Ayre Acoustics DX-5 Universal Disc Player

The title of this Ultimate Gear entry identifies the DX-5 as a "universal disc player"—the better to snag search-engine hits with—but American manufacturer Ayre Acoustics calls it a "universal A/V engine." Why? In addition to playing every available audio and video optical-disc format, this box also provides a USB port that allows it to act as a portal for the music files on a computer.

The DX-5 is based on the Oppo BDP-83 Blu-ray player, but this is not another Lexicon BD-30 debacle—other than the transport and controller, everything is designed and built by Ayre. Significant upgrades include a new power supply; zero-feedback, fully balanced circuitry; ultra-low-jitter clock; and Ayre's minimum-phase reconstruction filter. An asynchronous USB port can support resolutions up to 24-bit/192kHz.

Two HDMI outputs include one for audio and video and one for audio only. The A/V output offers a wide variety of selectable formats, such as video and PC levels; YCbCr 4:4:4 and 4:2:2; 8, 10, and 12 bits per color; and video resolutions up to 1080p/24. The audio output supports PCM (up to 24/192) and DSD bitstreams, and all compressed formats, such as MP3, are converted to PCM.

There's also an AES/EBU digital output, but no coax or optical S/PDIF, which Ayre deems unnecessary here. On the analog side, the DX-5 provides one pair of balanced and one pair of unbalanced outputs.

Is the DX-5 worth its $9950 price tag (add $250 for black finish)? In his review for Stereophile, Michael Fremer concluded, "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.

"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." Amen, brother!