Having previously reviewed a couple of versions of Esoteric’s X-01 single-box SACD machine I was already a huge fan of their CD players. TEAC’s high-end wing certainly knows how to put a component together with a build quality that is just over the top enough to give you the satisfaction that it is likely to be bomb-proof. Very few companies can even afford to build and finish to such a standard and the P-03/D-03 is just about as good as I have seen. In Japan in particular the Esoteric range are regarded primarily as SACD machines though, unfortunately, that particular ship has all but sailed in the UK.
Certainly nobody is going to have too much cause for complaint with the D-03 when used as a separate converter. It has a full set of the standard digital inputs and by the time you read this these will have been expanded to include both wireless and USB alternatives, enhancing its capabilities even further. There is also the option, when using it with a separate SACD transport like the P-03, to connect it via a pair of AES/EBU cables (available separately) which supply left and right feeds individually and this allows PCM data to be upsampled up to 176.4 kHz. The transport can output data as either PCM at various sampling frequencies or straight DSD. But if you also want DVD-A or straight DVD-Video, you will need to look at Esoteric’s own Universal transport.
The P-03 features TEAC’s superb VRDS NEO transport, very similar to that found in the flagship P-01. This disc-clamping mechanism is as impressive physically as it is in use. Fabricated from duralumin aircraft-grade alloy and incorporating a 20mm thick steel vibration damper this massive unit contains no plastic parts and conforms fully to Esoteric’s formidable sense of hyper engineering and mechanical solidity. It also has the neat powered flap over the CD drawer that I first saw on the X-01 D2. In fact the technical description of both of these units could consume the copy length for this review quite easily so I would urge you to investigate Esoteric’s website to get a fuller picture of the incredible lengths they have gone to with these machines.