ESOTERIC N-01 Replacement For My PS Audio BHK Preamp & Directstream Dac with Brige ll

I have Auditioned the Esoteric Grandioso K1 on several occasions and I cant seem to find anything that comes close. My thoughts where to replace my BHK Preamp and Directream Dac for the Esoteric N-01 Network Player Dac since it is the same Dac as the Grandioso's minus the Super Audio CD Player. My thoughts is to go with the Esoteric N-01 XLR out to my Audio Research 160S direct and use it as a digital Preamp only out to my Focal #2’s.
I have Chord Dave ( upgraded from  PS Audio DAC with bridge II ) going directly to the Pass Labs XA 160.8) 
After listening to Chord Dave i did not think twice and upgraded from PS Audio, plus i use headphones so having headphone amplifier sealed the deal.  Only negative with Chord Dave is that you need pretty good network streamer . I'm not sure if you have headphone setup but if you do i would get DCS Bartok instead.

I also have Focal Sopra 2
I heard Chord Dave but never did a A/B with the 2. Chord Dave was excellent especially with your Pass 160.8 and Audio Research REF 10 or Ref 6 in the mix. I am shooting for a network streamer Dac combo to and to have less in the chain as possible.

You may want to also check out the Lumin X1 which is in the same league as the Esoteric NS O1 yet costs $6k less.

Both of these are really fantastic units the nice thing with Lumin is that they are constantly improving their firmware with over the air upgrades to always ensure that their products are working well and stable.

The Lumin is also very attractive and compact

The Lumin is also a techological tour de force with a dual mono, ESS 9038 pro chip set with a independent Lundhal output transformer for each channel, which helps the X1 to create a very fluid sound.

The X1 uses some very advanced clocking with multiple Femto clocks driven by an FPGA based buffer.

Another fascinating feature the X1 built in optical ethernet connection which allows you to totally isolate the dac/sreamer from network noise and this feature is very inexpensive to implement.

The reviews of the X1 have been all raves with Allan Sircolm of Hifi Plus proclaiming that you have to spend to to three times the money of the X1 to get anything which may sound even better.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Lumin dealer
Fit and finish will be light years ahead on the Esoteric compared to the Lumin.  Beyond that its all personal preference.  I would audition the Bartok as well.
@dznutz @audiotroy 

I will be doing a group panel blind test with the Esoteric Gradioso KY which is the same as the N-01 Dac against the DSC Vivaldi this Friday. The only thing missing would be the Lumin X1. Wish I could have heard them all together but this is as close as I can get.

I will update the thread with the results after the test,

Thanks your your help:)
Bluemartini, the DCS Vivaldi is a $35k dac vs the Lumin which is a $14k Dac/streamer.

So in terms of price to performance the Lumin might be a bit of a disadvantage.

The sonics of the Lumin would be in the same camp as the mega players for a fraction of the price which is why the Lumin X1's are selling as fast as Lumin can make them.

Everyone who hears a Lumin X1 is usually blown away by how fluid and organic the sound is. The Lumin manages to sound both resolute and liquid at the same time, the DCS Bartok is a cleaner leaner presentation.

from the post comparing the two sounds DCS vs Lumin
I can only speak to the Lumin.  I have owned the D1, A1and now the X1.  I ended up selling my Emm Lab Dac after getting the X1.  I had a Raven Integrated Reflection MK2 amp and SF Amati Tradition Homage speakers.  People who came to my house were amazed at the quality of my sound.  My whole music library is digital and I also used Tidal.  The ease and simplicity of the Lumin ap is what initially sold me on Lumin.  Each iteration I went to improved the sound dramatically.  

(X1 outperfromed a very well respected $15k Dac)
nickolaspappas23 posts11-10-2019 12:39pmThe best way I could describe the difference would be that the Lumin’s sounded more real and natural. Guitars, pianos, voices, etc... sounded more like they do in real life. As a result everything sounds less like a recording. I went in expecting the Bartok to be clearly superior, and I was also prejudiced against Sabre chip based DACs. The Bartok has a much better feature set, and will undoubtedly hold its value better, the Lumin’s just sounded better.

(Compared the Lumin and prefered over the Bartok)

We were long time Esoteric dealers and eventually dropped them because most of their products were over engineered and were more expensive than the sound quality we were receiving. 

We had the $22k D02 and the $15k EMM Labs dacs were better and the Lumin A1 sounded nearly as good as the Emm lost a tad in terms of resolution but was oh so musical. 

In our shop we have a huge selection of state of the art digital including the $35k Light Harmonic Davinci, still the best sounding dac probably ever made or at least in the handful of upper eschelon dacs, we have the $35k T+A SDV 3100 which is wonderful, the Lumin X1, the Naim NDX, the Mytek dacs, the Aqua Hifi Formula and a few others plus Baestis, the Innous Statement, and currently a trade in Memory player, so we have a lot of experience with state of the art digital.

We have found that you have to spend a boat load of money more than an X1 to gain a really appreciable difference, you can just purchase an X1 add a good set of footers and a power cable and have one of the best sounding pieces of digital out there for a lot less.

As pe the gentleman proclaiming the Esoteric is built better not possible, the Esoteric is made out of plates of metal, vs the Lumin which is cut out of billet aluminium. 

In 2020 we will be exploring a totally fascinating Italian reference dac and a few others to add to our stapes. 

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Lumin dealer

As pe the gentleman proclaiming the Esoteric is built better not possible, the Esoteric is made out of plates of metal, vs the Lumin which is cut out of billet aluminium.

Rest assured that I have owned 2 Esoteric pieces along with 4 Lumin, including two X1's.  I could not find a single flaw in the metalwork or assembly on the Esoterics, the Lumins had plenty.  Including flaws in the raw base aluminum that the brushing process was not able to completely remove.  Most people wont notice but those who appreciate flawless finish will.
Only flaws in the X1 were early production cases all current cases are flawless.

The reality is solid billet trumps plate metal for sonics any day of the week.

Considering that the Lumin is $6k cheaper, offers optical network connectivity for superior ethernet connection,  as well as regular ota upgrades, and fantastic sound quality
 makes a pretty strong case for being the market leader at this price point.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ lumin dealers
But at the same price strata, the dCS Bartok offers multiple digital inputs and outputs allowing it to function as a true digital preamp. It also includes a 1st rate headphone amp, ability to use an external clock and also an updatable FPGA ring dac configuration which allows for it to be upgraded for free from the factory over its lifetime. dCS has a great track record of product updates over a 7-8 year window which is a lifetime in the digital world. The Lumin’s FPGA only controls the oscillator chip so any upgrades sound wise would be marginal rather then transformative. While I really like the Lumin products (and own one myself) they are not an expandable or upgradable platform like the Bartok is.
Only flaws in the X1 were early production cases all current cases are flawless.

Concerning on a $14K piece is it not?  Did Lumin take them back and replace them?  I think not based on my own experience with their $200 USD umbilical.

Lumin is a very communicative company with some well engineered products, but the almighty dollar rules.
Esoteric N-01XD is coming. I own Esoteric N-01 and I think it's fantastic, especially with an external master clock and Shunyata Sigma Clock-50 cable. In a completely different performance category to PS Audio.
This Esoteric nomenclature is getting a little silly isnt it?
Compared to what?
The Most Moronic Nomenclature Award has to go to Schiit, imo.
I was fortunate to have had an opportunity to A/B the Esoteric Grandioso K1 which is the Same Dac as the N-01 against the DCS Vilvaldi. We listened to them back to back for over 4 hours and I must say that the Esoteric hands down was the most musically engaging of the 2 no question imho ofcourse. Now the last piece of the puzzle will be to audition the Lumin X1.

Bluemartini Dcs has always favored resolution over musicality.

The lumin will easily challenge the NS 01 yet costs $6k less.

Dave and Troy
Audio Doctor NJ Lumin dealers

I am on a mission to try the Lumin x1 against the Esoteric N-01. I truly hope it does give it a run for the money, I could really use that 6K savings:)
@blumartini you really should try to demo an MSB Discrete dac; with the Ethernet renderer module and second power supply you have a Roon compliant endpoint that also functions superbly as a preamp; I recently completed an extensive A/B with my Luxman C900u and the end result is I no longer have the C900; If you only do digital and don’t need second set of pre outs you can’t go wrong with something like MSB quality as dac/pre; This is the first dac I heard that is not improved by a preamp, and the c900 easily ranks with the best in the 10-20k range; MSB chassis incredible; check out the YouTube views into their engineering process. 
Good Luck!

Thanks for sharing, I will see about getting a demo piece in if possible.
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i realize this is an older thread but I am debating between a Grandioso K1 (or N-01x if i skip the cd transport) and DCS, with lumin as a sleeper.

wondering if you’ve been able to have any more experiences across these?

I can tell you that the Grandioso is totally one of the best if not the best I have ever heard second to the Lampinzator Golden gate. As you already know the N-01 is the Grandioso without the transport. The only one that has totally peeked my interest "And Trust me I'm Pickey" is the LuminX1 based on what I have heard from a a very respected dealer who as owned all 3 lines. The Lumin is in the Cross hairs because I love FPGA updates and there Lumin App. With all that in mind I can't wait to here one live in my current system If you have any doubt reach out to Mike at Suncoat Audio in Sarasota Florida where all the HIFI Ballers buy high-end. He is easy and a sincere guy to talk with absolutely no pressure and might even entertain an in home demo for you.


Thanks for the additional thoughts!

I forgot to ask you, previously - were you able to try any of the MSB DACs?

Since my original question, I have become more interested in MSB and T+A SDV 3100, actually!
Anyone get in an N-01XD yet?

As an N-01 owner, I’m curious about the sonic differences between the two.
i bough the K1 back in 2018 and at the same time I also compared the N-01. 
K1 was a better sounding machine when Listing to CD. The dynamic was better, more powerful in sounding. I found N-01 was a bit too cold and narrow in sound, so I bought K1.

last week, I went to my dealer and borrowed the N-01XD, after listening to the new N-01Xd, I was very surprised with the details, better base, the sonic was fully occupying my listening room! It was a big step up! I could not believe there were still have so much room for improvement with this new FPGA DAC ! 
2 days ago, I traded in my K1 and now the N-01XD is seating in my listing room! 
I will suggest to go pass the N-01, get the N-01XD! Roon ready, MQA compatible! Upgradable FPGA DAC, 64bit architecture, you would not regret! 
blacklouis514 - 

I already had an N-01 so was interested in the difference in sound quality with the new N-0 XD.  I originally got the N-01 as it was a better DAC compared to my K-01X and supported TIDAL MQA which my K-01X did not.

 I've  since heard the new FPGA DAC is really good and a big step up from the N-01 DAC    

 Do you still spin discs and if so, are you using a transport in to your N-01XD?  
cut the long story short, I don’t use spin disc now. 
I have tried since use my MacBook to convert my cd in to network server, I use synology to become my roon server. 
With the power and the FPGA chip on a N-01 XD, I can hear more details from this beautiful player then my K1 a year ago. K1 was good, but when I didn’t enjoy the music after 30 mins seating in my music room. But with N-01Xd, it’s a big step up. The sonic in the room, the airing of the music, it’s so so different. I can first time to feel the singer is breathing! Don’t get me wrong, I didn’t hear singer breathing when I use my K1, but with N01-XD, is really BREATH!! The finish of each note, sound or instrument is more smooth and properly FINISHED! 

 I have dynaudio evidence speaker, MARK L No.32, and a MARK L power amp. Siltec speaker cables