Want to buy Ayre C-5xeMP but...

I have had the Ayre in my system for 4 days and at first I found it to be better than my CDP but after extended listening I am to the point where I don't want to let it go.

My only concern is should I go with a DAC and a server instead?

I do not want to hear a hard drive or the fan of a computer and my display is a DLP and has an annoying fan also, so I never have them on while critical listening. Even the faint noise coming out of the DVR is too much.

I know that music servers are the future of audio but I don't mind changing the CD's. If I want convenience I just burn discs with the songs that I am listening to most of the time and when my mood changes I can throw that one out and burn a new one.

I have thousands of songs on my computer and shuffling through them is great but in my system I am all about sound not convenience.

Are CD's dead and upgrading my CDP a waist of money?

2 channel part of the system consists of..

Krell Evo 707
Krell Evo 400 mono's
B&W 800D's
Meridian G08
Ps Audio PPP
Shunyata Python CX pc's

even though I have a very good music server and it doesnt make any disturbing detectable noise since its situated away from the DAC/Player the CD drive still sounds better. If I had to choose between the music server and the CD I would choose the CD. If you have the space to store the music physically its always nice to have something in your hand that you can touch and feel and notes that you can read while you listen to a record.
Distortion in the time domain still keeps CD's sounding better than servers. Don''t get me wrong, I do like my Squeezebox coaxed into the DAV of my Cambridge Audio 840c, but CD playback is still much better.
I could ask: "What is your gut telling you?". But you plainly said that you don't want to let it go.

So my suggestion is to look in the mirror and ask yourself why you want the Ayre, and then keep it.
I heard Charles Hanson saying on the Audio Asylum forum that the new Ayre QB-9 USB DAC is neck and neck with the CX-5 in sound quality.

I have a mac mini and western digital 2TB hard drive and it's really quiet. You can hear it when it's ripping music but for playback it's really quiet. I wouldn't say that it makes absolutely no noise but it's really low. I know what you are talking about on the DVR noise, I can't stand it either. Unless you are listening to the quietest music and are making a point of trying to listen for it and let it bug you it seems unlikely that it would be a problem. At that you could just put the computer in another location if needed.

Personally I would not choose a CD player over the server. I have 5000 CDs and it's just to many to keep track of and dig out when I want to hear them, plus it's pretty fun to let it all shuffle sometimes and you get to randomly hear something that you might not have.

If you wanted you can always listen to the music on the server and look at the CD while you play it if you like doing that sort of thing.
I stated I didn't want to let it go because I was happy with the G08 but while the other CDP's I tried were better in some respects there was something about them always telling me to stay with the Meridian. I initially felt that way about the Ayre but after leaving it going for 24hours and listening all day I started hearing what I loved about the G08 but better. The Ayre ended up having more extended highs, the mids are fuller with a more natural tone and bass is tighter. The pace and timing has improved.

I am giving the C5 back today and will listen to the G08 again to make sure I was hearing what I come to believe I am with the Ayre.

Thanks for the responses and there is still time if someone has any other opinions on the subject.
I was excited about the Ayre DAC but it only has a USB input and I have read that USB has a limited bandwidth and that is what has me scared about that piece.
You're getting a lot of bad and/or incomplete info. One guy says he likes his CDP better than his server but doesn't tell us what DAC he's using, what software, or anything else about it so that is basically one man's opinion about one system that we can't tell anything about.

I've never heard anybody ever say anything about "distortion in the time domain" with servers. Care to clarify?

USB will easily do 24/96 which is a lot higher bandwidth than a CD so I don't see that as a limiting factor. There are many. many options when it comes to computers and DACs including pro audio firewire units that will do multichannel 24/192. You have barely scratched the surface so don't base your decision on this limited input or dismiss USB audio based on one comparison. Go hang out at the PC audio forum at Audio Asylum for awhile and you will learn a lot.
Have you considered getting a Krell EVO 505 or 525 and run your system with cast connections?
I have heard the 505 at my dealer with a 707 and cast connections and I liked the Wadia 871 he had better. Even know I am using Nordost cast from processor to mono's like he is his speakers, PC's and room are different. The 871 is probably an unfair comparison but I would not say it was worth over 2X the Ayre.

That's what I read was that firewire or HDMI is the way to go instead of USB. I am wondering why Ayre only gave you one choice of digital input.

This is becoming harder than I had thought.

if you look at my system page you can see what DAC Im using, its the same DAC for the CD transport as for the music server. Software are .wav files.
Perrew, what server are you using? How is it connected to the DAC. What software are you using (.wav are data files, not software)? Everything makes a difference.

Relentless, you are correct; at first glance it easy to assume that it is all the same, just a computer and a DAC but it is much harder than one initially thinks because there are so many variables. As I understand it HDMI has some issues as well. Ayre is USB only because they are using a form of asynchronous USB that they licensed from Gordon Rankin at Wavelength. Do a search over at Audio Asylum and visit Wavelength's website.

The bottom line is you can get superb performance going the computer route but you have to find out what works for you.
Herman, its a PC with parallel Hard Drive running Win XP and Squeezecenter. Plextor 760 CD/DVD-Drive and Audiograbber for ripping. Its connected to the DAC with Wireless connection. My player has built in WiFi. As I said the sound is very very good and convenience is unbeatable, but if I had to choose I would still pick the CD since it sounds better.
I brought the loaner back and got to talking with the dealer about the C5 or a DAC. He said that he has this conversation every day and feels that in the end you can achieve better sound with a hard drive and a DAC. He feels that CD's are not truly digital and have to be read so there is more time for error correction on a hard drive. I will do some reading on AA and the dealer is trying to get something together for me to audition.
Thanks for the info Perrew. have you tried to feed the DAC some way other than wireless?

Relentless, I don't think the statement about CDs not being digital is correct but perhaps he was alluding to the fact that when ripping a CD you can do it as fast or as slow or take as many passes as it takes until you get a perfect copy whereas when playing a CD it is done in real time. This makes it much more prone to data errors as well as the problems of reading it and at the same time trying to keep feeding the data to the DAC at a constant rate.
Well from my understanding even cheap CD players have good error correction and memory buffering with large enough memory chips, so I dont buy the myth that the reading of the disc is superior with computer vs. CD.

Relentless, I think you should definately ask your dealer what he has to say about what transport(i.e. music server) he uses and how he feels about about electrical noise from the switching power supplies.
I'd say this is the time to be buying CDs. Like turntables and tonearms after the CD proclaimed 'the death of vinyl', the CD player will only improve. And today, the C-5xeMP is a excellent choice.
Do you really "understand" enough to declare this a myth or have you just deemed it a myth because with your setup you prefer the CD and these co called myths fit your conclusions?

I think your assumption that even cheap players use FIFO memory buffering is a myth, and on-the-fly error correction can't compete with the solutions available when ripping.
My conclusions follow my experience and my experience follow the theories Ive been able do dig up so far.
This is not a proof.
I have had the same experience with other good DACs as well. They sounded better when fed with a CD transport than with a computer.

It depends on how you define cheap but I still think most cd players contain large enough RAMs for powerful error correction and memory buffering.

May I ask what server you run and has it beaten your CD transports?
I was reading the post with Charles Hanson comparing the C5 to the QB9 and he writes that they are comparable and each outshine the other in somethings. He did not go into specifics on what those things were. He was asked if he used a beefed up computer and he replied he used a mac mini for the comparison but they were plugged into a filter for clean power. Clean power I have so I am not worried about that.

I will ask the dealer about the electrical noise from switching power supplies. When he was telling me about his error correction theory I mentioned that the G08 has a cd-rom and spins faster than a normal cd player to make those corrections and he still felt that the hard drive solution was better.

It still comes down to can I get a server to sound as good as the C-5xeMP in my system. My hearing will be shot in 10 years so the cd dying argument is most likely a moot point.
I want sonic bliss now while I can still enjoy it.

My processor only has a pair of balanced inputs that just go to the volume control then to the amps so I have to chose one or the other for the best sound, I wont be able to get the best out of both of them in my system together.
Why not upgrade to the 808.2? A friend has it and sez it bettered his previous player(Spectral 4000)and the full DCS stack before it.
Well you can always get a player that has a digital input and then you have both CD and music server. One that comes to my mind is the new Esoteric DV50.
From what I have read about the 808.2 I have to believe it is a incredible sounding player. But it puts you in a whole different category price wise with lots of great players to choose from, Wadia 781i, Esoteric X01/D2, Puccini to name a few.

I thought about the SA-50 with the USB input but I had an Esoteric X05 in my system and at first I liked it a lot, very lively and great bass but after listening for a few days I decided to stay with the Meridian.

So far the Ayre is the only one that makes me want to upgrade my player. I have been thinking about this and it is truly difficult to decide on which way to go. If the DAC/computer combo does sound as good as the player, now I have to figure out where to put everything. I will need a small computer, small display, external hard drive, keyboard and mouse. These things are steering me towards just getting the player. I have to see what the dealer can come up with for me(he is getting the loaner DAC in a few days). In the end with all things considered the price will be about the same.
The ayer is a great unit. I preferred my Esoterix X03SE but that may be my syestem and room. I felt less digital, better resolution and timber, detail and greater soundstage depth-but that could be my system-solid state, electrostatics and a small room. I didn't care for the Meridian (802+) as it didn't play sacd's and wasn't as musical on redbook. My music server system kicks butt (benchmark dac+squeezebox/CI power supply and stupid cables/isolation/line conditioning-but can't hold a candle to the Esoteric. I may go for the Berkely dac for the squeezebox but I am convinced, the server is only as good as the dac, so may need to go with an Esoteric D3 to match the CD player-wich just may not be worth it, but should/would sound as good.
If you have a Linn dealer near by, check out an Akurate DS. It's about the same price as the Arye. I have had one for a few months and love it. I have network storage in another room so theres no noise. You can also control it from an Apple itouch or iphone which makes absolutley no noise. You just need a wireless router so the itouch can access the network storage.
I am still weary about the USB input. Wouldn't there have to be an extra conversion to send the data to the DAC that would not happen in the CDP?
The beauty of the Linn DS is there are no extra conversions at all. It takes the data straight off a ethernet cable coming from your storage device. It does not use a USB conection. The DAC is internal. This is technically the best method available. Also they can play up to 24 bit 192 khz files unlike most other solutions.
Depends on what you mean by "extra conversion." I don't see where taking the data and turning it into a serial stream that is compatible with ethernet devices is fundamentally different than taking the same data and turning it into a stream compatible with USB devices. Both have to convert the data. In either case the data arrives intact so I don't see the concern.

Firewire will do 24/192 and USB 2.0 is capable of doing 24/192 although I'm pretty sure you need special drivers to do the latter. Too lazy to look that up and confirm the "pretty sure" at the moment.
I have read this...."A traditional transport device must convert the stream to a different format to accommodate Toslink, SPDif, or USB, and then the DAC converts it back to I2S to send to the DAC chip".

Does this conversion happen in the CD Player anyway?

No matter how it is done at the end of the line is a digital to analog chip which almost always is designed to accept a serial protocol called I2S. Whether the transport is in the same box or we use an external transport or we use a computer at some point there is a receiver chip which takes whatever it is being fed and converts it to I2S for the DAC chip. That "whatever" could be ethernet, Toslink, SPDIF, USB, Firewire, etc.
From what I've read the problem with synchronous usb is it has to reclock the signal from the computer. Asynchronous usb apparently solves this problem. As of now the Wavelength Audio usb dacs and the new Ayre usb dac are the only ones that use asynchronous usb. Also Herman is right that usb 2 does support 24/192 data but there are no dacs that take advantage of that yet. Wavelength is working on it and will probably have it soon.

Any time you use a outboard dac the signal must be converted and reclocked with the exception of the asynchonous usb and dacs that can accept a I2S connection. As for firewire I'm not sure if it needs to reclock or not. Firewire does support 24/192 though. The Linn DS players have the dac inside and take the data straight from a buffer and don't need to reclock the signal. This is similar to a one box CD player. I am not a expert but this is how I understand it from what I have read online.

IMO using your own ears to decide what sounds best to you is more important a factor than any one technology.

I want to add that spidf, toslink, and synchronous usb conversion create more jitter than the other alternatives.
After a lot of thought I am really considering the Ayre DAC because of the Ayre sound and the asynchronous USB.

But, I am concerned about what I have been reading about how different USB cables affect the sound. Now I will have to play the cable game again.

How big of an effect can USB cables make on the sound?
Check out the Synergistic Research Tricon USB cable. One on sale now here.
Relentless did you get to listen to the Ayre dac? I was considering it before I bought the Linn but it was not out yet.

I had a usb converter from Empirical Audio with a benchmark dac1 before the Linn and tried a few different cheap usb cables and did not notice much difference. Steve from Empirical Audio says that you should also try all the different usb ports on your computer because they can sound different. I tried this also and if there was a difference it was very small. These are all small tweaks. The media player you use can make a small difference also.
The dealer has a few people that wanted to demo the Ayre DAC and I had decided to go with the CDP so I let him give it to the others, but after more thought and research I am going to go with the server. The dealer said that the DAC and the CDP are very close but he is biased towards the server so I will get a chance to hear it soon and make my own decision.