Transporter vs Ayre CX-7e

About a month ago, I bought a Logitech Transporter and it was a noticeable improvement over my Music Hall Maverick SACD player (for playing RBCD) so I gave it some thought and ultimately decided to dump all my physical disc players and move toward a media-server based solution with the Transporter as my final digital front-end.

However, I was in the showroom the other day at a local HiFi store and they had an Ayre CX-7e pumping through some decent, but not rediculous equipment. It was going through an Anthem TLP-1 Preamp, feeding an Anthem MCA-20 amp and pushing Paradigm Signature S6 v2 speakers.

I had heard just about all of this equipment before, but the Ayre was new to me and I was in awe over the tonal accuracy of instruments and voice. BUT, it was in a showroom, different equipment than I have, etc, etc, etc.

So my question is, does anyone here have any direct experience comparing a CX-7e with a Transporter? Was what I was hearing in the showroom a product of the showroom acoustics or is the Ayre clearly a better sounding device (when it comes to airiness and tonal accuracy).

I currently have a Marantz AV8003 preamp feeding an Outlaw 750 amp (although looking to replace the amp as mentioned in another recent post) pushing a pair of Focal/JMLabs Electra 1027be's. I'd like to think that my preamp/amp/speakers equal or exceed the quality of what I heard but I can't get the sound from that showroom out of my head.

Maybe I'm just rambling and I've already subconsciously made a decision here, but I figured I'd reach out to see what ye almighty Audiogonners thought.

Thanks in advance,

The Ayer is clearly better. The CX-5 even more so. The properties you mentioned are much of what Ayre CD players are known for. Keep in mind, the Transporter does blow away the music hall, but the Ayre does blow away the transporter. The transporter is good but limited to, pretty much, the DAC. (there are other issues, ie transport, cables, vibration control, etc.) but, basically, the DAC you heard in the Ayer is just plain better than the dac in the trasnporter. I heard both and went with the squeezebox 3 (and Esoteric X03SE for critical listening-I felt it bettered the Ayer in detail, dynamics and low level resolution) so that I can change dacs as I feel fit. I have the benchmark dac now (hooked to squeezebox) as it's just for casual listening. If I get a bit more into it, I will go with a much better dac (Berkshire or Esoteric, etc).
Cerrot: Thanks for your response. The Esoteric and the Ayre 5xe are out of my budget, but I think you've helped me lean closer to the Ayre 7e. I'm also glad to hear that the wonderous sound I was hearing was not just a figment of my imagination.

The convenience of the transporter is a major benefit, but at the end of the day, if I'm sacrificing quality for convenience and I know it, It will bother me until I do something about it. Sounds like the 7e for now and then when affordable Hard-Drive based systems come to market with sound quality that equals or rivals that of current top CDPs, I'll dive back in.
I thought the 2 were closer than I initially thought when I compared them using with Ax-7e

I wouldn't say Ayre is 'clearly' better. Maybe Cerrot can elaborate more on his/her comparison?
I also enjoy the convenience of having music on a hard drive to play hour long playlists on my squeezebox, though, as I have said, not up to par (to me) for critical listening. (I did come up with an excellent work-around, though-I have an Alesis Masterlink CD burner and put nice compilations together on MoFi Gold CDR's and play them on my Esoteric. 70 minutes or so of pure bliss - close, but not totally the squeezebox convenience, albeit much better sound).

As for the difference(s) between the Ayre Ax-5e & Ax-7e, I thought they were close at first, but after a few hours of listening, on redbook, I found the 7 to be a bit leaner overall, a bit more forward sounding than the 5, not as much punch or dynamic and the soundstage was petty much as wide, but no where near as deep. On SACD, the difference was even more dramatic. The 5 had much, much more overall resoultion. The 7 played SACD's like very well recorded Redbooks but the 5 delivered more music, more of the experience. Cymbals had more air around them and the decay was very realistic on the 5; on the 7, it didn't have as much space, and was a bit abrupt. Vocals on the 5 were smooth and lifelike, while on the 7, there was a hint of symbilence (please excuse spelling) and I didn't feel the presence of the singer as I did with the 5. The 7 did mask inferior recordings better than the 5, but that's a trait I find in less revealing gear, and, to me, I need to hear everything that was recorded-good, or bad.

The Esoteric (X03-SE) was even better than the 5, with greater dynamics, deeper soundstage greater air and presence and the retrieval of low level detail blew my mind. On Jacintha's SACD, Goes To Hollywood, on Que Sera Sera, on the opening acordian, you can hear the acordinaists fingers on the keys, and the sound the keys make when they are released. On the 7, you can barely recognize what it is; on the 5, you hear it distinctively but on the Esoteric, it becomes part of the performance. It actually adds to the experience and makes the little hairs stand up on my neck. The resolution is absolutely amazing.
Cerrot: Thanks for the detail...very informative. However, my understanding was that the 7 only plays RBCD, not SACD. As such, it would lead me to believe that perhaps you were actually hearing the RBCD layer of the Hybrid SACD on the 7 as opposed to the actual DSD layer (which would explain a difference).

Anyway, I wish I could get an Esoteric of 5e but I think they are both out of my range....although I could possibly stretch :-)....

Cerrot is confused on couple things

Ayre CDP are C-5xe (SACD) and C-7xe (CD)

Ayre integrated amp is Ax-7e

More likely than not Cerrot is comparing the SACD layer to the CD layer between the 2 players; and more likely than not Cerrot have not actually compared the C-7xe with transporter head to head. educated guess

Transporter is close to C-7xe when transporter is running 16bit 44khz flac file and C-7xe is reading the physical disk. However, transporter is significantly better than C-7xe when running 24bit 88khz flac file. Is it a fair comparison? no. but does it matter? If I can listen to the 24bit file why would I go for the 16bit version?

Just as there is no way C-7xe can compete with C-5xe when one is running the RB layer and the other is running the SACD layer, so is C-7xe hopelessly trailing transporter when the latter is running flac at 24bit/88khz.
My error. The 7 is cd only, and, yes, I was comparing the sacd to the redbook layer (didn't know until now). My apologies (also on the models - I am referring to the 5 series and the 7 series of the Ayre CD players). I did listen to the transport and the Ayre 7 directly, in the same system. Have a buddy who has both (he agreed with the opinion that the 7 blew the transport away. I listened to the 5 and the 7 and the esoteric DV60 and X03SE for what seemed like a zillion hours so excuse me for that fatal error. (at least, now I know why I couldn't hear the accordian keys with the 7)
Chesebert, where do you get your 25 bit files? I have a transporter as well and I've been looking for some but haven't found anything that I'd download yet.
Cerrot: No apologies necessary. I'm glad you cleared up the difference a bit for yourself :-)

The fact that you have listened to both a transporter and a 7e in the same system is a huge plus for my opinion gathering.

If you don't mind me asking, what type of preamp, amp and speakers did you listen to both units through?
Cerrot, thank you for the update. I have a hard time going back to CD now that I am listening to 24bit files (you should really try running the transporter with 24bit files)

Wireless, I generally buy from Linn, although I have been buying from High Definition Tape Transfer Online in the recent months (little tight on $$ ;)
before you go with the ayre take a listen to the Linn DS system. I heard the Linn Akurate DS demoed against the ayre c5, arcam and DCS puccini. the linn was the best digital I have ever heard. the price is above what you are looking into however they have another product the Majik DS which is about the same price as the cx-7e. It is also a music server which I think will be the future of digital. take a look at the linn forums there is a lot of discussion about the ds versus the transporter and squeezbox. even if you dont go with the Linn system i encourage anyone to listen to these machines, they really are a breakthrough in digital
No affiliation with Linn. I dont even own any linn components but I do own ayre phono, pre amp and amp. My next upgrade will be a ds system no doubt, unless another company comes out with something better in the same price range.
I had not listened to hi res files on the transport.

The system I listened to the Ayer 5/7 and Esoterics in was yre preamp (not expensive, about $3,000); Ayre MXR amps (awesome amps) and speakers were the Dynaudio Saphire's. The system I head the Ayre 7 and transporter in was Classe amp & preamp and B&W 802's.

How would the Ayre C-5Xe reading a redbook layer vs. a transport running a 24bit/88khz flac file?

I have no idea. I did not hear the 2 side by side.
I have both the transporter stock, Modwright transporter, Ayre C5XE and the Marantz SA7s1. I can send a picture of all of them together if you email me.

Stock transporter is good for the money and pretty close to the Ayre. The key to the transporter is how you store the file. You have to be very careful with the ripper and itunes. I store them uncompressed and it does make a difference.

To say the DAC's in the Ayre are much better than the transporter is not true. It's all in the output section. Why do you think you never see modded Ayre? It's because they did such a great job on the output section there is nothing more you can do to it. Can't say the same thing about the Esoteric players. If you ever heard the difference between the Modwright and the stock unit you would shake your head. Just by changing the output section transformed that to reference status, the two sound nothing alike.

The Marantz is very good and a different flavor over the Ayre. I would say it is between the Esoteric and the Ayre. I had the Esoteric X-01 Limted and didn't like it at all. I would chose all of the players above over the Esoteric. To relaxed and soft for me.

The Ayre C5 is better in every way of the C7.

The Modwright Transporter is KING. I sold my Emm Labs SE DAC and transport for the Modwright. It is that good...
Mtdking: Very interesting. Do you have the standard Modwright package, or the new, upgraded, Platinum option ($500 more)?

Just curious.

Also, can the modwright Transporter feed an amp directly? Or is a pre still required?
Yes I have the $500 option on top of very good NOS tubes in it.

You can still use the built in volume control but a preamp is a must if your looking for it to sounds it's best.
That's the first I have heard of the esoteric sounding soft. It does need considerabe break in time (over 1000 hours, believe it or not). Did you give it that much time?
My esoteric was 3 years old I hope so. Esoteric do not need 1000 hours to break in come on! There is no electronics that need 1000 hours. I wouldn't buy anything that would take about a year to break in. I have owned just about ever piece of manufactures gear and I never heard any difference past 100 hours. Speakers take the longest time to break in and you will hear a difference up to 300 hours but electronics only change a bit before 100 hours.

If you have a well balanced system that is not lean or bright the Esoteric should be your last choice. If you have a system that is lean and bright then the Ayre would be your last choice.
Trust me. It was 1,200 hours. I kid you not. All posted here on audiogon. I wish it wasn't true. And a thousand hours is 41 days, not a year.

Listening to it (X03-SE) after the 1,200 hours, I gotta say, it was worth it. Best digital I (me, my ears) have heard.
Mtdking, did you have the esoteric hooked up with balanced IC's? What power cord and interconnects were you using?
Mtdking, Below is ypur post from March, 08. What happened to change your mind?

Boy if you can stretch to around $6000 yo can get a Esoteric X-01 used. I think that is one of the very best players made. We know it has the best transport.
I compared it to other players in my own house. The ONLY way to tell if one player works for you or not is to compare it in your own house on your own gear so you know what your hearing. I also upgraded my speakers, amps and preamp. I had a system that was not well balanced before when I had the Esoteric.

I don't agree that 1000 hours is required for break in. IF you can tell what electronically speaking happens after 1000 hours I might be able to believe you. Break in is very subjective in the first place. Some people believe your ears just adjust and that is your break in. I heard no difference after 100 hours and up to 4000+ hours. Yes I was using it balanced.

I now use Vandersteen 5A, Lamm M1.2 ref and VTL 7.5 preamp. Before I was using Watt Puppy 7 with Ayre MXR so it needed to be tamed.

I don't know your room and system so the Esoteric might work the best for you. You really don't see any reviewers using Esoteric players so that might tell you something.

Just giving my 2 cents so take it for what it's worth....
Thanks. I'm not asking you to believe me on the break in, I was just sharing my experience. I do understand break in time can be system dependent. The Esoteric works really well in my system and I am eying the Ayre MXR amps. I have auditioned them a few times and if it wasn't that I would need to upgrade my preamp and speakers at the same time, I would have gone for them already. I am happy with what I have currently but am drooling over your gear. That is some awesome equipment you have. Happy listening and thanks for the feedback.
THanks to everyone for their feedback and advice. I have decided (for now) to keep the Transporter. I just bought a Musical Fidelity KW500 integrated and finished acoustically treating my room so I'll see what the combination of these changes does to the sound. I'm hoping for good things :-)

Next upgrade may just be the Modwright upgrades for my Transporter.

Anyway, thanks again!
You are talking about a $2,000 DAC (Transporter) versus a $6,000 disc player, and an Ayre at that. The Ayre is going to be better. The DAC is better. The outputs are better.

The Transporter is not something you trade in for a disc player. The Transporter has the potential to be a true end-game device because once you are done with the DAC and analog portions and are ready to upgrade, the Transporter has almost limitless potential when paired with a proper DAC like a dCS, Esoteric, or similar device. The Transporter, as a pure Transport, is an extremely formidable and cost effective device.

Yes the Ayre sounds better but it is also utterly obsolete. It has no digital input! Hard drive based storage and error correction and the ability to browse your library by remote should now be baseline features of all non SACD based audiophile systems. At the very least, any high-end disc player should accept a digital coax input from a music server.

If I were you, I would enjoy the Transporter for what it is now and save up for a real reference outboard DAC to pair it with. The end result will be a lot better than the Ayre. I dumped a $5,000 Goldmund transport for a $300 Squeezebox and got equally good if not better results with my dCS Delius and Purcell upsampler. I am getting even better results now that I am playing around with EAC and error correction.

Don't spend your money on disc players if you already have a Transporter. If you want something better, than just make the Transporter a dedicated Transport and get a better DAC.

I will consider Ayre disc players again when they accept external digital sources.
Wow this IS an interesting thread. You guys rock!

Mtdking - it seems we have similar tastes or goals if you will.

I've done some upgrading in the past year. Nuforce SEV2 mono's and a Transporter to start with. A Cary SLP-05 went in next. Wew wanted the Wilson 7's but decided to go a completely different direction in the form of line arrays. It was a painful 7 month wait for the speaker order and another long breakin period to get these arrays to sing. I modded the x-overs with platinum bypass caps, added polyfil and spiked these monsters. Then I picked up a Halcro MC50 (5 channel class D amp no one talks about) which was killed by the Nuforces until I added wood under the Cary but that's another topic/thread

This has been a huge learning experience and I've been at this for 40 years! I can't tell you what wood has done under my Cary pre. I'm still scratching my head over this one - but I digress and sorry for being off topic.

I wish to play hi rez music. I have no SACD player. I only have a Sony PS3 to spin CD's but I discovered that the 40Gig model doesn't play SACD. Not a big deal though, I mean, how good could that be? Still, I wish to hear SACD. Now I haven't been able to here hi rez on my Transporter because I don't know where to find these files. I've been looking at the Marantz SA7, SA11 to mod and Sony 9100ES to mod. I will eventually "truth" mod the Transporter and maybe sooner depending upon my research here.

If I mod the Transporter and can find hi-rez music to play at the 88Khz level then why bother with an SACD player, right? Am I missing something here? Can a Modded TP sound as well as a Modded SACD player? Is it worth all that added expense if you can find the fore mentioned hi-rez files?

What we are hearing now from our system is pretty amazing. I'm going to write a amateur review of the GR-Research/AV123 LS6 line array sometime soon. I'm hopeful to procure some Tesla speaker cables and give this system another boost if it turns out that way.

OK, so where can I find those hi-rez files?
Ayre is coming out with a USB dac for under $2000 that is going to be very good. Asynchronous USB seems to be where the industry is headed. I am willing to bet the USB DAC is as good as the CX-7e.