Ayre DAC vs Auralic vs Metrum vs Bel Canto

I'm trying to decide on which DAC to get. Could someone please highlight the best dac among these choices? I like smooth musical sound yet not too colored or sluggish. The Auralic got good reviews, but how does it compare to the competition?
Haven't heard the Auralic or Bel Canto but can rightly say the Metrum Octave outperformed the Ayre QB-9 in my system (Shindo based).
You will get better feedback if you tell people how you intend to use them: fed from a computer (PC/Apple?) from a sound card, USB-to-S/PDIF converter, connected to what equipment, and if you are interested in hi rez. Ayre only has USB in, so you are likely thinking a computer, but Metrum only has coax and optical in...so you are likely thinking something in between computer and DAC. Not convenient for you making people providing feedback guess what you are thinking, I guess.
You wouldn't be disappointed with the Ayre.
A LINN DS would be a better sounding piece. I think the QB-9 is USB only?
Which LINN DS would be better than all of these, and is it in the same price range?

Regarding the use, I was thinking of using USB from a computer with Amarra or something like that. I would be buying a converter if I got the Metrum.
I'm thinking of a Mac. Also, right now I have focal studio monitors amped. I don't yet have a pre-amp to power this DAC.
I also like detail to a certain extent, but not overly hyped detail that would lead to harshness or fatigue.
That was the issue with the Ayre for me...too clean/clinical for my ears and just missing the heart of the music. In context it was being used in an all Ayre system (V5xe, K5xeMP, QB9, SF Cremona). I also tried both Pure Music, Amarra and Decibel...Amarra seemed to sound the best but can't recall the version number.

The Metrum in contrast is much more musical without losing the details. I may be more tuned to a warmer sound in general though. In context the Metrum is being used as part of a Shindo Cortese, Masseto, DeVore 9's system.

Not really an apples to apples comparison but just sharing my experience.
I am using a LINN Akurate DS ($7,500), but even a Majik DS or Majik DS/M I think would be a better idea. Lose the USB connection totally. I use an iPad to control the entire thing. Also, the "Kinsky" software to run all your music is free.
The Ayre is clinical? Hmm.. I thought it was considered a musical dac.
horses for courses...this was my opinion in my system at that time...comparing to my setup now yes it was clinical. YMMV
The Auralic looks good, anybody compare it to the competition?
Jcote ,
I agree with your impressions.
I have been using my Metrum through Apogee Duettas, GamuT L5s and just now Spendor S 100s; sounded great with all of them. CJ 350 and Meridian 605 amps, Audia Flight line stage.
Metrum vs Auralic?
I liked the Ayre QB9. I had it in my system for a short trial but couldn't bring myself to pay that much for only USB. I found it outperformed the Wavelink HS/Bel Canto DAC3.5VB combo I had. Not in terms of details but when hooked with USB, the pace of the music was just better.

I still preferred my CD2 + Bel Canto DAC3.5VB combo. There's something intrinsically right about the pace and energy of having a physical disc transport vs a computer.

Since then I have upgraded the DAC3.5VB to a MkII and I dare say it should be much closer. I also have switched to a Weiss INT202 which seemed better again than the Wavelink although it does not support Integer mode.
The conclusion that the Ayre QB-9 is less musical is ... odd.

An Ayre QB-9 was used in an all Ayre, solid state system driving SF Cremonas versus the Metrum being used in an all Shindo system, lush beautiful tube gear driving Devore Gibbon 9s.

The disclaimer is made that this is not an apples to apples comparison. No kidding, it's about as far from apples to apples as you can get. This is like comparing a Rolls Royce on one day to a Ferrari on another and saying the Ferrari is faster but the Rolls is more luxurious, and wondering, "Huh. Could it be the shoes I was wearing?"

I've had both the Ayre and Metrum in my system. The same system, in my room. I found the Metrum more clinical and the Ayre more musical, but neither was as resolving or as musical as the PS Audio PerfectWave DAC.
I would not forget to audition the PS Audio Perfect Wave II DAC. I have not heard the other DACs mentioned, but I know first hand that is dynamic, musical, without a hint of fatigue. Several reviews have compared t to the Ayre and Linn and it more than held it's own at less than half the price
( even less if you purchase on Audiogon). One can add the Bridge as well for a server system or just use the USB input. It and the Ayre arehand crafted in the USA. I'm not sure about the others.
Wilsynet, I'm sorry my experience bothers you so much that you needed to
publicly ridicule my comments and share your own experience without
providing the system context for which the pieces were incorporated. I guess
if we all had exactly the same ears then these threads would be superfluous
but this is not the case and constructive forum contributors offer their own
experiences which will likely never be 100% equal in setup to the
OP...and...we're not even talking about room, power quality, and other
environmental differences...but I guess you already knew that. This is not to
take anything away from the PS Audio PWD Mk2 which I've also heard in my
current setup but again did not find as engaging or musical as the Metrum
Octave. Anyway, since you feel you're the only one who's opinion matters, it
appears that the OP can stop looking since the definitive expert on all things
DAC related (none other than yourself of course) has spoken.
And the LINN Akurate DS would sound better than any of those units...
Jcote: I should have used more measured language, and I apologize for that. I'm not taking away anything from your view on things, and certainly my opinions are not the only ones that count.

I certainly have made no claim that my opinion is authoritative. My broader point is that clinical versus musical could have been ascribed to the speakers, the amplifier, the preamplifier, etc, not to the DAC. And so to draw a conclusion regarding the DAC when all of those other components have changed, I think that's quite the stretch ...

But let me again apologize for my inappropriate and impolitic language. That's not fair to you and was not reasonable for me to have done.
Wilsynet, I appreciate the reply.

Audiofreak32, aren't you a Linn dealer? If not my apologies.
ii have not heard a solid state digital source that has given me more pleasure than a tube-based digital source, given the "right" tube.

be careful.

i would advise you to listen, as you require a special mix of resolution and smoothness.

the balance you seek cannot be achieved by seeking and following suggestions.

you really need to listen, since your needs are quite specific.

there is no substitute for listening, even , given the difficulties of obtaining product.

if you base your purchase purely on the basis of the experience of others, you will expose yourself to risk.

don't take my word for it, trust your own ears.

try to expose yourself to as many dacs as you can.
Not a LINN dealer at all, just a fan of DS.
Audiofreak32, fair enough...sorry for the mistaken identity. Have you compared the Linn to any of these DAC's mentioned? I was actually interested in the DS series but never had a chance to audition.
Awhile back my buddy auditioned a Bel Canton dac...it was a nice combination of romantic warmth and modern detail...very natural, transparent presentation...highly recommended