loved your blog on the Ayre DX-5 DSD. I would love to hear your opinion on the
Ayre QB-9 DSD, which is the same as the DAC in the DX-5 DSD, and how it would compare to
DACs such as the Meitner MA-1, Esoteric DS-07x, and the dCS Debussy.
don't have a way to compare these DACs and would really value your opinion, mostly because
you compared the DX-5 DSD to the Esoteric K-01, and I am trading in my Esoteric UX-3pi
(CD, SACD, DVD-A, and DVD playback) for a two-channel DAC.
Actually, there are differences between the Ayre QB-9 DSD and the DAC in the DX-5
DSD. According to Charles Hansen of Ayre, "The USB input receivers are identical.
What is different are two things in the audio signal path:
"(1) Immediately following the D/A chip outputs are ultra-low-noise JFETs in
the DX-5 and low-noise BJTs in the QB-9. This results in a lower noise floor across the
audio band with the DX-5.
"(2) The audio power supplies are doubly regulated in the DX-5, meaning that
a regulator feeds another regulator. The QB-9 has a conventional single stage of
More from Charles: "Not huge audible differences but noticeable in
I don't have any experience with the non-Ayre DACs you mention, but I am very happy with
the DX-5 DSD. I mostly spin discs, so I use it as a player, but when I do connect the
computer, I hear the same sonic signature. As Charles suggests, the QB-9 DSD will sound
very similar to the DX-5 DSD. As I mentioned in my blog, the DX-5 DSD pushes closer to the
sound of the Esoteric K-01, so given that you were using an Esoteric player, the QB-9 DSD
may be a very good choice for you. As always, try and then buy. -Marc Mickelson
10 versus . . . ?
really enjoyed your excellent review of the Audio Research Reference 10 preamp. I was
hoping you would get to review it as its on my shortlist.
it be possible for you to comment on how Reference 10 would compare with the Lamm LL1 Signature
and CAT SL-1 Legend in terms of timbres, microdynamics and low-level detail recovery? My
guess is that Lamm and CAT are probably slightly richer-sounding, but Reference 10 is more
detailed and possibly has better microdynamics than the CAT but on par with Lamm? I look
forward to hearing your thoughts.
didn't do any quick A/B listening to the Reference 10, the Lamm LL1 Signature and
CAT SL-1 Legend, but I honestly wonder if you might have, because your observations are
very accurate. The CAT is definitely the richest-sounding of the three, and it might have
the weightiest bass as well. The Lamm LL1 Signature is the hardest to demo,
because of its four chassis, and it sounds most like the Reference 10, but without quite
the same bass definition and a touch more midrange purr and bass warmth. All three are
very detailed, but the Reference 10, perhaps because of the way all Audio Research gear
portrays space, sounds a bit more delicate and airy in the treble, imparting a greater
sense of overall resolution. The LL1 Signature sounds more authoritative and
forceful, and maybe more detailed to some listeners. In terms of microdynamics and the
ability to uncover low-level detail, the Reference 10 is perhaps a little better than the
Lamm or CAT preamps, but I emphasize "perhaps" because that's one of the hardest
things to observe after changing products, especially tube preamps, which need proper
warm-up. The Reference 10 is the quietest of the three, but only by a hair over either the
CAT or Lamm preamps.
the choice among these three may boil down more to the listener's need for a remote
control (which the Lamm and CAT preamps don't offer) than any sonic considerations. One
preamp you don't mention, and a real test for the Reference 10, is the VTL TL-7.5 III. I
can't help you with a comparison there, however, because it has been too long since I
heard it in my system. I will have one sometime soon, but by then the Reference 10 will be
gone. -Marc Mickelson
saw the little story in your CES coverage that said Wilson is coming out
with a new high-end speaker code named "WAMM." The description sounds a lot like
the Focal Grand Utopia EM. Both are way, way, way out of my price and space ranges, but it
will be interesting to see what they come up with.
the massive Focal Grande Utopia EM would be the smaller of the two speakers here, and it
will likely cost far less as well. We are all anxious to hear the Wilson "WAMM"
(and to know its final name). Not much information was given at the press briefing, and we
couldn't photograph the prototype we saw, so this is a developing story, as they say.
have followed you for quite a while -- one of the very few reviewers whose comments and
biases seem to parallel mine. I recently moved away from my Esoteric X-03se player to the
Ayre C-5xe with MP upgrade and that worked nicely.
do I have to look to get significantly better sound than the C-5xe MP? Dynamics and
soundstage size get me rolling. It sounds like the Esoteric X-01 LE is a sideways move.
regards and much respect! I anxiously look forward to all your forthcoming reviews.
for the kind words. It's always good to hear that someone thinks you can hear.
Because of the continued rise of computer audio, new products that spin discs --
LPs aside -- are on the decline, so your choices are limited. The dCS Vivaldi stack is a
definite upgrade, but at a price that is multiples of what most people spend on their
you own the C-5xe MP, I'll assume you want to play DVD-As and SACDs in addition to CDs.
Given this, I would certainly consider the Ayre
DX-5 with the DSD update an upgrade for you, and I'm sure Ayre would say the same.
However, this player is no longer made, so you'd have to find one used, which may be tough
given that it's one of few true high-end stereo sources that plays Blu-ray Discs, and it's
also a very good USB DAC.
Esoteric players are exceptional, especially the K-01,
but it won't play DVD-As. Beyond that and the DX-5 DSD, I'm not sure what to recommend.
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