Ayon Audio CD-5 versus CD-5s

What are the essential differences between the CD-5 and CD-5s? Has anyone heard one of the 5s units as yet?

Does Ayon have any plans to bring out a reference player like the CD-5/5s with built-in pre-amp that does SACD (2-channel) as well as Redbook CD?

I know there is information on the Ayon site about the CD5-S. I am wondering the same thing. The only think I know for sure is that the USB connection has been upgraded to the same level as the other newer models. Maybe someone else can give more information on it.
I think the 5s differs only by having an upgraded USB chip (which now does 24/96), and an added XLR analog input (to connect another source component, which will go through a A/D and then D/A process within the CDP!).

Thus, if you don't plan on using USB as your digital input, and are not interesting in feeding it a balanced analog source signal, then your current CD5 should perform the same. Neither of those "new" 5s features appeals to me personally, but there may be other changes I'm not aware of.
I received the following summary list from Paul at Ayon;

1) Improved volume control design
2) New Pre amp design
3) Improved tube output stage
4) 24/96 asynchronous USB input
5) XLR inputs
Hi Zephyr,

I just recently sold my CD-5 to trade up to the CD-5s with xlr input. Thanks for sharing that info re: the differences. My Dealer got a 'lite' version of your update. Btw, Ayon have also further refined the power supplies in the CD-5s according to their website. Ayon recently updated the CD-5s page on their site, so you may not have seen that yet.

Designing a twin lense, sacd/rb player adds cost and complexity. I think Ayon (like Vitus) decided to focus on smoking good rb performance and building awesome value players. There is also a tweak I know of which improves the CD-5s a further 15% ;)
It does have some updated parts but does it sound better?
Wig, my player is just landing from Austria now, but a mini review will follow after it's done 250-300hrs on the Isotek cd :)
Let me know of your initial impressions.
Thanks for the response. I did see the new website update from Ayon. This player interests me quite a bit despite the fact I remain extremely happy with my Esoteric P-03U/D-03 stack. Bill Duddleston and Legacy in general as well as people like Doug Schroeder that I talk with and respect have nothing but good things to say about it. If things were different and I had a spare chunk of change to plunk down, I would seriously think about picking up the CD-5s and seeing if it was time to move on from separates and a separate pre-amp but things don't lend themselves to that type of experiment this year. Please let me know your impressions of the player once it arrives and you get it broken in. What other playback equipment have you utilized? Merry Christmas!
BTW...what is the additional tweak that will take the performance further?
Hi Zephyr, I agree with your comments regarding Doug Schroeder who has posted on AG and is well respected/regarded on this forum. Fyi, there is another thread comparing the Esoteric X03SE to the previous model (CD-5) which might interest you - "Esoteric X03SE vs Ayon CD-2 or CD-5".

My first cd player was the classic JVC XL-Z1050 which used a front loading version of the Victor transport paired with a Vimak DS-1800Mk2 dac. The move up to the CD-5 was revelatory! Musical, dynamic, liquid/flowing sound and bullet proof build quality. What also surprised me about the CD-5 was how it's tube preamp paddled the backside of my previous pre-amp (the preamp section of my previous Classe Cap-2100). Improved bass was the first thing I noticed, but it was clearly better in every way.

Yes I will post back in this thread with my initial impressions, then put a more considered post up once the player has done 72hours on my Isotek cd (equivalent to 250-300hrs). I will also be playing in a brand new Modwright KWA-150 amp at the same time, so it wont exactly be apples vs apples, but given the MW is essentially neutral in character, the Ayon's character should still be easily detectable. Re: the upgrade board, send me a pm for details.
Thanks for the response, I'm considering upgrading from the CD2 to CD5 since I don't need XLR inputs.
Mel: Thanks for the feedback; I've heard the CAP-2100 and am sure you would be blown away by the differences sight unseen as that piece does not have a great pre-amp section; it always struck me as a bit flat up top, unrevealing in the mids and not enough depth and impact in the bass. By comparison, the Classe CP-700 I've had for several years is a whole other story and gives everything I was and still am looking for so it would be a great showdown. I'm also considering the Esoteric C-03 pre-amp. I've read that thread you are talking about on comparing the Esoteric and Ayon pieces. In this day and age there are many, great contenders for state of the art and yet musical playback and pre-amplification. Ah,...the pursuit/obsession never ends! I am keen to hear your feedback after the Isotek CD has run its course. I've found that CD to be a great resource...
Wig, you can't go wrong with the CD-5. It is a tremendous bargain given what you get; a full Skylla tube dac, tube pre-amp & high end transport with Austrian engineering & build quality. There are near new CD-5's up for sale for $5k at the moment.
Mel: I look forward to your feedback on how it sounds!
WOW! This is something I must look at when I get my CD5, upgraded board
It was brought to my attention by my local Ayon Dealer that he has been receiving enquiries about the availability of an upgrade board for the CD-5s. I apologize to the OP as I only skimmed over the original question. My comments related to the 24/96 USB board available from Ayon which I had fitted to my old CD-5 for the buyer. It was also brought to my attention that Ayon now have info regarding this upgrade posted on their website. My apology for the apparent confusion.
Just curious if any of your heard the Ayon CD5s at the CES?
I have cd-5s, and I have listened cd-5 before my purchase. There are quite numerous upgrades between cd-5 and cd-5s model. USB-board is one of them. Also analog inputs (now 1 balanced and 1 unbalanced, before 2 unbalanced) are not digitized (AD-converted) as before. There are also one analog (unbalanced) output for subwoofer etc. Display information is wider and contains more display options (as with cd-1sc for example). There are more switches in back to select different setups (example "normal amp" and "direct amp"). About sonical differences cant say anything yet, because im still under break-in period. But it sounds very good right now !
05-04-11: Akk_sound
Congratulations on new CD-5s Akk! Btw, the CD-5s also had some other upgrades incl further refined power supplies, improved analogue volume control, new pre-amp design & improved tube output stage. Gerhard Hirt told me the actual sonic improvement is tiny between the CD-5 & 5s as both players are already designed to the edge. Ayon's main goal was to add more features.

I actually think Gerhard is being a bit modest. Streamers should get a good improvement with the upgraded 24/96 asynchronous USB card & those connecting a tt via the analogue in's should also get a good improvement since the signal is no longer subject to a-d-a conversion as you mentioned. The CD-5s is a fully sorted player & is the one to own imho. I rate it as one of the top 3 rb cd players in the world, and one of the top 5 cd players at any price, however that is just my subjective opinion. In it's own price category however, it is without peer.
Akk congratulations on your purchase. I am still in my audition period with the CD5s and am loving what I hear, but boy - it takes awhile. Didn't begin to show its real potential until 50-100 hours , and now is blossoming at about 150 hours.
..am loving what I hear, but boy - it takes awhile. Didn't begin to show its real potential until 50-100 hours , and now is blossoming at about 150 hours.
yeah that's the massive power supplies & big Mundorf and polypro caps...enjoy!
I have listened about 50+ hours, and sound is getting better and better. So that would be not too easy, I upgraded my balanced Transparent mm1 interconnections to mm2 matched (high Impedance) ones, which cave extra resolution and wider sound field...but I´m still waiting final blossoming at about 300 hours.
Due to major changes in my system including speaker cables (Jorma Origo)speaker cables (Origo biwire), amp (Boulder 1060), racks (Taoc) & isolation (Acoustic Revive/Alto Extremo), and difficulty locating 32a parts to re-terinate one of my Acoustic Revive reference pc's, this review is long overdue! Having owned the previous CD-5 & now the CD-5s, I feel the improvement in the CD-5s is substantial, as much in the sound as its added features. The CD-5s as mentioned in some earlier posts has a number of improvements over the CD-5 incl: an improved Japanese analogue volume control (CD-5 used a digital volume control), "true analogue in" (analogue inputs on CD-5 were subject to a-d-a conversion), improved tube output stage incl: 2 x custom-made higher value (3.3uf) Mundorf Supreme Silver/Gold/Oil caps (1% MKP), 2 analogue inputs (incl 1 x xlr) & 24/96 asynchronous USB board. There are also a group of toggles switches at the back of the player including xlr/single ended, 0/180° phase, Normal/Direct to amp & low/high gain. After setting the toggles to xlr, 0° phase & direct to amp, I experimented with the gain & upsampling features and established early on that I preferred low gain paired with my Boulder 1060 with upsampling switched on. Some reviewers feel that the CD-5s sounds better with upsampling switched off. I think this will be an individual choice & system dependent to some extent.

The CD-5s is almost the perfect high end rb cd player & what the CD-5 should have been. I say "almost" because I indentified 3 components which could be improved. Now as a preface I should pay homage to Gerhard Hirt who uses the best tube tester in the world (an Amplitrex AT1000) and tests every tube fitted to their players over all 5 specs, so the factory tubes are very well sorted. Never the less I wanted to take my player to the limit, so I upgraded to matched NOS 6H30P-DR output tubes & matched NOS Russian 6C4P rectifiers. I further identified an opportunity to ugprade the factory Burr Brown OPA627AP op amps. The OPA627AP's were about the best op amps 20 years ago, but are only midrange op amps today. The best op amps I could find were Burson single HD discrete op amps. My research found that the Bursons (despite their claims) were no better (or worse sounding) than the very best ic op amps available today.

Altogether, the above mods made a BIG difference, elevating an excellent high end rbcd player to a great player. The Bursons turned a coke bottle-size portal into a wide open vista, doubling the soundstage width & adding detail. The sound is also more analogue and smooth (less technical sounding) & there was more bass.

So having re-connected my system, I initially ran my Isotek cd for 64hrs (equivalent to 129hrs normal play) & had a listen. The sound had smoothed out quite a bit, but still sounded closed in and tight, so the Isotek cd went back on for another 56hrs (equivalent to 112hrs). I then treated one of my reference cd's with my RIO-5II, RD-3 & Finyl cd treatment, and settled in to listen. Wow! Now we're talking! The Ayon now sounded warm, open & very musical. Over the course of the weekend, I put a further 15hrs on it, and all I can say is wow!! I was listening to my Pink Floyd Pulse cd tonight, and after the above treatments the sound was incredibly pure, timbraly accurate, warm & liquid sounding, yet authoritive & exciting. But what blew me away was the sound staging! On track 3 of Pulse (cd #2), I was literally looking around my room as sounds appeared in different parts of the room, and following sounds across a vast, enveloping sound stage. I closed my eyes & my Marten Coltrane Altos disappeared. I was experiencing the same excitement I get from a live performance, which is something not even the Vitus SIA-025/SCD-010 combination did for me, though the SIA-025 is the purest, most melifluous sounding amp I have ever heard.

The addition of the Boulder 1060 was certainly a huge upgrade from my previous Classe Cap-2100, and drove my Altos for the first time with solid bottom end authority, and sounded natural, fast, accurate & musical. I would say the Boulder is on the slightly warm side of neutral. What suprised me was how good my modded CD-5s sounded as preamp! This is the pre-amp which comprehensively beat out the Aesthetix Janus in my earlier review for another forum. In that review, I noted the improvement in sound stage depth from the earlier CD-5; a known quality of Mundorf Supreme Silver/Gold/Oil caps. This was complemented by the improvement in soundstage width from the Burson upgrade. Just remarkable for an integrated player!

The CD-5s is hand-made in Austria at Ayon's factory, and the quality is very evident. It's brushed aluminium chassis is lovely to look at with the solid-looking polished aluminium top loader (a modified version of the latest Phillips Pro 2 LH version) which includes a heavy acrylic cover incorporating an integrated magnetic puck which works a treat. The display looks great in red & provides more information than the previous model. The trade off is the characters are smaller. Owners with larger rooms may find themselves squinting to read the display. I found it ok for my smallish size room. The remote control is the best remote control i've ever owned & feels solid and heavy. It also looks smart in matching brushed aluminium with silver buttons that feel solid & give a reassuring mechanical 'click' when actuated. There is no backlighting, but then again there are gorgeous silver metalic buttons instead of cheap rubber ones. I love the convenience of controlling my cdp, source selection & volume from one remote.

It's not just the quality, amazing circuit design, features or sound which have so impressed me with Ayon, but also the first class after sales support I have received from Ayon President Gerhard Hirt. My experience with Ayon has been a delight & given me great pride of ownership. In conclusion, I am blown away by the CD-5s which to me represents a smashing high end value. I give it my highest recommendation!

Disclaimer - I have no connection to Ayon, but am just a happy customer.

Thank you for you thorough, informative, and cogent review of the CD5s. I too, with over 500 hours on mine, feel it represents an ideal front end with the NOS 6H30P-DR output tubes. I would emphasize that having this quality of transport, DAC, and preamp, all in the same 50 pound, well laid out and shielded box, with the concomitant simplifying of the circuit path and elimination of two sets of IC's and power cords, also is part of the magic and charm of this unit.
I have not experienced any coke bottle stage, rather a deep holographic stage with excellent width, well beyond the speakers with the stock op amps. Perhaps the Boulder amp and your careful attention isolation gave you some of this as well as the Bursons. That said, it is nice to know that the Bursons added even more goodness to this lovely unit. After all your work I know you will be enjoying the music. You deserve it!
12-18-11: Melbguy1
Due to major changes in my system including speaker cables (Jorma Origo)
..oops, meant to write "including interconnects (Jorma Origo)", but i'm sure you get the drift :D
Hi Joe, thanks for your kind words. I didn't want to repeat too much that has already been covered in review, but relate my experiences. I should clarify my comment about the factory op amps providing a "coke bottle-size portal" related to the technical design of this type of ic op amp. The factoy op amps still produce great sound, but from a technical point of view, the Burson Single HD op amps create a wide open portal for the music to flow through. I would say objectively they made a 15-20% improvement to the sound overnight which was surprising.
Thanks for the clarification. I re-read the sentence about op amps and misunderstood the first time around.
I must have read two posts back to back and responded to them in a single one so here's the relevant points for this one. Sorry.

A. CD5 vs CD5S
The major differences are:
1. USB input (48kHz vs 24/96kHz)
IMHO this is a moot point. The USB input is acceptable but not fantastic. If you can score a good deal on a preowned CD5, go for it. Save your moolah for a standalone USB-SPDIF or FireWire-SPDIF device and hook that up to the AES/coax input on the CD5. I have had great success with a Wavelink HS and a Weiss INT202

2. preamp stage
The CD5 I believe uses a digital volume control. The CD5S uses an analog preamp volume control that is only beaten by Ayon's dedicated preamp with built in regenerator. If you are using an integrated Triton or have a good preamp, the premium of the 5S is IMHO not worth paying for.

B. SACD vs RBCD titles
SACDs have enjoyed a resurgence of late. But you have to pay for it.

I have imported loads of SHM SACDs from Japan. Go to www.cdjapan.co.jp and have a browse. You'll be surprised at what titles you can find on the SACD format. Rolling Stones, The Who, Queen are all getting released on this format. Universal Japan is also re-releasing some old DVDA titles in SACD format. Of course, Pink Floyd's Wish You Were Here has just been released on SACD. So it's more than just jazz and classical.

If you are prepared to spend that kind of money, and also look around at Amazon Merchants to buy some Out Of Print titles, you would most likely run out of moolah before you run out of titles to buy ;)

Of course, you'll always have more RBCDs to choose from. But I do find that with the new remasters, there's extra care in the mastering/mixing that you get a big boost in quality. So you do get a better quality transfer with SACD.

C. Ayon CD5/5S vs SACD player
This is a bit harder to answer.

I will say this for the Ayon CD5S. It's a great CD player. Even with not so well mastered RBCDs (and there are plenty), the music still flows. You don't get ticked off with too much digital glare. And it does this without being overly warm. There's still enough detail and dynamics to keep me satisfied (and I was a SolidState guy through and through before the Ayon)

To get an SACD that can go better than the 5S, I had to go to something like a Playback Designs MPS5 or XDS1. And either cost a fair bit more than the 5S, I reckon. I'm not sure if you want to spend that much more.

I found the MPS5 I had on demo with the Audio Research Reference 5 had as much of the lush midrange and 3 dimensionality of the CD5S acting as a preamp directly.
Thanks DH, as long as you accept the PBD is cold sounding (like DCS) and you either like that kind of sound, or have tubes elsewhere in your system, then it could be a happy marriage. A PBD deck in my system would definitely tip the balance too close to neutral/cool. Tonal balance & musicality are more important considerations to me than SACD per say. With that said, I am contemplating moving to a seperate Ayon preamp & high end SACD player in the next 15 monthts or so (probably Accuphase), but for now, i'm wrapped with my modded CD-5s.
Anyone who characterizes the Playback Design player as cold or amusical is using the wrong power cords and/or wrong interconnects. Yes, having tubes in the chain is helpful, but that's generally true for all systems. The PBD is the best digital I've heard.....and musicality with proper tone and weight are my foremost requirements.
The dCS Puccini I heard didn't impress me when it was going head to head against the XDS1.

But the MPS5 in my own system definitely didn't sound cold to me. I will finally get the chance to put the XDS1 in my main system this Christmas ;) Will post impressions then.
Hi Lula, I was probably being a bit unkind to the MPS-5. I have only heard that player in a friend's system and have not done a direct a/b comparison. Keep in mind my description of the MPS-5 as "cold" is in comparison to my Ayon CD-5s & Accuphase players which i'm familiar with. FWIW, I thought the PBD sounded very analogue, smooth & easy to listen to. Resolution was excellent. Ok, the PBD is the best cd player to your ears and preferances. At the end of the day, I think if you put 5 audiophiles in a room and lined up my modded CD-5s, an MPS-5 & DP-700, you'd get 5 different opinions. They are all great players.
To get full runin on the cd-5 s it will take a solid 300hrs .i have many years with big capacitors especially Munorf Silver oil, the unit will go through several changes ,and refinement just gets better.
Agreed, already the best digital I heard, I noticed a real nice, "shake your head its so good improvement" between 500 and 750 hours.
The best digital I have heard and this includes Berkeley-2
And Wiess dac 2,Skylla dac MK-2 or cd5s which is the same unit , and I let me add,this preamp section in this unit will better the majority iof preamps under $10k
it even did a head to head with Ayons Big $$ Polarus, it was not as good but not that far behind that is saying a lot. With this unit is uses Custom within 1% capacitors Made by Mundorf ,and the Rest all Mundorfs select models
and # Custom to Ayons specs Kitamura R core transformers a 4 tube Pure class A power supply as well as 2 6h30 super tubes per channel ,and what I consider the best dacs Ever
made the Burr Brown 1704K version ,2 per channel which are completely all hand calibrated and trimmed by laser.
This dac running through the Bryston player is a dream.
Analog at it's finest .There are still many people whom like records Not me .To have a whole flac file library with album are through a Ipad and a 1-T external usb hard drive it is increibly good by Any standard and IMO the Wiess is still great just not as musical and 3 dimentional the tubes and dac choice have a lot to do with this .
Since the Skylla 2 does not have toomuch for reviews read the CD-5 and the S model is the latest and better in every way. If buiding a system you can get a very good deal at Ayon U.S.A for this dac then buy the bryston
no more fussing with cds ,it did take me over a month to put 500+ cds. DB Power amp is a great program to setup and burn your library to the HD .Also you can use thumb drives take a dozen cds and play them just plug in and go while you are building the HD library so life still goes on in the process .I was intimidated at first but don't be and Chris at Bryston helps with any problems or questions you may have , once done you will Never look back and as you all may have read the Bryston player is the future today
Completely Solid state No moving parts, No noise and the rest is clear ,natural sounding music and Hi rez files
up to 24/192 are growing for resolution never heard before .
It becomes tiring when aspiring reviewers and Industry types repeat too much of what has already been covered in reviews, or can be found on Ayon's website. Good to hear of your first hand experience running the CD-5s as dac. I'm sure Chris at Bryston & Ayon USA would appreciate the plug.
I did encounter a limitation of the pre stage on the Ayon though. It does need to be matched with a high input impedance power amp. My JM Labs Focal Solo 6 Be doesn't quite have such a high input impedance.
Hi DH, that's interesting. I have found my Ayon set to low gain & the 1060 to be a good impedance match. I doubt there is much you could throw at a Boulder which it couldn't handle ;)
It is a Boulder after all Melbguy :)
Please remember personally The Skylla dac with the Bryston player
Is the ticket and $2 k less than the dac 5 and using the Bryston
Player beats the cd-5 without any doubt it brings digital
To the 21 st century and on another level. Also there is several gain
Positions to match gain of other preamps ,or direct into a amp
Which is the way to go and betters most preamps out there
This is a spectacular buy and I stand by my statement that this unit betters the Wiess in realism and musicality, the Berkeley 2 places 3rd .
This was done with 6 listeners 4 out of6 , but your values may differ
Find a dealer who will let you listen . The Ayon cd5 was used As the dac.
In reality the Skylla2 dac is potentially a bit better for of the 3 R core
Transformers in the dac it does not need to power the transport section.
Audioman, well done. Yes I agree, if you have the space for a separate transport and dac, i'd agree that approach should sound better. I don't know how a CD-5s would compare (as transport) to your Bryston, but there is no doubt the Skylla 2 dac (on which the CD-5s is based) is awesome! As an integrated player, it is no exageration to describe the CD-5s as over-built and one heck of a player at or even near it's price point.
That being said the Bryston player with properly ripped CDs to a external hard drive
Sounds superior to the cd5 s in every way .every review states the same
It is the new 21 st century medium,and with hires downloads
Even more so.
Audioman, have you tried 24/96 streaming via the CD-5s? If you're saying that ripping a cd to a computer hard drive, then passing the signal (with no additional information) then sending it back to a transport sounds better in every way, that strikes me as counter intuitive. I do agree high rez music sounds superior to lower resolution music, but you can also buy a range of high res music on cd from different labels including Chesky, Decca & Blue Note, and in different formats like XRCD, K2HD, HDCD & DXD. They said record players were dead, well look at vinyl now. I'm not tossing my cdp, and in fact plan to upgrade next year!
I like the fact that all I have to do is open the transport drawer and place a cd in and push play, no fussing with backups, files, laptops or downloads.
01-26-12: Wig
I like the fact that all I have to do is open the transport drawer and place a cd in and push play, no fussing with backups, files, laptops or downloads.
...and downloads don't come with luxury packaging, booklets, post cards etc. I've also never had a cd become unstable and crash :D
I have used a Weiss INT202 and a Wavelink HS to get SPDIF to the Ayon CD5S.

Been using PureMusic and am trying Amarra next ;)
At the end of the day, vinyl destroys sacd, downloads and every other digital format. I find downloads pretty souless for the reasons already mentioned. Groups springing up to discuss how many 'bits' their dacs are processing only goes to show how true musicality and soul is taking a back seat.
There's no doubt analog has that je ne sais quoi quality :)

But I listen to music so I end up buying whatever format that music I like is on.. and choose the best devices I can afford to play them.
Hi DH, to be fair streaming from HDD's & servers is maturing rapidly. You made a good point about buying the music you want in whatever format is available. I still plan to buy cd's & vinyl where possible in the next few years & build up my collection, but will inevitably buy a high end server in 4 or 5 years & control my library by Ipad. The CD-5s provides an ideal platform for streaming up to 24/96.
There seems to be a little confusion here ,with the Bryston digital player being used ,this replaces a transport ,for there are No moving part now
And all ripped flac files , or hi Rez down loads go to a external hard drive then to a solid state card reader buffer,
Than to a Highly modified Angela@ sound card, then to a discreet
Class A analog output to the dac which I am using a Wireworld
Platinum USB, and xlr digital cable with outstanding results.
This is the future ,for once done no more CDs to clean everything
Is obtained from a Droid or IPad with all the album art .
Just touch the screen and it is done,or make a favorites in any order .
The hardest part is taking the time to rip our cd collection.
It took me a solid month to rip 500 CDs through a db power amp program.