I am looking for an SACD player with great redbook as well.
My price range is $5000.00 with a $7500.00 maximum. It seems nearly impossible to hear the Esoteric X-03 along
with the Ayre C5XE. I'd prefer to buy after hearing both together. Has anybody out there heard the two together, or
personally owns either and can venture their opinion as to the quality of sound that each produces?
As an owner of the C5XE I can only comment that it is worth every penny. I have been spending the last month or so rediscovering my CD collection. It does an excellent job on the SACD and DVD-A formats. I haven;t heard the X-03 but have listened to the DV50s and I feel the Ayre is superior.
I have auditioned Esoteric X-03SE side by side with Ayre C5XE. for me, Esoteric aced it. It has sweet extended highs; realistics voices; neutral midrange and tuneful but powerful bass. It simply deals with musically. It also digs details but never sounded harsh nor bright.

Right now, I owned Esoteric X-03SE for more than a month.
This might be my final upgrade on the source.

Anyway, do not take my words for it, Still try to audition for yourself.

The only thing in common between the DV-50 and the X-03 is the brand. DV-50 is an older universal design, which does not even have the TEAC VRDS transport, but an apparently very average OEM transport. X-03 is essentially a scaled down X-01, including a simpler/lighter version of the flagship VRDS transport.
Kjl, another player you might want to consider is Lexicon´s new RT 20 CD/SACD-player. In Germany, two magazines tested the unit to sound as good, or even slightly better, than the Ayre and the Esoteric. Reinhold Martin of HiFi&Records, who owns the super-expensive, three-piece-dcs-CD/SACD-combo, tested both the Esoteric, and then the Lexicon, against it. His verdict about the RT 20: "So far, I have not heard another competitor in my chain, which played so close to the (dcs)Verdi/Delius-combo. The RT 20 is awarded second place." Another advantage is that the Lexicon is cheaper than both the Ayre and the Esoteric.
Which Teac Esoteric model did Mr. martin compare to the DCS stack?
Sorry, I thought that was obvious - it was the X-03.
Before purchasing my X03 I asked a very respected designer in the busines his opinion.He said the Lexicon was the best. But he had concerns about build quality and the dependability of a small company.
I would agree that some digital players can present a different sonic character compared to the Esoteric UX-3, but that does NOT necessarily means they would sound better to all consumers.

When it comes to a digital player, some of the most important things are enclosure built quality (to reduce vibrations), power supply, clocking and MOST important - the digital transport inside.

Nothing in current existence comes even remotely close to the Esoteric's VRDS-NEO transports. What they have done is a TRUE piece of mechanical ART. It is 5 times bigger and 20 times heavier than any conventional transport (read disc spinning mechanism), there are no vibrations whatsoever and the entire design ensures the best possible/achievable error-free disc reading. Esoteric’s VRDS-NEO is simply light years ahead compared to anything else.

Alex, If ya got time to post on Audiogon, I figure ya have time to call me, I have been waiting for a couple months now.
Hi Steve , Alex is very busy organizing his new OEM business and launching a full of new and exciting products as well as completing orders .He has turned over customer service to me and all inquiries now are routed through me thus his non responsiveness to your personal e mails and calls. Please contact me for anything anytime via e mail or telephone as I am here for you and all Apl Hi Fi customers . I speak with Alex daily and can answer your questions in detail quickly. Brent Rainwater CSM Apl Hi Fi
Alex, please respond to the many emails and phone messages regarding my products I sent to you over 1-year ago.
Phous, at least from what I can see from the review, the build quality of the Lexicon seems to be on a very high level. Besides, Lexicon is no small company, but belongs to Harmon, as do Mark Levinson and Revel. In all fairness to the Esoteric, it should be mentioned that there is a new, SE-version of the X.03 in preparation, I think this was mentioned over on
Compared standard DV-50 S to C-5xe and UX-3 and RAM modded DV-50 S to standard C-5xe and UX-3. Conclusions:
C-5xe vs. standard DV-50 s: better resolution, liquidity, detail retrieval a bit more aire (Ayre); better focus, tighter bass, better macro dynamics + a tad more warmth (DV-50 S). C-5xe vs. UX-3: slightly more transparency and liquidity with C-5xe other parameters (imageing, bass, dynamics, etc.) UX-3 is better. Modded DV-50 S vs. C-5xe and UX-3: modded DV-50 S wins hands down (10 sec. of listening will prove that). Hope this helps. My configuration can be looked up in the virtual systems corner.
Yes, there appear now to be SE versions of the UX-3 and X-03 available in the US. Please see:
As the X-03 and corresponding SE version are natively optimized for audio, they would be more appropriate to compare with modded universal players whose modifications have also been optimized for audio.
Frankpiet, I own a esoteric DV-50 S what mods do you reccomend and who does these mods? Thank ARF
I would consider Wadias new CDP'S , if like any thing old of past, they certainly will be awsome...
The mods were performed by RAM. They offer a bunch of varieties. Mine has got the US $ 1.190,00 (budget upgrade). I once heard (not in my system) the fully loaded DV-50 S with their US $ 2.790,00 statement upgrade and it simply blew away the two contenders (stock) Wadia 861 SE and Esoteric UX-1. By the way: the modded DV-50 S replaced my Accuphase DP-67 and Audio Aero Capitole MK II - and I never looked back..
Frankpiet, as the TEAC UX-1 is an AV multichannel player, it was never optimized for 2 channel audio. It is well known that its 2 channel audio performance is not state of the art. It would make more sense to compare these modified devices with the X-01 or the X-01 Limited, which are 2 channel machines. have you ever performed such a comparison?
Guidocorona: it seems like we could open up a private chat ;) I mainly compared the DV-50 S to other multichannel machines as it is multichannel too. I did compare the modded DV-50 S to my previous Accuphase DP-67 (which I find is quite sterile and uninvolving - though great resolution) and to my previous Audio Aero Capitole MK II SE (which is musical very pleasing but lacks image stability, dynamics and base line). The modded DV-50 S has it all. Never looked back but my next step up will be an Esoteric UX-3 SE or UX-1 (of course I´ll add mods sooner or later) to solve some possible shortcomings.
I,too, own an Esoteric DV-50 with the "budget" mod by ram. The improvement is amazing, and for about $1,200 bucks, a DV-50 with this mod is very hard to beat.
For SACD playback, why no mention of the unique complete SACD module mods by Allen Wright's Vacuum StateElectronics?
These received rave reviews over a year ago in Audio Perfectionist Journal and Positive Feedback Online.They are for specific two channel only Sony models SCD-1 and its internal twin the SCD-777ES plus the lighter weight 9000ES that also has DVD video output. The final updates(level 5+) of these mods were reviewed recently in Positive Feedback and offer a value priced quality alternative for owners of these models. Uniquely these mods
allow instant comparison with the untouched stock module and its stock outputs! I own these units as well as the Esoteric DV 50s mentioned in this thread.
There is no mention of mods etc because the thread title is "esoteric x-03 vs ayre c5xe ". I think everyone is growing very weary of the plugs for other gear/mods . There are many threads to post your plug for mods.
I too want to read opinions of the esoteric vs Ayre as these are 2 machines I am interested in.If I was considering a modded machine I would go to the appropriate threads.
You are correct. However there is an almost subtitle of a quest for either the best player or best value under $7500. If he owns or can cheaply obtain one of my mentioned Sony models to completely upgrade with Allen Wright' efforts, the value and savings are difficult to match if not impossible. In 7 responses above mine, 4 refer to mods or other players and they must have led me astray. I apologize for thinking about the possibility of saving someone $4,000--$5,000.
I think you no exactly what I was getting at.There are oodles of threads about mods.I was hoping this wouldn't be another one highjacked by the mod squad.
I am also looking at either digital source. I was fortunate enough to have auditioned the Esoteric UX-3 and DV-60 in my system, thanks to Paul at Imagine HiFi. I am now in the process of looking for a dealer who would be willing to loan me a C5xe. In which time, I should be able to decide which one to get. I wonder if the used market on 'gon is any indication of an equipments performance. Case in point, there's quite a few Esoteric's being sold in the used market and almost none of the C5xe or Ayre equipment for that matter. The assumption I have about this observation is that C5xe owners are happier and are keeping their equipment compared to Esoteric owners who are selling their equipment who might have had failed expectations or feel they can do better with another equipment. Just a thought. Anyway, I can't wait to get a C5xe in my system so I can determine for myself which one works for me.

I have owned both the Ayre C5XE and the Esoteric X-03.

I originally sold my Esoteric and bought the Ayre. I couldn't wait to get back to Esoteric. I kept the Ayre machine for a couple of months and missed the huge panoramic soundstage, the awesome dynamics, and the finely defined image placement of the Esoteric. I also missed the build quality of the Esoteric and the player's VRDS-NEO transport mechanism - that just works better and just seems to be of much higher quality than the Pioneer mechanism in the Ayre. In fact, the Ayre refused to play some of my discs - a problem I've never had with an Esoteric.

To my mind and to my ears, the Ayre sounded like an extremely good CD/SACD player. The Esoteric just sounded better. A step closer to the sound of real live music.

I sold the Ayre and bought another Esoteric X-03. Love It!

I have now had the X-03 modified by Reference Audio Mods (their second level mod) and it now sounds incredible. Certainly the best I've ever heard.

I now have the modified Esoteric in my main system and a Cary 306 SACD in a second. To me, both sound superior to the Ayre C-5Xe.
I spoke to Brooks Bardan, a dealer here in So. California. He is willing to loan me a C5xe (with a small deposit of course) to audition in my home. I will post my observations as soon as I have a more definitive opinion on this matter.
(I wonder if the used market on 'gon is any indication of an equipments performance. Case in point, there's quite a few Esoteric's being sold in the used market and almost none of the C5xe or Ayre equipment for that matter. The assumption I have about this observation is that C5xe owners are happier and are keeping their equipment compared to Esoteric owners who are selling their equipment who might have had failed expectations or feel they can do better with another equipment.) Maybe Esoteric just sales allot more players?. Plus Teac is not as picky on there dealers as ayre sow there is a lot more Esoteric dealers. just a thought. Golfish. :) The ESOTERIC X-03 would be my choice.
Golfish, I had the wonderful opportunity of auditioning the C5xe and the X-03 side by side with Brooks Berdan himself when he was considering which, if either line he would carry. The C5xe was chosen independently by us both so I bought one and he chose to carry it over the Esoteric. Not because the X-03 was inferior but because the C5xe had the more analog sound. I think that is because the Ayre rarely "upsamples" the signal so it is less processed. But you could hardly go wrong with either player. It is (surprise surprise) a matter of taste.
I own the C5 and think it is outstanding. The real surprise of this unit is its ability to make Redbooks sound so good. I have many Redbooks that sound better than SACD or AudioDVD. I've compared the sound of my VPI Sig with Benz Ebony and often the CD is even better sounding. One caveat... the Ayre is very picky about scratched CD's - simply won't play them properly (skips, etc). I burn a fresh copy from the "bad" one which works well again.
Ayre C-5xe is the best digital player that I have heard in my twenty years audio life.
I totally agree with Sylinnian. I had a DV-50, and had it modded by Refrence Audio Mods. It was better, but when I borrowed an Ayre C5XE, it simply blew the DV-50 away. I am impressed with its performance on every digital audio format, and am really pleased with its "redbook" standard CD playback. Another thing I have not heard mentioned is its ability to deal with "problem discs". It has played such discs flawlessly, including some that would skip tracks, or make static-like noises on certain passages. It is simply a great universal player, and quite unique. I wonder why is is so rarely discussed in this forum.
I´d like to throuw in two other pieces out of german production: T&A as well as AudioNet - very well build, very reliable and very nice to listen to..
I had listen to X-03 in an local dealer and compare with 390s, they come really close. and i think Esoteric will be more solid since 390s already discoutious and Mark has been part of the H Group. I hate that happen.