Just took delivery of the Esoteric X-05 to replace my Sony SCD-777ES (SE version of SCD-1). I ordered it sound unheard based on Neil's recommendation. At this point, I am very impressed. SACD playback is better (the Sony in retrospect is quite good, especially for a first generation design) but CD playback is on a completely different planet! Thank you Neil!
I find the DSD Direct Mode sounds clearly superior...sounds like the S/N ratio went way up. I've read previous comments stating that this superiority was recording-dependent, but to my ears the superiority (more transparency, lower noise floor, better bass extension, more air, denser tonal colors, better leading-edge articulation, better microdynamics...in short a more vivid/tactile presentation) is consistent. I will say that because so many recordings are recorded in reversed absolute polarity (my Mark Levinson integrated amplifier allows inversion via the remote- an indispensible feature) the mixed results with different recordings might, in part, be attributable to this variable.
Again, thank you Neil!