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ESOTERIC K-03X Super Audio CD/CD Player
K-01 Super Audio CD/CD Player
Introduction
Introduction
Features
Features
Specifications
Specifications
Gallery
Gallery

Taking Sound to the X Dimension

X is the unknown. “X” in a model name symbolizes the ultimate advancements of technology, craftsmanship and creative commitment.
The K-01 and K-03 have won high acclaim as leaders of Esoteric's line of all-in-one Super Audio CD players, and their extraordinary ability to reproduce the essential qualities of a musical performance continues to enthrall listeners to this day.
Now, a new “X” inherits that solid pedigree and further refines these qualities in the new K-01X and K-03X Super Audio CD players. Concentrated beauty in an all-in-one form is a hallmark of Esoteric's flagship Grandioso models.
The philosophy and technologies found in these high-end digital players reveal a new dimension of sound appreciation unlike anything you have ever experienced before.

Sound with Pedigree

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 Esoteric'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.

ESOTERIC 30th Anniversary 'Limited Edition Black' Series Limited production

DAC & Digital Disc Player of the Year    21 hifi.com "Top Ten Hi-Fi Equipment Awards 2016 - 2017"
"DAC & Digital Disc Player of the Year"
the absolute sound "Editor's Choice Awards 2017"    the absolute sound "Editor's Choice Awards 2017"
Best Buy Components 2016->2017    Stereo Sound "Best Buy Components 2016->2017"
Digital disc player category (300,000 - 1,000,000Yen)
Ongen Publishing "Visual Grand-Prix 2017"    Ongen Publishing "Visual Grand-Prix 2017"
CD/SACD player category (500,000 - 1,000,000Yen)

  • Stereo “Best Buy Component 2016”
    Digital player category (above 700,000Yen)

Ongen Publishing "Visual Grand-Prix 2016 Summer"    Ongen Publishing "Visual Grand-Prix 2016 Summer"
CD/SACD player category (500,000 - 1,000,000Yen)
Stereo Sound "Best Buy Components"    Stereo Sound "Best Buy Components"
CD/SACD player category (500,000 - 1,000,000Yen)
The third prize
Ongen Publishing "Visual Grand-Prix 2016"    Ongen Publishing "Visual Grand-Prix 2016"
CD/SACD category (below 1,000,000Yen)

  • Stereo "Best Buy Component 2015"
    Digital disc player category (above 700,000Yen)

Ongen Publishing "Visual Grand-Prix 2015 Summer"    Ongen Publishing "Visual Grand-Prix 2015 Summer"
CD/SACD player category (below 1,000,000Yen)
   hifi & records "editor's choice 2015"
Digital category
   Stereo Sound "Best Buy Components 2014-2015"
Digital disc player category (500,000 - 1,000,000Yen)
The second prize
   Ongen Publishing "Audio Excellence Award 2015"
"Bronze Prize"
   Ongen Publishing "Visual Grand-Prix 2015"
CD/SACD player category (300,000 - 1,000,000Yen)

VESOTERIC K-03X
VRDS-NEO[VMK-3.5-10]

VMK-3.5-20S Originally developed for the Grandioso P1, the VRDS-NEO drive mechanism achieves ultimate levels of transport accuracy. Its high-precision turntable was specially designed to spin Super Audio CD/CD discs, radically improving reading accuracy by mechanically correcting for surface run-out. To provide a comparable level of precision, the K-03X is equipped with the VRDS-NEO VMK-3.5-10 drive, placing Esoteric's superlative music reproduction capabilities within reach of an even greater number of music lovers. The new addition of its VS-DD spindle servo driver further assures smoother high-precision servo control.
With its duralumin turntable and 10mm-thick turntable bridge, the unit's massive weight of 4.4kg (11.2kg including its highly rigid base) is proof of the drive's robust construction. Other proven VRDS-NEO features include a high-flux-density magnet-driven coreless three-phase brushless spindle motor, high-precision thread feed control, and a shaft-sliding pickup that assures consistently perpendicular laser illumination.

VS-DD* Spindle Servo Driver

The proprietary VS-DD spindle servo driver previously used only in Esoteric's top-end models is now made available to the K-03X. Its discrete three-channel amplifier circuitry optimizes the waveform of the current supplied to the motor for quieter and smoother spindle operation and high-precision servo control.

*VS-DD=VRDS Spindle Discrete Driver

VS-DD

Dual Mono D/A Converters Follow the Design Philosophy of the K-01X

carried over from the Grandioso D1, allows extremely accurate digital to analog conversion. This is exemplified 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.

* AK4495S is a branded product of Audio4pro™ and of Asahi Kasei Microdevices Corporation, and designed for professional studio and digital audio applications. Audio4pro

34 bit D/A Processing

The K-03X combines multiple 32-bit DAC chipsets and utilizes 34-bit D/A processing algorithm to convert the PCM signal to analog at a high resolution in excess of 32 bits. 34-bit processing achieves an astounding resolution that is fully 1,024 times that of 24-bit processing. In the digital range, full advantage is taken of high-bit data gradation to minimize calculation errors and provide faithful conversion to analog, thereby attaining outstanding powers of expression with even extremely small music signals.

Esoteric-HCLD*: Esoteric's Proprietary Current-Enhancing Output Buffer Circuit.

The ability to produce comparatively large currents and high slew rates are two of the most important factors to enable an analog output circuit to accurately transmit the wide dynamic range of a music signal without degradation. To obtain the ultimate performance, the K-03X employs the same Esoteric-HCLD buffer amplifier circuitry found in the Grandioso D1.
Two of these buffer circuits are employed per channel. Their high output current capacity and exceptionally fast slew rate (2000V/μs)provide an indication of their excellent response speed. By configuring them differentially to drive the XLR outputs and in parallel to drive the RCA outputs, the instantaneous output current available is maximized. The Esoteric-HCLD circuitry enables the K-03X to recreate the full dynamism of music with a sense of realism that will take your breath away.

*HCLD=High Current Line Driver

Comprehensive D/D Conversion Compatible with wide Range of Sources.

In addition to playback at the original sampling frequency, 2X, 4X and 8X up-conversion of the PCM digital signal is also provided. A range of D/D conversion modes are also available for the PCM format, such as PCM-to-DSD conversion.

Four Types of Digital Filters and a Filter OFF Mode

Four types of digital filter can be freely selected for PCM signal processing. Besides two FIR digital filters, which have an established reputation for providing outstanding sound quality, two types of short delay digital filters are also included for a more precise and natural sound. All four digital filters for both PCM and DSD can be bypassed by selecting the Digital Filter Off mode.

Digital Inputs Support DSD (DoP format) and High-Res PCM

Three digital inputs (USB, coaxial, and optical) enable connection to a wide range of systems. Coaxial and optical inputs support DSD in DoP format and high-resolution PCM of up to 192 kHz/24-bit.

USB Support for 2.5/5.6 MHz DSD, 384 kHz/32-bit PCM, and Asynchronous Transmission

The USB input supports asynchronous transmission and rates up to 2.8/5.6 MHz DSD and 384 kHz/32-bit PCM. Esoteric's original PC driver software achieves outstanding playback of even studio-master-quality source files. DoP and ASIO 2.1 are also supported.

*ASIO is a trademark of Steinberg Media Technologies GmbH.
**Mac supports the standard driver DoP format only.

High-Quality Sound File Playback for Anyone
Windows/Mac Application for 5.6MHz DSD and 384kHz PCM Audio File Playback.

Available free for download from the Esoteric website.
The Esoteric HR Audio Player, for both Windows and Mac OS X operating systems, is a high-quality audio playback application that ably handles high-resolution audio sources when used in combination with the K-03X. Superb audio quality playback of high-resolution audio sources, including DSD, can be enjoyed without complicated setup.

Supported file formats
DSF DSD 2.8 / 5.6MHz DIFF DSD 2.8 / 5.6MHz
PCM(wav) 44.1k to 384kHz,16 to 32bit FLAC 44.1k to 384kHz,16 to 32bit
MP3 32k to 320kbps
ESOTERIC HR Audio Player

High-Precision VCXO Clock

Often considered the heart of a digital player, the clock circuit supplies a high- accuracy reference clock signal to the digital circuitry. Its voltage-controlled crystal oscillator (VCXO) was originally developed for the Grandioso P1/D1 in a joint effort with Nihon Dempa Kogyo (NDK), a major manufacturer of crystal oscillators. As a high-precision custom clock worthy of the world's leading equipment, this circuit ensures exceptional sound playback quality thanks to an exceptionally large crystal element with excellent center accuracy (±0.5 ppm*) and extremely low levels of phase noise.
(*at time of shipping)

Clock Sync Function for Synchronization with External Devices

Connecting the unit to a high-precision master clock generator (G-01, G-02) allows synchronization of the unit's operation with an external clock signal, thereby enabling the sound quality of the system to be upgraded. Input frequencies are 44.1/88.2/176.4 kHz, as well as 10 MHz and 22 MHz direct master clock linkage.* Synchronization with external clocks is also supported when the USB input is used.

*When an external clock generator is connected, its signal is also used to clock the D/A converter, bypassing the internal PLL circuit and providing higher precision D/A conversion.

Output Modes

The analog audio outputs can be switched between RCA, XLR, and OFF. Hot 2 or Hot 3 XLR pin assignments can also be selected.

Support for Future System Upgrades

RCA (S/PDIF) or XLR (AES/EBU) digital outputs are provided. These allow to player's performance to be upgraded by the addition of a top-end Esoteric D/A converter.

*This circuit can be turned off when digital output is not in use.

Chassis Construction and Parts Layout

The VRDS-NEO transport mechanism is positioned in the center of the unit, directly attached to the 5 mm-thick steel chassis bottom, and is supported at three points by Esoteric's proprietary pinpoint feet (Patent No. 4075477) to effectively suppress the effects of vibration on the turntable mechanism. The chassis interior features a double-deck construction with five compartments. Each circuit block is isolated within its own compartment to minimize interference between circuits. Two separate audio boards for each channel are positioned nearest the rear terminals. The audio power circuitry and power transformers are also isolated from the audio boards, and the power supply wiring has been made as short as possible to minimize the influence of magnetic flux leakage, vibration, and the like.
The K-03X is equipped with two large-capacity toroidal transformers: one for the analog circuitry and the other for the digital/mechanism drive circuitry. This design provides ideal power supply capability to all circuit blocks without interference.

Remote Controller: RC-1301

Compatible disc types (playback) Super Audio CD, CD (including CD-R and CD-RW)
Analog audio outputs

* Output level drops 3dB for DSD data playback when DSD Filter is off.

** Super Audio CD, XLR analog output
Connectors XLR connector (2ch) x 1
RCA connector (2ch) x 1
Output impedance XLR: 40Ω
RCA: 10Ω
Maximum output level (1 kHz, full-scale, into 10 kΩ) * XLR: 4.8 Vrms
RCA: 2.4 Vrms
Frequency response 5 Hz to 40 kHz (-3 dB) **
S/N ratio 116dB **
Total harmonic distortion 0.001% (1 kHz) **
Digital audio output XLR connector x 1 3 Vp-p (into 110 Ω)
RCA connector x 1 0.5 Vp-p (into 75 Ω)
Digital audio input RCA connector x 1
(input impedance 75 Ω)
0.5 Vp-p
Optical digital connector x 1 -24.0 to -14.5 dBm peak
USB-B connector USB2.0 standard
Clock sync input format Connector BNC
Supported input frequencies
(±15 ppm)
44.1 kHz, 48 kHz, 88.2 kHz, 96 kHz, 176.4 kHz, 192 kHz, 10 MHz, 22.5792 MHz, 24.576 MHz
Input impedance 75 Ω
Input level Rectangle wave: equivalent to TTL levels
Sine wave: 0.5 to 1.0 Vrms (50 to 75 Ω)
Power supply Power supply AC 230 V, 50 Hz
AC 120 V, 60 Hz
AC 220 V, 60 Hz
Power consumption 25 W
External dimensions
(W x H x D, including protrusions)
445 mm x 162 mm x 438 mm
(17 1/4″ x 6 3/8″ x 13 1/4″)
Weight 28 kg (61 3/4 lbs)
Included accessories Power cord set x 1
Remote control (RC-1301) x 1
Batteries for remote control (AAA) x 2
Felt pads x 3
Owner's manual x 1
Warranty card x 1
- This product is available in three different power supply variations shown in the chart above. Make sure that the voltage shown on the rear panel matches the AC line voltage in your area.
- The shape of the AC inlet and plug of the supplied power cord depends on the voltage rating and destination country.
K-03X K-03X K-03X
K-03X K-03X

International Distributors
Catalog Download
Driver Download
HR Audio Player