Ayre D-1x DVD-Video/CD player Page 2

In spite of the fact that the D-1x bristles with advanced engineering, it retains Ayre's trademark tasteful, minimalist design, and was easy to live with and use. The Pioneer-sourced remote control offers the full complement of video-related functions, and while it was a bear to find the one button I was looking for amid the clutter, I soon learned where the most vital functions were. Unlike the rock-solid D-1x itself, the remote feels a little cheap and cheesy...but it's perfectly functional, so big whoop.

Getting the best sound out of the Ayre D-1x meant dealing with its almost catlike fussiness about what it liked to sit on. Perched atop my Target TT5 stand, longtime home to my digital components, its bass was fast and very well-defined, but quite light in character. Peter Kruder's "Domination" (Peace Orchestra, G-Stone G-CD004) just didn't have the room-shaking potency that I know is on the CD; it sounded a lot more diffuse than through the Classé Omega SACD/CD player. There was also a slight accentuation of the lower treble that occasionally slid into a glare in that band.

The D-1x much preferred the wonderful Grand Prix Audio Monaco modular equipment stand. Even there, it was happier perched atop the Monaco's optional F1 carbon-fiber/Kevlar shelf. So ensconced, the Ayre's low-frequency heft was greatly enhanced, with no loss of fine definition. Nearly all of the lower-treble emphasis vanished as well, though the D-1x retained a slightly forward character in this region.

I also had to experiment to find the cable that made the D-1x happiest. Whatever other cables the system was hooked up with, the Ayre consistently gave its best only when I used Cardas Golden Reference to connect it to the line stage. This isn't surprising—Ayre uses Cardas wire as its reference. But after playing around with a number of power cords, I found that the D-1x formed a locked-in synergy with the Acoustic Zen Gargantua II that I reviewed last month.

It was readily apparent at first listen that the D-1x was an Ayre product, and that was a good thing. Listening to Murray Perahia's fabulous CD of Bach's keyboard concertos 1, 2, and 4 (Sony Classical SK 89245) put all of the D-1x's strengths on parade. Perahia's piano stood in realistic, well-proportioned balance to the orchestral forces, with rich and convincing tone. The top end had the correct balance of treble sparkle and mellow hall sound, and the bass was solidly grounded without being overprominent.

Nor did the Ayre skip a beat with the rather more Technicolored music of Ravel. The tentative, diaphanous strings at the beginning of Rapsodie espagnol's "Prelude ;ga la Nuit," from The Reiner Sound (RCA Victor 61250-2), had a deliciously feathery and ethereal quality that made the orchestra's mezzo forte entrance genuinely surprising. The D-1x served Reiner's extraordinarily transparent orchestral balances with a deft, enchanting grace.

Speaking of transparent balances, Eiji Oue's almost mystical conception of Aaron Copland's Appalachian Spring (Reference RR93-CD) is graced with some of engineer Keith O. Johnson's most seductive sound. Despite his full symphony orchestra, Oue's textures have the subtlety and delicacy of a chamber ensemble; the Ayre vividly brought the sound of Minneapolis' Orchestra Hall into my listening room. (Here, at least, I know whereof I speak: I was present at the recording sessions.)

After the D-1x had settled in on the Grand Prix Audio stand, things got interesting down in bass-land. The organ pedals in the third movement of Vaughan Williams' Sinfonia Antartica (Naxos 8.550737) rumbled and groaned to appropriate effect, their pitches easily discernible. Monumental bass-drum shots remained a bit less imposing than with the Classé Omega, but the differences were now much smaller.

Ray Brown's double bass was its big, warm, bearish self on Some of My Best Friends are the Piano Players (Telarc CD-83373), and the D-1x never let me forget that this bear could dance—and how. Brown's generosity of tone was matched only by his supreme sense of swing and flawless articulation, and the Ayre let it all shine through. The D-1x neatly captured the sound of Brown slapping his bass, Milt Hinton style, and clearly separated the smack of hand on bass from the big, earthy tone that followed. Nice!

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