Esoterique Esoteric

With my assignment high-priced amps, preamps, loudspeakers, and turntables, I started off by heading to the big rooms in the Venetian Tower. First up was the Esoteric–Cabasse room, where Esoteric was showing the latest incarnations of its “2” series, the Tokyo-made C-02X stereo line-stage preamplifier and S-02 stereo amplifier ($20,000 each). In a classic case of “trickle-down engineering” (which actually works, while trickle down economics rarely does), the preamp uses the same dual-layer supercaps as in the Grandioso ($40,000). It’s a fully balanced design, with a separate volume control for each phase of each channel. The sound is claimed to be faster, lighter, and more highly resolved, with a “big open soundstage.”

The class A/B, 145Wpc, S-02 is a dual-mono design that with fully balanced input and output stages. Its large bipolar LAPT (linear amplifier power transistor) supply help contribute to performance that is said to be faster and more responsive, with a very high damping factor.

Both components were placed on an eye-catching Grand Prix equipment rack. Mated with an Esoteric K1-X top level player, Shunyata Research power treatment, AudioQuest silver cabling, Cabasse Iroise loudspeakers, and a Cabasse Santorin subwoofer, the system delivered surprisingly gray sound that was muddy in the middle.

Anton's picture

I'd rather not be able to afford high priced crappy stuff than to not be able to afford good stuff!


I wish you a great show, Jason!

Jason Victor Serinus's picture

I have just learned that the speakers were not broken in when I visited on Day One of the show. It seems not even the people putting the room together were aware of this when I entered. As such, no fair assessment was possible. As has been emphasized time and again in reviews in this magazine, many speakers go through stages during their break-in period where they sound even worse than directly out of the box. Had I known what was going on, I would have withheld comment on the sound.

Audio_Visionary's picture

I heard them today and was pleased with the sound, especially the open top end. I thought the speakers acquitted themselves very well for the price which was $5800.00 a pair I seem to remember.

hifimaniac's picture

I own Esoteric and Grand Prix audio stands. I have not found them to be a good match. You need either to upgrade to the carbon fiber shelves or use a different stand i.e. critical mass systems (with no footers) or Symposium acoustics with roller balls. Only then can you appreciate the world class performance of Esoteric gear. My 2 cents.

ToeJam's picture

Jason, I don't subscribe to Stereophile to hear political commentary. When coupling your ignorance of economics and your judgement in choosing to use politics in your assignment, I'm left doubting your credibility for, well, much of anything.

But as long as the topic is in play, trickle up poverty is quite effective. See U.S.A., Stimulus Bill, circa 2009. It's the largest example of applied Kanesian economics in the known history of the human existence. Results? Included among them are decreased median income, the lowest participant rate in the job force since WWII and the highest participation rate in government subsistence since the Great Depression. Oh, and more public debt in the last 7 years than the combined amount of the debt incurred in our nations preceding history.

To use a phrase coined by one almost president, those are inconvenient truths! He didn't believe in Trickle Down economics either! Though he does believe the earth will be scorched sometime in January 2016. He predicted that 10 years ago on account of Global Warming (since changed to "Climate Change" to account for no actual warming).