Esoteric K-03Xs Esoteric Audio CD Player & DAC Audio Venue (2022)


Discontinued replaced by Esoteric K-03XD

Esoteric K-03Xs Esoteric Audio CD Player & DAC Audio Venue (1)

Carrying on the high-end concepts and technology from winning integrated players such as the Grandioso K1 and K-01Xs, the K-03Xs is what happened when Esoteric asked how far they could go, what heights they could reach with their performance model.

The classic VRDS-NEO [VMK-3.5-10] drive mechanism contains a VS-DD circuit for smooth, quiet driving of the spindle. Developed based on the new DAC platform used in the Grandioso K1, the K-03Xs has a differential 4-circuit/channel dual mono DAC and Esoteric’s patented proprietary 34-bit D/A processing algorithm.

The essence of their flagship model can be seen throughout the K-03Xs, from many of the latest devices to the DSD-compatible USB and core sound quality features and functions.

VRDS-NEO [ VMK-3.5-10]

The VRDS-NEO mechanism is used in their flagship model the Grandioso P1 to achieve the ultimate transportation precision.

A high-precision turntable is used to rotate CDs and Super Audio CDs, with mechanical correction of surface vibration and dramatically improvese reading precision.

The K-03Xs takes this high precision even further with theVRDS-NEO [VMK-3.5-10]. The VS-DD spindle servo driver is used for smooth, high-precision servo control.

The mecha unit weighs 4.4kg, with a total weight of 11.2kg including the rigid base.

(Video) Interview with Peter Mackay, Magico LLC.

The collection of heavyweight parts includes a duralumin turntable and a 10mm-thick steel turntable bridge.

These are complemented by high-quality classics from the VRDS-NEO, such as the coreless three-phase brushless spindle motor driven by a strong magnet.

New Dual Mono D/A Converter

Esoteric K-03Xs Esoteric Audio CD Player & DAC Audio Venue (2)

The D/A converter section was created based on the latest platform used in the Grandioso K1, with the very finest premium materials and circuit technology added to take it to the highest level of sound quality.

The AK4497 32-bit premium DAC device from Asahi Kasei Electronics is combined with a high-quality operational amplifier (MUSES 02 in the K-01Xs and MUSES 8820 in the K-03Xs).

The K-03Xs has a 4-circuit parallel/differential circuit structure for powerful linearity with minimal distortion.

High-Bit D/A Processing with Outstanding Powers of Musical Expression (PAT. JP6043052)

The K-03Xs combine multiple 32-bit DAC chipsets and utilise a high-bit D/A processing algorithm to convert the PCM signal to analog at a high resolution in excess of 32 bits.

The K-03Xs 34-bit processing. 35-bit processing achieves an astounding resolution that is fully 2,048 times that of 24-bit processing (34-bit processing being 1,024 times that of 24-bit processing).

In the digital range, full advantage is taken of high-bit data gradation to minimise calculation errors and provide faithful conversion to analog, thereby attaining outstanding powers of expression with even extremely small music signals.

ESOTERIC-HCLD*: Esoteric’s Exclusive Output Buffer Delivers Powerful Direct Current Transmission

The ability to produce comparatively large currents and high slew rates are two of the most important factors that enable an analog output circuit to accurately transmit the wide dynamic range of a music signal without degradation.

The K-03Xs offers the ultimate performance as a line driver by adopting high-performance elements with a high current output and exceptionally fast slew rate (2,000V/μs) for excellent response speed.

Two of these buffer circuits are employed per channel. By configuring them differentially to drive the XLR outputs and in parallel to drive the RCA outputs, the available instantaneous output current is maximized. By maximising instantaneous current output, the K-03Xs reproduces the full dynamics of music with breathtaking realism.
*HCLD=High Current Line Driver

“ES-LINK Analog” Method for High Quality Current Transmission

In addition to regular line connections (XLR and RCA), the K-03Xs features Esoteric’s new “ES-LINK Analog” transmission method.

This is a current transmission method that utilises the high performance of the HCLD buffer circuit and its enhanced ability to supply high-speed current.

This is the ideal analog audio transmission as it is free from signal route impedance, thus fully maximising the system’s potential when connected to a compatible device.*
*A standard balance cable (with an XLR terminal) is used for connections, but the “ES-LINK Analog” method is a proprietary transmission method which can only be used with compatible devices.

Wide Range of D/D Conversion According to Source

In addition to the original Fs playback, this series has a function for up-conversion of PCM digital signals by 2×, 4×, 8× or 16× (maximum 768kHz). It also features a PCM > DSD conversion function using a proprietary algorithm. DSD is up-converted to 22.5MHz. The unit also features a DSD digital filter that can be turned on or off as desired.

Digital Inputs

Three digital inputs (USB, coaxial, and optical) enable connection to a wide range of systems. Coaxial and optical inputs support DSD 2.8 MHz (DoP) input and PCM of up to 192 kHz/24-bit.

USB Audio Interface Compatible with DSD22.5MHz, PCM768kHz/32bit and Asynchronous Transmission

The unit is equipped with a USB port enabling connection to a computer. The driver and playback software (Esoteric HR Audio Player) can be downloaded from the Esoteric website.

The unit supports asynchronous transmission and a high sampling playback of DSD22.5MHz and PCM768kHz/32bit, and even enables high-quality playback of studio master quality sources. In addition to conventional asynchronous transmission methods, it supports the new Bulk Pet method for an even wider range of tone selection.

High-Precision VCXO Clock

The clock circuit supplies a high-accuracy reference clock signal to the digital circuitry. The Grandioso Custom VCXO (voltage-controlled crystal oscillator) is a high-precision custom clock that utilizes a large crystal element to ensure exceptional sound quality with excellent center accuracy (±0.5ppm) and extremely low levels of phase noise.

Clock Sync Function for Synchronization with External Devices

Connecting the K-03Xs to a high-precision master clock generator such as the G-01X or the G-02X allows synchronisation of the unit’s operation with an external clock signal, thereby enabling the quality of the system to be further upgraded. Synchronisation with an external clock is also available when USB input is used.

Output Modes

The analog audio output can be switched between ES-LINK Analog, RCA, and XLR. Hot 2 or Hot 3 XLR pin assignments can also be selected. Loss in audio quality is eliminated with a non-contact system by performing phase inversion in the digital domain.

Support for Future System Upgrades

RCA (S/PDIF) or XLR (AES/EBU) digital outputs are provided. These allow the 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

Esoteric K-03Xs Esoteric Audio CD Player & DAC Audio Venue (3)

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 and 3778108) to effectively suppress vibration.

The chassis interior features a double-deck construction. The audio boards are located on the upper layer of the chassis, being isolated from the power supply components on the lower layer, and the power supply wiring has been made as short as possible.

The K-03Xs is equipped with two large 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.

Specifications K-03Xs

Esoteric K-03Xs Esoteric Audio CD Player & DAC Audio Venue (4)

Super Audio CD, CD (including CD-R and CD-RW)
XLR/ESL-A connector1 pair (L/R)
RCA connector1 pair (L/R)
Output impedanceXLR:84­ Ohm ; RCA:37­ Ohms
Maximum output level (1kHz, 10k­ Ohm load)XLR: 5Vrms, RCA: 2.5Vrms
Frequency response
(Super Audio CD, XLR output)
5Hz to 55kHz (-3dB)
S/N ratio120dB
Total harmonic distortion0.0008% (1kHz)
XLR connector ×13 Vp-p (into 110 Ohm)
RCA connector ×10.5 Vp-p (into 75 Ohm­)
Coaxial RCA connector x 1input impedance 75 ohm, input level 0.5 Vp-p
Optical digital connector ×1input level -24.0 to -14.5dBm peak
USB-B connector x1USB 2.0 Standard
ConnectorBNC x1
Input impedance50 Ohm
Frequencies that can be input(±10ppm)44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192kHz
10, 22.5792, 24.576MHz
Input levelRectangle wave: equivalent to TTL levels; Sine wave: 0.5 to 1.0 Vrms (50 to 75 Ohm)
Power supplyAC 220-240V, 50/60Hz ; AC 120V, 60Hz ; AC 220V, 60Hz
Power consumptionK-01Xs: 35W; K-03Xs: 29W
External dimensions
(W x H x D, including protrusions)
445 ×162 × 438mm (17 5/8 ̋ × 6 1/2 ̋ × 17 1/4 ̋)
WeightK-01Xs: 31kg (68 3/8 lb) ; K-03Xs: 28kg (61 3/4 lb)
Power cord set ×1; Remote control (K-01Xs:RC-1315 ; K-03Xs:RC-1301)×1; Batteries for remote control (AAA) × 2 ; Felt pads × 3;
Owner’s manual × 1; Warranty card × 1

Esoteric K-03Xs Esoteric Audio CD Player & DAC Audio Venue (5)

Esoteric K-01Xs also available

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