Esoteric Grandioso P1/D1 SACD transport/DAC Lab Report

Lab Report

It’s tempting to think that Esoteric’s use of 16 channels-worth of AK4495SEQ DACs might deliver a record-breaking S/N, super-low THD and exceptional low-level linearity, but it doesn’t. In practice the D1’s maximum 4.75V output (re. 1kHz/0dBFs) is accompanied by a 107-108dB A-wtd S/N ratio and a 17-18 bit resolution that yields a low-level linearity of ±1.2dB (CD) and ±0.2dB (SACD) over a full 110dB dynamic range. These figures are matched by contemporary players employing a single AK4497 or any of the ESS ES9018/28/38 chips, including the

PD-70AE SACD player from sister company Pioneer [HFN May ’18]. In all likelihood the figures reflect the proprietary processing of data that’s addressed to Esoteric’s novel DAC array plus the impact of the associated analogue HCLD (High Current Line Driver) – all of which will have been ‘tuned’ to achieve a specific sound rather than absolute figures.


Distortion vs. digital signal level over a 120dB dynamic range – 48kHz/24-bit LPCM (1kHz, red; 20kHz, cyan) vs. CD (1kHz, black; 20kHz, blue)


High res. jitter spectrum with CD data via ES-Link (HDMI, black, with markers) vs. i.Link (red)

So, with LPCM data the peak level distortion is a low 0.0005% through bass and midrange, falling to a minuscule 0.00007% at –10dBFs, but this increases to 0.02% (0dBFs) and 0.005% (–10dBFs) at 20kHz [see Graph 1, below]. With SACD the figures for THD+N are comparable through bass and midrange but increase at 20kHz to a minimum of 0.05% courtesy of DSD’s ultrasonic requantisation noise [see blue trace, Graph on p51]. The SACD response reaches out to –0.5dB/20kHz, –1.3dB/40kHz, –2.6dB/60kHz, –5.5dB/80kHz and –11.3dB/100kHz. Via CD the response depends on choice of filter [see boxout, p51]. The lowest jitter, meanwhile, is most certainly achieved via the HDMI/ES-Link at 125psec (CD and SACD) while the highest is a debilitating 35,000psec via i.Link [see Graph 2, below]. PM

Maximum output level / Impedance: 4.75Vrms / 50-55ohm (XLR)
A-wtd S/N ratio (CD / SACD / DAC): 107.1dB / 107.5dB / 107.7dB
Distortion (1kHz, 0dBFs/–30dBFs): 0.00053% / 0.00085%
Distortion & Noise (20kHz, 0dBFs/–30dBFs): 0.022% / 0.00065%
Freq. resp. (20Hz-20kHz/45kHz/90kHz): +0.0 to –3.2dB/–4.0dB/–8.4dB
Digital jitter (ES-Link / S/PDIF / i.Link): 125psec / 915psec / 35nsec
Resolution @ –110dB (CD / SACD / DAC): ±1.2dB / ±0.2dB / ±0.7dB
Power consumption (P1 / D1): 16W / 13W (each)
Dimensions (WHD, each) / Weight (total): 445x162(132)x448mm / 99kg
Prices (P1/D1): £33,000 (with PSU)/£16,500 (pair)

Esoteric Co.
Tokyo, Japan
Supplied by: Pioneer and Onkyo
Europe GmbH, UK office
0871 200 1996