Stereophile's Products of 2005 Joint Digital Source Components
Ayre C-5xe universal disc player ($5950; reviewed by Wes Phillips, Vol.28 No.7, July 2005 review)
dCS Verdi La Scala SACD transport & Delius D/A processor (La Scala, $17,500; Delius, $10,000; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.28 No.1, January 2005 review)
Runners-up (in alphabetical order)
Apple Airport Express WiFi Hub-D/A processor ($130; reviewed by John Atkinson, Vol.28 No.5, May 2005 review)
Cary Audio Design CAD-303/300 CD player ($4000; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.28 No.10, October 2005 review)
Esoteric X-01 SACD player ($13,000; reviewed by John Marks & John Atkinson, Vol.28 Nos.2 & 5, February & May 2005 review)
Linn Unidisk SC universal disc player ($4995; reviewed by Art Dudley & Wes Phillips, Vol.28 Nos.6 & 7, June & July 2005 review)
Naim CD5x CD player ($2950; reviewed by Art Dudley, Vol.27 No.11, November 2004 review)
Simaudio Moon Orbiter universal disc player ($7200; reviewed by Kalman Rubinson, Vol.28 No.3, March 2005 review)
The Ayre C-5xe and dCS's combo of Verdi La Scala and Delius rose to decisive victory from an exciting group of contenders.
Designer Charlie Hansen has become known for ignoring conventional wisdoms. We like that. In the case of the Ayre C-5xe, he proves that universal does not necessarily mean multichannel. Unlike any other "universal" device we're aware of, the C-5xe is a music-only, two-channel–only disc player. It has no video output of any kind. For a guy like Wes Phillips, who loves to keep his home theater system far away from his hi-fi, this against-the-grain concept makes a lot of sense. More than that, it allows him to listen to his DVD-Audio and DVD-Video discs, as well as SACDs, in the best-sounding room of his home. The C-5xe, as it turned out, was the very best-sounding product WP heard all year.
Funny coincidence, though: Art Dudley said the same thing about the combination of the dCS Verdi La Scala transport and dCS Delius D/A converter. "On disc after disc," he enthused, "CD and SACD alike, the dCS combo was never commonplace." Good thing, because there's no room for the commonplace in these parts, and this combo showed off some fancy-schmancy parts of its own. The La Scala adds the functionality of the Purcell upsampler to dCS's Verdi, upsampling "Red Book" CDs to the 2.822MHz standard of DSD. Add to that the Delius, which can convert virtually any consumer digital audio datastream to two-channel analog sound, and you've got yourself one sassy piece of gear.
The only trouble is the price. More than four times as expensive as the Ayre C-5xe, the dCS combo is a bit out of reach for most of us. "As a lover of good music and good sound," said Art, "this system left me wanting for nothing except the means to afford it." But forget about that for right now. The Verdi La Scala–Delius combo should be on the lists of those who have bank rolls fat enough to purchase the absolute best. It's on our lists.