Ayre CX-7eMP vs Sony SCD-XA5400ES vs Oppo BDP 95

I own an Ayre CX-7eMP and have been very satisfied with its sound on Redbook CDs. I recently bought an Epson 8700UB projector (awesome) and started considering buying the new Oppo BDP-95 to replace my current Denon BluRay transport for improved picture quality and streaming from Netflix.

Since the BDP-95 is differentially balanced through its XLR connections and has "State of the Art" DACs and a Rotel toroidal transformer, I was hoping that it might replace the Ayre for Redbook CD playback ( as well as playing SACD) in addition to serving as a top-notch BluRay player/streamer.

Unfortunately, several posts on the BDP-95 on AVSForum indicate that the BDP-95 does not equal the sound quality of hi-end dedicated CDPs like the Ayre, so this may change my plans.

I then noticed that there is a good deal of positive buzz about the Sony SCD-XA5400ES as a dedicated CD/SACD player. One poster on Stereophile.com even stated that the XA5400ES was much better sounding than his CX-5eMP.

I could buy the XA5400ES for 2 channel playback AND the Oppo BDP-93 (non-audiophile version of the BDP-95) for BluRay for roughly what I could sell my Ayre CX-7eMP for. I would appreciate feedback from anyone who has directly compared sound of the CX-7eMP or CX-5eMP to the XA5400ES and/or the Oppo DMP-95.

Thanks as always for your help.

I like my XA5400ES, but I prefer my Ayre QB-9 over Sony. Sony sounds nice and warm, where Ayre sounds just more realistic. Oppo is just not on the same level as the other two.

Have you read PugetSound and Mike Lavigne's recent posts at AVS? They listened to the 95 and compared it with the Playback Designs player. Given that Mike has an amazingly neutral and revealing system, I trust their thoughts about the 95 more than others. Then there is the fact that Oppo has a 30-day return policy.

I think I personally am going to get my 83 modified by Exemplar (John Tucker), although I may wait to see if he's going to do anything with the 95.

Jfz, AVS is a big forum. I looked but could not find that discussion, so a link would be great. Thanks.

The Sony SCD-XA5400ES upgraded ($2000) by Modwright or the Oppo BDP-83SE Tube upgraded ($1400) by Modwright will signifigantly outpreform the Ayre CX-7eMP. I have directly compared my freinds Ayre CX-7eMp for over a week in my system and either unit is far superior to the Ayre. My freind is selling his Ayre and buying a used Oppo 83SE for about $700 on Audiogon and then will spend $1400 for the Modwright upgrade and will have $2100 invested. Anyone who attended the Rocky Mountain Audiofest this last October can tell you there were only 2 or 3 manufacturers using the Ayre's but there were 15-20 using Modwright modified Sony 5400's or Oppo 83SE's to demo their equitment or speakers. I personally have the tube upgraded Oppo 83SE and I would not sell it for anything. I have heard nothing under $7500 that I would even consider in the same league.
Thanks to all of you for your feedback.

Jfz - I did read the posts you mention. As with everything on the forums, each poster comes down on a different side of every issue, so it is hard to decide whom to listen to. I agree that Pudgetsound and Mike L appear to be most credible.

I have a friend that had his Marantz UD9004 modded and was very impressed. I need to think on which brand would be best overall to have modded as it would seem that the Sony would be a better base platform to mod for audio while the Oppo 95 would be more versatile (universal player), thus less expensive overall than the modded Sony/BDP-93 combo.

Jylee - thanks for your input as it is always meaningful to hear from folks that own both products.

Svrtim - I am intrigued by the option of having either the Oppo 95 or the XA5400ES modded as I have always had only factory CDPs (albeit very good ones). The 83SE is not viable for me though since my entire equipment chain is differentially balanced (Ayre K-1xe pre and Krell FPB-600C amp), and my CDP to PRE interconnects (Synergistic Research Apex) are XLR. Nonetheless, thanks for providing your input on the aural superiority of modded units.
Sorry Metralla. Here it is:


The relevant post is # 1076. There is some discussion after that, including a post by Mike.
Thank you, Jfz. Very interesting read.

I owned the Ayre CX-7 and it was a dandy. I bought the Sony SCD-XA5400ES. The Sony is in my system. I sold the Ayre. 'Nuff said.
Although I like my little Sony 5400es thats usually in the wives system , its no where close to the Ayre C5MP thats in the main system , weather you compare them in the little system or the big rig . But at one quarter the price it's just fine .
hi tmsorosk,

when u compare xa5400es w c5mp, is the spl matched?

Hello Junchoon .... Yes levels are always matched when doing critical listening tests , not that careful listening was required in this case . Don't get me wrong the 5400 is one of todays few bargains , but the Ayre brings one a bit closer to the real event , and has what I refer to as swing . I have to admit the speakers in the main system ( see system link ) are capable of revealing things that most won't , and there ability to unravel music event's is in my opinion unmatched . The better halves system thats in our main residence ( Jadis , Fisher , Sonus Faber ) makes it a little harder to hear a difference , but the difference is there .
Are there high end audio salons in Malaysia ?
Hi Dave,

Modwright will do balanced output either solid state or tube for the Oppo BDP 83SE if that is what you are looking for. I had their tube balanced output for stereo installed on my Oppo BDP 83SE.
i wonder if the modwright mod for the sony makes it more attractive to some than the ayre--solid state vs tubes.

yes, i realize there are other considerations, like opamps, capacitors and other parts. however, a well executed tube output stage can cover up many sins. ia ssume that other parts in the sony are replaced as well.
hi Tmsososk

for malaysia you can check out this blog:


it includes the review of my unit of xa5400es and also the cx5 and cx7. u can check out the section on KLIAV (Kuala Lumpur International Audio Video), which showcase some of the dealers offerings in malaysia:


i have not heard cx5, but i have heard cx7. cx7 retrieve more details compared with sony, but my preference is on sony - it is just more toe-tapping compared with cx7. sony is simply more musical. ymmv.

Have you looked at the new Marantz universal player, an option to the Oppo 95. For listenable redbook I think one must use a dedicated SACD/CD player and add a $200 dollar you name it off the Best Buy shelf for blu ray and streaming or dedicated DAC for 2 channel. FWIW I auditioned an oppo 95 and a 93. The 93 does everything the 95 does and still delivers musical audio enjoyment for 2 channel. I'm not sure what Oppo was trying to accomplish with the 95? The 93 will satisfy 98% of movie/audio listeners, btw the 93's 2 channel is pretty darn good and for my ears the 95 was not musical or emotionaly involving. There are many folks out there that believe the forum hype of a piece of gear just because it costs x amount and has blah, blah, blah this and that parts inside. If you want the best of all worlds dollar for dollar, hard to beat a Sony ps3 and a Dacmagic. Way more features with the ps3 as far as streaming content even does SACD over HDMI. Run the optical out into the DAC and viola, better performance than either the 93 or 95. I am not bashing the Oppo's just think they are a little over priced for the overall return, if you have to have the best picture then they really are hard to beat.
I have the ModWright 5400es. It is the best digital front end I have heard, besting my audition of the Ayre CD player and QB9 DAC and ARC cd players.
I have an AyreCX5eMP, XASony5400ES, and Linn Ikemi CD players. They sound good, from best first in this list. The gap between AyreCX5eMP and XASony5400ES is that the Ayre has none of the digital grit or glare, very sweet sound analog like, bigger soundstage, and is more engaging. It makes CDs sound good, SACDs better, and is stunning on 24 bit 176-192kHz files ripped to DVD-audio discs. But the Ayre costs 5 times more than the Sony so this is not surprising.

The Linn is not nearly as good, but has very nice sense of pace and timing.
Intrator, you have to mod the sony or oppo to beat the Ayre. I have the Oppo 95 modded with the Modright tube mod. I also had the sony with the same mod. It sounded great too, but I preferred the Oppo in the end. The player modded is still way less money than most high end players. I had the 15,000.00 Playback Designs Player and my Oppo beat it.
I also own the Ayre CX-7eMP CD player and might be looking for a replacement SACD player. The Upgrade Company sells the OPPO BDP-105 with Signature Edition upgrade mods but I do not know how it sounds vs. the Oppo 105 Modwright mod or the stock Ayre CX-7eMP. Has anyone heard the OPPO BDP-105 with the Upgrade Company Signature Edition upgrade mods? I am somewhat uncomfortable buying a new CD player and then getting it modified.

which spinner do you own now?  Happy Listening!
Still loving the Ayre CX-7eMP with SR Hologram D PC and Apex XLR ICs. jafant, your timing is impeccable (if not spooky). I just bought a used 5400ES (box stock), finally finding one at the right price and condition and, of course, at the opportune moment of weakness.

It should be here Monday. I will give it a few days to settle with a burn in CD as these units are said to need major break in hours. Today, I ran an extension cord from my newly installed SR Teslaplex "SE" receptacle that came with the Powercell 10 UEF (previously used the non-SE version) to the fridge in the garage to give it a good burn-in before swapping the Powercell’s PC over to it (I have two dedicated 30 amp lines side-by-side for such purposes). My wife is thrilled with the thick green cord running through the entry hallway and kitchen of our home. Fortunately, she has become accustomed to such, bless her heart.

Plan to stack the CX-7eMP on top of the Sony, switching the SR PC and ICs between the two for redbook vs redbook and redbook vs SACD comparisons. If the Sony pleases my ear, even if it is lacking in some ways compared to the Ayre, I plan to have it ModWrighted in the near future. Selling the CX7e-MP would bring the funds needed for the ModWright upgrade, but I sure hate to part with this old friend. On the other hand, it’s been decades since I had tubes in my system, a Cary tube-modded Rotel CDP as I recall, so I am excited about the prospect of giving tubes another shot.

Best to you jafant,

Very nice to see you again- Dave.

you will have (2) very fine spinners there in Sony ES and Ayre.

Why did you choose the CX-7eMP over the CX-5eMP Ayre spinner?
Hi jafant

1) Price. The CX-5 was selling used for over double the price at the time I bought the CX-7 (and then upgraded to "e" and later "MP").
2) My preference at the time was to own both the CX-7 for Redbook and the 5400ES for SACD as both were and are said to be over-achievers for the price and the combo was much less than the CX-5 on the used market at that time. Even after the cost of the then-and-now existent Modwright upgrade, the combo would have still been the same cost as (or slightly less expensive than) a used CX-5 at that time.
3) Fear that the CX-5 would go the way of the earlier Ayre DX-5 universal player, being discontinued relatively early in its life cycle.

The first reason was what it was: reality. The second reason was perhaps prophetic as, these many years later, this thought has become reality. The third reason was just plain wrong and seems ironic now that I just bought a 5400ES, discontinued by Sony in 2011 (?) while the CX-5xeMP continued on in Ayre’s lineup after that.

I calculate that my thinking at that time scored a 66.6% hit rate over time. I’ve done (much) worse in the many decisions that I have made over these 57 years. Plus, the CX-7eMP still quickens my blood as of my listening session earlier tonight. It is one of my foundation components, along with the K-1xe and Thiel CS-5i, that has consistently risen to the sonic level of all upgrades I have done to date elsewhere in my system and will likely continue to do so.

Still thinking of ways to finance the Modwright upgrade to the 5400ES such that I can keep my CX-7eMP, the cost of duplicate power cords and ICs being the major challenge.


If interested, I'm selling my 3 year old ModWright Sony 5400 in a month or so with upgraded Bybee rails and Audiomagic Pulse Gen ZX; it's a wonderful sounding player...

Definitely Wig. Does it have the purple umbilical cord or upgraded tubes?

How do we get in contact with each other?

Thanks buddy,
It's his latest design and blue in color and I'll send some NOS if interested. Just send me a PM.

Why are you selling- wig?

keep me posted as you massage the Sony ES into your system.
I, too, could be interested in the Ayre for RBCD playback (even though Charlie Hansen is a flake).

Happy Listening!

"Just send me a PM."

If I could only figure out how...lol

Nice system you have BTW. Bet it sounds superb!

Hansen is paralyzed from a serious bicycle accident (hit by a car, I think), so, flake or not, have some respect, my friend. Plus, he sure as hell knows how to design audio equipment, IMO. He has been helpful to me in the past as has everyone at Ayre. I visited their factory in Boulder when I was consulting for a company in Longmont (also caught my first RMAF). Took the CX7-e (at that time) with me on a plane and hand carried it into Ayre. They upgraded it to "MP" status for me while I was there (M-R) and I brought it back on the return flight. I mentioned in passing that it had become a little fussy about reading the CD layer on multi-layer SACD/CDs and they replaced the drive with no quibbles and at no charge even though I bought it used (one year old) and it was long out of warranty by that time. No issues at all in the 5 years since. I call that "A+yre" service.

I will keep you updated on my opinions of the stock 5400ES vs the CX-7eMP and on future purchases (wig). I will give you first dibs on the Ayre if I decide to let it go and, of course, you want it. ;)

Thanks for all your good words and support jafant.

Best to you both,
Why are you selling- wig?

I'm part of ModWright Beta testing for a Marantz Player which is based on 5687 verses 6SN7.

"Just send me a PM."

Will do and I will includes some goodies...

Can't wait to hear from you, wig. I just couldn't figure it out...

TY- Dave & Wig.

@jafant ,

I am on the third day with the stock 5400ES. Its sound was pretty rough-around-the-edges for the first day, settled in significantly on the second, and now, on the third day, I feel that it is giving its best. This is a well-used unit (superbly cared for by prior owner), so it took less time to season that a new unit might. The Ayre is currently placed on top of the Sony and I simply switched the SR Hologram D PC and the SR Tesla Apex XLR ICs over to the Sony, so all possible sonic differences regarding contributions from sources outside the players themselves have been eliminated.

I am impressed, in fact very impressed, with the Sony. It is well-built, intuitive to use, good remote, and has worked flawlessly in every mode (SACD, SACD multi-channel, CD).

Summary of observations of the Sony’s sound so far, compared to what I think is sonically ideal and also vs my Ayre CX-7eMP :

1) The Sony on SACD is significantly more dynamic than the Ayre (limited to Redbook). Noticed this right off the bat. Required some ear/mind adjustment to get a handle on this regarding enjoyment of music. I think that the additional dynamics are positive (how could they not be?), but also highlight the areas where the Sony is inferior to the Ayre.
2) "One dimensional" detail is superior on the Sony, again using SACD vs Redbook on the Ayre. However, the Ayre has a 3-dimensional detail that is missing in the Sony. This goes straight to the musicality factor. The Sony on SACD is more defined (slight "spotlighting"?) and the Ayre is more musically satisfying to me. I must note that I have always found this to be the beauty of the Ayre. I like this, a lot. Also, I have never wanted for more definition with the Ayre, and the Sony has not changed this.
3) The Ayre is more affable on less-than-stellar recordings. The Sony again delivering more surface detail, but the Ayre better providing a balance of what IS THERE on these discs, better enhancing tonal subtleties of vocals & instruments and of the soundstage to the extent possible. Sidenote: I quickly discovered that some SACDs do not sound superb (even poor) due to inferior recording/mastering/et al of the source performance, and the sonic inferiority of these discs vs the great ones is further magnified via SACD.
4) The Ayre provides a more 3-dimensional image of individual vocalists and instruments on everything I have listened to so far, and superior soundstage depth and width. Not to say that the Sony is lacking per say in this area, only in comparison.
5) The Sony (on SACD) better delivers frequency extremes. The ultra-top end and bass bottom-registers are superior. Care should be taken here if one is not confident of the associated equipment’s prowess in these areas. I would advise staying clear of the Sony (SACD) if the associated system tends toward brightnesss. Mine does not. Again, when listening to the Ayre sans comparison, I have never found it to be lacking here either.
6) The Sony on SACD has a very appealing bass definition and power. Not better than the Ayre, just different. A matter of preference...
7) The Ayre wins out on midrange texture and natural micro-dynamic reproduction. The Sony is simply less-refined sounding.
8) Having only spent a minimum amount of time listening Redbook CD on the Sony, I can only say that it sounds much better than expected but not in the league of SACD playback nor the Ayre on Redbook.

Overall, if I had to pick one for the proverbial deserted-island scenario, I would stay with the Ayre. However, if only one disc could accompany me to this island, and that disc was the "The Dark Side of the Moon" hybrid SACD, I would choose the Sony via the SACD layer. It provides the best rendering that I have yet heard of this music, my favorite rock recording of all time, vs LP (I have 7 different LPs of DSOM, ranging from non-barcoded US first-gen to multiple MFSL exemplars, but, alas, no true first-gen Harvest pressings) or, of course, from CD.

Hoping that the Modwright version of the Sony will allow me to have my cake and eat it too. Should know in a couple weeks.

Best to you jafant,
Outstanding! review- Dave.

you have golden ears for sure. You will find in the many, many threads here that most support the Ayre on RBCD playback.  Since Sony invented the SACD medium, it only makes good sense that their spinners excel in this area, although, I do like Esoteric spinners for SACD playback only.

Give the Sony at least 200 hrs. of burn-in and acclimation in your room/system.

Happy Listening!
Thanks jafant.

Re: "golden ears", it's a miracle that I can hear at all.  Motocross racing as a early/mid teen, deafening rock concerts as an older teen (and later), muscle cars and highly-modified/open exhaust Harley's as an adult, all the while listening to my various systems at high volume through all of those years.  I really think that it is a primarily a matter of training one's brain to capture and interpret the signals coming from the ears.

I will continue to listen to the stock Sony and let you know if I perceive any significant change by the 200 hour mark.  Should be well before the Modwright version arrives.

Best to you jafant,

My pleasure- Dave.

your discussion on the 5400ES now has my interest peaked as well. I am in talks w/ a dealer/retailer on a gently used spinner. Hopefully a deal can be made soon.

Regarding the ModWright version there is one for sale here on the 'Gon now in the classified ads.

Happy Listening!

PM me before doing anything.

PM sent.
Happy Listening!
hi jafant,

Just got a load of Stockfisch SACDs.  Wow!
The best SACD material do sound impressive on the Sony.
Thanks! again Dave.

Happy listening!

At just over 100 hours I would agree that the 5400ES has improved in many ways.  Excellent sound on the best SACDs. Little time with Redbook on it yet.

Best to you jafant,
Keep me posted- Dave.

Happy Listening!