I had a great experience with the Ayon CD2S as well.
I am not sure what Mcondon has a reference but prior to the Ayon, I was only invested in solid state gear up to that point, and my experiences with cheap tube (China) gear made me dread tubes. Yes it was true tubes made badly mastered CDs sound acceptable but they also masked a lot of details for me.
The Ayon was my first set of tube gear that I felt didn't compromise the details as much and still made most of my badly mastered CDs become listenable. I was so impressed, I sold it and bought the CD5S.
If you want an old skool tubey sound, the Ayon is not it. It does blend the best of both worlds to me: great dynamics and detail from what I'd expect from SS with a midrange lushness and 3 dimensionality of a tube design.
Now back to Ayon vs EMC1Up:
The Ayon boasts: digital inputs and volume control that the EMC does not have.
IMHO the digital inputs might be useful. You get to use with a Squeezebox/Mac or your bluray player etc. Bear in mind the USB is limited to 24/96 for now so if you use a Mac, I recommend a good USB-SPDIF box like the Wavelink HS
The volume control? Not so much. It's just a digital adjustment and you might be better off with a good preamp.
And back to the EMC. I've heard it in the showroom a few times and it's been quite impressive a player. It also boasts a Philips CD Pro2 transport which is the one that Ayon uses in the higher end CD5S model.
I think one of the magical things about the Ayon was the tube stage and you may find a similar magic partnering a SS CDP with a tubed preamp which is what I've done in my main system so my Ayon CD5S is now deployed for a second system