care for its sound. It was was too lean in the mids.
Oh so if i have a problem with my MPS5 i should contact every component manufacturer in the player ? Really ? What kind of logic is that ????

Its Playback Designs responsibility to support and all the elements of their product.
I have a K-01 (1 year and a half old) and it spins disc with no noise...

No... However, I do have a Bergamann Sindre with Dynavector XV-1s on order that should arrive the first week of March!
I have an old X-03 and there's no noise when spinning discs.

Perhaps as some suggest, some may need more break in time.

In any event I would take my player to an Esoteric dealer and listen to it in a different setting and see if it has issues with noise.

If it does, have the problem fixed before you pass it along to someonelse.