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If I am not mistaken the DAC9 is solid state. I know my DAC8 is. The CD9 is tube including the power supply. Having compared my DAC8 to my CD7, I can tell you that my DAC8 is nowhere near as smooth as my CD7. Not even close.
My suggestion would be to get something like the Singxer SU-1 XMOS XU208 USB Digital Interface. USB from your Mac to the Singxer and then AES to the CD9. No more worries about Audio Research drivers. I don't now about the CD9, but the AES input sounds much better than USB on my DAC8.
I did not know that. I wish my DAC8 was tube as well.
The Ref CD players are very smooth and analog. I would only consider replacing mine with maybe a CD8 or CD9 eventually. But I am very happy with my CD7 and really feel no need to upgrade.
My major complaint about my DAC8 is the drivers. There are no Linux drivers. It also does not work well with either the Aurender or Moon streamers. The Singxer is suppose to be one of the best sounding converters. It is suppose to be slightly better sounding than my older Gustard converter.
I did some experimentation and used a Line Magnetic 502 ca tube dac together with the Esoteric K07 as transport which I totally forgot I had in in storage. Changed the stock tubes to some Pvane 12au7's. Did an A/B with a quick flip of the switch on my LS 28 for about an hour or so. The Cd 9 still sounds more open,natural and airier but at least this combo tamed a bit of the edginess and forwardness of the K07, in my opinion. It's about 85% there, I think. I'll give it some more time. Hopefully, it's something I can live with.
I don't really need the DSD capability that the Dac 9 has to offer ( which the CD 9 does not have as well. ).
I don't have the guts to spend that much on a cd player either and maybe I get to save some more with this combo ( versus the untested Esoteric- Dac 9 combo). I could actually use the funds to finish my analog front end instead.
I've been through most of ARC's CD players from the CD-3 on, and have been using my CD-7 since it was new. I sent it back to the factory for the power supply upgrade (highly recommended) bringing it up to CD-7se specs. I replaced the stock fuses with two SR Black fuses and put Herbie's tube dampeners on all of the tubes. This player, with these moderate tweaks, is KILLER! With good recordings it gives off 3-D imaging and a natural presentation like some of the best vinyl rigs I've ever heard. Who knew that red-book CD's could sound like this? I will NEVER sell this piece of miracle electronics.