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@beetlemania, I agree the Ayre QB-9 DAC upgrade makes it very interesting. The new ESS DAC chip plus all the other improvements mentioned above should, substantially, improve the sound quality of this already excellent DAC.
I believe this DAC was discontinued and now this excellent upgrade brings it back to life. I am anxious to hear comments from people that upgrade their Ayre QB-9 DAC.
I'm very happy with my QB-9 but I also think upgrading that piece could be the "last" thing I do to my system. I'm super happy with my amp (AX-5 Twenty) and speakers (modded Thiel 2.4). The QX-8 is appealing because I could simultaneously connect my Roon-dedicated NUC and a PC for watching concert videos. With the QB-9 I need to manually change which input device is connected.
I previously upgraded my AX-7 to AX-7e and QB-9 to QB-9 DSD. In both cases, the SQ was noticeably improved and at a fair price. I need to learn more but I might just stick with the more cost-effective solution of upgrading the QB-9 despite its single input (this was never an issue until I switched to the Roon NUC which cannot do videos).
I decided to sign up for this upgrade after speaking with Gary at Ayre. My confidence is high after successful upgrades to DSD status a few years back. Also, I had my AX-7 upgraded to "e" status and that also was a really nice increase in SQ.
If all goes well, my unit should be "Twenty"ed by late fall or early winter.