These are the types of preamplifiers I have taken in on trade when customers have borrowed the CD5 and use it as a direct-to-amp substitute.
1. ) Audio Research LS-25
2. ) Wavac PRZ-1
3. ) Mark Levinson 380
4. ) Ayre ( cannot remember model # )
5. ) Hovland HP-100
and a few others.
The preamplifier in the CD5 was made to " replace " your existing preamplifier, not as a thrown in preamplifier until you can save enough money for a real preamplifier like some CD player/ preamp combos did. Part of this has to do with the Ayon simply being a superb preamplifier in the CD5, and some to do with the fact that you are by-passing an entire stage in the chain that is really not needed unless you have many sources.
Will it appeal to every single shopper? No. Nothing ever does, it's a matter of preference as with all things audio, but the last 8 sales of CD5's were by customers who ALL had preamplifiers in their system. I managed to get rid of 5 of them, and still have 3 preamps left to get rid of. This has got to tell you something...... Draw your own conclusions
Check out the Dagodo review. That reviewer rated the CD5's preamp as superior to everything he has heard up to Vac Renaissance Sig (a $14k pre!). I own a CD5. I rate it higher than the Audio Research CD8. In terms of your question "Is is greater than Pass, Levinson.." Audiojudge's response is pretty accurate, although I personally think the Hovland is a lovely preamp. Hope that helps.
From my experience since I own the CD-2, sure the combo sounded better than my Belles 21A Auricap but I'm not at the point of getting rid if my pre because the CD-2 and what I have heard from other CD-5 users is that these unit just doesn't have the gain at moderate levels but beautiful at low volumes. Since we're talking about, I'll do some comparison tonight at low levels since my kids are all tucked in.
Wig, is there a discussion of this that you can point me to? I would think that there would be plenty of gain, more than needed in most applications, with the CD-5. Do you mean that people are winding out the level to the "Max" setting? If so, I would fear they are listening at levels far too high, and run the danger of harming their hearing.
In my use of the CD-5, both during the review with the quite inefficient Kingsound King speakers at about 83dB and afterward, I have not had to push the output level of the player. I do not listen at "live" or "concert" levels, i.e. about 100+dB. I do not consider where I do much listening, at about 88-90dB to be low volume. It's definitely moderate moving toward loud. So, I'm curious about the context of comments that the CD-5 doesn't have the gain for moderate levels. I certainly would not agree with that.
In fact, with the VAC Signature Preamplifier MkII I had too much gain; the combo ran so "juiced" that I had to keep the CD-5 on the low Gain setting (4V) and even then could not take the volume control past about 10 O'clock on the VAC pre. So I'm not sure where this complaint of not enough gain is surfacing.
Is it possible the comment is being made in the context of use of very low power SET amps with the CD-5, maybe with some seriously inefficient speakers? Perhaps with a mismatch between amp and speaker this could come into play, but other than that scenario I would have difficulty seeing someone not getting enough level control from the player. But that might be a problem with an outboard preamp as well; I wouldn't judge the player to have an issue if a system is set up poorly. Again, with the Gain switch on the back of the unit I would think that the CD-5 would have plenty of output. But I'm open to hearing what others are experiencing.
Are their any drawbacks in using the CD-2 as pre-amp in terms of sound quailty verses a traditional tube pre?
I'm definitely keeping my Pre, sounds much better to me...
World of difference in the pre of the CD-5 vs. the CD-2. The pre in the CD-5 makes for a much more agreeable match with many amps, as it should for the price.
Still, it's worth trying another preamp as well, as there are SO many potential sounds and results that may please the ear that you may hit upon a combination that is magical to you. In my use of the CD-5 with most preamps the benefits gained were offset by the clarity and precision lost through the additional component and cabling.
Doug, some of Wig's stuff I think comes from some e-mail communication with me. I have the CD5. To this point, I prefer using my EAR 868 preamp instead of the CD5's built in unit. With the gain set on "high", I still have to push the CD5 volume control to -45 to get the volume I want (max is -60). With the gain on "medium", running through the EAR, it's all I can take with the volume knob at 10 o'clock. So, yeah, I have some gain issues with the CD5 preamp...or maybe the gain on the EAR is super juiced. At any rate, I seem to get a better soundstage and imaging with the 868. I may be biased, though, and my "test" situations are not perfect- cables are different. Need to do more blind testing with the same cable set up, but at this point, I like the sound better with the EAR 868 in the circuit. That's not a slap at the CD5's preamp, which I could easily live with. The 868 is a well received, quality tube preamp. It's essentially the EAR 912 with some minor internal markdowns and a different chassis, with a few less features. The 912 bested the ARC Ref 3 in some reviews. So, the 868 is no slouch. Sonically, I think it's better than the preamp in the CD5. Build/quality control/customer service? No contest. The Ayon absolutely smokes the EAR.
For what it's worth, Doug, I take your opinion quite seriously. I know Audiojudge quite well, and have the utmost respect for him. He raved about the CD5, and your Dagogo review of that unit pushed me over the top to purchase it.
Afc, thanks for the comments and complement. I appreciate the added info!
Perhaps the info I learned from my time writing up the Cambridge Audio Azur 840C applies. When I worked with that pre I was surprised that at times I had to push it's vol. control to about 85% of total output. That concerned me, but as I discussed with the situation with Cambridge they reassured me about it. The volume control was truly linear. A typical one is not, and you will get the majority of increase "front loaded", but as you continue to elevate it the amount of rise in level tails off.
Conversely, with the Cambridge, even though you have to take 85% of the volume control to reach the theoretical same point, as you increase from there, the increases are quite dramatic and the unit actually has more than enough left in it for elevated listening levels. I was told that one can push it to Max output and won't harm it one bit. We are so used to "front-loaded" attenuators that it scares us when we use a linear level control, as though something is horribly wrong.
Though I did not ask the same question regarding the Ayon player I suspect it might operate similarly. To need 75% of the level output might not be a big deal if the unit ramps up in a linear fashion. The next 5-10 digital steps may blow the lid off the level. I am no longer concerned about being within 15 digital steps from "Max" volume with the CD-5 for my listening.
Do you find a fair bit of difference in level needed for the Zu versus the Aliante? The monitor I can see being a bit underpowered at nominal 6 Ohms, 88 dB, and being pushed by 30wpc. I can definitely see why the CD-5 would need its level taken to 75% of capacity. I have also needed this type of level when using the Kingsound King ESLs, which are very inefficient. But when I put the 4 Ohm, 95 or so dB Legacy Focus SE in to the system the CD-5 only needs to be taken to about halfway on the level. Profound difference.
I'm not surprised at all about the resultant "...better soundstage and imaging" experience with the CD-5 and the Ear. I have also experienced the "exploded" soundstage and hyper-detail with the CD-5 into the VAC Signature Preamplifier MkII, and it's a very intriguing, captivating sound. I can see why some would prefer it over the "direct to amp" setup.
I find the amp is important in the attempt to use the CD-5 direct. I might not be satisfied with the CD-5 into a lower powered SET amp, even with the 8v output from the CD-5. I have to have my big power, minimum 200wpc to get the dynamics I want, at least with larger, multi-driver full range speakers and panels. :)
Thanks for the reassuring comments. I was very concerned that as I pushed the volume on the CD5 that I was going to badly overdrive the amplifier. It does seem quite linear rather than front loaded. At low volumes, you don't get much bump from the CD5 volume control. As you get to about -40 though, it really starts to take off.
Fair bit of difference between the Zu and Aliante? No. HUGE difference. The Aliantes, you have to push them. The Zu's don't require a big shove, but they really, really start to sing when you open them up big time. The imaging and soundstage just explode as you push the volume on them. The Aliantes, they just kind of get louder.
I think what you experienced with the VAC, I'm getting a similar thing with the EAR. I'm sure you're familiar with that unit. Does it stack up similarly to the VAC?
Not so sure about the need for a high powered amp with the CD5. It really cranks with the 30 wpc Mastersound and the Essence speakers. Less efficient speakers, yes, maybe. But I notice essentially zero difference between the Mastersound and the Rowland 102 with regards to dynamics. The Mastersound has tremendous headroom that the Rowland doesn't seem to match, and with a six ohm load, that's a 150 wpc amplifier.
I read a thread recently in the amp/preamp forum about solid state amps increasing their power output as the speaker load decreases. Makes sense. But the author laid something out with tube amps that was the polar opposite of that- something akin to tube amps increasing their output as resistance INCREASES. I didn't touch that one, since I don't understand the concept. Is that a true concept?
How is the heat issue and lifespan of the 8 tubes in the CD-5 ?
Tosses a fair amount of heat. Not like an amp, but it definitely gets warm over the vents. Ayon claims the tube life is 5000-10,000 hours.
Afc, the EAR components are also very good sonically, from what I have heard at shows. I have not compared them in my room.
Here are some articles which discuss basic differences between SS and Tube amps:
The Second site has a lot to do with guitar amps,etc. but I found the answer to #2 to be clear:
Regarding the heat from tubes, I would not put the CD-5 into a closed shelving unit, but it does not throw so much heat that a room would be adversely influenced.
Doug, I just ordered a CD-5s much on the strength of your review (and the way people respect your opinion)and then reading everything else I could find. The fun part is, as an antidote to getting too pumped by a review, I decided to reread reviews of my speakers that I dearly love. When I pulled the 2007 review of My Von Schweikert VR4SR's, lo and behold, you wrote that review as well. And having lived with this speaker for years now, I can say that everything you said about them was spot on correct. Gives me a lot of faith in your CD 5 review.