Ayre DAC?

hikejohn -- Thu, 06/10/2010 - 11:41

The new Ayre QB-9 has generated alot of buzz, has anyone at absolute sound listened to it...any thoughts?

Mr Plus -- Thu, 06/10/2010 - 12:49

 The Ayre QB-9 is the lead review of Hi-Fi+ issue 72. It lives up to the reputation.

Alan Sircom
Editor, Hi-Fi Plus Magazine
London, England
editor [at] hifiplus [dot] com

richardfinegold... -- Sun, 08/08/2010 - 14:36

Alan, I was wondering what your thoughts were on the Ayre DAC vs. a firewire DAC? I use a MacBook with it's FW interface with an Apogee
FW DAC. The Apogee is one of those pro FW Interfaces that is easily adapted to home use. I only needed to purchase an XLR/RCA adapter so that the Apogee could interface with my AV Receiver.
The Apogee cost about $900 online.
I had formerly used a a PS Audio Digital Link III DAC via it's USB input in the same system, and the Apogee is a much better piece. I now use the PS Audio DAC in a different system, and it's coax input is wonderful in that system (coupled with a NAD Universal Player as a transport). This leads me to believe that the USB interface was the weak link in Digital Link III.
All of this makes me wonder how an "aynchronous" USB input that allows for reclocking would compare with a firewire DAC. I know that the HI Fi Plus issue referenced earlier contained a favorable view of a Weiss firewire DAC, but no attempt was made to compare it to a player such as the Ayre or the dCS.
Your thoughts?

hikejohn -- Fri, 06/11/2010 - 13:34

Good to hear that, I had noticed that Stereophile seemed very positive and TAS seemed very quiet on what seems to be a great deal.  Is issue 72 the current issue?

danielaparker -- Sun, 06/13/2010 - 09:40

You won't find anything about Ayre in TAS, not since Ayre founder Charles Hansen posted about the "cable incident" on Audio Asylum. Maybe it's time to bury that :-)

RDPARISI@AOL.COM -- Sun, 06/13/2010 - 10:24

I do notice that while Hi-Fi+ reviews and extoles the virtues of many Ayre products, nary a word is to found on TAS. Intersting as both mags are co-owned. Even more perplexing when year end awards are made and Hi-Fi+ lists several Ayre products and TAS hasn't seen fit to name one Ayre product ( at least I don't recall there being one). I have audtioned many produicts and attend the RMAF annually and Ayre equipment is solid great sounding gear. I purchased the phone stage and KX-R and I am in love with them.

USAudio -- Sat, 11/27/2010 - 23:17

I always wondered why there was never any mention of Ayre products in TAS. I just read up on the "cable incident" at AA. That's really a shame as I enjoy reading TAS and feel it's a quality magazine. They would serve their subscribers better not ignoring quality products for "political" reasons but in their defense (as per posts by Charlie Hanson on AA) Ayre won't even provide review units anymore anyways.

David Matz -- Sun, 06/13/2010 - 10:56

When I was upgrading my C5 to MP, the Ayre salespeople told me that they think the DAC sounds better than the C5, which is a giant killer CD player.  The DAC does sound AMAZING with high res recordings.
The Ayre salespeopele are not sharks, by the way.  They could charge a lot more for their gear, but don't.

RDPARISI@AOL.COM -- Mon, 06/14/2010 - 17:54

I deal with Blu Note Audio out of Denver and Brandon is a class act. I was lucky enough to tour the Ayre factory after RMAF last year and the folks there are great as well. I am waiting on the new Blu ray universal disc player to be released (any time now). That is likely the next piece of electronics for me. I have been told they have incorportaed "a soupped up version of the QB9 DAC" into the player. I have heard the C5 MP and it is a wonderfully musical player. You should be very happy with it.

Sam -- Thu, 06/17/2010 - 12:21

If it almost rubs shoulders with the dCS player then it must be something. That's what the hifi+ review implies.

danielaparker -- Thu, 06/17/2010 - 19:13

Right, Alan says that the Arye is more "meaty", the dCS Puccini more "etheral"; the Ayre more "heart", the dCS more "head." Did I miss anything?

Come on guys, is that any way to compare the sound of audio equipment? I think there's a little bit more to be said about the dCS sound!

Alan writes that "there's a lot in common with the Naim audio sound ... tidy, well ordered, the sort of product you tap your foot to, but too bright for some..." I was hoping to see an explicit comparison with the Naim DAC, which HiFi+ has also reviewed.

-- Daniel

Mr Plus -- Thu, 06/17/2010 - 20:18

Yes, you missed the comparisons between the Ayre and the HRT models and the standalone reviews of all three (four if you include the Streamer Pro). I considered these comparisons more relevant because they are complete DAC products and they are all in the same issue.

The dCS Puccini U-Clock is reviewed in the following issue. Mostly not by me; I received the dCS Puccini duo specifically to discuss its computer audio performance in isolation. The Ayre and dCS were not compared deeply because one was leaving the system as another was taking its place. If there had been a longer handover period between the two products, there would have been more of a comparison.

There was no such crossover at all between the Naim and the Ayre. A-B comparisons are difficult to perform when separated by about a season.

Alan Sircom
Editor, Hi-Fi Plus Magazine
London, England
editor [at] hifiplus [dot] com

danielaparker -- Thu, 06/17/2010 - 20:51

:-) For some reason, your image looks a tad more irate than usual, but it could be my imagination.

I was referring specifically to the dCS versus Ayre comparison, alluded to in the post to which I replied. I bought the issue to check that out, and thought the comments were a little bit light. I've been spending a lot of time auditioning the dCS stacks recently, most recently the Scarlatti. I'm not sure yet whether this sound is for me, but I think there's a little bit more to it than "less meaty" and "more etheral."

Anyway, if you did have any comments comparing Ayre to the Naim DAC, I would be very interested. All the reviews of the Naim DAC that I've seen were positive, but I don't recall any comparisons made to other DACs.

-- Daniel

Mr Plus -- Thu, 06/17/2010 - 21:50

Given that the three DACs were not in the same place at the same time, comparisons as such are at arm's length and should be viewed as such. That said...

The dCS Puccini/U-Clock combination (purely as a computer audio player, through its USB input) retains much of what dCS is good at doing. The player has an ability to look into the structure of the music playing, giving you an uncanny sense of musical detail and precision. Those who love the sound think it's laying the music open to greater levels of analysis and understanding of the nature of music than almost any other digital product. Those who dislike it, think it's focused on the core of the music, rather than the music itself. This is usually diametrically opposed to the typical Naim sound, which excels at playing the music as a cohesive whole and as entertainment. Once again, those who love that view many other products as soulless and focused on the minutiae, while those that don't consider this 'crowd-pleasing'.

The Ayre treads between those two extremes, with much of the analytical skills of the dCS sound and a healthy sprinkling of the easy musicality of the Naim presentation. Yet again, this comes down to personal viewpoint, whether you consider that a good balance, or 'falling between two stools'. My feelings are that it strikes a very good balance.

As I said earlier, closer comparisons must be limited by not having the option to compare the Ayre and Naim side-by-side.

Alan Sircom
Editor, Hi-Fi Plus Magazine
London, England
editor [at] hifiplus [dot] com

danielaparker -- Thu, 06/17/2010 - 23:29

Thanks, I appreciate the comment. Although interestingly enough, regarding the Naim comparison, dCS seems to be a regular favourite on the naimaudio forum, particularly among those with mega bucks invested in largely Naim systems, the full four box Scarlatti or Paganini stacks receiving many favourable comments. The naimaudio forum being a somewhat tribal place, under the watchful eyes of Naim moderators, you get a sense of feelings of guilt and heresy at expressions of preference for dCS over the CD555. But it's there, if not a universal sentiment, and there are threads where Naim people having made the comparison end up replacing the CD555. And I think it's fair to say that there isn't a lot of non-Naim equipment that Naim people find compelling.

I can't say I'm a Naim person. I really liked the sound of the xs series with separates when I audioned it, but found myself not drawn to the sound of the mid range CDS3 282/300 systems, different speakers though. I find it odd, judging by the naimforum, that Naim people seem to spend a small fortune on electronics, and the upgrading thereof, and comparatively little on speakers.

I'm used to and like the Esoteric sound, but I want to move to digital sources, and it looks to me that dCS is ahead of Esoteric when it comes to digital inputs. The dCS sound is different, though, the Esoteric seems to have more dynamics, more impact. But I need to audition more.

-- Daniel

Mr Plus -- Fri, 06/18/2010 - 03:38

I've not compared dCS to Esoteric directly, but from speaking to those who have (and in whose ears I trust), yours is a very fair assessment of the Esoteric comparison.

I suspect the Naim forum can have a distinctly UK-centric view at times. If you aren't spending big on Naim, but need a top-flight UK CD player, dCS is one of the front-runners. Wadia seems to be one of the few non-UK exceptions to the rule.

Alan Sircom
Editor, Hi-Fi Plus Magazine
London, England
editor [at] hifiplus [dot] com

Sam -- Fri, 06/18/2010 - 20:24

So it doesn't rub shoulders with dCS cuz u didn't have the dCS for long enough comparison? Now it seems that ONLY through computer audio/USB they sound similar and USB is still not up to where it should be acording to most experts. The dCS CD sound that the review implied is at a similar level to the ayre DAC is the state of the art in CD play back and if you can get that state of art sound but slightly different from the ayre price why would people shell out crazy money for players like Meridian, dCS, Wadia, Spectral? Is the ayre that great? And if it's true that it produces state of the art sound it doesn't make sense to spend a dime more.

Mr Plus -- Sat, 06/19/2010 - 04:33

I entirely disagree that 'USB is still not up to where it should be'. The performance from computer audio is more than in line with CD sound. And it's improving at an alarming pace. Two years ago, I would have placed computer audio sound - at its best - akin to the best you can get out of a CD player costing about $1,000. Now, the number of CD players that can out-pace the best computer audio can offer is getting very small, and those that can are typically very expensive.

I'm probably about to scoop my own findings on the dCS U-Clock, but the sound of computer audio through the Puccini+U-Clock is better than the sound of discs played through the Puccini alone. The disc-based performance of the dCS Puccini+U-Clock is ultimately better still, but the difference is a closer call than you might imagine.

People still want to buy high-end CD and SACD players because they get excellent performance and many are not impressed with the concept of handing their collection over to a hard drive. Many will buy disc players because of the latter reason, irrespective of performance. Interestingly, one of the best players you mention - the Meridian 808.3 - is more computer audio than CD player in reality; it uses a CD-ROM drive, loads the music data into a buffer and plays from that. Aside from ripping the disc to a hard drive, it's a player that exploits much of the functionality of computer audio.

Alan Sircom
Editor, Hi-Fi Plus Magazine
London, England
editor [at] hifiplus [dot] com

danielaparker -- Sun, 06/20/2010 - 20:09

"Two years ago ...", but the Puccini has been out for a couple of years, hasn't it? Have you had a chance to listen to the new Debussy dac?

-- Daniel

Mr Plus -- Mon, 06/21/2010 - 04:00

The Puccini has been out for a couple of years, but the U-Clock is a relatively recent addition to the dCS stable. It was a 2009 product I believe. And no, I've not heard the Debussy yet.

Alan Sircom
Editor, Hi-Fi Plus Magazine
London, England
editor [at] hifiplus [dot] com

jhall986s@comca... -- Sun, 10/24/2010 - 12:03

 I notice that these thread ended on 6/21/10 any update on the Debussy dac.  I'm thinking of buying it to use as a pre/dac with a power amp.  I wood be interested in any comparisons to a firewire dac or the Ayre.  thanks

danielaparker -- Sun, 10/24/2010 - 13:19

Somewhat more recently (08/16/2010), in another thread ("Anyone heard the new dCS Debussy dac?", ) Alan Taffel said that he would be providing a full review of the Debussay dac in a forthcoming issue of tas. He sounded impressed at the time.

Using a dac as a pre-amp is controversial, though, I would be interested in hearing Alan's comments on that in the review.

-- Daniel

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