Well Thanks anyway, I'm going to try the Ayon player
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Hello audio friend. I just spotted this forum topic. Not only have I compared these two players, but all three. I am both an Ayon dealer ( actually, Ayon rep and Canada's premier dealer ) but I also carry ( carried / now past tense )the Esoteric and have extensive experience with all 3 players. The Esoteric is a very good player, it is uick, detailed and spacious yet I find it balanced toward " performance " more than " musicality ". It gives you all the audiophile ooo's and ahhhs, but again, I have found it to be a player that focuses more on shear brawn delivery... For an extremely lazy sounding system, perhaps an EL-34 tube based system, it might be a good choice.
The Ayon players just seem to integrate just the right balance of performance and musicality blend. They too are very quick, detailed and spacious, but without the hard edged " here's your damn music " presentation if you know what I mean. The tubes output provides a supple and rich harmonic signature and detail, but never crosses the line becoming analytical or clinical sounding like the Esoteric can within most systems. The CD5 is simply over the top, and any reviewer whom has heard one will vouch for this. With a world class pure class A tube preampilifier output, many customers of mine who only have one or two sources are just selling off their existing preamplifiers and running direct to amp. Whats more, the CD5 offers USB, XLR, RCA direct inputs for streaming audio, PC connection or music server.Turntable owners who happen to have an outboard MM/MC phono pre, also benefit in yet another additional way by running their phono preamps outputs into the back of the CD5, thus producing an upsampled analogue signal from your turntable! You seriously have to hear this. One of my customers runs a full blown LP-12 through a Linto phono stage directly into the RCA inputs on the CD5, which technically then upsamples the analogue signal through the CD5's onboard pure tube DAC. Ayon is a forward thinking company, and the retail price of a CD5 with all these additional facilities, AND a world class tube cd player starts looking more like a helluva bargain against just another expensive redbook cd player that can only play cd's. If the Ayon CD5 or CD2 could only do redbook cd's and nothing else, it would STILL be well worth the price of admission at full retail when sonically compared to anything else out there. The CD2 and CD5 I cannot keep in stock, these units are my best sellers. I stopped carrying the Esoteric line months ago, when customers heard the CD2 and CD5 against the Esoteric, the results are constantly the same. The Ayon players are the ones to beat. Good luck to the competition.
I have owned the Ayon CD-2 and the PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC+Transport. The Perfect Wave combo is simply much better. The "street" price is around $4K new from a number of e-tailers, including Underwood HiFi. The lowest price I have seen on a new Ayon CD-2 is $4400, although they go for less used. The Ayon CD-5 seems to sell for more than $8K. The review of the Ayon CD-5 in the latest issue of Dagogo is worth a read. At the end, the reviewer ranks a number of players at different price points. The PS Audio Perfect Wave combo comes out significantly ahead of the Ayon CD-2 but trails the Ayon CD-5. So if money is no object and you want to spend an extra $4K, give the CD-5 a whirl. Otherwise, if you want to stay in the $4K range, the Perfect Wave is the better source hands down. The Ayon CD-2 veers towards brightness and borderline aggressive dynamics and is somewhat lacking in high end resolution. The Ayon CD-2 has a lot of fans on Audiogon, which is why I bought the CD-2, but it took little time to determine that the Perfect Wave trounces it. Even my wife (who cares very little about audio equipment) commented when the Ayon was in my system that the "other one sounds better", referring to the Perfect Wave gear. Obviously, you were not asking about the Perfect Wave gear, but I figured this information might be of interest, as few people have compared the Ayon CD-2 to the Perfect Wave combo at the same time in the same system...
I previously owned the PS Audio Perfect Wave DAC+Transport and when I read the review on Stereomojo where the editor compared the Ayon CD2 to the PS Audio Perfect Wave and the results were that the Ayon CD2 was way superior, I was taken a back. I purchased the Ayon CD2 and Stereomojo was correct. The Ayon CD2 is leaps and bounds superior to the PS Audio Perfect Wave in every detail. Superior body & detail, more refined, a tight fast bass, warm fluid mid extension and wow, the highs are soo sweet. The Ayon CD2 is a superior unit to the PS Audio - FOR SURE
I auditionded the Ayon CD2 through my Joule Electra tube preamp, Vac 80/80 tube amp, Aural Symphonic cables and Sonus Faber Extrema speakers and found instruments in musical selections to be disconnected in space albeit the imaging, resolution and soundstaging were very fine indeed. The
Ayon to me was analytical rather than musical.
Two of the three of these players I have heard, one of them I took in on trade against a CD5. The EMM Labs player is one I have heard. It is fantastic in all respects, plenty of layered detail, three dimensionality etc. I enjoyed this player the short time I heard it, but all the while, to my ears, it just sounded a little biased towards synthetic. This took a while for me to figure out, and throughout the week I had it, was checking connections, placement and things such as this at the end of the listening sessions. I liked what I was hearing, but if I can make this strange analogy, since I cannot quite describe it, it just sounded too perfect? Too perfect in a way similar to the way you might visualize a flawless looking woman from 200 feet away and then start walking towards her, only to find she is made of porcelain. I am trying to stay away from audio-verbage here. It just sounded too pristine for my liking which mildly excused from the room some of the emotions from my mindset while listening. In contrast with the Ayon CD5, the Ayon sounded a little less " productively " detailed. Not in the fashion where there was less detail, but rather where the detail did not seem to be the main focus or event of the music. The Ayon was on par in terms of extension and quality of three dimensionality, spatial cues and air as the EMM Labs, but again, managed to convey this in a more passionate way which took the "focus" away from the parts, and offered them more in the form of a sum. All in all, in terms of measurements, the EMM Labs might very well score considerably better, but in my auditory nerves, the Ayon was simply more " believable ".
I cannot comment on the Wadia at all, and regarding the Audio Aero Prestige SE, this was the one that was traded in. I rarely take the opportunity to listen to trade-ins, unless of course they are very esoteric or I have never heard one, then I will hook it up for a couple of days just to get an appreciation for what other manufacturers are designing. I did manage to get a brief listen in on this model after leaving it plugged in for a couple days. the transport glitched a couple times before I was able to get something loaded, but gave no trouble after that. I liked this player as well and I found it's strengths to be front-to-back dimensionality and a very convincing soundstage, with good air and space between the musicians. I can appreciate the differences found in the Ayon CD5 that might have been the same ones that drew this customer to trade this unit in. I simply found the player a little too relaxed on music that demanded a more up-front-centre performance ie. pop, progressive jazz, alternative, rock and avante garde, yet for a strict diet of classical and jazz, I can certainly appreciate why listeners would like the AA.
Hope at least some of this helps.