Esoteric Grandioso P1/D1 SACD transport/DAC Page 2

And yet… here was a sound issuing from my Wilson Yvettes [HFN Feb ’17] that exhibited all the silky sheen that characterised Capitol Records’ glory years. Dating from 1960 and exhibiting stereo qualities to rank with the most convincing of audiophile discs of later decades, the set features Nelson Riddle and an orchestra capable of bloom and grandeur. What was missing were any of the clichéd digital artefacts that drove me onto the grip of reel-to-reel tape and vinyl.

1118eso.rem.jpgUncanny Effect
Transparent? Open-sounding? Authentic? I was staggered at how much more it extracted from an SACD than even my cherished Marantz DV8300, notably in two areas. The first was stage depth. It wasn’t something I’d noted as previously deficient, but somehow the P1/D1 was able to push back the wall behind the system a good few feet. It was an uncanny but clearly discernible effect.

Retrieval of low-level detail was its second show of strength. Again, this was not an area I thought needed much improvement, but there they were, minuscule notes and tics and sonic clues that made the performances that much more life-like. The tinkling of the piano stage-left on ‘True Love’ was as convincing as the Chappell & Co upright that sits four feet away from me as I write this. The punch of the brass stage-right, punctuated by the percussion – all presented as ‘of a whole’, yet clearly offering the listener an ideal opportunity to focus on specific players with a minimum of effort.

As I said, this was an easy test for the P1/D1. The Dino recording is so far beyond the norm that you’d have to listen to it through utter garbage to compromise its sound. Next up, then, was the hardest of hard rock, Rick Derringer’s All American Boy/Spring Fever [Vocalion CDSML 8540]. This is deliciously nasty, guitar-driven material that takes no prisoners. The opener, ‘Rock And Roll, Hoochie Koo’, is an onslaught of fuzz and power chords and tear-your-head-off riffing. Subtlety is not invited.

Bottom End Punch
For the Esoteric stack, this was simply a case of lifting its skirts and dancing. Good grief: the bottom end had punch and power enough to worry the speakers, but control was maintained. Then the shocker – after the opener faded out, the first notes on the second track, ‘Joy Ride’, just a bit of semi-acoustic strumming, rang through clear and true. Again, rich, fat, controlled bass supported it. But it wasn’t just the instrumentation that created a demonstration of contrasts. Dino’s voice is honeyed and deep, Derringer’s a true rocker’s wail.


‘Cheap Tequila’’s percussion at 38 seconds in, the cowbell in ‘Uncomplicated’, the stereo guitars in ‘Teenage Love Affair’, Derringer’s slightly nasal vocals above it all… the P1/D1 can rock as well as croon.

It was consistent regardless of genre or era, a twang of a different sort defining The Flying Burrito Bros’ The Gilded Palace Of Sin [Intervention Records IR-SCD3]. Pure country rock, this was gentler than the Derringer album but tougher than the sound of Dino.

The P1/D1 blended with aplomb the liquidity of pedal steel, brush-laden percussion, mandolin and other string-driven things, rendering the yee-hah-fest that is ‘My Uncle’ a joyous, foot-tapping delight. You could taste the chewin’ tobacco.


Utterly at home with SACDs (and if we’re going to be frank here, this stack is only of true worth for those with a large SACD library), the Esoteric P1/D1 still had to show its mettle with regular CDs. I was in the fortunate position of being able to compare Eleanor McEvoy’s new CD, Forgotten Dreams [Chasing the Dragon VALCD006] with the open-reel tape taken from the masters.

So full marks to Chasing the Dragon for producing a CD so phenomenally warm and natural that I wasn’t missing the tape as I sat spellbound by ‘Slow Hand’, as it showed the P1/D1’s way with CDs to be on a par with its reproduction of SACDs. I fired up the still-unbeaten Marantz CD12/DA12 and was delighted to find them so close in so many areas that there’s hope yet for me should it ever need replacing.

In The Room
Ms McEvoy’s delivery touches the heart, and has so much warmth that it could turn transistors to tubes. All of the nuances that define her vocals, the unplugged nature of the performance (just piano and guitar) were presented with absolute authority. Perhaps ‘authority’ is not the best word to use here, as the sound was unrestrained, but I think you’ll get my drift. This genuinely was a case of ‘the performer was in the room’.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Despite reservations about the D1’s silicon being a generation old, I was staggered by what I heard. Sound? Exquisite, by any standards. Build quality? Peerless. Behaviour? Faultless. As I currently have neither the funds nor space to consider it, I’ll say goodbye to the Esoteric D1/P1, grateful for being able to live with it for some weeks. My regret is that it represents the best access to a format few appreciate.

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