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Positive Feedback ISSUE43
CX-7eMP CD player
as reviewed by Dave Clark
The CX-7eMP CD player is the "entry" level player from Ayre, which has garnered high praise from the far reaches of the current known audio-world. No the 'e' does not stand for 'entry-level' but recognizes the upgrade to the power supply in terms of various proprietary technologies used in its AC side (which means effective—and hence audible—RFI filtering of the incoming AC, increased peak current delivery, and filtering of rectifier switching noise). The CX-7eMP features a new over-sampling filter is a single pass 16x 32 bit processor. The CX-7eMP also sports Ayre's own fully-balanced (as used here), zero-feedback analog output circuit along with twin massive power transformers; one supplies power for the transport and logic system while the other supplies power for the audio circuits, both analog and digital. The 'MP' nomenclature stands for their custom DSP-based "Minimum Phase" filter which employs no pre-ringing and only has one cycle of post-ringing. According to Ayre, this is literally 20 times better then the Sony/Phillips brick-wall filters which has a total of 20 cycles of ringing; 10 pre- and 10 post-ringing. Read the Ayre site, there is a ton of valuable information there for the curious audio cat) in various digital filters and makes things way better musically... in a natural way. All in all, the unit is designed and built to extremely high standards that defy the rather 'paltry'—in audio terms—price of $3500.
Out of the box, the CX-7eMP CD player clearly reveals itself as one in need of a decent amount of spinning… or break-in. Not that the player sounded bad, it just did not sound like I expected. That is a player rich in tonal rightness with a natural sense of warmth and tonal color… something airy with deep and controlled bass. Where's the palpable presence, liquidity, coherence… and that infamous Ayre pace and timing? What I heard was sort of like that… but a bit too so-so and un-natural. Nice, but gee… what's the buzz about? Time for some serious settling in… after all it is new, and it is digital, and one thing I have come to expect after all these years is that most times things need to break-in… and like a boy with a brand new pair of Sunday's best… the CX-7eMP CD player needed to do some serious walking to make a comfortable aural fit in my system.
Image by Julian Bauer
Giving the player a good 300+ hours of various music and then settling on either BDR cones or Ayre's own myrtle wood blocks as a means of some support along with either their supplied AC cord and balanced Signature interconnects or my own Kubala-Sosna Emotion or Purist Audio Proteus Provectus balanced interconnects and various AC cords (KS Emotion, Audience powerChord, etc.), I found a very nice CD player hiding under all that engineering. I will note that the choice of AC cord, interconnect, and support is more a matter of taste or preference than anything else. That is, while whatever I had here worked rather well (along with Ayre's own line) I found that for me at least—and in my system—he CX-7eMP CD player situated on several well-placed myrtle wood blocks with the Ayre Signature AC cord combined with the Purist Audio Proteus Provectus interconnects to be quite the cat's pajamas. Using soft-squishy feet or supports only made the bass sound soft and squishy. The CX-7eMP likes something firm under it to really sound its best. And so yeah as now configured and with a rather healthy period to break-in, things were really starting to cook! And heck… for only $3500! You got to be kidding me!
What I heard was a very transparent presentation (not analytical, up-front, or in your-face, though one will consider it to be perhaps more forward and lively than other players) that allowed for the music to flow in a natural sense. That is there was no artificial urgency or pretense to what one was supposed to hear – meaning that the Ayre has way less of a sonic character or signature than other players at a much higher price range (say—when compared to what I have here—$7k), let alone any player within its price range. No it is not (in tonality) a light player, nor is it a rich player, a soft player, a warm player, or a rolled-off forgiving player… no, it is an Ayre player. Meaning it is well-balanced in just about every way I can discern. But for some, the CX-7eMP CD player might be a wee bit forward even though it is definitely not so much a lean and mean thing, but it clearly has a noticeable there quality of lively-ness… an engaging openness to what is in the musical tapestry. So if you want something more colored or laidback, best look elsewhere.
The CX-7eMP CD player is honest, clean, extended, and well controlled at either end of the spectrum… and in a natural way (no bloom, boom in the bass and no etch, glare, or brightness in the treble). It has a quite right harmonic tonality that reminds me of the way more costly bigger boys I have here: the Playback Designs MPS-5, Cary 306 Professional, and EMM CDSA-SE players. Too close as in… you guys appear to be shaking a wee bit in them there boots.
Now these are all stellar players and yes, they all sound subjectively better in just about every respect than the way less expensive CX-7eMP, but damn it nips at these reference players' heels. Like I said above, the tonality is quite impressive. As is its timbre and coherence…. and the overall resolution of 'space' and spatial layering. The ebb and flow of the music—that timing and rhythmic pacing things that gets one into the music… then there is the resolution of musical details and the clarity of whatever you are focusing on at the moment that locks you onto the music… gee the CX-7eMP CD player sure plays nice.
Okay, so the Cary 306 Professional has more tonal richness and liquidity (along with more musically satisfying bass slam and control) and yeah… it is airier too. And it is harmonically warmer and fuller sounding… in a nice engaging way. But, the Cary is like $9k and has a gazillion more parts and all. Not to suggest that then CX-7eMP is harmonically washed out and thin, that it ain't. Nor is it lacking in bass slam and extension, it has all that too. It is just that the 306 is more 'fleshed' out and goes further sonically in every direction. But then again it had better be better to justify its price and all. Like being a multi-format player, having every practical digital in and more… like having its rich tonal color or hue and that bass extension down to the deepest nether regions. Slam! Yeah man! I like it. I own it.
Ditto for the Playback Designs MPS-5 which presents more information that the CX-7eMP CD player and in a way that is also more natural sounding than the CX-7eMP (the Playback Design MPS-5 is pretty close overall to what I hear in my analog set-up… and in some ways it is clearly better) and the Cary 306. The Playback Designs MPS-5 presents the music in a manner that is also bigger in every way (bigger than my other two players as well)… but the Playback Design MPS-5 is like 4 times the price of the CX-7eMP and has 100 times the amount of parts and, well… the Playback Designs MPS-5 is simply a completely different beast altogether. It is a sonic (musical) marvel and does everything so much better than anything else I have heard… but then it is $15k.
Even so the CX-7eMP CD player is quite nice and at $3500, well it is clearly a no brainer for anyone looking for a 'basic' Redbook player that it comes close to the better players on the market. Now better usually means more expensive, though more expensive does not always mean better. Yeah, more money can certainly buy 'different' but we all have experienced more costly items that just make us shake our weary heads and ask, "Why?" "What are they thinking?" "I can get more for less with this thing over here!"
Well, with the CX-7eMP CD player it is obvious that the Ayre boys were thinking how to get more for less, like how can we get something that competes musically and sonically with a $6000 player for only $3500? The CX-7eMP really does give the bigger and better players a decent run for the money while only committing the proverbial audio cliché of sins of omission—it offers a bit less of this and that, but then at that price who can really quibble? Unless you got the better players to compare it to, it ain't worth worrying about. Sit back and enjoy and think of the savings. Especially in these dreadful economic times.
Quibble? Well… the CX-7eMP CD player is clearly not aimed at anyone who wants to go the computer audiophile route as there is no 'digital in' option. There is a 'digital out', but as good as the CX-7eMP CD player is… well, why bother? If that is of interest then there is the new Ayre USB DAC. And… well, gee, that's about it. I can't think of anything else to complain about. It works, I had no operational issues, no problems, and Ayre is fully supportive of its products in terms of updates and all. I want to also mention that I have not heard earlier iterations of the CX-7 so I have idea of improvements wrought by the 'e' or MP additions. All I can say is that the player makes very nice music here and does so for a very reasonable sum. Highly recommended. Dave Clark
CX-7eMP CD player