September 23, 2009

Fresh Ayre! Ayre CX-7eMP CD Player.

A breath of fresh Ayre.

The market forces naturally corrects it self, especially when times are competitive. Just as we have found the Stello CDT100 Transport and DA100 Signature DAC's performance punching it's way right above it's own and in to a price class above, along comes the Ayre CX-7eMP to move the goal post, and forges ahead.

To be honest, I've never been a fan of Ayre CD player's. Whilst I have found them to be technically accomplished, and it's sound ticks all the right audiophile boxes, I just thought all previous non MP designated Ayre disc spinners to lack a little PRAT, or musicality. I've always yearned for a little more sparkle, plus rhythm and pace, each time I heard it. So I was naturally a little reserved when Kenny of Hi-Way Laser asked me to take this latest model, priced at RM$15.3k, for a spin.
As I first plugged the player in to my system to run in for 2 weeks, I did no serious listening. However, on the third day of it's residence in my system, I had a visitor. My friend was immediately impressed by the Ayre CX7-eMP. He said he'd like to investigate about this player more. By the following week when I visited him, he had already bought a unit, and is extremely pleased with his decision! Congrats, man!

Still all this while, I did not seriously listen to the Ayre yet, but I knew the Ayre's performance was potent, real potent. Odiosleuth took it home for a spin whilst I got involved with other subjects, and he was singing daily praises for the Ayre CX7-eMP.

When it was my turn to listened to the Ayre, I switched between the "listen" and "measure" mode to establish my preference. In the context of my warmer and probably mellower system balance, I found myself preferring the "measure" mode, contrary to Odioslueth's preference.

When in "listen" mode, I thought the Ayre's performance was smooth and organic, but in 'measure" mode, I found the Ayre more incisive, with authority, had better dynamic contrast and lastly, more pin point imaging qualities. All my review experience was based on "measure" mode there after.

The Ayre CX-7eMP on my rack.

The Ayre's tonal balanced is strictly neutral compared to my warmer Marantz CD7, yet I've found both players have so much in common, sound character wise. The highs and mids are almost in distinguish able, except the very slight bloom on the mids on the Marantz. The bass front is where the Ayre trumps. it's bass is at once solid, articulate and tuneful, making the Marantz seemed a little bloated in that area by comparison. This is exemplified when playing a double bass track, when it had the Marantz seemingly caught wrong noted, the Ayre's note to note transfer quality remained clean and clearly audible by comparison.

The Ayre's extension at bandwidth extremes on both ends are as good as it gets. However, the refinement factor,especially the high frequencies though class leading, still cannot touch those levels set by the Esoteric X-03, which is clearly at twice the price, belongs to a class above. Just to put things in to perspective.

I found this Ayre CX7-eMP to excel in rhythm and pace or PRAT this time, perhaps the area of biggest improvement compared to the non MP designated older players. Now, it doesn't mean this player sounds fast trying to rush from note to note. But rather, it allows each note to finish cleanly, before starting the next musical note, all in it's own time, yet never sounding slower or faster than it needs to be. I value this quality in a source highly. I believe if a source does not have musicality to start with, one can never get it back at the pre amp, or at any stage further down the audio chain. However, having musicality at source alone does not guarantee a musical system as it too could be lost along the way, in the hifi chain. So if your source have musicality like the new Ayre CDP has , you'll need to work hard to preserve it.

Another big step forward compared to the older non MP designated Ayre CD players is the sound stage and imaging. I have found the previous non MP Ayre to project a very distant, laid back sound stage, but with limited stage layers in between, not this time. Due to the improved stage layering aspect, I have found the vocal imaging and the subsequent musical instrument behind very clearly separated. The imaging is dense, full bodied, and combined with the sound stage properties mentioned above, one can easily get that "you are there" feel.
The Ayre also digs up a little more information from the CD compared to my Marantz. Low level and subtle details stood out from the music mix more clearly than before, yet never really calling attention to itself. You're just informed that it's there and the music moves on just as quickly.

The sign of an excellent product.

The build quality of the 11.5kg Ayre is very solid. The tray slides in and out smoothly and being a CD-Rom transport, the CD TOC loading time is a tad slower, but once that is done, it's track to track search time is just as fast as any other CD player. I also found the back panel where the interconnects are located to be very warm while in use, an indication that the Ayre's analog output is Class A, which is absolutely my cuppa tea. The remote is functional plastic, rather than the expensive and heavy aluminium variety. I thought the dim able blue LED display to be rather spartan but that's just me. Lastly, it's best to leave the unit on stand for best sound.

At the RM$15K price range, the Ayre CX-7eMP is probably the best choice one can make, if you're shopping for a high quality CD source. Go visit Hi-Way Laser and listen to it for yourself.

Another point to note, if you own an older version of Ayre CX-7 or CX-7e CD player or C-5X or C-5Xe series multi player, you owe it to yourself to check out the up grade options available, to up date your player to the latest MP designated spec. Up grade option prices are not confirmed at this point in time, but do call Kenny at the contact no. listed below for more details.

Ayre is sold by Hi-Way Laser, contact Kenny, tel:019-2813399

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