The new Ayre QX-5 Twenty Dac has arrived at Pearl Audio Video.
The QX-5 is the long awaited multi-input DAC from Ayre that includes ten digital inputs and a volume control. The volume control can be set/unset in configuration if you wish to use a preamp or directly drive your amplifier.
In today’s digitally-connected internet world you need more than just a DAC or a streamer. You need a device that can effortlessly render your highest resolution files such as DSD or FLAC, without missing a beat. The QX-5 Twenty can play all your favorite online streaming services or any radio broadcast. Featuring the new ESS ES9038PRO DAC chip and a new jointly-developed doubly-rotated Morion quartz crystal-based oscillator, The QX-5 Twenty elevates digital performance to an astonishing horizon. Linking all of your digital media together with every conceivable digital input and the most popular streaming services, the QX-5 Twenty provides unlimited flexibility and convenience at the highest level conceived by audiophiles. Demonstrations available in the store so come on in and enjoy yours today at Pearl Audio Video.
To truly ‘get’ the new Ayre QX-5 and what it means, you really have to know where to look. And that place is the Ayre QX-5’s Rear Panel.
The usual suspects of Analog Audio outputs are there. The Balanced and Single Ended. With Ayre of course, being truly balanced at ever step, a major gain in improvement is had with balanced. Try try try to connect it up to something balanced, preferrably an Ayre Preamplifier, or in the QX-5’s unique circumstance, an amplifier. The QX-5 is quite brilliant in that you can run it as a dedicated source component feeding your preamplifier, or you can connect it directly to your amplifier and use the QX-5’s built in volume control. Ayre, quite brilliantly, divided the QX-5’s superb* remote which is divided into two sections: digital and analog. The top ‘digital’ section is to control the QX-5 and has volume up/down, source selection, and useful headphone-only and front panel display dimming/on-off. The lower analog section controls the KX-5 preamplifier. There are ‘just enough’ buttons on the remote that all the normal usage features are at hand without cluttering the remote. I especially like that the remote has a glass front and metal sides while being very light and easy to manage. I had a hard time taking photos of the glass, so I went with multiples photos to show the different sections (sure wish Russ were working today).
*yes, I am actually praising a remote.
Is the QX-5 directly driving a an amplifier better than with the KX-5 preamp? We’ve tried it both ways, and the preamplifier definitely has more dynamic drive and presence, but one has to ask, “should I skip buying a preamplifier and use the cash for a better amp?” (i.e. upgrading from an Ayre V5-xe to an R Twenty series VX-R or MX-R Monoblocks). It’s honestly not all that cut and dry of an answer and we encourage people to visit our store to hear the a/b of our Ayre MX-R twenties directly driven by our QX-5 vs our QX-5 feeding our KX-5 Preamplifier and the VX-5 amplifier. Myself I would spring for the preamplifier, but that’s also just me. I NEED to have an analog input for my beloved record players and analog tuner. I’ve always felt that the a truly great preamplifier is the heart of a great system (because it is).
Moving back to the rear panel, I’ve photographed the three individual sections: the remote to the The back panel is actually so dense with input features that I separated my photos into three sections (left, middle, right).
The Left section below shows the two AES/EBU inputs. AES/EBU is a balanced 110 ohm digital interface that is generally superior in performance to either COAX or Optical. An optical word clock output allows the Ayre QX-5 to act as a master clock for your sending transport or computer. In the lower left are three S/PDIF coax digital inputs. Ayre has the BNC type connectors on them which have superior performance to the RCA type. Ayre includes RCA/BNC adapters.
Moving to the middle, we have three optical inputs and above two USB Hosts and an ethernet input. One USB host is to supply power should you wish to attach the included Wifi antenna, the other is for a USB flashdrive w/music on it. The ethernet input is to host streaming media. You can run the QX-5 wirelessless, but like all computer audio devices, a hardwire ethernet connection is the most reliable and highest performing. In the lower left corner are two AyreLink ports to connect to other Ayre components to share information and signaling, adjacent to those is a port to update firmware. You update firmware by downloading the update from Ayre’s website to a thumbdrive, plugging thumbdrive in, then turning the QX-5 on/off/on. Simple!
And finally to th
e Left side, we have the USB Audio Input which is exactly like the USB inputs on other Ayre Digital products. The USB is asynchronous which means that a clocking signal is sent from the QX-5 to the sending device. Similar to attaching a clock wire, but implemented over USB since USB is a two way cable (Coax, AES, and Optical are only one way).
The new QX-5 has an amazingly low jitter clock in it courtesy of it’s new technology Morion digital clock. This low jitter clock gives a much more analog and naturals sound to digital playback and a primary performance generators of the new QX-5. This clock performance is shared when using Asychronous USB or the external clock.
Performance in action: The new QX-5 handily outclasses the QB-9 and Codex in both digital sections and analog sections. That’s saying a lot since I feel the Codex is better than the majority of $5000 dac’s I’ve heard. Compared to current digital, the QX-5 sounds and feels like a ‘5 year’ jump in performance. Frankly there is an analog quality and naturalness to the QX5 that I don’t recall hearing from digital before. Stringed instruments are a wonder to behold (behear?).
Well, enough typing for now. I think I’m going to go listen to a little music – on our Aurender/Ayre/Magico system of course!