Has anyone heard this unit? Does anyone know how this unit is supposed to compare to their all in one players?
As far as I know it's not out yet. CES 2009 was the first introduction. I haven't heard a specific release date.
Charles Hansen has been discussing the QB-9 at some length in the forums over at Audio Asylum. Late April release was the last word, I think. Ayre also has some technical material up on their Web site discussing the asynchronous USB implementation that's the DAC's big selling point.
I heard one today - with a mac laptop, ayre integrated, and thiel 1.6 speakers. I was amazed by the sound. Heard new new information, texture and clarity in a recording I've listened to hundreds of times.
I haven't heard it yet, but I was at an audio open house where an Ayre rep was describing upcoming products. What should distinguish the Ayre from many other USB DACs is that they are using (under license) the synchronization and decoding scheme developed by Wavelength Audio. Various posts here, articles, and reviews I've read indicate that the Wavelength USB products equal or outperform SP/DIF converters, whereas typical USB converters don't sound as good as SP/DIF. Although Ayre gear isn't cheap, I'm hoping the licensing arrangement makes the Wavelength decoding scheme more affordable and available than before.

I recall a post a few months ago where an A-goner said that his PC hooked to a Wavelength Cosecant ended his quest for a better CD player once and for all.
One of my friends bought this DAC two months ago after he did a shoot-out with his PS Audio DAC. The PS Audio lost flat-out. Just recently he auditioned the Weiss Minerva DAC and did an A/B comparison with the Ayre. Now he is contemplating of getting rid of the Ayre. Moral of the story- don't compare a DAC you like with another superior unit. The Ayre is good on its own.
Ryder, which PS audio dac was it?
Kschiu, the PS Audio DAC was a Digital Link III.
Ryder, I thought you were talking about the PWD. I'm interested in knowing how the "next gen" DACs compare with each other.
Kschiu, the Digital Link III is a fairly new DAC. My friend mentioned he also did a shoot-out between the Ayre and Perfect Wave DAC with all the different filters tested with the presence of two critical listeners. The Ayre was said to have won by a huge margin in resolution, separation, bass and soundstaging. According to them the differences were not subtle. Hope that helps.
I just had this in my house for two days and it was incredible. You really need 4GB ram on your computer though or it glitches.
I own the Ayre QB-9 USB DAC and it is terrific. I am very impressed with the way it sounds and yes, it is better sounding then my Ayre CX-7e CD player. The highs are better and so is the bass. The music is clearer and more engaging. My MAC Book Pro computer has 4 GB RAM and the 120GB solid state drive. I am using the Seaport Free Agent Go Pro 500GB external hard drive to store my music files (a 2nd one for backup). The Furman AC-215 power conditioner is required so the MAC computer does not interfere with the audio components. See www.furmansound.com/product.ph

I am using the Transparent USB Cable from the computer to the Ayre DAC. I followed Ayre's MAC Book setup instructions and they worked. The Audio MIDI setup was a little different from their instructions but we finally figured it out. The QB-9 is connected (balanced cables) to my Ayre AX-7e Integrated amp connected to my Sonus Faber Auditor M Speakers.

The major issue was the computer in terms of what model, how much RAM, hard drive and external drives. Ayre was very helpful (www.ayre.com) and so was my audio store, Music Lovers Audio in Berkeley, CA. It takes between 3 to 5+ minutes per CD using the AIFF format. This is a very boring time consuming process.

I checked and double checked everything to ensure I made no mistakes. Everyone I talked said to get the MAC and not a PC. Ayre recommended I use the external drives for better music quality and not the hard drive on the computer.

If you decide to move in this direction, I suggest working with a high quality audio store to help you configure the needed components.

I am a PC person and this is my first MAC computer. It is very easy to use and iTunes does a great job of managing the music. I hope the above helps. Cheers...
I just attended the Ayre demonstration of the QB-9 using the newest Ayre MX-R monoblocks, Wilson Sophia's. Steve Silberman was on hand to demo and did comparisons with the DX-5 beta product (to be released). He did A/B comparison with a Redbook Cd and complete explanation of the MAC and PC implementations. It was a very useful demo and convinced me the time has come to start ripping all my CD's.

I have to say, the QB-9 sounded great. Of course, the reference room at Music Lovers in Berkeley is pretty nice too, I don't have Wilson's, etc, so it hard to say what differences I would hear at home. I did not compare it to alternative DACs and wanted to hear the Berkeley Audio. Steve did start to convice me that SPDIF is a fundamentally flawed technology so that might rule that one out. The asynchronous implementation of USB really made sense to me and I have been developing and selling digital video technology for many years so I kind of get it.

Regardless, Ayre is a great company and the combination of a reasonably priced DAC with MP filtering, technical support,etc is just hard to beat. My Monarchy tube DAC (which sounds fine I might say) may hit the for sale ads soon.

very interesting, can you elaborate on why the SPDIF interface would be flawed, I have a very hard time thinking this since its what most studios do.
Also how did they implement a asynchronous USB, what chip was used for this?
even if the spdif is in fact flawed, the berkeley also has aes3.

i have heard this argued before and always get confused. i think some think spdif is great and some believe it faulty, same with aes, same with usb, same with firewire.....dunno!

they all sound great to my ears with the right gear. i use aes3.
AES/EBU is just balanced S/PDIF.

Ayre's asynchronous USB implementation is courtesy of the software written by Gordon Rankin of Wavelength Audio, which Ayre licensed. dCS also has a true asynchronous USB implementation and apparently Resolution Audio's new unit does also. Some other companies throw the term around but I don't think they are legit async USB.

The Weiss Minerva mentioned above, which is now replaced with the new DAC202, uses Firewire, not USB.
Yes aes is the same as spdif but takes more electronics to implement so aes is worse for shorter cables.

Afaik there is only one real asy USB chip in existence in the world and i think none of the mentioned companys use it?
I would refer you back to Hansen's white paper on clocking of data and how SPDIF clocks vs the USB Asynchrounous mode previously mentioned by Almarg.

The only problem with all of this is that some DAC chip designers have designs that are very tolerant of jitter because they already buffer the data onto the chip. IN the case of the Pico seconds of jitter as on SPDIF, the data is already de-jittered by the chip. This is what some video chip designers do.

So, the impact of jitter is not absolute but depends on the chip and implementation. Having said that, the best way around any issues with jitter is to buffer data and reclock it with a new master clock. As long as the device feeding the data (the computer in this instance) is able to keep up with the buffer requests, the DAC will never have to deal with a loss of data condition.
I listened to this dac for 3 straight days in my system and I like it, and respect what it does and how it sounds, but I personally find it lacks excitement and is too laid back for my tastes. Just listen to the Ayre in your system before you give up on the Monarchy. You can get some pretty cool USB adapters that would allow you to hook up the Monarchy to a computer.
Yep, good advice, I plan on taking it slow and learning more before I jump in. I am currently playing with the J-River Media Player and have already discovered that I cannot Rip my SACD's with my current computer (I don't have too many anyway) I also need a bigger hard drive although a firewire drive is cheap these days. It is important to use firewire so you don't overburden the USB bus.

Anyway, will definitely be experimenting and trying things before purchasing but I think it is in the not to far distant future.
I don't believe there is any way to rip SACDs.
"I also need a bigger hard drive although a firewire drive is cheap these days. It is important to use firewire so you don't overburden the USB bus."

I use an "older" Windoze XP based laptop with a 500GB FreeAgent USB drive with the QB-9. Works just fine. USB has plenty of bandwidth for this application. Also I believe with Firewire you'll need a drive that takes external power. Yet something else to plug in....

I'm extremely pleased with the QB-9. Setup instructions on Ayre site worked just fine.

good to know, thanks Larry! I would prefer to have the drive powered by the USB port as well.
Just borrowed a QB-9 from my dealer. I am doing side by side comparison with my current DAC - My current system is:
Ayre AX-7e
Green Mountain Calisto speakers w/tweaked paradigm subwoofer.
Monarchy Tube DAC with NOS Amperex tubes.
Monarchy DIP with 96 khz clock,
Cables are all DIY magnet wire with gold connectors. Speaker wires are magnet wire also.
J-River with Windows 7 running WASAPI (I couldn't get ASIO4all to run on Windows 7)

The QB-9 is connected to balanced inputs, the Monarchy with single ended. I am able to play the CD closely synced with the computer output so I can instantly switch sources on the Ayre AX7 and compare side by side.

I noticed an immediate difference comparing the CD source with the QB-9. Soundstage is clearer, more space between instruments and more depth to the soundstage. Voices are focused and exactly where they should be. I really noticed the clarity of instruments in complex and dense musical passages. There also was more bass with fuller tone. Everything sounded more present and realistic. I compared probably 25 CD's of different music from classical to Hip hop with the same results.
I tried to get some 24/96 sources of CD's I already had but couldn't find any so I wasn't able to do a side by side comparison. I did find some sample 24/96 that sounded pretty darn good.

Honestly, I can see why someone who is used to tubes might find the combination a bit clinical and prefer the Monarchy, but for me, clarity and refinement is exactly what I am seeking.
It's not clear which you preferred, the CD or the computer playback.
I tried to compare my Esoteric DV-50 and the QB-9 both connected via XLR to different inputs on my pre-amp. However, the DV-50 was noticeably louder when switching inputs at the same volume setting. Adjusting the volume puts me past the 200-300ms window where I trust my memory. They both sound great to me, so if there are any differences, it doesn't matter to me.

You guys need to get off of that rapid switching thing. It's not the way to evaluate audio gear. IMO, IME of course.
Drubin - To clarify, CD playback went through the Monarchy tube DAC, Computer went through the QB-9. My preference was the QB-9 with computer playback.

I don't do rapid switching, rather, I listen to short passages of music (45 to 60 seconds) and focus on certain qualities or instruments, and then switch to the other source and listen to the same passage. That way, I limit what I need to remember. The first pass, I might compare bass, second vocals, third drums. It is helpful to me to switch without to much transpiring in between.

Maybe you can clarify what you perceive to be the issues with this and let me know what method you consider to be better.
I auditioned the Ayre QB-9, the Bel Canto 1 with bat supply, and Wavelength all on top reference Ayre gear and the Sonus Faber Stradivari Homage loudspeaker.
The Wavelength was best in every regard. The Bel Canto was highly musical and came out of a pitch black noise floor. The Ayre was flat without any width or depth to the soundstage. This was noticed by everyone present, and completely took the QB-9 out of consideration in the shootout.

Thanks for posting your experience. To help put it into perspective, would you tell us a bit more: which Wavelength DAC did you audition, how were you feeding the Bel Canto?

While I have yet to jump on the asynch USB DAC bandwagon, I have been doing quite a bit of reading and your experience seems to be unusual. Nevertheless to be taken into consideration, though.
Yes, this is the first review of this kind I have read for the Ayre. I have one and have had a very different experience with it, finding it very fluid and musical, with excellent timing and and staging. All around wonderful DAC for the money.
Here is a link where this guy who used to own the Ayre QB-9 preferred a less expensive USB DAC. See wdmoore451 post in the link.


Yes, interesting post. I tend to second guess these rave reviews about the Tranquility DAC. It has been noted repeatedly here some shills around the Tranquility: always the same few raving about the Tranquility with no further posts about anything. The link points to wdmoore51, who provides a rave review, but has had only 2 posts in audiocircle...suspiciuos to me.

Now, I'm not saying the Tranquility is not good, because I just don't know that. But what I mentioned above, coupled with dB Labs disclosing nothing about the technology behind it simply makes me second guess.

Horacio, I understand where you're coming from. I have the Tranquility DAC, but I can't give you a meaningful comparison because I have not heard the QB-9 in my system. However, you can always audition the Tranquility in your home with money back guarantee from the manufacturer if you don't like it. Can't say the same for QB-9. As for dB Audio Labs not disclosing details on the DAC, I can see both sides of the fence. Many audiophiles are caught up on the latest DAC chip, asynchroneous USB, oversampling, high rez, etc, thinking the newer the better. I have heard the latest of the latest, but most of the time I'm disappointed with the new technologies. Many will not even consider a DAC if it doesn't have asynchoneous USB or latest DAC chip. I say let your ears be the judge and not the manufacturer's hype.
QB-9 is prettier looking than the Tranquility though...;-)
I have a Tranquility DAC and I am more than happy with it and the service provided by Eric. Spending 2 hours on a saturday helping me optimize my system is way beyond what ordinary customer service is. I've had no complaints with it whatsoever. I've heard the QB-9 several times and I wasn't blown away, maybe it was the other components in the systems that were off.
My understanding is that this DAC only plays at 16 bit resolution and downsamples 24 bit material to 16 bit. My experience with hi-res recordings is that the bit depth (24 bit) is more important than the sampling rate (48 vs 96). I also prefer balanced out since my system is balanced throughout.

Also, I don't think this is an asynchronous USB interface. Just too many technical shortcomings for me in this day and age. It would make more sense to look at a Wyred4Sound. Maybe it is the old-school sound that is appealing!
Yes the Tranquility is 16 bit, but it is not old school sounding. It sounds musically right to me. I play the classical guitar and it is one of the few DACs out there that gets the timbre of the different musical instruments correct. Also the sound staging and imaging is correct to these ears. As I have said before if you get caught up on the bit depth, ansynchroneous USB, etc you are really missing out on a very special DAC. I have heard USB DACs, most of which didn't do the things tranquility does. I'm on the look out for a high rez DAC that can surpass this and all of the ones ve like at are $8000+.
Asynchronousity...? The QB-9 vs. the SE

I had an interesting experience recently. I had a chance to pick up a slightly used Ayre QB-9 DAC at a very fair price. Having read many positive reviews on the Ayre and the "obvious" benefits of asynchronous technology, I bought the QB-9 so I could compare it head-to-head with my Tranquility SE. After about 8 weeks of A/B comparison, the Tranquility SE emerged the clear winner.

We (my wife and I) would be hard pressed to single out any aspect of the QB-9's presentation that we preferred over the SE. I don't know, perhaps the bass was a tiny bit more articulate? But we preferred the SE in every respect. Overall, we both felt that the SE had a far more organic nature. I don't know how else to explain it. My wife said the Ayre, while very good, very accurate, sounded like a "computer"; too clinical. I could not disagree.

To be honest, I bought the QB-9 expecting that I would prefer it to the SE, which is why I held on to it for 2 months! I actually wanted to prefer the QB-9. I felt that the Ayre's ability to handle hi-rez files and the fact that it was an asynchronous DAC would surely make it the better choice. But every time I placed the SE back in the rack it was an effort to listen critically. I found that I'd tend to end the analysis and start enjoying the music. The SE exhibited more air in its presentation, better imaging, cleaner and clearer highs and that fabled Tranquility mid-range. It is both liquid and detailed in nature. Note that the SE took 100's of hours to get to this point. I've never experienced a longer break-in or more profound metamorphosis in any piece of equipment I've owned.

When I finally decided it was time to part with the Ayre, I received the usual "why are you selling" inquiries from interested parties. Whereby I would explain my impressions and experience with the Ayre vs. the Tranquility, HiFace, modded HiFace and a CA 840C I used to own. It's interesting that the gentleman who bought my QB-9 could not fathom the idea that any DAC lacking asynchronous technology could possibly sound better than an asynchronous unit!

But then again... that was me... roughly 2 months ago. Logged
Cdm, if it doesn't divert the thread too much, how did the 840C hold up against this interesting set of comparisons?

As you know, everything is so system dependent... but I was very happy with the 840C (DAC input) for quite some time. I used it with the HiFace, modded HiFace and Halide Bridge, and the 840C was very responsive and revealing during each phase.

That said, the Tranquility DAC removed the digititis, or etchy top end that always seemed to plague the 840C. The Tranquility is just in a completely different league. I also prefered the QB-9 to the 840C, by a wide margin. The Ayre is a great DAC, but the Tranquility SE took my system to another level. I'm spending WAY more time listening these days!

As you know, everything is so system dependent... but I was very happy with the 840C (DAC input) for quite some time. I used it with the HiFace, modded HiFace and Halide Bridge, and the 840C was very responsive and revealing during each phase.

That said, the Tranquility DAC removed the digititis, or etchy top end that always seemed to plague the 840C. The Tranquility is just in a completely different league. I also prefered the QB-9 to the 840C, by a wide margin. The Ayre is a great DAC, but the Tranquility SE took my system to another level. I'm spending WAY more time listening these days!
I will to get a hold of a QB-9 and do a fair head to head comparison in my own system. If the QB-9 is as good, I wil probaby keep it for its hirez feature. Anyone dealer allow home auditions of the Ayre?
Feel the same way as Horacio. I'm usually open minded about audio components, but when year old thread is resurrected just to promote a competing product by small number of people that cross post to several different threads, it makes me wonder. I did look at the web site for Tranquility DAC. There is very little technical information about the DAC there, other than the use of non-oversampling DAC. There are a dozen different NOS DAC sold on eBay for less than $500. It's not clear to me how this one is different from the rest of the pack, other than the use of $30 extruded aluminum case from Hammond Manufacturing. I would love to hear from someone who compared Tranquility against another NOS DAC, but perhaps in a different thread.
QUOTE: "I will to get a hold of a QB-9 and do a fair head to head comparison in my own system. If the QB-9 is as good, I wil probaby keep it for its hirez feature."

To Dracule1 and Jylee,

I bought the QB-9 (here on AudiogoN) for exactly the same reason Dracule1 wants to obtain one. I wanted to do a shoot out with my Tranquilty SE; I wanted a Hi-Rez capable DAC; PLUS, I wanted aysncronous technology based solely on all the reviews I'd read. As mentioned earlier, I took about 2 months to listen to both the QB-9 and SE with all types of music. Everyone who heard these two DACs in my system prefered the Tranquility SE.

I have absolutely no affiliation with any manufacturer and I'd be more than happy to discuss any of my observations and experiences with any fellow AudiogoNers. Just drop me an email! I learn something everytime I talk to another audiophile --- and there's certainly a lot left to learn!

Best Regards and Good Listening!

Jylee, promote a competing product? I am not sure if your comment was directed at me, but I did not "resurrect" this thread. We are all just audiophiles who are giving our experience and opinions. We don't get any financial or other benefit by "promoting" our experience with a particular product. Since the OP has not responded with any objections, I think we can have a little wiggle room to talk about other products in the same price range as the Ayre. I have no financial affiliations with dB Audio Labs or Ayre. As for dozens of different NOS DACs on eBay, I have heard many of those using similar chips. They do not compete with the Tranquility in sound or in internal build quality, and I don't expect them to compete with the Ayre either. As for the plain aluminum case, I can not argue with you there. It is very pedestrian in appearance. If you open it up, the quality of parts are all there, including teflon V-Cap coupling caps (which I like very much and also have in my tube mono blocks) and over-sized power supply in my Tranquility SE. It is a very elegant design inside using (class A, I think) discrete output stage with no OP amps. But I am open to other DACs. I am willing to spend up to $20,000 for a DAC if there is a night and day difference, but I have not found one yet that improves the sound of Tranquility red book CD enough for me to take the plunge. The DAC I really want to try is the MSB Technology Diamond DAC, crazy expensive at $27,000 but I may be able get it down close to my price range. Anyone have any experience with this DAC?

It would seem your terse remarks are directed at me. And I don't really understand your tone. I did not "resurrect" this thread to promote the Tranquility DAC! I posted my remarks after I bought an Ayre QB-9 and conducted two months of A/B comparison to the Tranquility. I've learned much from fellow audiophiles and I try to offer my views, where appropriate, when I can.

I suggest you try to give the Tranquility and Ayre pieces a listen. Or try to be open-minded enough to defer evaluation to folks that have.
My comments are not directed at specific member. Rather I was commenting on the "situation" in this thread. Personally I would care less if Tranquility is the best thing since sliced bread or not. Some prefer NOS DAC. Some prefer Sony PS1. Some prefer Bose sound. To each his own.

What I was trying to point out was the manner the comparison was presented. As I see it two cardinal audiophile rules were violated.

1. giving an unsolicited advice.
2. comparing product you own against product you haven't heard.

No, there are no such written rules and I'm only half serious. I cringe every time someone does that. For example,

user1: "I just bought a CD player XYZ and it's great!. Has anyone heard this before?"
user2: "Player XYZ sucks compared to ABC that I own."

user1: "Has anyone compared amp AAA and BBB?"
user2: "I own AAA and it's better than BBB"
user1: "Have you auditioned BBB?"
user2: "No"
Jylee, "two cardinal audiophile rules"? Didn't know they existed, and I've been in this hobby 28 years. People give unsolicited advice all the time, welcome or not. If the OP protests, that is fine since it's his thread. If I violated spirit of his thread, I would apologize and start another thread. However, what right do you have to come up with your "rules" on a thread you didn't initiate? BTW I did not compare the Tranquility to the QB-9. I specifically stated I have not heard it and can not comment on its sound. I know you claim you didn't aim your comments on anyone in particular, but actually you have. What's wrong with people giving their opinions no matter how ridiculous it seems to you? After all, your opinions may seem ridiculous to others. There are no absolutes here, just opinions. I hope the QB-9 has made many happy. Diversity is key in high end. There's something for everyone. Over the years, I've learned to go with the flow. Have a nice day.
QB-9 has better timbre than the tranquility. Also the clarity is more refined and is ultimately more relaxed but not in loss of resolution way.
I posted earlier about my experience with a shoot out between the Bel Canto 3 dac with battery supply, the Ayre QB-9 and the Wavelength Crimson Dac.  All these were connected to Ayre MX-R reference amps and preamp and the Strativati Homage Loudspeakers. Over $250,000.00 worth of gear. The source was an IMac using optical fiber feed to the DAC's. This was at a high end dealer private listening room in Manhattan in New York City.
There was no question or difference of opinion about the differences between these DAC's. The Bel Canto presentation was ok but lacked timbre and soundstage, but was still good with a very black low noise floor. The Ayre was listenable but lacked width and depth of soundstage. The Wavelength was wonderful. It had real musicality with great imaging and really was close to the best vinyl which is very hard to achieve. I would buy this dac in a heartbeat. I have heard many other so called great DAC's and I have owned several and none under 6k have bested the Wavelength.