At $10,000 MSRP, the C-03 is a high end bargain. It may have been Esoteric’s first preamp in a long while but what a masterpiece it is. The transient response, timing of the rhythms, transparency and sonic details are amongst the best we have heard from a preamp at any price point. Its strikingly clean sound is what caught our attention within the first 15 minutes of listening. The level of precision and composure are some of the elements we have associated with preamps costing two or three times as much. So for a preamp that exhibits the same kind of trade for $10,000, its a bargain. And for under $4,000 now, its a steal. Build quality, finish and parts used are all top class. Its build like a tank and weighs like one too (relative to other preamps). This unit was previously in an all Esoteric system that was painstakingly put together over the years that included the P-03/D-03 combo and a pair of A-70 monoblocks. For a system that cost slightly more than $50,000, it sounded more like a $150,000 system. So kudos to Esoteric for putting together a monumental system that was really a “bargain” in the high end realm where similar sounding setups can run into the six figure price tag. We will be leaving the current setting on the preamp as is now (only had three line inputs used – phono, SACD and MD and preout is via XLR) so you can either use back the same or reconfigure it. In which case, we strongly urge you to read the manual prior to use.
Cosmetically, it is in very nice shape. Just some light scuff marks on the bottom right corner of the faceplate and on the remote. We have the original box, manual and remote and will double box it for safe shipping.