I have never tried an outboard DAC but I can tell you that the new upgrade soon to be available sounds much better. My dealer just got his back and we did an AB and I am now waiting in line to have mine done. They are doing all the dealers first and then Ayre will announce a price for the upgrade. My impression is a much more analog sound and I think a bigger sound stage as well.
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Charles just posed the Ayre MP (Minimum Phase) White Paper .
"The Ayre MP filter provides a significant step ahead in digital audio reproduction. The CX-7eMP provides this advanced technology for CDs, while the C-5xeMP universal disc player takes this to the limit of todays recording technology..."
I will be upgrading my CX-7e as soon as I can. I love it the way it is. I can't imagine it can get better, so I'm excited to hear the new digital filtering.