Which is the best CD-Player up to $ 10k ?

I´m looking for a very good cd-player in the price range up to 10k to be paired with my new Ayon Audio Sunfire single ended tube integrated.

On my short list are Wadia 581SE, Audio Research CD-7, Ayre C-5xe, Esoteric X-01 Ltd. and Audio Aero Prestige SE

Main music preference is classical music, opera, and electronic music.

Speakers are Ayon Audio with ceramic drivers.

Cabelling is all Shunyata Research (but is planned to be exchanged with either Virtual Dynamics or Stealth Audio)

Any input regarding these units is highly appreciated. Thanks fellows !
...not having heard all the cdp's in the $10k or less range i would vote for the emm cdsa-se ..if you are at all interested in sacd..the cd playing aspect of the player is probably its' strong point..i own one and it has transformed my cd collection...as one of your genre preferences is 'classical' there are thousands of superb sacd's that truely benefit from the format...
Agree with AMR CD-77. If I remember well, you're in Germany, right? Distributor in that case is Fast Audio (appr. EUR 6.5k)
If you listen to a lot of classical, I suggest you might look into SACD. There are tons of SACDs available on Acoustic Sounds and Music Direct. With the right player, SACD can really be an eye opener, IMO. The problem is, SACD players often don't play CDs as well as the best CD players, which is unacceptable in a top-shelf system. If space permits, you might consider a universal player, such as the Esoteric SA-60(5K) for the SACDs, with a good DAC or dedicated CD player like the Lector ((5K+) for the CDs. Meitner makes a one-box SACD/CD player for about $10K, but I haven't heard it.
I'm very pleased with my Ayre C5xe...but WARNING... It sounds its best run balanced. There is a definite loss when played single ended.
You might also consider Ancient Audio's Lektor Prime. I heard it on a recent trip to Krakov:
Ayre C5Xe hands down. Save a ton in comparison to the others listed and give up nothing. Take the $ saved and buy a TON of Orchestral SACDs and smile!
Disclaimer - I am an Ayon dealer, but have no skin in the game selling to Germany.

Just curious, have you listened to the Ayon CD1. We think that it is remarkable, at any price and against anything mentioned here.
For me, it would be the Audio Aero Prestige, plays SACD's and you don't need a preamplifier. The most natural, analogue sounding digital audio source I have heard. I have been to numerous audio shows and I have never heard any system with an Audio Aero source sound anything but excellent. That's what I have in my system presently.
For classical music, I strongly recommend you try to audition the EMM CDSA. I A-B'ed it against the Linn CD12 (which I owned at the time), and pretty much wrote a check that day. It does amazing things with redbook CD, and is highly regarded for it's SACD, of course. It does an amazing job of clarifying orchestral textures.

I did audition the Ayre against my Linn as well (some months previously). I know some people like it, as noted above. It didn't work for me. I recall thinking it was too bright, too "hi-fi," but otherwise, can't recall much about it.

I also have a Wadia 860 modified by Great Northern Sound here in the States. I was ambivalent about it in stock form...it tended to empasize detail too much for my taste much of the time (i.e., again, too bright), but the upgraded version is much better, and I still use it for certain things that sound less satisfying on the EMM. (The modified version has a lot of presence and a lot of bottom, and does certain things very well.) I don't know if the 581 is the same way, but I would proceed with caution. The 860 in stock form could be fatiguing (to me).
Raysonic 168 with cryoed NOS and Underwood Level 1 mod which upgrades the balanced tubed oputput
If looking for a redbook only player, I would try out a AMR CD-77 or the ARC CD-7. However, if you are interested in SACD's, as I would be, I would check out the Audio Aero Prestige, though the AA transport issues would concern me at this amount of $$$. The Marantz SA-7S1 also deserves serious consideration at this price level.

thanks so far for the very nice input. I have had already Accuphase DP-67, Esoteric DV-50S, Audio Aero Capitole MK II with mods, Ayre C-5xe and a GNSC modded Wadia 581 as well as the former Marantz top model and the here mentionned Ayon CD-1.

The Wadia was by far the best - followed by the C-5xe. The only downside with the Wadia was its reliability. I have been told the later SE version is improved in this area as well as sonically ?
The Ayre was superb sounding and very reliable - only downside is the cheap and awfull plastic tray (Charles if you read this: please make my day and develop a nice series 3 or 1 cd-player.
The Audio Aero had extreme reliability issues and was sonically very good at the top-end/ mid -range. Base line was quite bad and bloomy.
The mentionned Ayon CD-1 was very good for the asking price but couldn´t compete with any of the other players. Furthermore had it to be repaired twice because of realibility issues.
Esoteric DV-50 S was a good device. The Accuphase DP-67 sounded flat as a pancake and was musically totally uninvolving.

Unfortunately I had no chance to compare these players A B and with the latter models.

I will follow the hint with the AMR and the CD-7. How do the compare to the machines on my shortlist ?
I have the Wadia 581SE for close to a year now and I have not encountered any problems and it sounds great.
hi frankpiet:

you should also consider the lector 7 mk 1.

i heard the audio research ref 7.

both players are worthy of your time and energy.

i'm curious as to the results of your comparison.
Frankpiet, the AMR CD-77 is the real deal. Based on having heard the Wadia 581SE alongside the AMR player in my own system, I think you will find that the AMR player will be at least as good. (Not to take anything away from the Wadia, which is an excellent player in its own right.) I can't comment on the ARC CD-7, as I have not heard it in my own system. I understand that the Playback Designs MP-5 compares favorably with the top CDPs we are discussing here as well, but I have not yet heard that component with my own ears.
I have owned the Esoteric X-01LE & Audio Aero Capitole Mk.II SE amongst a few other good players.

However, if you are looking for a quality redbook player, make ceratin to at LEAST audition the AMR CD-77 prior to making a final decision. Not only does the player sound phenomenal, it also has a USB input for setting up a music server down the road.

Another vote for the AMR CD-77. After purchasing the unit for my personal system and hearing the player, we decided to represent the line, however we have no insight on a European sale. Look up a dealer!

Good luck on your journey.

There is also a new review up on Soundstage.
today I´ll listen to Esoteric X-01 D 2 vs. Audio Aero Prestige SE. I´ll keep you posted. Important for me is that the divice has to sound excellent through its unbalanced outputs as I use a single ended class A triode integrated amp which is outstanding and won´t be replaced for a very long time.
Frankpiet, the AMR CDP sounds great through its unbalanced outputs. That's how I am running mine.
,,regarding the Ayre C5xe Universal player mentioned above... I have the unit, and it sounds its awsome best via the balanced outputs. The plastic tray is a non issue for me. It has been very reliable, and sounds great.
Stringreen: I´ve had the C-5xe - the only downside next to the flimsy plastic tray is that Ayre gear sound best through balanced outputs.
I have had them all and the Ayre is the best believe it or not. I thought the Esoteric was the worst. Sold them all for my Modwright Transporter which is better then them all. The audio Aero was to soft for me. The Wadia is very close to the Ayre but it can be a little to much overtime. Ayre is just right.
I have had the top of the line emmlabs cdsd se, the reference marantz, the reference cary, and others.

I just received the playback designs cd/sacd player and it easily is the best of the bunch. The presentation is natural and relaxed yet the bass is deep and tight, the vocals are transparent. I am floored and it has not even broken in yet!

there are plenty of really good cd players out there but from what I have heard, this is the best by a country mile!
Tried to contact the guys from playback designs but didn´t get any response. I wanted to know where in Germany you can buy these players. In the meantime I´v bought the Nagra and I´m VERY satisfied with the results.
I'm really tempted to pull the trigger on the Playback Designs but at $10k, I would expect at least some kind of 30-day trials be granted.
...but at $10k, I would expect at least some kind of 30-day trials be granted.
Much better yet, an in-home demo without cost (or at nominal cost, applicable to purchase) or obligation. Would you buy a car sight unseen and without a test drive?
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When I asked Jonathan for just such a thing he indicated that he didn't need to offer an in-home trial as people were buying the unit sight unseen. When I pressed as to when, if ever, he would provide in-home trials, he was noncommittal although he indicated that if he did it would be after the price of the player was jacked up to 15K. Given the lack of an established resale market for the player, the history of changing product lines at his company and the lack of an in-home trial, I took the player off my list.

I was skeptical that a cd player could sound much better than the emm labs but this the playback design is amazing cd/sacd/server unit.

Some things cannot be home tested. A ferrari can be tested at the dealer only. Hey you can come to Los Angeles and hear it at my house and I am just a lowly customer and audiophile. I am sure Jonathan would let you hear it before you buy it just that he can't loan it to you. There are many people who know own playback that would be happy to let you hear it.

I cannot imagine anyone who is looking for a cd player that would not be mesmerized by this cd player. Only someone with a tin ear or someone who only listens to vinyl and is biased against any other form of music playback in my opinion would not be impressed by this player. I have not heard the dcs puccini but that is $20k for the stack. There are some players that I have not heard but I have heard many pricey ones and this is remarkable and heck mine has only 50 hours on it so it will get even better.
I didn't ask to just listen to it, I offered to deposit half the cost of the player up front and assuming it's as good as he claims it is, I would pay the second half upon purchase. He refused. And comparing test drives of cars to audio products is inappropriate as one has nothing to do with the other.

I'll hopefully be in-home auditioning the dcs puccini, the Linn Klimax DS and the Spectral SDR-4000S over the next month and will make my decision amongst those and my current Wadia.
If you like a soft, pleasing sound, with more body that what was recorded go for the AMR. If you like to hear what is exactly written on the cd (WITHOUT BEING HARSH) go for the EMM LABS CDSA.

I've bought products over the years based on others' opinions. I've also auditioned many in my home before purchase. Your car analogy doesn't work for me. If I drive a Ferrari around a dealer's "neighborhood", it's going to drive the same way in other places (at least if I drive it on a highway, a neighborhood street, check out it's acceleration, handling, etc) It's quite a different story with audio components. If I heard your system and liked it better than mine (or less than mine), for example, I wouldn't know if it was because of component A, B, C, D...or the synergy among the components...or your room, etc.

I'm not saying the Playback Designs isn't spectacular - or even "the best". I'm only saying $10,000 is too much for me (and some others) to spend on a product I'm not *certain* I'll love in my system.
08-05-08: Argyro
If you like a soft, pleasing sound, with more body that what was recorded go for the AMR. If you like to hear what is exactly written on the cd (WITHOUT BEING HARSH) go for the EMM LABS CDSA.

You may want to write IMHO (In My Humble Opinion) after a statement like that Michael. I've heard the EMM Labs CDSA, and IMHO it is harsh. I'm not saying it isn't accurate, as digital is a format prone to harshness, that's why I prefer analog.

However, whether one chooses a smoother sounding CDP (AMR) and uses more revealing cables (Nordost, Stealth, etc) and/or speakers (Wilson) or one uses a more revealing CDP (EMM Labs) while using cables/speakers to smooth out the sound (PAD/Verity) is up to that individual.

There are many ways to accomplish good sound.

I suppose its obvious I'm just stating my own opinion. I havent perform a poll yet.:)

But I think the signal should leave the source as it is. The source should not alter the signal in any way.


>>The source should not alter the signal in any way.<<

Nor should any other component in a system.

But they all do.
Audiofeil of course that's true. But I think its two times wrong to start with an altered signal cause it is then multiplied.

08-05-08: Audiofeil
>>The source should not alter the signal in any way.<<

Nor should any other component in a system.

But they all do.

Even your ears alter the signal as it's being filtered and interpreted by your brain.
Argyro, I have a different perspective on the comparison of the EMM Labs equipment and the AMR CDP. I ran the EMM Labs SE separates for an extended period and then eventually bought the AMR and ran it for comparative listening purposes for several weeks. My benchmark is large scale classical music, and there was no contest in my system with this style of music. The AMR eliminates a certain digital glare that tends to exhibit itself with the EMM Labs gear in peak passages, and, overall, the AMR has a more natural sound with the best ambience retrieval and portrayal of hall space that I have personally experienced with a digital source. YMMV, I suppose.
Guys, thats why our hobby is so great
As Audiofeil said you can reach the desired results following many different approaches. It would be boring any other way.


Re this one 'right' thing v 2 'wrong things' stuff, what I can't get my mind around is how does one actually determine that the 'right' source is in fact perfect? Is there some way of listening to this 'right' source without considering the 'rightness' of the rest of the audio chain, including room/set up/ etc. I can't figure out what constitutes a 'right' audio system.

Now if I had a perfect (right) audio system perhaps I could distinguish the differences between sources and pronounce one of them the 'right' one. But if the downstream system wasn't (just by chance mind you) perfect, perhaps I'd make a mistake and think the wrong source was the right source.

All so confusing.............
Cincy_bob, what Argyro is saying is that it is best to have a very revealing source, and then you mask it downstream with cables, speakers, amps, et al.

As I said before, there are many ways to accomplish good sound.

Some, like Argyro, prefer a true source and 'smoothing' cables and/or speakers. Others may choose more 'true' speakers and cables, but want a more 'smoothing' CDP.

Bottom line is we all are seeking the same grail, but have different means of approaching it.

Dcs must have deep pockets if they can loan $20,000 cd players demo models to potential customers.

The upshot is you get to test it out but its much more expnesive so in essence if you buy it you are paying for the luxury of the home audition

On the other hand, the playback designs cost less than the emm labs, dcs so don't have budget for demo tester models.

I personally would insist upon a listen first except for jonathan at chambers audio since his taste is impeccable, word is golden, reasonable prices