Ayre CX7e vs. Meridain G08

I am looking at upgrading my front end with an $3K CD player.

Listen to redbook Cds.

Have zeroed in on Ayre CX7e, Meridian G08 in new condition. I am willing some suggestions on new players as well as preowned ones in the $3K range

My current system is Musical fidelity A3.2Cr Cd Player connected to X-10V3 tube buffer. The amplifier is MF A308Cr Integrated amplifier and Speakers are Cadence Electrostatic ( Hybrid). The interconnects and speaker cables are of VandelHul
I can't speak about the Ayre, but I am the proud new owner of a Meridian G08. I upgraded to this unit from a Shanling CDT100. If you have read the online reviews for the Meridian then I pretty much concur. However, I do not find the player lacking in bass response at all. It is very smooth and non tiring to listen to for extended periods of time. I know the old cliche of a pane of glass wiped clean to describe increased detail in the music, but in my case it fits very well. Soundstaging is excellent with all insturments clearly defined. This may sound funny, but my toes are tapping more and my non audiophile wife actually got up and danced to some Motown on this player. Something she never did previously. Loading time for a disc is averaging 6 seconds. Not too long for me, but YMMV. I know this did not directly answer your question, but I would buy the Meridian again without hesitation.

I owned the Meridian G08 for a while and really never did warm up to it. I never liked it as much as I did my old 508-24 or the 508-20 for that matter(which has a warmer sound.) I personally think the Ayre player is better sonically. But like all things in audio, this is just my personal opinion. I owned the CX7e. It needs to be run balanced though. It is a very good player.
I was also not real impressed with the G08 build quality. It didn't seem as well built as the 508 series and the draw stuck from time to time(the little flap that covers the draw.)It had a much cheaper feeling transport.
There's some good players in the $3000 range. I would look and listen a while. You can't beat personal experience. Also, there's not THAT much difference sonically in some of the little lower priced players.
Bigtee: I have no personal experience with the Meridians you mention, but presumably the drawer mechanism felt cheaper because it was cheaper -- beginning I believe with the 588 and continuing in the G08, as far as I know Meridian switched to using OEM computer DVD-ROM drives instead of audio CD transports. Combined with their digital buffer/reclocking circuit design, these machines are said to scan disk data multiple times at faster than real-time speeds for lower average error rates and lowered sensitivity to isolation and build-quality concerns regarding the drive mechanism itself. Whether this way of doing things actually sounds better than the old way (real-time single-pass data reading, transport isolation and build quality critical factors) I don't know, but Meridian must think so.
Zaikesman, In this case, I just didn't feel, to my ears, it sounded as good. You are exactly right about the transport. A lot of manufacturers have gone this route. I always felt it was because they couldn't source a better transport at their price points and were forced to adapt. Wether this technology is better---well---I guess everyone needs to make their own decision. They sure make for a cheaper product.
I have noticed higher jitter levels with this technology. This makes me wonder if the signal is as pure.
I know Wadia's players use a much higher quality transport and sound wonderful to me. Their jitter is very low. The older Meridian 508-24 hand some of the lowest measured jitter of any player. Just makes me wonder if manufacturers have adopted something because they had to and then market other specifications to put it on even footing.
I've owned both the 508.24 and the 588 (in fact, my son still has the 508.24). In the four years I owned the 588 I never experienced any mechanical issues, with the drawer or otherwise. As far as sonic comparisons, while I loved the warmth of the 508.24 it was not as articulate and LF reproduction - in my system - was not as good as the 588. I never felt that the upgrade was a step down, a step sideways, but a distinct improvement.

I auditioned both the G08 and the 808 before purchasing an AA. The G08 was not an improvement over my 588. The 808 was a major step up in performance over both the 588 and G08. Ultimately, I couldn't justify the additional cost above the AA. But the G08 is an outstanding performer...unless something has changed at Meridian in the last 2 years...
Bigtee: When you say "I have noticed higher jitter levels with this technology", are you referring to figures published in reviews, or manufacturer specs? (Forgive me for assuming you're not set up to determine this for yourself.) Or are you making an inference based on sound? In any case, I can't really see how taking the Meridian approach would necessarily result in worse timing errors delivering the data to the DACs (I'll bet Meridian claims the opposite). Just curious -- and also to know what other players you allude to that you feel could be grouped with the newer Meridians. (I don't know if any others employ a system for rereading and reclocking the data similar to what Meridian does?)

Islandear: I've wondered, if I were to try one of these machines (haven't done so yet mostly because they lack digital inputs), whether the 08 differed significantly from the 588 other than cosmetically, so thanks for the info.
You're correct in that I don't test for myself. I use Stereophile and other sources for these measurements. I have found that the players considered good today have jitter in the 240+ range. The 508-24 was around 144. You can go back and look at older top rate players of the time and see that jitter was under 175 in all of them. Even the old Sony XA7es had very low jitter and makes a lot of todays players look like junk. I know Wadia and some other manufacturers of higher dollar machines use excellent built transports.
My real beef is these newer players aren't as harmonically rich. They seem thin to me and the sound (again to me, sounds compromised.) Sure, they have great resolution but I think that comes with the overall tendency to lose harmonic structure and lighten the presentation. The 508-24 for example is richer BUT compare it side by side with the 588 or G08 and don't base it on what you remember it sounding like. The resolution is there. It's just richer. I think it's similiar to what folks try to get out of a good tube preamp.
Even the Ayre C5xe had jitter upwards over 250+.
Actually, I have not seen any player lower than 200 in quite a while.
All these levels of jitter are considered low but I wonder why the levels have increased. Of course, I don't think it's all jitter to blame but why have the levels gone up?
As for what Meridian would claim, I have never seen a manufacture not produce something that wasn't considered better than their previous effort.
Meridian use to be in the top tier. I don't see them there anymore. Seems either technology for CD players is peaking or not as much effort is being put into them.
I never saw anyone really brag on the Meridian G08. The 588 didn't get much coverage at all. I'm sure Meridians top stuff is good as well as it should for the price.
As for reclocking, I have seen numerous units claiming this.
Digital has so many buzz words that don't mean as much as manufacturers make out they do. With the slow decay in true CD players in favor of multiformat machines, I just don't know.
I have tried a lot of players at different price points. Of standard - non upgraded or tweaked units, I do like the sound of the Ayre C5xe even if it has a sorta cheap drive (that makes a little noise opening and/or shutting(kind of clunky.) The Wadia 861se is by far my favorite for sound and incredible build quality to boot with one beautiful transport.
The bottom line is---this is just my opinion. Remember, opinions are like butt holes, everyone has one!!!! I just look at the machines inside out, how they operate, measurements when available and certainly how they sound.
I think CD replay has sort of peaked unless you want to get off of mega dollars. Ultimately, most of these machines would make their owner extremely happy and that's what matters most. They are in the current good to excellent class with the current state of CD flux.
I know this was originally about the Ayre vs the Meridian. The CX7e does exactly what I've said it does. It lightens the presentation a tad but makes up for it with a more sonically pure presentation that goes deep and with wide soundstaging. The G08 had a sound I didn't care for. The presentation seemed a bit disjointed with some slight slurring of high frequency transients. It's a good player though. Just not for me.
Bigtee -

I have noticed the same phenomenon you have -- increasing levels of jitter over the years in the Stereophile test reports. JA made an oblique reference to this in one or two of the testing sidebars -- something to the effect that you can't compare the numbers in the newer test reports with those of the older test reports. Unfortunately, he did not say why.

I tried to duplicate his test results for the Ayre C-5xe with a slightly different setup. The test disc is easily made, using specifications from an AES paper (by the late Michael Gerzon, I believe). I analyzed the output with the FFT function of both an Audio Precision System One (and older machine like Stereophile uses for most of their measurements), as well as the latest, greatest Audio Precision 2722.

With the System One, there were a lot of spurious sidebars as well as a generally higher noise floor than JA reported with his Miller Audio Research analyzer. But with the 2722, the noise floor was markedly lower than JA's tests. Further there were *no* sidebars at all when using 24-bit data, implying that all of the sidebars I found with that machine in 16-bit mode were data related and therefore an artifact of the test itself.

My conclusion is that this test protocol is extremely sensitive to the test equipment being used. I further speculate that something has degraded in JA's test setup over the years, leading to falsely high readings in more recent tests.

This is unfortunate, as many readers rely on these test reports. I hope that JA addresses this issue soon, and preferably in print.

Charles Hansen
Ayre Acoustics, Inc.
Mr. Hansen: I recall JA once writing something to the effect of cautioning that his jitter test results should only be compared to his own past numbers -- that they can't be cross-compared with numbers from other sources, and that it's where they fall within the spectrum of his past results that matters, rather than the absolute numbers themselves. Given that proviso, and the fact that he frequently characterizes how his figures for a unit under test compare to his historical upper echelon, one would think he couldn't fail to notice and take corrective action if needed (or note the poorer performance of recent players) should his results show a clear trend of worsening over time. Since he hasn't written anything like that, my assumption would be that if you contacted him about this question he'd probably say that, notwithstanding any one-time unspecified changes to his test set-up or method such as you noted, there is no such overall trend. Don't know if that would be correct or not, but personally I'm not about to go through my back issues of Stereophile and track his figures to try and find out...
Mr. Hansen, First let me say I hope you're recovering well from your accident and will be back over at Ayre soon.
Second, thanks for contributing to this forum. It's always relevant to have a designer with your reputation contribute.
I think you are absolutely correct in your statements. I have felt there might be a reason along these lines but I also felt JA would stay on top of his test equipment.
It was a surprise to see jitter at the level JA found with the C5xe knowing how good it sounds and what results from jitter. I also know your attention to detail in your products. Both the CX7e and C5xe are superb products in their respective price ranges.
Since JA does all of Stereophile testing, it casts doubt in my mind how much merit to give to some of these measurements at this time. It seems something is a little off.
I know test measurements aren't everything but I do believe certain parameters on a test bench do correlate to the sonic end result.
Keep up the good work over at Ayre.
Hello Zaikesman,

Sorry you choose not to believe me. Here is proof of what I am talking about:

Go to the bottom of Stereophile's review of the dCS Verona master clock:


and you will see the following footnote:

"Footnote 1: For reasons unknown, all these measured jitter levels are about twice what I measured for the Elgar and Verdi two years ago. They should therefore be considered as relative rather than absolute values."

Now I don't know about you, but I consider a 100% variation in test results over a two-year span to be problematic at best. I did contact him about this several months ago, but with no substantive reply to date. I suspect that he is pretty busy and that this is not high on his priority list.

Charles Hansen
Ayre Acoustics, Inc.
I went back and read the CX7(not the CX7e) review from the May 2003 Stereophile. JA stated the CX7 had some of the lowest jitter(159 picoseconds of peak to peak) of any player he had measured.
The higher levels of jitter seemed to start showing up about 2 years ago or less. It would be interesting to re-measure that same player now.
Mr. Hansen: Thanks for your expanded comments and the link, I did not recall that JA admitted to some mystification about his results. I certainly agree that these jitter tests seem to be exquisitely sensitive and should probably be taken at something less than strictly face value. But if you reread my post, I think you'll see that nothing I said was in disbelief of your statements.
Based on my own brief measurements using the Audio Precision 2722 analyzer (this is a $27,000 piece of test equipment with an FFT noise floor at almost -140 dB), I think that this particular test protocol is flawed. I suspect that for well-designed digital audio equipment, the test tends to measure the noise floor of the analyzer/computer rather than the device under test.

I think Bigtee is right that the higher jitter levels in JA's test reports started showing up around two years ago. Maybe the increased jitter measurements in JA's test resulted from some change to his computer, perhaps the installation of a Wi-Fi card.