What solid state dac is similar to Ayre CX-5e?

I have recently aution a few system on my trip to New York. After comparing a few cd player, I felt Ayre's sonic attributes would suit me the best. I would buy it now if I want a cd player.

My recent experiment with PC audio was a great success and confirmed that PC audio is the way to go. The convinience of PC interface simply make me listen to more music! Therefore, I need a dac instead of a cd player.

My system consists of the following:
Aesthetix Calypso preamp
Art Diavolo amp
Audio Note speakers

I would like to focus my search for a solid state Dac as the few tube dacs (Audio Note, Wavelength, and MHDT )I tried was too much of a good thing in my full tube system.

I really Ayre sound as I thought it was very neutral in a way that no frequency range stand out. I could not detect any noticable charateristics. It is refreshing that all of the cds i play all sound different. Of course, all of the tube units I tried sounded more "beautiful" especially at the dealer's all solid state system.

I hope I have provided enough information for you to make recommendation. My budget would be in the same ball park as the Ayre.

Some good things to know: are you mac or PC? Do you plan on using USB or optical? Were you buying the ayre new or used, as that changes the price (and it would be helpful to know anyway)?
I am remain open to all options. Imac/itune is my first choice, but I may choose a PC/Jriver to save cost.

It would be really simple if I end up with USB dac. Empirical Off-Ramp or Freeway would be my choice if I choose non-usb dacs.

My budget is about $5K for the Dac.
I would actually keep away from USB as (1) it's inferior and (2) it limits the DACs you can choose from. If you must have USB, you can always get a USB to spdif converter - and still get any DAC you want (I strongly suggest going the firewire route as it is a most noticable improvement). If you can go $5k, see if you can bump it up a bit and give the Esoteric D-05 a listen (+ a few hundred bucks for a usb/spdif converter).
Thanks for the input.

Could you please enlighten me on the firewire route option? I am not aware of any dac with firewire input. Or are you talking about firewire to spdif convertor?

The esoteric gears look impressive, but I have not heard it before. How would you discrbe the sound? Similar to Ayre's school of sound?

How is the Bel Canto compare to the Havana?
There are a few firewire interfaces available. I went with the M Audio Firewire Solo - $200 and awesome for me. It takes a firewire cable from my PC and has an spdif output (into a monarchy upsampler into MF X DAC). Firewire much better for passing audio as it does so in a stream, as oposed to USB which uses packets. USB was never intended to stream audio. It was intended to connect peripherials.

I had extensively auditioned the Ayre with the Esoteric X-03 SE and I felt the Esoteric has better retrieval of low level detail, more air around the instruments and a wider-deeper soundstage. The did both do a great job and didn't sound very different at first, but after about 5 hours of listening, the Esoteric became my preference. I felt the Esoteric brought me into the music as opposed to the Ayer, which brought the presnetation of the music to me. The D-05 had a tad wider and deeper soundstage than the X-03 SE (the dac was hooked up to an X03 SE as a transport). On the Stereophile recording, The Mooch, the Esoteric reproduced the music and the venue itself. I had never experienced this before on a CD. With Chesky's Rebecca Pidgeon, Spanish Harlem, the D 05 was slightly more holographic than the X-03 SE -

I would settle for an X-03 only Dac if there was one (I don't believe there is) which is why I am considering the D05 for my squeezebox (replacing the Benchmark).
there are 2 dacs you should definitely check out that are in your price range. Both the Berkeley Audio Alpha Dac and the Weiss Engineering Minerva are getting rave reviews and are approx 5 grand each. the guys who designed the Berkeley were responsible for the Pacific Microsonics Model 2 - one of the greatest dacs ever. Robert Harley has stated on the Forum of avguide.com that the Berkeley is the best front-end he's ever heard in his system.
the minerva just got a great review in soundstage.com. also, it does fire-wire which supposedly takes it's performance to another level.
Good luck.

Could you please describe the sound characteristic of the Berkeley Dac, since you have been playing with one? I could not find any review online as it is a new product. Have you heard an Ayre, a comparison will be awesome here?

The Weiss look really interesting, I am going to look into it.


Thanks. Your description of the esoteric is very helpful. I need to look up the price for D05 to make sure i can afford it:-)

The next product Ayre is producing is a USB dac. There's a lot of info, including the upcoming -R series source on AA.
Thanks everyone for your inputs.
Keep in mind that USB is limited to 96khz, no matter how good the Ayre implementation may be.

I suggested Mr. Hansen to go the firewire route instead, but I think he wont, the usb dac is a low end retailing around 2k. Later an ethernet DAC will come ;)