Ayre Codex - to keep or not to keep


I'm using a balanced headphone and the RCA out to my single-ended amp in DAC mode.  Here is my concern, when I do A/B comparison using headphones in balanced and unbalance modes, there is a night and day difference in the sound quality. In balanced mode, the music is much more resolving at all volumes (especially higher volumes), with better imaging and sound staging across the highs and lows. Initially, I thought the major difference was just the increase in volume but now, I don't believe that's the case. In general, Ayre's equipment really seem to be designed to be used in balanced systems. Can anybody confirm that in DAC mode, the XLR balanced outs sound noticeably better than the unbalanced RCA outs like with the headphone outs?  The Codex still sounds very good via the RCAs but I'm wondering if there are other DACs in the market, in the same price range, that sounds better in a single-ended system.   With that said, I have few different options, one I can move away from a single-end amp design and get an amp with balanced circuitry (would like to get the AX-5 Twenty for it's out of my budget and AX-7e is not powerful enough for my speakers) or I can look into a getting a different DAC that works better in a single-ended system.  Let me know what you guys think. Thx
nycjlee
I agree that Ayre equipment sounds better in balanced mode than it does in unbalanced RCA output mode. I am currently using an Ayre AX-7e integrated amplifier and it does sound better in balanced mode. I am seriously considering the Ayre Codex DAC and am planning to audition one shortly.  The Ayre AX-7e has 60wpc at 8ohms and 120wpc at 4 ohms. I do not know what speakers you are using but you might want to audition the AX-7e.   It is an excellent amplifier and matches well to the Codex DAC.

The Ayre AX-5 Twenty is also an excellent amplifier (and more expensive) and you might consider a pre-owned unit (or  demo unit).   For its price, the Ayre Codex DAC is an excellent DAC and you are going to have to spend more money in order to get similar audio performance.  

Many of the reviews of Ayre equipment confirm that running them in balanced mode improves their sound quality.  Everyone has a different opinion on this topic but it is my opinion that running equipment designed to run in balanced mode sound better (like Ayre).  
I would keep it and add an output transformer. :)

Best,


Erik
I run the CODEX in balanced mode and it sounds amazing.   I'm with hgeifman--you will be better served by getting a fully balanced integrated than by dumping the CODEX.

Output transformer...interesting.  Any suggestions on a model and brand? Thx
Hi Lee!!

The gold standard is Jensen. Very expensive, but very very good.

I make these converters from German parts for far less, but still very good.

Best,


Erik
I heard the Ayre Codex DAC today with the Ayte AX-7e integrated amplifier.  My first impression was that it sounded terrific.  I continued to listen to a wide variety of music and liked the Codex DAC very much. I took a break and listened again. I still cannot believe how this small box sounds can sound so good.  I ordered the Ayre Codex DAC and delivery is expected in about 2 weeks (sooner I hope).

When I first saw the Codex DAC, I did not recognize the DAC since it was on its side using three AYRE Myrtle Wood Blocks ($15 for 3 blocks) to allow the cooling on its side to be okay.  They also suggested the $300 Synergistic Research metal circle type blocks for the same purpose.  The Codex DAC gets warm (but not hot) and the Myrtle blocks ensures the air circulates around the unit for cooling.  Yes, we tried it with and without the wooden blocks.  We also tested it standing up and on its side. In my opinion, the Code DAC laying on its side using the Myrtle wooden blocks sounded the best.   The Synergistic Research blocks also sounded very good.  I am holding off on these blocks until later.

The setup controls are very easy to use. I was able to change from USB to Optical input and change outputs from DAC to pre-amp operation very easily.

Sorry. Ayte = Ayre.
I received my Ayre Codex DAC today and changed the input source to USB and the output device to Pre-amp (goes direct to my power amplifiers).  The unit was then installed in my main audio system and my first impression is out of the box, it sounds very good.  As I noted above, I purchased 3 Ayre Myrtle wooden blocks ($15) and placed the Codex on its side (yes, it looks better in this position). It was interesting to see that the writing on the back of the DAC corresponds to the unit being on its side.  The unit is very small but I had no problems connecting any of my cables.  

As an experiment, the Codex DAC will stay in my main audio system for a while and will then be moved to my two channel home theatre system (my original plan).  As another experiment, I will move my Prism Sound Callia DAC to the main audio system to see how it sounds compared to my Bricasti M1 SE DAC.    Today, I received instructions from Prism Sound to update the firmware on the Callia so that it will work okay with my Aurender N10.    Yes, this means I have more work to do installing the firmware.

The Ayre Codex DAC is an amazing small 3 pound box that sounds very good.  I am anxious to break it in for improved sound.  Based on results so far, the Ayre Codex DAC is recommended.
Ayre beats out the Briscatti ? Interesting ... Or might be on same level as Brisctti? ... Or might be even close to Briscatti ? ... Interesting .
After about 200 hours of break-in, Codex will really open up and sound significantly better, and the sound will continue to improve until 400 or 500 hours. 
Hi Hgeifman:
I heard the Callia dac at the NY Audio show and was very impressed as I have been with the Bricasti M1 (don't remember hearing an se version). I look forward to your comparison as I have never heard them in the same system. I'm also interested in where the Codex ranks in that esteemed company. 
Purchased the Ayre AX-5 Twenty. The Codex is here to stay. Happy New Year!
Wow, you did it right!  Congrats!
As you requested, I am keeping my Bricasti M1 SE DAC in my main audio system and keeping the Ayre Codex DAC for my 2-chanel home theatre system.

Last week, at my retailer, I heard the Ayre QX-5 Twenty DAC running direct to a power amp and then an Ayre AX-5 twenty integrated Amp. My retailer highly recommends the use of a pre-amp. Bricasti people believe that going direct to a power amp sounds better. The demo used Wilson speakers ($$$) and I have Sonus Faber Olympica II speakers. To be honest, the Ayre QX-5 Twenty DAC sounds very good but I do not know if it is that much better than my Bricasti. My system sounds excellent. How much better can it sound and do I really need to spend the money?   The Ayre QX-5 Twenty DAC is an excellent choice but I am okay with the Bricasti M1 SE DAC.

I tested my Prism Sound Callia DAC ($2,595) in my main audio system and it was okay but the Bricasti was much better as it should be because of its high price. My Bricasti has bass, warmth and presence that the Callia did not have. Bricasti feels that the removal of a pre-amp makes the sound more natural. We decided to remove the R141 (circuit) from my Hypex NCore NC400 bridged mono blocks, thus lowering gain by 14 dB, requiring 14 dB higher M1 volume setting for same playback level. The sound quality result depends on the equipment used, the listening room and your experiences. And, yes, I know that everyone has a different opinion on this topic because of the many variables.

The Callia DAC was replaced with the Ayre Codex DAC in my 2-channel home theatre system. The Codex is still breaking in so I cannot comment but it sounds very good and getting better. This is an amazing small box that is an outstanding DAC. The Codex DAC sounded very good in my main audio system and I was very impressed. However, the Bricasti had more feeling and should sound better based on its higher price.

Visiting an audio retailer is very dangerous, especially for me, and they like to show off their audio toys. After I heard the Ayre QX-5 Twenty DAC, I returned home and listened to my system. It sounds terrific and I have decided to make no changes. The Ayre Codex DAC is an outstanding piece of equipment and compares very favorable to pieces costing much more.  

So, as was requested above by nycjlee, I highly recommend the Ayre Codex DAC.
I can't get mine to play audio with Blu Rays.  Any suggestions?
Are using an Oppo player as a transport to play the blu ray? Please tell us more about the components your using the inputs and outputs. 

The Ayre Codex was one of the more problem ridden audio products I ever brought. I purchased my new unit (a 230-volt unit in my country) in February this year from the authorized distributor of Ayre in my country. Shortly thereafter I found that it has serious issue hooking up to my RHA MA750 in-ear-monitor. It was as if the sound coming from the unit was disjointed and covered with a serious noise or haze. I emailed Ayre but never got a reply. That said, the unit works perfectly with my two other full sized headphones, so I dismissed the issue as an isolated incidence just not working with a particular phone.

Two months later, the unit just goes away on its own and failed to be power on. I took it back to the authorized distributor and they did the repair. However, when I took back the unit, I found the volume knob which incidentally was designed to select input sources, etc., failed to response when dialed. So, I took it back to the authorized distributor the second time for another repair. Everything seems fine again afterwards.

The unit has another power on failure three months thereafter, so for yet another time I took it back to the authorized distributor for repair. This time round, I inquired the technician doing the repair work of the reasons for the past failures and his repair work carried out, but he was not willing to release further information other than that the previous failures were due to some internal components being dislodged. This time round of repair, he did some additional soldering work to reinforce the unit for proof against future failure.

I have not dropped the unit, opened the unit nor inflicted any damage which I could discern. My old Rotel amp brought when I first began my audio journey have served me for 20 years without failure before I sold the unit. So, my best guess is somehow I got myself a Codex unit with some sub-standard soldering work. The unit does seem to work faultlessly after the third repair. However, the sequence of failures has caused me to have lost confidence, and likely I will put up an auction for sale at a low starting price in the near future.

I choose the Ayre Codex in the first place partly because I listen to headphones and it has balanced headphone out. Had I given the opportunity to choose again with hindsight, I would have gone for one of the PS audio unit, possibly the now discontinued PS audio NuWave DSD or the newer Stellar DAC. To these untrained years, the PS units have more upfront presentation but share the tonality akin to the Ayre Codex. The PS units may be a little less resolving than the Ayre Codex but seems to have better corporeality to its imaging, and comes with a cheaper price tag too.


greeni-I am having similar selector issues with my Codex too. My audio dealer recommended powering down the unit by pulling out the power plug while on and then powering up normally 15 minutes later. It worked the first time, and the second, and the third.....but I don't want to keep doing this every two weeks or so. 

So now i am thinking of getting another DAC, with similar sound qualities. 
Mine, so far, is running like a champ. No issues so far. Just great sound. Especially in balanced mode.
Mine's running like a champ too. I wish it was easy to switch between USB and Toslink, but since it's not, I just keep it on the latter and use a Toslink switch to change sources. Otherwise, it just keeps on chugging.