Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty D/A processor Associated Equipment

Sidebar 2: Associated Equipment

Digital Sources: Aurender N10 music server; Ayre Acoustics C-5xeMP universal player; Chord DAVE DAC; PS Audio PerfectWave DirectStream D/A converter with Bridge II network adapter; Ayre Acoustics QB-9DSD USB DAC; AudioQuest JitterBug, UpTone Audio ReGen USB cleaner-uppers; Mac mini running Pure Music 3, Audirvana, Tidal HiFi, Vinyl Studio, Roon 1.3 apps; Ayre Acoustics QA-9 USB ADC; NetGear router.
Preamplifier: Ayre Acoustics KX-5 Twenty.
Power Amplifiers: MBL Corona C15 monoblocks.
Loudspeakers: Bowers & Wilkins 805 D3, Dynaudio Contour 20, KEF Reference 5, Rockport Technologies Avior II.
Headphones: Audeze LCD-X, AudioQuest NightHawk.
Cables: Digital: AudioQuest Coffee. USB: Canare AES/EBU. Interconnect (balanced): AudioQuest Wild Blue, Cardas Clear, Transparent Reference (Rockports only). Speaker: Kubala-Sosna Elation!, Transparent Reference (Rockports only). Headphone: Surf Cables 4-pin XLR to 2x3.5mm plugs balanced adapters. AC: Kubala-Sosna Elation!, manufacturers' own.
Accessories: Target TT-5 equipment racks; Ayre Acoustics Myrtle Blocks; ASC Tube Traps, RPG Abffusor panels; Shunyata Research Dark Field cable elevators; Audio Power Industries 116 Mk.II & PE-1 AC line conditioners (hard drive, computers). AC power comes from two dedicated 20A circuits, each just 6' from breaker box.—John Atkinson

Ayre Acoustics, Inc.
2300-B Central Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301
(303) 442-7300

mrkaic's picture

How can this product be superb? Figure 9 shows that the THD is around 0.1 percent. This is unacceptably high, almost tube preamp territory. The THD number should be at least 10-100 times smaller.

David Harper's picture

correct me if I'm wrong guys,but if a recording is,at any stage, digital,then it is not analog. In order to be analog a recording must be 100% analog, from beginning to end. If the master is a digital file,then cutting a vinyl disc from it is a digital recording on vinyl. Defeats the whole purpose, I would think. Not that pure analog would necessarily sound better although in theory it could. Maybe there's something elusive that's captured by an analog recording that's lost as soon as it's converted, at any point, to digital.Something that we don't know how to specify or measure because we don't know what it is.

tonykaz's picture

Geez, I just had a little trip down Memory Lane with those Thiel CS1s.

Which -- prompted me to have a look at Mr. Atkinson's history with Amplifiers.

Hmm, what happened to that Krell Amp you brought back from England?

I discovered Mono Amps to be the Ideal as seems the case with ya'll. I'm now going further down that path by thinking that Active loudspeakers are the natural ideal.

Do I see plenty of Ayre gear in your System Photos ?

I suppose we all prefer what works well and kinda stay with it, is Ayre a worthy Brand to build with and stay put? I'm getting that idea from Stereophile writers.

I hope you review those new Schiit Mono Amps & matching Pre-amp.

It's fascinating to read that the MBL Amp is Class D

Tony safe in Michigan

John Atkinson's picture
tonykaz wrote:
Hmm, what happened to that Krell Amp you brought back from England?

I still have it and occasionally use it. Recently I took it to John DeVore's place to use for a screening of the movie "Forbidden Planet," which was where Dan D'Agostino got the name "Krell" from.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

David Harper's picture

Isn't that movie great? Maybe someone (Ridley Scott?) will make a new remake. Think about that!!!!

pma's picture

John Atkinson wrote


Overall, Ayre's QX-5 Twenty digital hub offers superb measured performance.

and I have to say that it is really difficult for me to agree with his statement. I understand that there is to be a kind of 'political correctness' in reviewers writing, however the measurements of non-linear distortions and filter mirrors and aliases say the opposite.

Johnnyjajohnny's picture

I have to agree. This DAC measures shockingly poor, and then at this extraordinary price! "Extortion" is really the right word here.
Someone once said that two segments of hi-fi products are extremely poorly made: The exceptionally cheap products, and the exceptionally expensive products. Ayre seems to be an example of this. But this is probably one of the reasons why digital haters prefer Ayre to so many other products, because they are as imperfect as turntables and cartridges - they muddy up the sound, distorts and twists it so it finally sounds as poor as analogue. And I'm saying this as someone who collected vinyl records for 15 years.
Compare the Ayre DAC to the €250 Topping D50s (yes, only €250), which measures infinitely much better. The highest harmonic in that DAC is at -120, compared to -65 dB in the Ayre. And the filters in the Ayre are terrible as well!
I suspect that the roll-off with 44.1 kHz data has conciously been made that way to "show" listeners that the format is poor and that hi-res sounds better - which it doesn't with a competent DAC (there will be no audible difference).
And there are many, many other cheaper products that measure almost as well as the Topping. The Odac, the SMSL SU-8 or the Cambridge Audio DacMagic are just three examples. Granted, not all of these were available at the time when the Ayre came out, but there were PLENTY of other DACs that were much better made. And it's honestly sad that this product is being celebrated so much - even by John Atkinson, who sees all these artefacts.

dumbo's picture


In the measurements section of this review you mention that

"Apple's AudioMIDI utility revealed that, via USB, the Ayre accepted 24-bit integer data. The optical inputs locked to datastreams with sample rates up to 96kHz, the AES/EBU and S/PDIF inputs to streams of up to 192kHz."

My question is if this seems strange or not given the fact that the DAC Chip is a 32bit device? Is there something in the connectivity chain that would prevent your PC from seeing it as a 32bit device or is there something that Ayre did during the design process that would prevent an End User from "seeing" the fact that the DAC Chip was a 32bit device?

I'm thinking along the line of wanting to use JRiver's 64bit software VOL control. If the Ayre could accept a 32bit feed from some external source that had VOL control capabilities then one could put the Ayre in DAC Mode and bypass the sub-optimal internal VOL control while at the same time maintaining 24bits worth of resolution for a long as possible (ie..maybe -60dbfs) in a DAC Direct to AMP configuration.

On the other hand, if for some reason the QX5 does only accept 24bit Data then I'm left scratching my head as to why they bothered with a 32bit DAC in the first place.


John Atkinson's picture
dumbo wrote:
if for some reason the QX5 does only accept 24bit Data then I'm left scratching my head as to why they bothered with a 32bit DAC in the first place.

I'll put to one side whether or not the QX-5 accepts 24- or 32-bit data via its USB port. (I don't have a way of examining the behavior of its Ethernet connection.) But the reason for having a DAC chip that will decode 32-bit data is that as soon as you operate on the data before they are presented to the chip, you will increase the bit depth. For example, if your volume control works with 24-bit coefficients, it will output 48-bit data with 24-bit audio. It is optimal to reduce the bit depth as little as possible, even when redithering as you do so. So in theory, reducing 48 bits to 32 bits is better than reducing it to 24 bits.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

dumbo's picture

Thanks for your reply JA, much appreciated.