Ayre Acoustics DX-5 Universal Disc Player

December 13, 2010

Michael Fremer has posted a review of the Ayre Acoustics DX-5 universal disc player ($9950) at Stereophile. His conclusions:

Ayre Acoustics' DX-5 is a unique way to meet your current and future digital playback needs with a single box. It plays every disc format in your collection now, and it's ready to play 24-bit/192kHz Blu-ray–Audio discs. Its asynchronous USB port can reliably handle up to 24/96 files, and, with a chip upgrade, files with sample rates up to 192kHz with claimed "virtually jitter-free" performance. Using an inexpensive computer like a Mac mini, and with 1-terabyte hard drives now costing around $100, you can use the DX-5 as part of a server-based music system, storing all your music on an external hard drive (or two or three), and backing it all up and storing it at another location (such as a safe-deposit box), all for the cost of some audio cables.

Of course, you can also do that with far less expensive, driveless USB DACs available now from Ayre and other companies, so the real question is this: How many DVD-A discs do you currently own, and do you want to prepare now for an audio-disc future that will possibly be dominated by BD-A?

In my case, with so much software and so many formats available, having a player capable of decoding everything was liberating. I could play hundreds of the discs that have been gathering dust here. I really loved listening to DVD-As; it's too bad the format died due to poor planning and the need to have a screen back when you couldn't add a small TFT-LCD for under $100, as you can now.

I don't know why the DX-5 performed so much better with PCM than with DSD signals, but it did. Not that the DX-5's SACD sound was unacceptable—it wasn't. But if you already own an SACD player you like, trading it for a DX-5 to get the Ayre's other features will probably be, at best, a sonic step sideways.

That said, I truly enjoyed the time I spent with the DX-5, discovering all the great and great-sounding hi-rez music that's sat unplayed on my shelves for so long. And that's what it's all about.

You can read the full review here.

Kal Rubinson’s review of the Ayre Acoustics DX-5 will appear in the January issue of Stereophile.