I have the QB9 and am very happy with it. I did'nt listen to many other DACs at all. I bought based on a review and audition. I liked it's simplicity, plug and play, so I am not paying for facilities I don't need. It is fed by a modified Mac Mini, using Audivarna and gives me a detailed and on the warm side of musical, sound. There are 2 filters, I have only used the listen one so far.
In the UK, I think it is overpriced, but I managed to get an ex demo model, £1000 off. So I am bvery pleased with the sound, compact size and builsd quality
I haven't heard it but have had their C-5xeMP for a short time. It was excellent but as with David I would also say the sound tended a little to the warm or polite side (maybe part of the Ayre house sound if there is one?), which may be good or bad depending on your system/tastes. I've also had a Bel Canto DAC3VB in my system that unearthed a lot more detail while also sounding very musical and not overly analytical. The Ayre had more of an upfront presentation with lots of flesh on the bone while the Bel Canto was more of a mid-hall perspective allowing me to "see" the whole of the performance venue more clearly. Again, personal preference obviously comes into play.
Apart from my personal experience, of the many reviews I've read the Ayre seems to fall a bit short of the DACs from Bel Canto, Berkeley, and Weiss, but in fairness I think all those are priced significanlty higher than the Ayre and may be out of your price range. On the cheaper end I'd be curious how the Ayre would hold up against something like the Metrum Octave that may have a similar kind of sound. Then again if you're looking for a little warmer yet still nicely detailed presentation the Ayre may be a relative bargain. The good news is DACs are obviously small and light so it should be easy for you to compare a few without too much effort relatively speaking. Hope this helps and best of luck.
I already have an all Ayre system - amp, pre, and c5xemp..... I love the support I get from Ayre, which made me think of that brand for the DAC. Thanks for the input
Interesting responses. I also have quite a bit of Ayre gear, but I certainly wouldn't consider it warm as others above have described. If I were asked if there gear had a house sound I would likely say a very slight bit thin. I use an ARC DAC8 between my KX-R and C5 with excellent results, I occasionally use an I-Mac as a server into the DAC as well.
I have tried the Ayre DX-5 which is their flagship. The dealer told me if I do not need the video part of it, the DAC part is similar to the QB-9 except that the DX-5 sports better components.
To me, the sound from the DAC section using USB link from a Mac Mini is very good indeed. Using 192K data rate, the sound can be described as dry with well focused soundstage, almost 3-dimensional.
I also compared it to my Bel Canto DAC3.5VB MkII using a REFLink as the USB input, optically coupled to the DAC on 192K data stream. The sound is sweeter but lacks the focus the Ayre has.
I am waiting for the Ayre DAC-R to be released, it would surely be a very interesting product.
I used Ayre KX-R and MX-R for amplification and Thiel 3.7 for my speakers. All interconnects and speakers cables are Silversmith Audio.
I don't know about the Ayre house sound, but the QB9 DAC as compared to many of the DACs out there is beautiful, slightly romantic and polite. All things that other people have said.
It's a fine sounding DAC, striking a nice balance between resolved and musical. For some systems, it may be just what the doctor ordered.
I've also auditioned or owned the W4S DAC2 (a bit on the bright side), PWD MK2 (smooth and undigital), NAD M51 (resolved, neutral, but not fatiguing at all, great direct to amp too), and a number of other DACs.
I'd put the PWD MK2, Ayre QB-9 and NAD M51 all in the same class. Their appropriateness separated mostly by personal preference and system synergy.
I'm a big fan of the M51 right now. I've never really thought too much of NAD components, but the M51 has really changed my mind.
I know I'm going off topic, but I had to comment on a post above that states the DX-5 is the flagship of Ayre's line, it is not, it is a Blueray player that sadly missed the mark when it came to an audio player. The C5 is still by far a better sounding machine.
Audio, I think you should try the REFLink with an AES Silversmith cable to the DAC3.5VB MKII.
I suspect that might beat the ST connection.
I do not think you can better the ST connection.
I experimented once with the Ayre QB-9 USB DAC. At first, I was impressed with the way it sounded. I used the MAC Book Pro computer with 4 GB RAM and the 120GB solid state drive. I used the Seaport Free Agent Go Pro 500GB external hard drive to store my music files.
After several months of listening, I decided I did not like it the way it sounded in my system. In addition, there were too many boxes and wires in my living room. I sold everything and returned to my Ayre CX-7e MP CD player. I never looked back and continue to like my Ayre CX-7e MP CD player very much.
For me, I liked the sound coming from the Ayre CX-7e MP CD Player better than the sound coming from the MAC computer and the Ayre QB-9 DAC. It felt more natural, clearer and better than the computer and DAC did. I like my Ayre CX-7eMP very much. It is running balanced into my Luxman L-590ax integrated amplifier. I hope this helps you better understand the Ayre QB-9. I suggest you borrow one and try it in your system.
Computer Audio doesn't stay static.
I would say that in 2010/2011, it was still better to spin a disc. These days, I am not so sure. Especially when you have something like Audirvana Plus in Direct/INT mode.