Digital sources

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 player, with its display glowing blue, was one of the most beautiful audio devices I ever had in my listening room.

Function and form

Ease of use

Unlike its perfect exterior the K-05's interior is a bit less impressive and it is not very different from the CD players of 80's. In Esoteric they are not particularly concerned about shielding, partitioning and tidying up the internal architecture of their audio devices. I know that the K-05 is a kind of entry level for Esoteric but still it is not cheap at all.

What Esoteric pays attention to is the transport mechanism. For 30 years they have been perfectioning their VRDS and VRDS-NEO transports (Esoteric is a TEAC brand) that are sourced from them by many high end manufacturers. In the K-05 there is a VMK-5 servo-driven transport which has two motors (one for the drawer and another one for the clamp), and which is a sandwich of aluminum and polycarbonate. TEAC uses correction circuits to make sure that the disc is levelled all the time and that the reading optics is perpendicular to it.
The K-05 is a dual mono player: the dual D/A converters were taken from the top-of-the-range K-01 player. Interestingly there is only one common toroidal transformer for both stereo sections.

Apart from transport mechanisms Esoteric earned reputation also for its external clocks. Esoteric's rubidium G-0Rb clock is an oscillator controlled by voltage rather than by crystal. A simplified version is in the K-05: VCXO (voltage controlled crystal oscillator). If you want to have a different clock then the K-05 supports the sampling frequency up to 10MHz.

Bass management


Let's suppose we have a scale 1 to 10. One is for passion, gold, fire, ruby, sun and comfort. Ten is for icy clear, silver, mountain air, cold blue, xenon light and functionality. Then the Esoteric K-05 would earn a score of 7-8. Personnally I think this is not a bad score as most other Esoteric models that I auditioned would score 10. Unlike with other audio components, where listeners have different opinions, with Esoteric the consensus is usually reached very fast. It is more like an XRCD than a vinyl record. Also visitors to my house were more polarized than usually - either they liked the sound or not, nothing in between. And this is what projects also to my listening sessions - depending on a recording I either liked the K-05 or not. Still I was constantly feeling that there is something like the ´XRCD-signature'. What does that mean?

Clarity & delicacy


The Esoteric puts a lot of attention to midrange, perhaps too much attention. My usual test CDs and SACDs as if let me hear more than I was used to, but maybe the "hearing more" was not necessarily what I wanted. Let me take one example. The silence between notes should be heard. Means that there should not be the silence of a dark matter with good recordings - I want to hear subtle rustling of a violinist's partiture, breath between words, reverberation of a studio, low hiss of a mastering tape. With the K-05 I heard too much air in the studio, too much of hiss, too mucch of non-musical elements. Some recordings, like old Living Stereo or EMI remasters, became less pleasant as the 'noise' was way too prominent. On the other hand - I have to admit - this type of voicing made me dig deeper in my music collection and listen more and more discs to find the details that were obscured before.

Tonal accuracy

Temporal resolution

The K-05 is very precise rhythm keeper, no matter if in CD or SACD mode. It is very accurate and spits the transient information with the precision and lightning speed. Nothing is blurred, everything's in focus. As if there was an orchestra conductor imprisoned inside the player that organizes everything. That's why I especially appreciated the K-05 with transient-rich material - percussions, plucked strings and so on. The K-05 excelled with Vivaldi's Concerto for two mandolins in G. I spent few hours by contemplating if I preferred the opulent version of Trevor Pinnock (Deutsche Grammophon), laser sharp attack of Paul O´Dette (Hyperion), or baroque adaptation of Eliot Frisk (Nimbus). The mandoline strings were just so amazing with the K-05 player no matter which performance was played back.

Spatial resolution

Soundstage width
Soundstage depth

The K-05 offers the possibility to choose upsampling frequency (for CD only). One can choose 2x or 4x upsampling from 32, 44.1 or 48kHz to 64, 88.2, 96, 128, 176.4 or 192kHz. It also allows to simulate DSD by upsampling from PCM. I am not a big friend of any upsampling  - I assume that even with the best algorithms the circuitry has to reconstruct something that is already missing in the original - but I also admit that often the upsampled music sounds 'better'. Asynchronous USB input upsamples to 24 bit/192kHz.

The K-05 also offers either not to use any digital filtering or to use one of the four predefined filters - two Finite Impulse Response filters and two Short Delay filters. Thus the listener may partially adapt his sound preference to a particular recording. I did not experiment a lot with the filters as the difference between any of them was much subtler than the difference I experience by replacing the Esoteric's standard power cord by my Furutech Powerflux.

Price as reviewed:195 000,- Kč

Recommended resellers

Hifi Store, Praha, 603 460 675

Associated components

  • 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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