Ayre C 5xe Universal vs. Cary 306 SACD

Has anyone done a direct (as in same system), thorough comparison of these two players? If so, please let us know if you were able to compare their performance on both red book CD's and SACD’s and how it turned out. Some back ground about the setup, gear, music material, etc. would be helpful, too. Thanks.
I haven't done a comparision in the same system but have listened to both. The Cary thru McIntosh Pre-amp and amp with JM electra speakers. The Ayre through Ayre Pre amp and amp with Linn Akurate Speakers. I had a Linn Ikemi which I just sold and the Ayre was much more detailed than the Ikemi which I felt was a great redbook cd player.
I currently have the Ayre on order. I just couldn't get to like the harmonics of the Cary, is didn't have the open or detail tha I felt it should. The Electras are a good sounding speaker and they sounded less involving with the Cary. Music was a Patrica Barber, Dire Straits, Pink Floyd, Roxy Music and what ever they had at the stores.
Hope this helps
Thanks, Theo. For whatever it's worth, I just did a comparison of the 306 SACD on Red Book CD with my own CD-only Ayre CX-7 (not what I started the thread for). On just CD's, the Ayre sounded just as good as the Cary 306 SACD did. There were differences, but their overall tonal balance and performance qualities are closer to each other than not. This makes me wonder about the Ayre C-5xe Uni-2-channel player even more.

Of course, on SACD, the Cary 306 sounded just great....really fantastic, actually.

The comparison was done in the same system, one player right after the other with the same CD’s in the same order. System: Cary SLP 2005, Cary 805 AE edition, Ruark Solstice speakers, Audience Au24 cabling throughout. Mostly Reference Recordings of classical, Joni Mitchell’s “Travelogues,” Bobo Stenson’s "Serenity." This system is better than my own; so it was a pleasure to hear all of this music this way.

To further build on your last repsonse I just received the evolution version of the CX-7 which replaced the non evolution unit. There is a noticable jump in improvement especially in the blackness of the background....if the C-5xe betters rebook by the same amount of improvement that the evolution version provided over the non evolution CX-7, I'll begin saving today!
If you already ownthe CX7 then have grown to appreciate the Ayre sound. I think you would be happier in the long run with the C5xe. I know I am patiently waiting for the C5xe to hit my doorstep. 5 week wait. I do know my local dealer just received another one that the customer didn't take. It is available for quick sale. I am waiting for a black face one or would have one already.

Thank you, Mattkimb96 and Theo, for your input. When you get your C-5xe (Theo), please update us on your impressions. And if you get one too, Mattkimb96, it would be great to hear from you. (BTW, it's great to hear that Ayre offers a black faceplate for the C-5xe; the CX-7's come in only silver---as far as I know.)

In the meantime, I will wait until I can get a side-by-side audition of both machines, hopefully in my own system.

Any others who've heard the 306 SACD next to the C-5xe...?
Kalan, I have had the C5xe for about 10 days now and I believe it is burned in pretty good. I have had it playing day and night for about 5 days and it sounding unbelieveably good. I am rediscovering my CD collection.
I have not played one disc that I haven't noticed some little nuance, back ground vocal or instrument that I had not heard before. The tonal presentation is hard to describe, it has such a "natural" sound. The space between the instruments has grown but filled with the added expansion of each sound. I am sure that doesn't describe it well but the bottom line is no regrets. I owned a Linn Ikemi which I felt was great player but this Ayre just pushed the memory of it to far reaches of my mind. I could not imagine many players that would sound better for less that 10K or more!
Congratulations, Theo, on your C-5xe. How does it look in black? Thanks for the great "sonic" description, too.

I may opt for Mattkimb96's suggestion of just upgrading my CX-7 and be done with it.

I have been side-tracked with some recent auditioning of the new GamuT DI-150 (integrated) and some Shunyata Altair interconnects. I hope to get back to my digital front end decisions soon.

I hope to get a good side-by-side demo of both the Cary 306 SACD and the Ayre 5-Cxe soon. Besides any ergonomic and user function capability, I really need to hear them both in the same system. My preference going in is for the Ayre because its baby brother (CX-7) does such a fantastic job of making the music "read" artistically, so to speak.
Kalan, I think it ios gorgeous in black. I don't understand why Ayre doen't have pic's anywhere. I luckily live 45 miles from Boulder and happened to call Ayre the day they were finishing a C5xe in black for shipment. They asked if I could be there by 3PM to seeit befoire they boxed and shipped it. Great people and it was love at first sight.
Hey, has anyone out there done anymore with these 2 players?
I auditioned the Ayre last night and was impressed, but no enough to lossen my wallet. I have owned a Cary 306/200 and thought it was one of the best out there. The new Cary 306 is suppose to be in another league. So I do not want to make a decision before hearing the Cary, but that will be a tall order...no local dealers. There sure are a lot of Carys for sale already and not very many Ayre of this ilk.

I actually own both players - the Ayre C5Xe and the Cary 306 SACD. I've had both of the players for over a month now. They are both unbelievably good!

Thus far the major difference appears to be that the Cary is more dynamic and possesses more "slam", while the Ayre is slightly more laid back and has (slightly) more inner detail. I actually prefer the Ayre for acoustic music, male and female vocalists, and chamber music, while the Cary really shines on massed instrumental, symphonies, sound tracks and music of that ilk.

Oh, how I wish I could keep both - but - ultimately I must make a decision between the two. I really love both of these incredible players - on SACD and on Redbook - both are wonderful - they just sound different.

Which is right? Which is the "best"? At this point, I'm really not sure. I have both units connected to my preamp and every time I switch between the two, I am convinced that "this one sounds better".

Since "decision time" is rapidly approaching, I guess I'll have more to report later. . . . . So . . . . . Later . . . . . .
Jprice we'll expect your final desicion, I'd like to add that if Cary is better in massed instruments it's a good sign for me, this is more dificult than Jazz trios.
Both are excellent though.
Do you play via xlr connections? both act better through xlr, Ayre is designed that way and Cary has multiple differential dacs. Please describe the rest of your system.
Thanks for asking Kops.

I connect the players through a balanced input, although my preamp only allows for one such connection. In order to make comparisons fair, and although it takes longer to make a switch, I will change interconnects, rather than utilize the switch on the preamp, to change from one to the other. When I'm not making comparisons, I use one unit single ended and the other balanced.

My other equipment is Spectral DMC-30SL preamp, Spectral DMA 250 amp. All MIT Oracle cabling, Avalon Eidolon speakers.

Actually, most of my listening is Vinyl (Basis Debut V Vacuum turntable, Graham 2.2 arm, Graham Nightingale 2 cartridge, Pass X-Ono phono stage) and I try to get digital sound that replicates that medium. Both of these machines come very close. Sometimes, I think they may be better!

I do think that both units exhibit better soundstaging with XLR connections.
very nice system jprice, let us know when you decide!
Jprice, Have you made your decision yet? If so....what were the deciding factors? Thanks.
I had a friend bring over a new Ayre C-5x that I was able to compare versus my Ayre CX-7 evolution model and it is virtually impossible to explain the amount of improvement I heard on the Redbook playback. It certainly sounded as if I had significantly upgraded my pre-amp and amplifier. Soundstage was deeper and fuller sounding and the voicing took on a lifelike realism that equaled what I heard before only in SACD playback. Track after track had me involuntarily tapping my foot along with the music and the emotional response. This was easily the most significant jump in performance that I had ever heard in my system. I have not heard the Cary but my bet says that if JP lets one of these players go the Ayre will be staying put. If I had an extra 3,500, (I don't) I'd sell my Ayre and spring for the C5 in a heartbeat. I am still shaking my head at the Redbook difference, and the SACD's that I did hear left me believing that SACD had now reached playback previously reserved for high end vinyl setups. Associated equipment was the Ayre V-1xe amplifier, Aesthetix Calypso pre-amp and Aerial 10-T speakers.
The C-5xe is the finest Redbook player yet made. It has no need to "upsample" the input and therefore avoids "downgrading" the output. It just plays music. Though its SACD/DVD-A playback is SOTA these media have diminishing relevance and probably detract from its Redbook capabilities.
It would be great to get feedback and direct comparisons of the following from these 2 players head to head:
Khrys: "The C-5xe is the finest Redbook player yet made."
Are you kidding?
Over at AA, I got into a bit of a tussle when I observed, based on a A-B test, that I didn't care for the CD playback of the C5xe compared to my Moon Supernova. Too smooth, not involving enough - for me. I WAS blown away by the SACD playback of the Ayre, however.
I'm quite sure that the CD playback of one of the higher priced, highly regarded units (such as EMM, Reimko, etc) could be better than what I've heard - but I can't afford them, so I'm better off being ignorant and blissful.
The Ayre (and the Cary) are fine units, but the best?
Nah. Ayre is fine gear, but the hype (not from the company)is a bit much. For certain, it is not all things to all people. BTW, I do own an Ayre V5xe. I have nothing against the company. Is it the best? No, but at it's price, it is VERY good.
Sorry but it's the best. Sorry about your AA tussle. What, pray tell, sounds better than the C-5xe on 99% of Redbook?
I'd agree that "best" may be a bit of a reach however it is the "best" I have heard that I can reasonably aspire to someday own. Like I said earlier it was the best my system had ever sounded when the C5 was put into the mix last weekend. The fact that it was so much beyond the C7Xe which is a very well respected CD player in its own right and one which I'll have until a C5 shows up for $3,900. I'm reasonably certain that it is likely the best I can find for a $3,900 investment. This all said everything in this price range is often different more so than better...a couple of buddies of mine were over and we were comparing the Aesthetix Calypso to the Pass X1. Was one better than the other? The two buddies preferred the Pass, I preferred the Calypso but the point is I certainly would not call one better than the other. As with the C5 both of these preamps are at the upper limit of my spending threshold. It would still be nice to get some direct comparisons to the Ayre & the Cary which is where this thread started.
I'm glad to finally know which is the best redbook player. Khrys, would you please also tell me which are the best speakers, amplifier and preamplier. It'll save me a lot of research.
My experience is similar to Jprice. To me 306 is more weighty with more macrodynamics and bass. It does not seem to have as much air or detail as the ayre. The 306 have a higher quality transport. Both are excellent but very different. I suspect personal taste would be the dominant factor here.

I think Ayre is one of best 2nd tier cdp.
Tvad writes:

I'm glad to finally know which is the best redbook player. Khrys, would you please also tell me which are the best speakers, amplifier and preamplier. It'll save me a lot of research.
My thoughts too. It's really nice to have these age-old questions resolved. I can move on now.

>>Khrys: "The C-5xe is the finest Redbook player yet made."<<

Ignorance is bliss.
You are still charming the masses with your two faced 2 dollar Bill..Most of us are Not Ignorant to your previous incarnate as Wc65Mustang. Tom
To the audiodweeb: always nice to hear from you.
Always nice to hear from the TWO of you as well..One post covers TWO Bills. A certain gain of efficiency wouldn't you concur twice, in your singular mind, Bill/Bill?..Tom
I have Cary 306 SACD for 2 month now with 800 hour on it.
I have not hear the Ayre.
I use it with Calypso(with mullard 10M 12ax7) and JC-1 power amp, harbeth HL-5, alpha core cable.
the Cary red book sound so good to the point I am so emotionally envolved that I normally sit there for 4 hour every night until my wife get mad at me. I used to have sony sacd xa-9000ES with $1500 mod from referenceaudiomod which they claimed it will make the sony beat any player on the shelf.
the thing is,Cary beat it by a wide margin. the mod did make sony sound better but not enough.
I also have a vpi scout with blackbird cartidge and a class A phono pre-amp. I have Holy cole "don't smoke in bed" CD and LP, I just love the CD on cary over the LP on vpi.

SACD sound much better provided that it use the lastest recording technique(like the Yo-Yo-Ma solo)

Well, it looks like this thread finally picked up some traction. Nice to see.

On a side note...does anybody know if you can program individual tracks into the Ayre C 5xe for just those tracks to be played back? I need this capability for recording down to a Marantz DR-17 recorder. I know the Cary 306 SACD will do this already.

I also second the motion to have those users who have had the direct comparison experience to report on the Ayre/Cary differences specifically on Red Book, HDCD, and SACD. I am way more interested in Red Book performance because that's what I own more of and will also likely have access to in the future.

So, what's up, guys? CD, HDCD, and SACD. Break it down for us, please, in relationship to these players.
just back from the LA 2006 HT show.
lots of Ayre C5xe get used by the exibitor, non Cary 306.
so I have them to play my favour track on the Ayre. it is very good sound. in fact, any other rooms without it always sound a little "not right" for me.
oh yep, they sound very good, but just feel it is not quite emotionaly involved like cary. I could be wrong since I can't compare them side by side with the same other equipments.
my JC-1, Calypso with Mullard 10m + harbeth super HL5 with Cary 306 sound just soooo good and it would be the best sound if it out there on the show
Any opinions from experience on the 306 used as a decoder for external digital feeds? And does this machine have a true balanced analog architecture to go with its XLR outputs?
Yes, it has true balanced analog architecture. There is a wonderful review of the 306 in this month's TAS. It is a great machine.
The only concern I would have about the Cary 306 SACD unit at this point would be reliability, as it runs quite hot--apparently. Doesn't greater heat increase the chances of damage where delicate SS circuits are involved?
No heat problems here, standard Billy Bags rack - adequate ventilation.

Keep in mind that any semiconductor, even commercial grade is rated to at least 70 deg C, most are rated to 85 deg C. That's 185 deg F, which would be pretty darn hot.

The unit does warm up, but does not get hot to the touch.
Now that my iron lung is working again, I can finally respond. Tvad, good point. You seemed to have gotten the joke. One can only hope Metralla's quoting you will allow him to attain the bliss of Audiofeil's ignorance. How many qualifiers does it take to express an opinion on Audiogon? Let me rephrase my thought: in my most humble and possibly unworthy, useless and trivial musings, the Ayre C5xe trounced the shit out of the most esteemed, self-deserving and grandiose Redbook competitors. "Your mileage may vary". But then again, an Escalade with 20" spinners usually takes the cake on this site.
I have had the opportunity to listen to both the Ayre and Cary (I own the Cary). As with everything in this whacky hobby it really comes down to personal preference. I do not think the Ayre and Cary sound similar at all. I listened to an all Ayre setup (K1xe + V1xe) with BW 802d speakers. The sound was great! Very holographic, easy, airy. Everything sounded BIG to me. For my taste, it was a bit too BIG and a little lean. Some people would love the detail of the Ayre. I happen to prefer a slightly dark and warm sound with an empahsis on the midrange, which is exactly the Cary house sound. The 306 is just so smooth. The bass is incredible. Do I get the impression that the Cary has as much detail and resolution as the Ayre? No. But that is not to say that the Cary does not have detail and resolution it is just that the character of the Cary presents the music differently. The first impression I get from the Cary is its great midrange and bass. For example, last night I actually got chills listening to the Cary. I could not believe how magical the vocals sounded, so real, so intimate. Again, this suits my listening preferences.

So the bottom line is that both players are great! What sound are you going after? That will dictate which player is right for you.
So....TBoooe, did you listen to both players in the same system, back to back? If you listened to them in different systems, way too many other variables are involved.
I'm stuck in this dilemma... Cary 306 or Ayre 5xe.... dangit.

I used to own the Ayre and now I own the Cary. I think they're about equal on redbook cds, the Ayre having more detail and the Cary more body and weight. The Cary has a warm presentation that draws you into the music while the Ayre is all about truthfulness. It really is all about one's preference. I definitely enjoy sacds more on the Cary; I didn't like the lowered analog output level on sacds with the Ayre.
joey, with your ML Summits, I would go for the Cary. I would be concerend that the Ayre combined with the Summits would be too much of a good thing. The sound may be too clear and detailed to the point of sounding harsh. Let me know what you decide...
Joey_v, I am also interested in your decision. Please keep us posted. There is no replacement to hearing both units, side-by-side, in your own system.
I would agree 100% with Robal. My experiences were exactly the same as his. I really like the Cary 306, its much more enjoyable to listen to compared to the Ayre.
Still mulling over the possibilities here. Just got done auditioning a PS Audio Digital Link III DAC and the difference when going via digital out from the Squeezebox3 was very apparent. If this DAC is putting out this kind of music in my system, I can only imagine what the Cary 306SACD would do.