I have heard it and love what I have heard. That said, Ayre is still in the wait and see mode. If the record companies in mass, don't pick up on MQA, it will become just another great format that didn't make in main stream. I don't like the music that is recorded in MQA right now, so it needs to go mainstream to me as well as many other companies I've spoken to about it. MQA isn't high rez either. I have nearly 500gb of well recorded high rez music with a very good digital front end and it sounds pretty incredible. I don't have the digital ringing that ruins so much music. I would love to hear MQA in my personal system to see if it's better than what I hear now. You can't compare what you hear in a store demo with others in the room vs your own system. That said, I'd venture to say what I hear is pretty darn close if not better at the moment. I never went the DSD route, even though I've always loved what I've heard in stores or on friends systems. I has a Sony Beta and got burned. I still listen to a ton of vinyl which still blows away any digital I've ever heard, IMHO and I've heard the DCS stacks and other highly thought of digital played on mega systems. I agree on waiting to an extent, but if the Ayre sounds better than my Empirical Audio DAC, then I'm all in. I need a server/streamer and a way to keep my music, so it's a Melco N1ZH (streamer, server, NAS in one), the Ayre QX-5 (matches and mates with my AX-5 Twenty) or the Aurender N10 with my DAC. Lot's of choices, but these are companies I trust fully and are familiar with.
I compared MQA to PCM on an Explorer 2 and came away underwhelmed. It might be fine for streaming, but I think it trades off performance against traditional PCM to do so (except perhaps at the 'native' resolution).
I'm definitely looking forward to the Ayre. I've got an AX-5 Twenty / C-5xeMP setup and can't wait to do an A/B with the QX-5.
From what I was told, you'll be blown away. They just get how to do digital correctly. Some companies do great digital filtering and others analog. Steven Nuggent (Empirical Audio) has both down extremely well. Right now, my DAC is on the same level as Berkley Ref, which is a very nice DAC so I'm still needing to hear the QX5 Twenty in my system. That's not going to happen for a long time as production isn't huge right now. Warner just signed up with MQA, however no details on how much of their catalog or when. For me, I won't be adding that much new music as I have all of my favorites and I can stream Tidal to get any new stuff I want.
Right, but I may have missed, but nothing says the whole catalog etc...I'm assuming they will, but who knows. I sure hope so. Personally, I'm just going to use it when streaming Tidal. I won't pay the prices of downloads these days and I refuse to purchase my same catalog over again for the third time, lol. I do hope it catches on, but I still am not sold that it sounds as good as my high res recordings. In time we will all know.
I know this forum is about an Ayre product, but I see some interesting postings about MQA.
Interesting that Warner is dipping their toe into the MQA pond. I see that Tidal will be distributing MQA, I wonder if they will do the conversion to some other "generic" PCM format in the Tidal software, or whether they will output MQA and you'll need an MQA-capable DAC to get the benefit of the new format, or both?
An old friend of mine used to complain that the record companies ask you to buy the same music over and over again, first on vinyl, then on cassette/8 track, then on CD, then on hi-res digital, again on vinyl, etc. From what I read in the rags, about 60% of purchased music are remasters of previously-available tracks. I could see how MQA sales would be another source of revenue for the industry, but will it be mainstream enough to be worth the investment? Only time will tell.
Looks like the QX-5 Twenty will have digital volume control after all. I think this makes it an interesting choice if you have an all-digital library. QX-5 Twenty + VX-5 Twenty should make for a great combination.
Re: MQA - my guess is that record companies would mainly be interested in this from the marketing aspect - look it's 'high-res' (even though it seems to be a 'lossy' codec) but backwards compatible with all existing hardware as well as compact enough for streaming services. There's a lot going for it, but in the end, it's all a numbers game. Sonic performance is not necessarily the prime motivation.
Yes, I forgot to put that in, sorry. I have a great digital/analog volume control on my current DAC,however I don't use it. I personally have done a fair amount of A/B with this route and have found that if you have a great preamp, the sound is much better. To me (and anyone else I was doing this with, it wasn't close). That's just use though. Maybe this will be a game changer on that.
The North American debut of the QX-5 will be at Audio Consultants (I work there) in Evanston Illinois ( Chicago area ) on Saturday June 18 from 11 to 5. Alex Brinkman of Ayre will be there to demonstrate the unit and answer questions.
The QX-5 will make it's next appearance the following Saturday at Music Lovers in Berkeley California.
Agreed that this is a post on Ayre but I wouldn't jump on the MQA bandwagon just yet.
Here's what Schiit thinks about MQA.
And this is what Paul McGowan experienced with MQA as well as Archimago's take on the matter.
I'm not smart enough to fully absorb what these gentleman think about MQA but it sounds to me like another PONO being pushed on the public.
All the best,
Pono sounds great, especially for the price. They just packaged it wrong. The interface is something out of the 90's and you can't just put it in a pocket. IF they put it in a slim box with a great screen and easy interface that can stream Tidal in addition to their own store, you'd then have a great portable. That said, it's just like other failed devices and concepts I believe. I still think MQA will have it's place. I've heard it and liked it, but I still don't believe it sounds better than my high rez stuff with my own DAC.
I understand the interest in MQA. Meridian has a lot of money and can advertise and make more money. We want better software....and are always interested in better sound. What MQA promises is that new titles and old titles will come out and we purchase them or download them and use a player that has the MQA playback software and we will have better sound in those titles than ever before.....maybe so, maybe not.
But what if you could make all your current titles and every streaming title sound way better than you ever heard it. Ever hear of HQPlayer? Ever heard what using its sophisticated software to upsample ALL your files to high speed DSD sounds like? I have seen nothing but rave posts about HQplayer DSD upsampling. They say it sounds better than any other player including the players in $20,000 servers. It costs a whopping $150. You load it on a powerful PC or MAC and feed the upsampled info into a DAC that can do high speed DSD. From what I have read....this looks way, way more interesting than MQA. Why wait for MQA titles and DACs when you can make every thing you play (including DSD) sound way better right now using something you can buy in the next 10 minutes!!!!!!!!??????!!!!!!!!! You do need a powerful computer as HQPlayer is a serious user of juice. But, it does not cost much to make such a beast. I have a link off my Gustard mod page (tweakaudio.com) that shows you how to make your own dedicated computer PC for audio using both HQplayer and Roon. The person that wrote the article is getting better sound using this computer system into a level one modded Gustard ($1300 with mod) at DSD256 than his $20,000 turntable with a $5000 cartridge.
Folks, it looks like the revolution is already here. Does the Ayre have DSD256 or DSD512 capability? Hansen was a non supporter of DSD for quite a while but has started to change his tune lately.
Check out computer audiophile for their post on the Berlin Hifi show.
They heard the $4000 T+A DAC playing 512 upsampled via HQplayer and were quite taken....read the follow up comments. Mr. Lampizator was there and told someone "I could live with this sound".....and this was through a digital switching amp based on Ncore 500 modules ($4000 the pair).
Got to hear it at the Northeast premier last weekend. I liked what I heard, but it only had 30 hours on it. At the end of the day when everyone left it really started to open up and the bass started to get solid. It will keep getting better up to around 500 hours I was told. The headphone amp on it sounded great and that's with 0 hours on it. It's typical Ayre. It really is amazing at how they have optimized all the legacy inputs. I have the AX5 Twenty and it will sound better with the preamp, but for someone how only had a VX5 Twenty or better, you can run it via the QX5 Twenty, but you will lose a spec of openness and a spec in the bass region I was told. That's normal for any of the great DAC volume controls. They still don't beat a great preamp if you are using a great one. If you have a preamp that isn't pretty much world class, then you will be better off using the balanced outputs of the DAC into your amp directly.
Erik, anyone in this league needs to have a good source. That goes for any DAC. If your source isn't good, then there is no way anything else can sound good in the system.
I've heard this DAC with an old Macbook running Flac and no special software and it was the best I've ever heard it and that was before it was broken in.
One has an Aurender W20 which is a very good source. Another is using a Melco as a NAS, which is a very good source. I don't know if it's uncompressed Flac or WAV though. We are talking about high end systems
I think we have different expectations.
Personally, if I am paying for an excellent DAC it needs to be more or less immune to source quality. I've found some DAC's do this much better than others.
Schiit and Mytek for instance to me seem more immune than the Ayre QB-9 and possibly the Codex and Oppo. I find Mac Mini's to have presented the worst sound I've ever heard, taking down otherwise excellent DAC's, like the QB-9, down. Your mileage may vary and it's been a while since I had a chance to do exhaustive comparisons, but this is what my experience leads me to believe. In particular, listen for evidence of a harsh, or etched quality to the treble.
I consider DAC's which are "revealing" of power cables, digital cables or upstream sources (within reason) far less desirable than a DAC that performs consistently well.
Of course, not all feel that way, and please enjoy yourself your way. My point to this reply was just to explain where I'm coming from, and that I must remain in disagreement with the philosophy that an excellent DAC is revealing of the source components. I feel it's the opposite.
Erik, that's what makes this hobby fun. I invite you to listen to my Mac Mini. It was rebuilt by Steven Nugent rebuilt the one I am using and installed new SSD drives and he upgraded a Paul Hynes LPS to drive it all. It sounds as good as nearly anything I've heard. I do agree that most mac's sound like crap. that's why I was shocked at how great the QX5 sounded out of the box and with fewer than 50 hours on it. I really was in shock. You can run this thing with most sources and it will maximize the potential of the server you are using. Maybe that's the best way to put it. It will keep getting better and better with when it's fed better source material. I wouldn't think that folk purchasing this unit, would use source material that isn't up to what the DAC would give you. That would be a waste I would think.
There are plenty of DAC's under 4k or so that sound nice with most sources. They are usually voiced with source components in that range. I've never heard the Codex sound bad with anything and it makes most average headphones sound outstanding. Maybe that's what you are looking for?
For me, I have always felt that the best systems will be highly revealing. That's part of the micro/macro dynamics etc... that give you the emotional attachment to the music. That's just me though and I realize it's not you. We just like different things, which is why there are so many gadgets on the market.
It's possible to make a piece of equipment, especially speakers, "discriminating" without being better. Make the input receivers more sensitive, reduce the buffer sizes, increase the output impedance, etc. and you have a piece of equipment that is now more "revealing" of upstream components.
Not saying that's always the case, but be careful about being fooled into thinking something "discriminating" is always better.
Erik, I understand what you are saying, however I do have a fairly decent ear. I don't like most products on the market for that reason. To many products are fatiguing when they reveal too much. Just not engineered properly for my money. The one thing I appreciate about the Ayre gear is that they are neither tube, nor SS. They are highly revealing to my ears, while not ragged or fatiguing on top. They work very hard to achieve this as we all know. They build in their own double stage filtering for the AC which allows the unit to have a much lower noise floor. I think you are using 'discriminating' as revealing, but am not totally sure. If so, I agree whole heartedly. All of audio is about tradeoffs. It has to be since there is no way to get 'live', without listening to live music.
I dislike so many of the top named speakers as well as electronics because they are 'always dynamic' or 'have huge soundstage' or .....you get the picture. I like to think that at all price points you can put together musical systems that let you listen for long periods of time and enjoy what yo are listening to. The more expensive the system, you should get more out of it up to the point of no return that you can handle financially. It's pretty basic, but I read the forums and I see how much used gear is out there and I'm in touch with so many who are always looking for what's 'next'. When I decided to do upgrades a couple of years ago, I set out to sell off all my older gear. I had a budget to start with and I went out to audition everything under the sun so that I had references for all gear. Then I started to make lists of gear I could never live with long term or not at all. they all got cut from my list. I noticed that there were some names on there that I have never liked, but there were a few that sounded totally different than they did yet 10 or more years ago. I knew what I could afford after selling my gear and I knew roughly how much I'd have to spend going forward, so I decided to chose gear that was well made, sounded good, could be sold later on without a huge loss and fit my room. I was very pleased and loved listening again. I even got into portable audio since I'm on the road so much. Just some amazing values out there to my ear and I'm so happy I've gone this route.
Now I'm close to getting where I want to be. I will have purchased and sold most of the gear I bought two years ago (or so), but that was the plan. I found a few dealers whom I knew years ago as well as new ones whom I trust. I audition systems as much as I do various products. Yes, there are certain lines that I found I love and I'm staying in those lines for the most part. I'm still open to all gear as I never thoughts I would leave tubes and I have and I never thought I'd like Vandersteen speakers and I love them. Yes, call me the fanboy, but only because of what they are to me and I appreciate it. There are only a few other speakers lines that I personally have enjoyed listening to and a couple only have speakers in the 30k plus range. That's never going to happen for me, but I'm happy for the folks who can and will afford them.
The QX5 Twenty is the first piece I have purchased without hearing, although I was able to cancel the purchase. I listened to a new piece and loved what I heard at the end of the day when it was warmed up and just starting to break in. I'm glad I made the move based solely on what I'm told by a few who are using it and have it broken in. I know one person's ears very well and I trust what they tell me when I hear them talk about it in the system that I will use it in (i.e., they set it up with all my gear, including my cable). they don't have the source I'll be using, but I'm trusting that won't be an issue at all.
I listen differently than I used to. I hear things differently. When you sit and listen with folks who do this for a living from dealer to manufacturer to engineer, you tend to pick up on things they do. I listen to ever more live music now than I ever did. I used to play drums (before the MS set in and put a halt to that), so I do like to think I have an understanding to how live music and vocals should and do sound. I know where I like to listen to when I can pick my seats. I'm mid to 2/3'rds back guy (center of course), so I am not into a system that puts the music forward of the front plane of the speakers. I like the room to pressurize when it should, but that's hard in my room because of the layout and openings. I get that. I have to listen near field for many reasons, so that also may have changed what I have and will purchase.
Just a background on where I'm coming from and why I post what I do. Hope that helps you understand my posts a bit more. I listen to everything from hard rock to soft rock to .......everything. Thanks
I really love Ayre, by the way! I love their sound, and modern Audio Research.
My experience with the Ayre DAC's however was mixed. From a highly modded Mac, Bleah. From thier own CD player it was superb.
After reading your thoughts, I think I want gear that is MUSICALLY revealing, but not technically revealing. I don't want to be able to switch USB cable and hear a difference, or really, switch among various amps and hear that my speaker needs the beefiest one's to have the best bass.
And sometimes I really don't want the gear to be that musically revealing either. ..... :)
Your mileage may vary!
Erik do yourself a favor and go listen. I honestly don't know how they put what they did in there for less than 2 K. It's one of the Best Buy's in all of audio. I hear it often with the Ayre ref stack and Vandersteen 7 mk 2 and it just plays music. The head amp beats the Woo balanced for my money and for a small system I'd pair it with an amp and drive it directly
I just got a new DAC/preamp, so I'm not in a hurry. My local dealer has the Codex set up as part of their headphone set up, so I doubt I could hear it easily in a full-size system.
I'm glad you like it, and good to know Ayre is moving forward. :) I was always a fan of the Pono for it's Ayre derived output stage, it's UI, limited memory and lack of streaming however kept me for springing for one.
Even if you aren't in the market, they can easily move it into a system since it's so small, lol. Are you in the Dallas area? Nice guys down there. I send a lot of my OK/TX friends there. Pono is great for the price, but I agree on the limits of the device. They needed to really fix some of the things you mentioned and they haven't and probably won't. I could easily be happy with a pair of Hifiman 1000's or Audeze LCD-4 or Focal Utopia with the Codex and call it a day. It even makes lesser priced cans sound outstanding.
Thanks! I'm in California. They could move it but I don't like hanging out and asking for demos unless I'm buying, and lately I'm building or selling. :)
As a not bad alternative to the Pono is the Fiio X5 with external amp. I have not heard the X7 which adds Android, and therefore Tidal.
Fully get it. I've heard the X5 as well as the 7. Both are nice units. I personally like the Onkyo with balanced outputs for just a bit more than the X7. I like it for the under 1k DAP's. It's sound in balanced mode is close to the more expensive A&K units I feel.
I'm hoping to get to hear the QX5 tomorrow if I can change the schedule up a bit.