Integrated amplifiers

The K-05 SACD player is the show case of Japanese precision: beautiful proportions, slim sihouette, elegant casing and near to perfect physiology. In Japan they know exactly where to place a button not to spoil the elegance. They also know what shape the button should have and how its surface should be finished to complement or accent the design. Without playing a note the Esoteric amplifier (and the complementary SACD player), with its display glowing blue, was one of the most beautiful audio devices I ever had in my listening room.

Funkce a forma


The I-03 is presented by Esoteric as a part of the Master Sound Works project. The project that had started with A-100 power amplfier should make an association of Esoteric with "studio sound".

Internally, the I-03 is a MOSFET amplifier with devices mounted directly onto aluminum heat dispensers that are a part of the amp's chassis. As much as I admired the I-03 from outside I had some reservations as far the internal design is concerned - too many wires and too many unnecessarily long wires.

The Japanese high-end manufacturers have become recently real innovators in the field of volume control. In Accuphase they have pioneered voltage controlled switches AAVA, in Luxman they implemented something similar under LECUA acronym. In Esoteric the gain is digitally controlled - the Mosfet relays are switched by Pulse Width Modulation (PWM). The high frequency noise that is induced by digital switching is filtered out by a low pass.

Nízké frekvence


The I-03 specifications only say that the amp delivers 2x240W into 6 ohms. It is not clear how much the amplifier can deliver into 8 or 4 ohms where speakers are usually rated, The I-03 does not provide binding posts for biwiring, the preamp and the power amp can be used separately, there are 2 pairs of RCA and XLR inputs and an integrated phono preamp. Conveniently, the I-03 also provides a headphone output from its front panel.

The Esoteric logo is cut in the lid of the amp and once again, the atention to outer details is astonishing, Since ages TEAC (and Esoteric too) uses only 3 feet to stabilize their audio components. Here the feet already contain clever anti-resonance mechanism so there is no need to invest into after market parts.

Čistota rozlišení


Since recently I have witnessed an effort of the Esoteric designers to reach analog fluidity in sound, something that was not associated with the brand before. Still, I found the I-03 to be on the colder side of neutrality. However, I have to admit, that the new I-03 have made a big progress from how Esoterci gear sounded to my ears before. To decide between my Mark Levinson No. 432 nd the Esoteric was a good way to spend my weekend. At the end I considered the ML to be more honest amplifier but the I-03 was not a slouch either.

Tonální věrnost


Like with the No. 432 I was delighted by a cleanly laid soundstage that was open, wide and deep and breathing. There was no doubt that the amplifier can keep the sound under control. The spatial focus was also great, yet a bit less precise than with my Mark Levinson. Transient edges were a bit more blurred which removed some audiophile charm from excellent recorded pieces, on the other hand it made less-excellent recorded pieces mor bearable which is not nad either. Your preference will depend a lot on your music collection here.

The bass was deep and articulated with a sense of "over control", as if some aliveness was a trade off for the tightness. The highs were extended, with a very soft sweet haze that mimicked Class A amplifiers.


Šířka scény
Hloubka scény

What might be a good partner for the I-03? Something that would compensate the amplifier's lack of aliveness, means something with rhytmic drive, something with speed, something that would spotlight the upper mids. There is something like that in the Esoteric's own catalogue: the K-05 SACD player (see or review in the Digital Sources section) is the ideal partner that makes a great pair from the two.

The I-03 provides some very smart options. The inputs can be named and their sensitivity can be individually adjusted, which is a great thing to avoid sudden bursts of sound when switching between the inputs. Even more I liked one unique feature: one can choose one of 5 presets for the volume control to set how the volume will react during operation. For example, you can choose whether the loudness increase should be faster or slower at low volumes, how fast the dB increase should be when turning the knob etc. An excellent feature.

Cena v době recenze:245 000,- Kč

Doporučení prodejci

Hifi Store, Praha, 603 460 675

Připojené komponenty

  • Sources: C.E.C. TL-51XR, Esoteric K-05
  • Amplifiers: Esoteric I-03, Mark Levinson No.432, DIY atenuátor
  • Interconnects and speaker cables: Kubala-Sosna Emotion
  • Loudspeakers: Revel Ultima Studio2



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