Review: Ayon CD1sc CD Player
I'm posting this because I couldn't find a review of the Ayon CD1sc anywhere before I bought it.
I have wide musical tastes - from hard rock to acoustic folk to classical depending on mood. (Can't beat Comfortably Numb Live played so loud you have to evacuate the house and stand outside in the garden to listen to it).
Also play acoustic guitar myself, have played in a band in the past and go to regular live music events.
Arrived at the Ayon via the Droplet 5, which also has a valve output (chose the Droplet over the Raysonic 128 after extended in-home audition, but they were v.close). In between used a Beresford Caiman and Audio-gd NFB3 DACs running off a DVD player.
The Caiman was more detailed that the Droplet, but ultimately too "electronic/artificial" for my ears. The NFB3 is crazy good for its $299 asking price - battleship build quality, detailed, liquid, natural sounding (for the price). If that's all you want to spend, I think it's unbeatable.
I sold the Droplet because it was just too big for my room in the end and I needed a DAC for use with a Squeezebox and PC.
I wasn't really in the market for another CDP, given the NFB3 was so good. However, over the Xmas holidays happened to be cruising Audiogon and spotted an almost new CD1sc 230V unit at a great price in Melbourne, which I was planning to visit a week later (I live in Sydney).
I'd read some reviews of Ayon CD players and they were all really good, except for some debate on here about them being too detailed and over-hyped. The guy selling it had dismantled his system, so I couldn't audition it, but at the price being asked, I figured I could sell it on without a loss if needed.
Also the specs of the CD1sc on the Ayon website were better than the CD2 and their spiel said it had been re-engineered vs the CD1s for maximum simplicity in the signal path - stuff I'm a believer in.
Anyway, my opinion is the 1sc is just freakin' awesome. An acoustic guitar sounds like a real one. You can follow the individual instruments in the mix if you want. Voices, reverberations and portrayal of the acoustic space are super realistic. It's easy to imagine you're sitting in a concert.
It has the same ability as the Droplet to extract the essence of any performance and make it enjoyable, even if the production engineer has compressed the shit out of it, or otherwise ballsed it up.
What the Ayon does better than the Droplet is go into much more detail. You just get more insight into and realistic rendition of a recording, whilst keeping the natural/enjoyable aspect.
Given the Ayon costs > 10x more than the NFB3 - is it 10 times better? No and Yes. My personal view is that when chasing the high end and ever diminishing returns for $$ spent, I want to hear something that sounds like real live instruments and I can imagine I'm at a live performance.
So the Ayon is not 10 times better than the NFB3 in any objective, measurable sense, but to my ears it is more realistic and 'musical' i.e. I think I'm listening to a real instrument, not a recording of one. Ultimately for me that's priceless.
It was the same when Redgum threw in some $450 RCA cables with their amp on a sale or return basis. I told them I'd listen to them, but to expect them back - silly price! Well got round to listening to them after the amp had settled in for a while. The wife listened with me and if anything she was keener than me, because they made a piano recording sound much more like a piano (we have one in the house, which she plays). So they stayed.
That's about the end of the ramble/review.
The Ayon is also beautifully built, has useful features that work sensibly, doesn't get as hot as the Droplet. Definitely not "too detailed or bright " to my ears as some people on here have suggested (the Redgum is a smooth sounding, MOSFET amp).
I can't imagine getting anything better, without having to spend big on amp and speakers to hear the difference.
Redgum RG120i Amp
Orpheus 2 Signature loudspeakers
Redgum silver RCA cables from CDP to Amp
Van den Hul speaker cables
Consonance Droplet 5 CDP
Raysonic 128 CDP