The Twenty is the only choice.
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I've never been a fan of modded electronics. You will lose your a$$ on resale and more than likely be stuck with something that doesn't sound any better than what you started with.
Spend the money or stay with what you have until you can afford a proper upgrade.
With that said, I have heard Ayre amps with a VTL front end and it was fantastic. What do you want to improve?
When the engineers at Ayre mod the device and come out with a new model... then buy it.
Otherwise, you can always try a new setup. The amplification chain is not going to improve at the same rate as a DAC.
if you just have a burning desire to tweek, then moving speakers around and room tmts can keep you busy for a looooong time.
Ayre announced a new DAC at Munich - it has a 100W amp built in
may not be an upgrade for you
and here is something on a dealer's page:
I haven't seen anything on the 5 series
Now that new 8 series looks interesting. I will also look at the codex specs again. It has received a lot of positive reviews. My current dac receives a USB input from my Mac Pro as well as an optical input from an older meridian CD player which I use as a transport. I should try a newer dac and see where that brings me. If not a big change then I will very likely just get a new Ayre pre. I really do love the Ayre stuff. It's built well, reliable and musical. I'll probably die before it does. thank you all for the helpful suggestions!
jc4659, I use an Ayre C-5xeMP - K-5exMP - VX-5 Twenty balanced link in one of my setups. When asked about inserting a balanced Bryston high-pass crossover between the preamp and amp, Charles Hansen responded in strong terms not to do it. I can only imagine what his response might be to the notion of modding the preamp. OTOH, he did approve of taking the single-ended outputs from the preamp to a low-pass crossover that drives the subs.
I too want to update the K-5xeMP to a KX-5 Twenty, for the additional balanced inputs in my case.