Esoteric Flows with Raidho, AudioQuest, Grand Prix, and Auralex

Could a year have passed since I spent a particularly memorable month reviewing the top-line, two-piece Esoteric Grandioso C1X preamplifier? As hard as it may be to realize that time has moved so fast during these strangely elongated years of pandemic isolation, revisiting Esoteric components in 11 Trading Company’s room at AXPONA 2022 was like reuniting with an old friend. There was a lovely grace to this Esoteric system’s presentation—an ease and flow—that set it apart from many of the other systems encountered at the show.

Esoteric’s Keith Haas knew what he was doing when he cued up a CD of Eva Cassidy’s “Fields of Gold” on the K-01XD SACD/CD player ($24,000). Subliminal messages aside, it was a joy to discover that once the volume upped a few notches, images grew gratifyingly large. Uncle Lucius’ “Keep the Wolves Away,” played on the N-01XD Network Audio Player ($20,000). That track also confirmed the excellence of the system’s low bass, its surprising transparency in a challenging show environment, and how easily it could enable a guitar to sing.

Also heard and appreciated: Esoteric F-03a integrated amplifier ($14,000), which outputs 30Wpc in class-A; Raidho TD-3.2 three-way loudspeakers ($70,000/pair); AudioQuest Wind XLR interconnects, Thunderbird speaker cables, Blizzard and Monsoon power cables, and Niagara 3000 power conditioner; Grand Prix Monaco 4-shelf rack ($7250), and Auralex room treatment.

Shown in passive display was the new N-05XD Network Audio Player ($11,000, above), part of a forthcoming new “05” line that, for the first time in Esoteric’s history, will be available in black as well as silver. Nor are the 05s the only new products up Esoteric’s metaphorical sleeve. Expect more at Munich High End next month.

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