Unsatisfied with Esoteric K-01: Alternatives?

I lived many blissful years with my Reimyo CDP-777, but finally decided it was time to start the transition to PC audio. I opted for the Esoteric K01 in order to have the maximum playback flexibility with CD, SACD, and asynchronous USB DAC. Fast-forward about 6 months and I find myself really missing the warmth, tonal richness, and musicality of the Reimyo when listening to to the rather cold, dry, and neutral K01. It is not a bad player by any means, but I've just come to realize that I'm a musicality guy as opposed to an analytical guy.

Now I'm in a bit of a quandary in regards to how to maintain that flexibility with something more to my taste. Are there any CD/SACD/asynch USB players (or combos) that lean more to the Reimyo's sense of musicality? Harmonix's current line still doesn't do USB input, or decode any thing but PCM up to 44.1. I'm starting to to think my only option is to buy the Harmonix for CD playback and then have a completely separate system for SACD/PC audio playback, but I would love to avoid that if at all possible. Any suggestions are welcome.
You may want to look at a Cary 306. If you want something really musical, the 306 is a very good choice.
Hi No1willfan, I found that K-01 sounds very different, depending on filters and upsampling, ranging from slightly "matter of fact" to sweetly tube-like. I also discovered that each filter appears to be implemented on its own piece of silicon logic, and so needs its own tediously long break in time of about 500 hours of music/noise.... Same for the upsampling settings. In the end, I found that the most tube-like setting was generated by the Slow Delay 1 filter in combination with 4X upsampling. However, my highly preferred setting for an ideal balance of resolution and emotionality was the apodising Slow Delay 2 filter with 4X upsampling.

Ayon CD5s has an excellent Async USB plus Coax etc for PC audio. It does not do SACD but has inputs digital and analogue that I think can work for separate SACD. Its preamp section and DAC are also excellent. A very natural, musical sound that I would say is a touch warm versus cold.
With any player it's going to GREATLY depend on the rest of gear in your system and still in the end come down to your personal flavor.

IC's alone make a difference along with PC's and what you place it upon but then again this happens to most pces if your system is resolving enough to show such.

It's tedious having to break-in each filter combo and you might want to give up but a must if you truly want to hear what this player has to offer. Just think of it you are buying different units.

It's a reference one pce player for sure, the fit and finish is top and very quiet.

Best of luck, have fun!
@Guidocorona: One reason I've waited 6 months is because I've been diligent about burning in and trying the different filters and combinations on the K-01. While there is a marked difference between them, I still haven't found one that can match the Reimyo for warmth, richness, and musicality. It may be because the Reimyo did 8x oversampling while the K-01 is capped at 4x, and it does seem generally true that oversampling adds a sense of richness to the music. I think I found the FIR filter slightly richer, tonally, than the SDLY, but the SDLY was more natural sounding.

@Others: Thanks for the suggestions. I'll look into them.
For an all-in one option, you may wish to audition the Audio Aero La Source. Was compared side by side with Zanden DAC and it did very well. the Audio Aero was used in both cases as transport...ie, Audio Aero La Source on its own, or BNC out to the Zanden DAC.
Hi No1willfan, I operated K-01 in a balanced configuration. Did you operate K-01 in balanced or single ended mode? It might make a difference. I would like to have also your observations about K-01 with the DSD engine.... Oddly enough, that was my least favorite: I found it to be a little over the top.... yes very transparent, lots of detail, but also with the slighted burr in the treble, and with a tendency to overemphatic transients.... It prevented me from immersing myself into the musical message, while I could spend hours vanishing into the music with SDly-2 and 4X upsampling.

I had the opportunity of listening to K-01 controlled by an Esoteric G-0S clock at RMAF for several hours, and I found the sound enhanced much further, and even more musically satisfying... But I never had G-0S in my own system.

One thing I found with Esoteric players (K-01 and X-01), is that they are very sensitive to cabling, power cords, and conditioning. I had the most musically satisfying results with Shunyata ICs and PCs, as well as with the Shunyata Triton conditioner or the IsoTec Sigmas conditioners... But this could just be in the nature of digital front ends, rather than a characteristics specific to Esoteric alone.

Saluti, Guido
I have K-01 and agree qith Guido - with great patience one can achieve great and highly musical sound.

It includes and power cord and vibration control and if using DAC what server you use (I use Musica Pristina Virtuoso) etc etc.

I luuuuuv the sound I have...(I also use highly seductive Joule-Electra LA-300ME preamp).
I just traded up from the K-01 from the K-03. I have owned many other players and DACs too. If you are talking musical versus analytical, both two players are among the most full bodied, warm, musical machines out there. There is something very wrong going on if that is not coming through.

BTW, I am using Synergistic Research cabling and power conditioning products. They are truly excellent. I am not sure what you are using, but that may be a good place to start experimenting.
@Azjake: The Accuphase gear does look very interesting, but super-expensive as well, especially for the two-box combo. I'll make it a priority to try it out, though.

@Guidocorona: I do have the K-01 in balanced mode. I'm not a fan of the DSD filter on CDs, though it does seem to sound different than the DSD filter on SACDs. The only thing I dislike about its performance on SACDs is a dry, recessed midrange that over-emphasizes the treble and bass. I'm a mids freak so this is a major con for me. Luckily, my SACD collection is small compared to my CD/FLAC collection. As for the Esoteric clock, I did audition and honestly couldn't tell any difference at all. I can't imagine why a clock would be at all useful for a single-box player. As for cabling, I use Virtual Dynamics, which are copper cables with a house sound that's very rich and full, so the lack of warmth/richness I'm hearing in the K-01 certainly isn't a cabling problem. I don't have any conditioning, but have my system running directly to two dedicated lines. I usually listen late at night so I've never thought power conditioning would help much on my system.

@Dob: For Vibration control I have a Monaco Modular Rack. Getting a wood-based stand might help, but I can't imagine it helping to the degree I'm talking about. As for a server, I had a custom PC built to the specifications that Goodwin's audio recommended (basically the PC is isolated and dead-quiet, built specifically as use as a server, accessing my music from an off-network Synology NAS).
If you are talking musical versus analytical, both two players are among the most full bodied, warm, musical machines out there. There is something very wrong going on if that is not coming through.

I think the only thing that's "wrong" is that it isn't as full bodied, warm, and musical compared to my old Reimyo. I haven't changed any of my equipment since I went from the Reimyo to the K-01, so it would be awfully strange if my other equipment was the problem as opposed to the K-01.
Hi No1willfan. You are right, I was very surprised as well that the G-0S clock made any difference on K-01, let alone a marked difference. On the other hand, to say it with Igor Stravinsky... I tend to judge the tree by its fruits, not by its roots. *grins!*

Reading your previous couple of posts, I suspect that no matter what, K-01 may never be able to become your cup of tea.... While some of us consider K-01 extremely refined and musical for what we perceive as an evenly filigreed presentation across the frequency spectrum, particularly in SDly2 4X, the device does not attempt to be a champion of midrange bloom, and even in SDly1 4X it gives midrange bloom only lip-service.

Saluti, G.
At this price level, I would explore the MSB line. Their transports will send SACD digitally to their DACs using proprietary I2S, and they are supposed to be very musical DACs. I will get one myself this week to confirm the theory.
@Guidocorona: Yes, I'm thinking the K-01 simply isn't my cup of tea. I still very much believe it's a reference level player, but at this level it really is about individual preference. There are numerous things the K-01 does better than my old Reimyo, including treble/bass extension, dynamic impact, and macro-detail, but I still feel something is missing when I listen to, eg, female vocalists that were so magical on my Reimyo and now sound rather lifeless and dry on the K-01. On the other hand, the K-01 is more exciting than the Reimyo on large-scale, dynamic music, but I tend to listen to smaller-scale stuff more often.

@Edorr: I do have my eye on MSB's products, but they are also very expensive and I dislike two-box options. Still, they're something I'm considering.
Not sure you will like the MSB gear, as it has a similar tonality to Esoteric K-01 (I have the DAC IV Platinium at home right now).

Accuphase gear is worth serious consideration. Accuphase house sound is slightly on the warm side, very full-bodied, great texture and liquid tonality.

I have tried both Reimyo CDP-777 and Accuphase DP-700 (and also the more expensive DP800/DC801 separates) in my system 3-4 years back. Although I did not have a chance to compare them side by side, IMO they sound more alike than not.

From what I have heard, the new 900/901 is more detaild/transparent than the former top of the range 800/801 combo, but is still warmer than MSB/dCS. Esoteric variety.

There is a 900/901 combo listed on AudiogoN right now. I also have a friend who is selling a one year old 800/801 combo for much less.
No1willfan, get Ayon CDP-5s with upgraded (Ayon USA does it) NOS tubes. Great player, if you don't have a lot of SACDs.
Interesting, Elberoth...how does MSB compare in your opininon? I think you've Scarlatti at home if i am not mistaken. Any comparisons are welcome!
Elberoth, I know you auditioned the Diamond with Galaxy clock extensively. How does the signature compare to the diamond? Did you get your hands on a Femto 140 clock yet? I have Signature boxed up that just came for audiotioning myself. Galaxo clock will be here soon, but I will eventually probably get a Femto 140 clock for economic reasons.
Thanks for the excellent info, Elberoth. At this point I'm definitely leaning towards Accuphase, though the 901 combo is a bit more expensive than what I was looking for. The 801 may hit the sweet spot with regards to price and the sound I'm looking for.
You should have a listen to the Playback MPS-5. It is a very musical disc player and has an excellent external connection to it's DAC
I'm a bit late but found your discussion about the K-01 and hope you didn't sell it after all? I had exactly the same problem with mine and was frustrated that the player did not musically satisfy even though it had amazing and holographic resolution. Fast forward appr 1000 hrs and I can tell you that I will not look for any other player! My unit took much more than 500 hrs to break in to combine highest resolution with breathtaking musicality. I listen to vinyl a lot, but since the K-01 is broken in I find myself listening more and more to CDs again.
A big step up for me came with an active vibraplane platform for the K-01 and very good silver interconnects. I use slow delay 2 and 4x upsampling setting. It is an amazing player - you just need to give him enough time to break in, a quiet base, first class interconnects and electronics of the highest caliber and the K-01 will amaze even vinyl freaks like me ...
It is always the same story since 1980....when it sounds horrible from scratch, but the price was so high that one can't afford to kick it out (because he got a "good" deal on it or whatever) give it min the "recommendation" follows to give 500 or 2000h break in and after that it is heaven. I think, after 500h the break in was done in owners brain ...
"Fast forward appr 1000 hrs and I can tell you that I will not look for any other player! " ... "It is an amazing player - you just need to give him enough time to break in"

I'll drink to that DecibelK-01 takes a long time to mature and bloom into glory.

For me, adding a good analog preamp results in a sound that balances out all that was dry, cool or lean. Now, I no longer think about component upgrades. All I want to do is listen and listen more - to the music.
Would this disqualify me from being an avid audiophile? I hope not.
Happy listening. :)
Syntax - don't assume everybody operates like you do! If I don't like what I hear I replace it. The K-01 in my system was lucky, because I was close to getting rid of it - or at least use a copper cable to calm it down a notch. However, after further break in the player lost it's initial analytical touch. Today it is extremely satisfying and musical. I owned the X-03SE for a few years - no comparison! The X-03SE had a rather corse resolution and was not even close to the K-01's beautiful and open liquidity. Again - invest a bit more in a good base, top notch interconnects and a good power cord and the K-01 will give you goosebumps every evening! BTW - you're welcome to listen yourself! I'm located in Houston.
Coli - Is that the Metrum Pavane you are talking about? How is that DAC? Thanks.

I lived many blissful years with my Reimyo CDP-777, but finally decided it was time to start the transition to PC audio. I opted for the Esoteric K01 in order to have the maximum playback flexibility with CD, SACD, and asynchronous USB DAC. Fast-forward about 6 months and I find myself really missing the warmth, tonal richness, and musicality of the Reimyo when listening to to the rather cold, dry, and neutral K01

No1willfan Hi. I believe your hearing the difference of an old school R2R Ladder Mulibit dac which was the PCM1704 in the Reimyo.
Compared to the Esoteric K01 AK4399 dac which is Delta Sigma, (ie: bitstream, 1 bit, Saber.)

To my ears when playing Redbook cd's, Delta Sigma dacs have no jump factor or warmth in the mids compared to R2R Ladder Multibit. They are sweet enough but are just a yawn to listen to and thin in the midrange.

Cheers George
Hi George, which filter / upsampling settings on K-01 did you find unsatisfactory? G.

None, I'm just stating the differences I've heard with many Delta Sigma type dacs vs well implemented R2R ladder Multibit type dacs playing Redbook cd's, and this also jells with what the OP is hearing.

I can't see filters, hf or upsampling being able to add jump factor or midrange body to the sound on a Delta Sigma based dac.

Cheers George
George, I'm really sorry to hear that.... Filters on K-01 do a great deal of work. I agree that without filters and with no upsampling, the sound of K-01 is something that only its Moma could love.

Yet, the 5 filter options combined with the upsampling options let the user taylor the behavior of the unit a great deal.... If you enjoy a warm sound, all you need do is select S_dly1.... And then upsample / or not to taste. For me, Nirvana was reach with S_dly2 and 4x upsampling.

Of course, if you are allergic in principle to the very concept of filters and upsampling... That would be a different ball of wax.

You just have to look at many of the very highend dac makers that are going back to implementing R2R Ladder Multibit conversion in their top players. Even though it's far more costly to implement, some even making their own discrete versions of it now.
Because off the shelf ones are becoming hard to get like the PCM1704K, it's still available but so costly for Burr Brown to make, compared to Delta Sigma types, 10 x the price, they will stop making it one day.

Cheers George
2nd what dob says. power cords and vibration control (sistrum!) works wonders.
I 2nd Guido's feedback; filter choices and upsampling choice make all the difference in the world with the K and P players from Esoteric. Also, remember, ever filter combination needs it own break-in cycle so if you've changed filters and not given each 350+ hours of playback, you have not heard the player in that config properly yet. Also, level of XLR cables, power cords, etc...make a hell of a difference just like everything else. The Reimyo player is one hell of a unit....very healthy competition and one I almost bought years ago.
There's the newest EAR DAC, looks interesting.
And the Aesthetix DAC, also very musical.
Hello guys-

so much good intel here. I am torn between a DV-50/60 or an X-03/X-03SE spinner. For those who want to comment on these (2) players, I will welcome your insight.

Keep me posted & Happy Listening!
JAFont, X-03 and X-03 SE is a very slightly trickled-down implementation of the X-01 former flagship single box player.... The DV series was created for a lower end mid-tier market.... Yes, there is a noticeable sonic difference between the X series and the DV series.

If your budget can fit an X-03 or X-03SE player... Go for it!

Definitely agree here with Guido; if you can grab an X03, or better yet, the X01, you should go for it. The X03 is less analytical and much more musical than the DV50S (I never heard the SA60) for both CD and SA-CD. The X01 (having alot of DACs per side of the circuit) is even more so. I owned the UX-1Ltd as I needed video and it had 1/2 the number of DAC chips per side as the X01. Both were great units but the X01 was even more full bodied and musical. My advice, if you can get an X01, grab it in lieu of the X03 only because the X01 is even better. You won't go wrong if availability or price dictate an X03.
Thank You! Guido and Zeohyr.
I will keep you guys posted on my decision.

The most important factor will be the available parts and transports for repair (as needed). It seems that there may not be any replacement parts for the DV and SA spinners?

Happy Listening!