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Some Impressions of Ayre QB-9

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
I've lived happily with the legendary Benchmark DAC1 and HD650 for over 4 years, until I married with an HD800 recently. Suddenly I felt the old DAC1 as the bottleneck. The Uber resolution of HD800 somehow magnifies the shortcomings of DAC1.

I narrowed my path of upgrade to Weiss DAC2 and Ayre QB9. I have no way to audition either, so I have to seek help through the reviews and comments from the net. Finally I was under the impression that QB9 might be more to my taste and I took the bite.

And what a sweet bite it is! The initial impression comes that the QB9 has much better resolution than DAC1. I hear things I've never heard before. But that's just the start of the sweet things to come. I'm now closer to the performers. I feel their presence. I see their movements, the breath, the swing of the body, the vibrato.......the music is much alive than before.

Alive but not stimulating in a aggressive way. The biggest difference with DAC1 is that QB9 coexists with me more naturally and peacefully. The sound surrounds me and imbues me like water and air.

I've never cared much for violin in the past, but now I like it more and more because of QB9. The sound of violin used to be saw like, harsh and piercing, but now it's like gold line tossed high towards the sky, smooth and beautiful, shining but not blinding.

I whole-heartedly recommend QB9 to those who are in their long (and often frustrated) pursuit of the bliss of computer audio. The time might have really come. I'd also very much look forward to your impression and experience of QB9. Good things should really be shared.

I use 8PR as head amp. It's a very nice DIY tube amp which goes with HD800 beautifully.
post #2 of 38
Thread Starter 
no one using this baby? oh no............
post #3 of 38
Nice short list, QB9 and DAC2.

I have a similar experience with a Weiss DAC 2 that just arrived. Still waiting for the headphone amp, but couldn't wait and set it up in my office with a MacPro Firewire connection and an entry NAD/ PSB system - I can't turn it off

I can't wait to hook it up to Qualia's.
post #4 of 38
I will be auditioning this in local store that stocks this. I will be bring my Ref1 along with HD800 and do some serious AB-x testing. I will be going with googlephone once his time loosens up a little.

I don't think I will hear much improvements from my setup, but I am all for surprises.
post #5 of 38
Sounds like a fun listening session. Make sure one of your options is listening to the Weiss unit through the Firewire connection.
post #6 of 38
Thread Starter 
That would be very interesting. Please keep up posted!

I was considering Ref1, but finally think it needs a good transport and is not suited to computer audio. If I am proven wrong, I'd be happy to replace my QB9 with Ref1.

Quote:
Originally Posted by tosehee View Post
I will be auditioning this in local store that stocks this. I will be bring my Ref1 along with HD800 and do some serious AB-x testing. I will be going with googlephone once his time loosens up a little.

I don't think I will hear much improvements from my setup, but I am all for surprises.
post #7 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by yanfeng View Post
That would be very interesting. Please keep up posted!

I was considering Ref1, but finally think it needs a good transport and is not suited to computer audio. If I am proven wrong, I'd be happy to replace my QB9 with Ref1.
Ref1 already has reclocking DSP-1 board inside. This is why I think there wouldn't be much of upgrade at all for me. I also use the M2tech Hiface which should have a pretty good jitter to begin with.

On the other hand, this will simplify my setup, so that's why I am interested for the most. This will be quite a huge cash sink though. At $2500 which is nearly $1000+ more than Ref1, I don't know if i really wanna make an upgrade even if there is a 'little' upgrade. That 'little' upgrade would mostly be inaudible in normal listening environment.

But, I will keep you guys updated once I audition one.
post #8 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by tosehee View Post
I will be auditioning this in local store that stocks this. I will be bring my Ref1 along with HD800 and do some serious AB-x testing. I will be going with googlephone once his time loosens up a little.

I don't think I will hear much improvements from my setup, but I am all for surprises.
I've compared the Ref1 and the OMZ DAC/HEADAMP with my HD800. I find the Ref1 has tube-like signature which softens the music. This can be disturbing in some music titles, particularly hardrock and fast classical genres.

Another observation is that the performance depends on the S/PDIF source including the cable. I find my $600 Lynx AES16e offers the "best" sound quality through AES/EBU (or S/PDIF) in computer audio. However, this is still inferior to a high-end CD transport.

I find Firewire DACs, particularly my Metric Halo ULN-2, sound the best to my ears. The asynchronous Firewire architecture offers the lowest jitter in digital audio reproduction. However, the other parts of the DACs also make them differ in sounds.

Ayre QB-9 (with async usb) should also offer very low jitter but definitely sounds different. Pick the one you like.

IMHO, we should stay away from S/PDIF DACs to avoid its intrinsic problems that are hard to control, i.e. jitter.
post #9 of 38
Everyone has different opinions, and definitely different hearing capability.

With that said, I ABx Ref1 with Logitech Transport with no upgrade at all. and I found the difference to be 'minimal' at best.

The source was network streamed for Logitech Transporter and I used the m2Tech hiface as well as using Transporter as a Source (which should have a very good jitter performance).

In the end, the difference is pretty much 'none' to MY ears. If I were to buy a new DAC, I don't mind buying Transporter nor Ref1.

What I am getting at is, the jitter performance is pretty much non-issue with reclocking dsp-1 inside the Ref1. It's mostly the power supply and the CHIP used inside the DAC.

If you can hear the jitter difference between 90ps and 200 ps, it's totally different ballgame, I suppose.
post #10 of 38
Thread Starter 
Oh my God, STEREOPHILE 2009 Product of the Year:AYRE QB-9 USB DAC.

"But it was the Ayre QB-9 that had Wes Phillips shouting hallelujah. Once Wes had gotten a taste of his favorite recordings in their native resolutions, he couldn’t go back. Dude wanted more and more and more of that large, corporeal, electrifying, 24-bit rush. And it wasn’t just a physical thing—it was emotional. Wes felt closer to his favorite performers than ever before. But if you’re one of those who couldn’t care less about physical and emotional hoohah, the QB-9 can drop the science on you, too. Ask John Atkinson. While conventional USB DACs normally suck—hard—on the jitter front, the Ayre’s asynchronous USB mode worked like a charm.

Well engineered, and offering outstanding performance in both the analog and digital domains, the QB-9 promises to deliver our music simply, directly, and in its purest form—more reason for celebration. Congratulations, Ayre, and thanks."
post #11 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by bordins View Post
I've compared the Ref1 and the OMZ DAC/HEADAMP with my HD800. I find the Ref1 has tube-like signature which softens the music. This can be disturbing in some music titles, particularly hardrock and fast classical genres.
I think what surprised you was hearing the music without the distortion you're used to. It's certainly not soft and rolled off, which is what some people equate with a "tube sound". Unless by "tube sound" you mean lack of distortion, as you'd get in a high-end circuit with tubes.

Quote:
Another observation is that the performance depends on the S/PDIF source including the cable. I find my $600 Lynx AES16e offers the "best" sound quality through AES/EBU (or S/PDIF) in computer audio. However, this is still inferior to a high-end CD transport.

I find Firewire DACs, particularly my Metric Halo ULN-2, sound the best to my ears. The asynchronous Firewire architecture offers the lowest jitter in digital audio reproduction. However, the other parts of the DACs also make them differ in sounds.

Ayre QB-9 (with async usb) should also offer very low jitter but definitely sounds different. Pick the one you like.

IMHO, we should stay away from S/PDIF DACs to avoid its intrinsic problems that are hard to control, i.e. jitter.
I know that Kingwa chose S/PDIF as the only input type on the Ref 1 as it had the lowest measurable jitter, and to avoid more circuitry inside the DAC that would harm the sound. It does, however, respond to improvements in the transport. That being said, I've heard much good about Firewire DACs, such as from jp# here who has much good to say about the ULN-2. I'd love it if my DAC was Firewire and not require a converter to use my my MacBook Pro.
post #12 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by yanfeng View Post
Oh my God, STEREOPHILE 2009 Product of the Year:AYRE QB-9 USB DAC.

"But it was the Ayre QB-9 that had Wes Phillips shouting hallelujah. Once Wes had gotten a taste of his favorite recordings in their native resolutions, he couldn’t go back. Dude wanted more and more and more of that large, corporeal, electrifying, 24-bit rush. And it wasn’t just a physical thing—it was emotional. Wes felt closer to his favorite performers than ever before. But if you’re one of those who couldn’t care less about physical and emotional hoohah, the QB-9 can drop the science on you, too. Ask John Atkinson. While conventional USB DACs normally suck—hard—on the jitter front, the Ayre’s asynchronous USB mode worked like a charm.

Well engineered, and offering outstanding performance in both the analog and digital domains, the QB-9 promises to deliver our music simply, directly, and in its purest form—more reason for celebration. Congratulations, Ayre, and thanks."
I stopped believing those 'fancy' words from reviewers. It doesn't mean that there is no improvements. It's just that when I hear the sound, it's not what I would describe as those reviewers.

They are talented in what they do. The actual improvements could be there, but when you look at objectively, the actual audible difference in "YOUR" setup or "THROUGH" your EARS are not as much likeable as what those reviewers said out to be.

I will be auditioning the QB-9 myself shortly, so if I change my mind, I will eat my own words and update this thread.
post #13 of 38
Thread Starter 
Has anybody compared QB9 to traditional CD players? What level is QB9 according to the standard of CD player? 2k dollar CD? 3K dollar CD?
post #14 of 38
I saw this review and it perked my attention, can't wait to hear one. I need a new dac for my main stereo (speaker) system. Just got a new dac that was in this exact price range but is connected to my headphone rig in another room. This one is incredible though and i can not imagine something sounding better. The PSaudio DLlll modded at RAM. In addition to the mod though, I had the Ultra-clock added and I had a Super-clock/and Super-clock psu added to the usb section as well....that brought the price up to this range but probably put the SQ in this range too. After hearing many different set up at Canjam, this sound was the best way for me to go on my HP setup...short of spending 15,000 on the only other thing that compared. Very curious to hear it though, hope i get a chance soon, it sounds like a great upgrade to my speaker system.
post #15 of 38
Ayre QB-9 is a nice DAC, it uses top of the line USB audio technology, better than any SPDIF.
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