Meridian 808.2i vs Ayon CD-5?

siqbal -- Thu, 02/11/2010 - 02:52

I'm looking to upgrade my current CD player which is the Audio Aero Capitole Reference and have narrowed down my choices to the Meridian 808.2i (based in large part on RH's review) and the Ayon CD-5, each of which has the features I'm looking for: a preamp section to run the unit directly into my amp (a VAC Phi-200 100W tube amp), and a wealth of digital and analog inputs.
Unfortunately I do not have access to either unit where I live and have to buy sight unseen so am relying on the audio community's experience of each one to make my decision. The Meridian's MSRP is substantially higher than the Ayon's ($16,000 vs. $9,500) but since it's being replaced by the Meridian 808.3 shortly I am getting a good deal on one of the last remaining pieces so the price differential is not really an issue. The main difference between the two appears to be that Meridian's appoach to avoiding digital glare is to use an apodising filter while Ayon's approach is to use tubes and a massive power supply.
Anyway, the community's insights into these units, especially from folks who've heard both would be greatly appreciated. Thanks!

Robert Harley -- Fri, 02/12/2010 - 21:06

I have not heard the Ayon, and don't know anything about its technology, but I can tell you that the 808.2's ability to make poor-sounding CDs listenable is in a class by itself. Conceptually, it seems a better approach to remove that form of distortion (hardness, glare, flat soundstaging) in the digital domain rather than try to ameliorate it with the euphonic colorations of tubes.
Incidentally, the 808.3 has the preamp built in (it's no longer a different model) and a card that connects to the Meridian Sooloos music server. I believe that the two players are sonically identical.

Jim Wilson (not verified) -- Sat, 02/13/2010 - 01:34

I owned the Meridian 808.2 and in compaison to the Ayon Audio CD-5, there is no comparison. The Ayon CD-5 is superior in every detail and manner. The CD-5 makes just about any CD sound superb, something the Meridian could never and never did.
There is no euphonic coloration in the CD-5 as a result of the unit being a vacuum tube unit, on the contrary it is a perfect balance of what an excellent ss unit delivers with the performance of an excellent tube stage.

siqbal -- Sat, 02/13/2010 - 03:51

Thanks Jim. I am surprised by your finding. As Robert suggested in his post, it would seem that correcting the digital problem at the source (by using a filter) would seem to be a better approach than, in effect, covering it over by using tubes. But the proof of the pudding is in the eating and if Ayon's approach results in better sound (which, in my book, means a more natural, analog sound) then so be it. Perhaps the answer to the conundrum is that although an apodising filter has a positive effect, tubes and a big power supply have an even bigger positive effect. The ideal solution would then seem to be a combination of the two approaches, but I don't believe there's a CD player out there yet which does that.
Anyway, it sounds like you lived with the Meridian for a while and either own, or are very familiar with, the Ayon, and prefer the Ayon.  I'd be curious to know more about your impressions of each. Where did the Meridian fall short in your opinion? How about ease of use, remote control, build quality etc (an area where my Audio Aero falls short)?

JimA (not verified) -- Thu, 02/25/2010 - 14:24

Thank-you Mr. Wilson, for your insight. I too, as did siqbal, think the Meridian would sound superior because of apodizing filter vs. tubes. But I always trust my ears over "theoretical electrical engineering".And it seems Ayon has something very special going on.

gammajo@bellsou... -- Fri, 03/11/2011 - 20:32

Robert, since the TAS article has come out in TAS on Ayon have either you or a member of your team had a chance to listen to both the Meridian and the Ayon CD 5s, and how would you compare? I too am interested in purchase.

siqbal -- Sun, 03/13/2011 - 03:51

Hi there - I started this thread and in the intervening months I've answered my own question by purchasing both the Ayon CD-5 and the Meridian 808.2i and comparing the two. My objective was to find a suitable replacement for my Audio Auro Capitole Reference and so I was looking for a high end CD player which also had a full complement of digital and analog inputs and could drive a power amp directly. I found the sound of the Audio Aero above reproach (its patented "STARS" technology definitely results in excellent sonics) and only wanted to change it out because I'd had it for a few years and wanted to try something different.

The Ayon is built like a tank and definitely had the best build quality of the three. It also has the highest gain of the three and should be able to drive even the most insensitive speakers to sufficiently loud volumes. The bass produced by the Ayon is truly subterranean and was by the far the lowest of the three. The Ayon is also the only one of the three to have a USB input. Like the Audio Aero the Ayon has a tubed output stage and this is where it fell short for me. I have tube amp (VAC Phi 200) and the 'tube on tube' sound of the Ayon driving the VAC resulted in a rolled-off top end and an overly 'syrupy' sound. Even though the Audio Aero has a tubed output stage as well, it had a clarity and transparency in the top end which was missing in the Ayon when driving my tube amp.

The Meridian 808.2i is no longer in production (recently replaced by the $20k 808.3) but a good pre-owned unit can be found for around the same price as a new Ayon CD-5 ($9k-$10k). The Meridian's build quality, while not as solid as the Ayon, is superior to the Audio Aero and, unlike the other two, it does not have a tubed output stage. I found the sound of Meridian's apodizing filter technology to be similar to Audio Aero's STARS technology: liquid, tube-like mid-range, and extended, airy top end. It goes deeper in the bass than the Audio Aero but not as deep as the Ayon. It also has the most number of inputs (digital and analog) of the three so is the most flexible in that regard.

The final outcome of the exercise is that I have sold the Ayon and the Meridian will be replacing my Audio Aero. I should note that this is what works best with my tube amp. If you have a solid state amp and want a digital source with an analog sound then the Ayon may well be your best bet.

gammajo@bellsou... -- Sun, 03/13/2011 - 08:23

Sigbal. Thank you for your helpful post. Just to clarify, you auditioned the Ayon CD-5, not CD-5s, correct? Best I know the new 5s has a new volume control, output stage and DAC system and presumably may sound better. Your point on solid state versus tube amplification with this unit is important. I have heard the Meridian 808.3 in my system for a one hour audition and first impressions was that it was awesome. Hope the stellar Meridian give you many years of enjoyment

siqbal -- Sun, 03/13/2011 - 08:28

Yes, it was the CD-5 not the CD-5s. I would expect both of them to sound amazing with a high-end solid state amp.

gammajo@bellsou... -- Sun, 03/13/2011 - 09:01

Sigbal, very helpful thanks. Yes, my solid state might benefit from a slight calming of the highs. I know it now sweetens yet remains vibrant with a tubed preamp.

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