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Esoteric has been one of the finest audio brands out of Japan for decades. Their entire product range has been polished and perfected over the years, to maintain their position among the very best in the world!
A daughter company to the larger TEAC out of Japan, Esoteric has always maintained a position of excellence. The founding of Esoteric in 1987 provided TEAC a platform to develop extremely specialized devices for the home audiophile market. Their original products were truly groundbreaking for their time, with a CD player and external DAC combo which included incredible technologies for their time, setting the standard for producing the world's finest CD and SACD players and transports, a tradition they continue to this day. Moving forward, they expanded their offerings through a variety of source components, amplification, and more!
Importantly, all of Esoteric's products are made in-house in their Tokyo, Japan factory. There are no corners cut when it comes to their production, everything is held to exacting standards as you would expect from Japanese craftsmanship.
Esoteric's line is structured in a straightforward, multi-tiered manner. At the pinnacle of performance, you have the Grandioso series. The Grandioso family of products are competitive with the very best in the world from any company in their respective categories. The Grandioso line is the truest testbed in Esoteric's search for the original master sound, where the latest technologies are applied with the goal of ultimate sonic performance.
The next tier in Esoteric's lineup is the 01/02 family. In these products, you find mildly simplified technologies and approaches from the Grandioso family, but at a much more approachable price point. This series offers a substantial amount of the Grandioso magic!
The Esoteric 3 series represents a further simplification compared to the 01/02 family, still with a focus on extracting the most performance for their price point! These offer a great intermediary between the other levels and more flexibility in tailoring your system.
The Esoteric 5 series of products is their 'entry-level'. Entry-level in this case still means an absolutely phenomenal distillation of their sonic signature, but at prices that are much more approachable for the average audiophile! This family punches well above its weight class sonically, and visually matches the rest of the Esoteric lines! This is where you begin your exploration of the sonic signature of the Esoteric.
While Esoteric's source components were their first products to hit the market, they have since expanded their product line to include everything you would need for a system except the speakers! Their CD and SACD players are by all measures among the very best in the world to this day, featuring a suite of proprietary technologies which combine to allow supreme musicality from the medium of a simple disc. From their flagship transport the Grandioso P1X to their exceptionally valued K-05XD, you are getting the most musicality from your CDs and SACDs.
More recently, Esoteric's expansion into high performance streaming options has been a boon to the sound quality of digital media. Their N-01XD is a great digital hub with an internal DAC to allow analog outputs directly to your preamp. The N-03T specializes in delivering a pure digital signal to your external DAC. The N-05XD is a unique option where it can act as your digital hub as well as your main preamp, with an analogue volume stage and inputs for both XLR and RCA from other components. The N-05XD serves as an exceptional centerpiece for a compact stereo system, whether paired with powered speakers or an external amplifier and passive speakers.
Preamplifiers are next in the signal chain. The goal of a pre-amplifier is to be the command center of your stereo; controlling various inputs, the volume, and sending this signal to your amplifier. All of these tasks must be achieved while minimizing the loss of detail and any added distortions. This is much easier said than done! All of Esoteric's preamps feature dual-mono construction, meaning the signals for both left and right channel are handled entirely independently through separate circuit sections. This allows better channel separation from reduced crosstalk and nearly perfect channel balance. Additionally, all Esoteric preamps are fully balanced. Fully balanced signals ( often denoted by the use of XLR cables ) consist of three signals per channel, a positive, inverted, and reference ground. By maintaining all three signals throughout the full audio path, not just between components, Esoteric achieves significant reductions in induced noise levels, resulting in a more pure signal. The additional circuit complexity and cost associated with a true fully balanced signal are well justified once you experience the difference it makes. These combined features enable greater retrieval of low-level information and minimize the loss of the original signal intended by the artists and engineers.
Amplifiers represent the final audio stage handled by Esoteric, and act as the muscles to control your speakers. The Grandioso M1X Monoblock Amplifier is Esoteric's flagship amplification unit. A pair of these 137 pound titans can effortlessly drive almost any loudspeakers to their ultimate level of performance. The remaining amplifier offerings are all stereo. There are 2 Class A options, the S-05 and Grandioso S1X, featuring lower power ratings but the unique smoothness. The other option for separate amplification is the S-02; this class A/B amplifier offers signifigantly higher wattage like the M1X but in a single stereo chassis. All of these amplifier options are fully balanced designs, maintaining the signal integrity from the preamp as best as possible. While Esoteric's provided power ratings may not be off the charts, the 'drive' supplied by the high current delivery as well as the lack of ringing or overshoot in their amplifier design leads to significantly better speaker control than one might suspect.
For a more compact system option, Esoteric also offers integrated amplifiers, combining many of the features of their respective series into a single chassis.
Often times, we're asked to provide insight into the sonic character of a brand. In terms of tonality, I consider Esoteric's line to be supremely neutral and accurate, with just a touch of warmth from odd-order harmonics. Their extremely low noise floor and excellent channel separation contribute to an impressive sense of depth and realism in recordings, capturing even the faintest spatial cues and micro-details without exaggeration. They pair well with almost any speaker, allowing the character of the speaker to be expressed as faithfully as possible!