Ayon CD-10 II Signature CD/SACD player/DAC USB-24/384 DSD128 RCA/XLR SPIDF TLink

AY 03 CD CD10SIG
NZ$ 8,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Ayon Audio

"The Bugatti of Audio" - TAS: The Absolute Sound magazine

New

For years now, my reference SACD player has been the ModWright-modified Sony XA-5400ES SACD player that features a 6SN7-based tube output stage. Its biggest limitation has been the lack of a USB input which forced me to use an external DAC for playback of high-res files. And now my immediate problem became the realisation that the Sony was being sonically decimated by the Ayon in just about every category you can think of. Advances in the art have been swift over the past several years, and with the CD-10 Ayon has forged a nearly perfect marriage of digital and analog technologies...... Dick Olsher - The Absolute Sound.

The key difference between CD-10 standard and CD-10 Signature is the Signature version features Mundorf supreme capacitors. 

The CD-10 is in many respects a ground-breaking CD-Player design with an advanced technology like a single-ended triode 6H30 output stage, a new DAC design, an advanced magnetic clamp system and a switchable PCM-DSD converter. This Player is presenting a new level of musical performance with stunning vitality, clarity, natural warmth, superb dynamic contrasts and besides all of them a superb construction quality. 

In this price-range the CD-10 (excl the more expensive CD35) is one of the most innovative and tonal best CD-players ever built in the more than 35-year long CD-history.

Ayon Audio has released its CD-10 SACD/CD player, which is a re-design of the company’s CD-1sx. It has a new DAC, a switchable PCM-DSD converter, a magnetic disc clamp and a 6H30 single-ended triode output stage. ‘Ayon’s new CD-10 presents a new level of musical performance with stunning vitality, clarity, natural warmth, and superb dynamic contrasts,’ said Boris Granovsky, of Absolute HiEnd, ‘When you factor in its attractive appearance and superb construction quality, I think that in this price-range it’s one of the most innovative and best-sounding players ever built.

The CD-10 has a Class-A triode vacuum-tube output stage that’s set up for both single-ended and balanced operation and has a very low output impedance so it can drive long runs of interconnect to an amplifier and still interface correctly with either valve or solid-state amplifiers. One of the features of the CD-10 is the shortness of the signal paths inside it, thanks to completely redesigned PCBs. ‘The shorter the signal paths, the less the possibility of sonic degradation from various sources, including the wire itself,’ Granovsky told Australian Hi-Fi Magazine. ‘Even on the circuit boards, the copper traces are kept to a very minimum length and because the CD-10 is completely assembled by hand, interconnect wires are also very short.’ 

The Ayon CD-10’s circuitry has no negative feedback of any kind and includes a sequenced soft-start power-up circuit to extend valve life, along with a special ‘warm-up’ function. The low-noise R-core power transformer has separate transformer windings for the analogue and digital circuits, with valve rectification for the analog output stages, ten separate voltage regulators and both a.c. and d.c. line filtering.

Ayon says it designed the CD-10 in modular format, with plug-in PCBs so it can be easily updated in the event of technical modifications in the future. It’s also available in two different configurations, the ‘CD-10 Standard’ and the ‘CD-10 Signature’ with the Signature version featuring Mundorf supreme capacitors. 

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Features

Full-featured Tube Top Loader CD-Player
Class-A triode vacuum-tube output stage for single-ended & balanced operation

SIGNAL PATH 
We believe that the simplest circuits work best together with the shortest signal path. That is why our pre-amplifiers to date have used single-ended pure class-A circuitry. The shorter the signal path is, the less possibility of sonic degradation from various sources, including the wire itself. Even on the circuit boards, the copper traces are kept to a very minimum length. The completely redesigned circuit board provides a more straightforward and direct approach to the signal paths. 

  •  Logical sequenced soft-start power up for extended tube life
  • Warm up function
  • 0dB negative feedback  (of any kind )
  • Ultra short signal path
  • Simplest direct circuit path for purest musical sound and high reliability
  • Low output impedance for driving long runs interconnect to an amplifier, and any tube or solid state power amp
  • No solid state devices in the analog tube output (signal path )
  • Minimal discrete wiring for optimum signal propagation
  • No followers or buffers in the signal path
  • No DC servo that degrades the signal
  • High quality parts throughout
  • Fully hand assembled to insure the highest level of craftsmanship
  • Separate analog output stage for left and right channel
  • Digital input - S/PDIF (RCA), & TosLink
  • USB input – 24/384 kHz and DSD 64x/128x
  • Digital output - S/PDIF (RCA)  

POWR SUPPLY
The power supplies have been further refined with new components and enhanced AC line noise filtration. Separate power transformer windings and filters provide total isolation between the input and output stage which makes this a pure power source and it is a critical attribute for a 6H30 output stage. We also use electrolytic capacitors with much larger storage capacity to make up for the loss in filtering when using resistors in lieu of inductors. 

R-Core / Low noise – insulated power transformer for digital & analog

  • Innovative power supply provides a high speed energy delivery on transients
  • Separate and isolated power supplies over each stage of amplification
  • AC power line filter to avoid noise and hash from entering into the unit.
  • Tube rectification for analog output stage
  • 10 separate voltage regulators    

COMPONENTS
The type of parts used therefore must have a synergistic relationship to the circuit they are placed in. It is this relationship of which type of part to use where, that ranks our products apart from the mass.  

  • Selected, premium quality passive components used in all applications
  • High speed & high quality audiophile grade coupling capacitors
  • High quality special tube sockets with gold pins
  • Capacitors ( MKP 2% )
  • High quality – RCA & XLR jack
  • Gold-plated industrial grade PCB 

MECHANICAL CONSTRUCTION
The high grade aluminium chassis impart a richer, more lustrous tonality with a cleaner back-ground and less hash and grain. All brushed anodized anti-vibration-resonance and non-magnetic chassis’s are fully hand assembled to insure the highest level of craftsmanship.  

  • Backlit function buttons
  • Modified suspension system to isolate the SACD/CD-transport from mechanical  vibrations
  • Anti-vibration magnetic CD-clamp system with dark acrylic CD-LID
  • The aluminium feet are resonance absorbing types
  • Metal remote commander
  • Chassis finish: black / chrome

Specifications

Conversion rate:  768kHz / 32 bit & DSD 256
DAC configuration:  Fully symmetrical / AKM-Japan
Tube complement:  6H30
Tube complement for power supply:  6Z4 (6C4P)
Dynamic range:  > 119dB
Output level @1 kHz / 0,775V -0dB Low:  0 – 2.5 V / variable
Output level @1 kHz / 0,775V -0dB High:  0 – 5V / variable
Output impedance Single-Ended-RCA:  ~ 300 Ω
Output impedance  Balanced-XLR:  ~ 300 Ω
Digital output:  75 Ω S/PDIF (RCA)
Digital input:  75 Ω S/PDIF (RCA), USB – 24/384 kHz & DSD 64x/128x, TosLink
S/N ratio:  > 119 dB
Frequency response:  20Hz - 40khz  +/- 0.3dB
Total harmonic distortion @ 1kHz:  < 0.001%
Remote control:  Yes
Output complement:   RCA & XLR
Dimension (WxDxH) cm  48x36x12 cm
Weight:  13 kg
Specifications subject to change without notice

Reviews

Ayon Audio CD-10 Signature CD/SACD Player A Perfect Marriage of Analog and Digital
Dick Olsher

SUMMARY: For years now, my reference SACD player has been the ModWright-modified Sony XA-5400ES SACD player that features a 6SN7-based tube output stage. Its biggest limitation has been the lack of a USB input which forced me to use an external DAC for playback of high-res files. And now my immediate problem became the realization that the Sony was being sonically decimated by the Ayon in just about every category you can think of. Advances in the art have been swift over the past several years, and with the CD-10 Ayon has forged a nearly perfect marriage of digital and analog technologies. The PCM-to-DSD conversion capability is a big deal for Red Book CD playback. Add an excellent USB interface, top it all off with an all-tube analog output stage, and what you have is a superb player that I would be proud to own for years to come. Simply put, with the CD-10 you’re in for one helluva musical ride.

Established in 1991, Ayon Audio quickly outgrew its domestic Austrian market to reach a global audience with a line of tube amplifiers. Its first CD player arrived in 2006, and with Gerhard Hirt as CEO, innovative digital products have become commonplace at Ayon. 

The CD-10 CD/SACD player reviewed here represents a major re-design of the CD-1sx and is available in two versions, standard and signature. The latter is the only version sold in the U.S. It offers two additional features, a switchable PCM-to-DSD converter DSP module, and eight Mundorf coupling caps. In addition to playback of conventional music CDs, the CD-10 handles CD-R/RW discs and SACDs. With the PCM-DSD converter activated, incoming PCM signals, at any resolution, whether from the coaxial, optical, or USB digital inputs, are upsampled and converted to DSD, either DSD128 or DSD256. SACD playback can also be converted from native DSD64 to DSD256. The converter is based on AKM’s third-generation 32-bit stereo DAC, the AKM AK4490EQ, which supports up to 768kHz PCM and 11.2MHz DSD (DSD256). It is complemented by the AK4136 32-bit sampling rate converter IC. To my mind, it’s the DSP module that elevates the CD-10 to spectacular sonic heights.

So, who needs a CD-SACD player nowadays, you ask? Probably no serious computer audiophile who enjoys a hi-res streaming service such as Tidal in conjunction with Audirvana software. But for someone like me, with a substantial silver-disc collection and zero interest in spending days ripping my collection to a hard drive, the CD-10 is a perfect device. In the interest of full disclosure, I should mention that I had ripped a small subset of my CD collection onto my Mac BookPro, but that only captured the tip of the iceberg and still leaves my SACDs in search of a player. To be honest, I derive a measure of satisfaction from playing back music the “old-fashioned” way. 

The CD-10 is designed around a top-loading Philips Pro 2 transport—the best there is. The transport is outfitted with an anti-vibration magnetic disc clamp, and the loading well is covered by an attractive acrylic lid. With its substantial brushed-aluminum chassis and overall heft, the initial impression is of a high-quality product. It’s also reassuring to know that each unit is hand-assembled in Austria and undergoes substantial quality control before leaving the factory. 

 The Ayon checks a lot of boxes for me and it feels a bit surreal, almost as if the unit were designed to meet my priorities. First and foremost is the Class A vacuum-tube triode-based output stage for both single-ended and balanced operation. For many years I have advocated for a tube gain stage or buffer at the output of a CD player as an ideal means of defanging digital nasties. Ayon gets it. A single Russian 6H30 dual triode is used per channel. This is a very linear and robust tube with a 4-watt plate dissipation and low plate resistance, making it a good choice for voltage amplification and line-drive applications. Not only that, but the output stage is also tube-rectified using a Chinese 6Z4 which is similar to a 6X4 but with a different pinout. In my experience, tube rectification is a critical factor in achieving a vintage sonic character. I am suspicious of any tube preamp that lacks tube rectification, and to be brutally honest, such preamps usually fail to deliver the sort of big-tone balance that pushes my buttons.

Nominal output level is switchable on the back panel between low (2.2V) or high (4.4V). Either balanced (XLR) or single-ended (RCA) analog outputs may be selected. The output impedance is approximately 300 ohms, sufficiently low to drive long interconnect runs. When the unit is powered up it enters a warm-up cycle allowing tube filaments to reach their operating temperature before high voltage is applied—a good idea for extending tube life.

Ayon strongly discourages tube rolling because factory tubes are rigorously selected and tested to meet performance specifications. Tube life expectancy is said to be about 8000 hours of use, though retubing is recommended after about 5000 to 6000 hours of operation. If you ever need to change tubes, be sure to check out the online video that shows you how (http://vidmails.com/v/wGRyTqamWt). It doesn’t appear to be a difficult process, just time-consuming, as it requires the removal of 18 screws. The tubes vent to the exterior though two small grilles on top of the chassis. It would be a bad idea to cover these up, or in general, to place anything on top of the chassis.

The AKM DAC includes a digital volume attenuator ahead of the delta-sigma modulator. As implemented in the CD-10, it increments the volume in 1dB steps from 0 (maximum volume) to -60dB (minimum volume). Channel balance is adjustable in six steps from 0dB to -6dB. In the 0dB position the audio signal is bypassed directly to the analog output stage. Two analog output modes are selectable from the back panel: normal and direct amp. For direct connection to a power amp, it’s best to use the direct-amp mode because the digital volume control is automatically set to -40dB during each power-on sequence, and the remote control’s volume-bypass function is locked out in order to protect the speakers. 

This onboard volume control is darn good. In my listening tests I used both modes and discovered that I always preferred the direct mode to routing the output through an external volume control, whether it be a line preamp or autoformer volume control. The levels of transparency and clarity achievable via the digital control were superior (at least at normal listening levels) to any of my external analog volume controls. And that was how I spent most of my time with the CD-10. It’s good to know that if you’re strictly a digital guy, the CD-10 can serve as a complete digital front end, and that you don’t really need the added expense of a line preamp and extra interconnects.

I should mention one more setting option, and that has to do with the DAC’s digital-filter roll-off. Filter 1 setting corresponds to a slow roll-off, while the Filter 2 position gives a fast roll-off. To my ears, Filter 1 sounded much smoother and that’s where it stayed for the remainder of the review period. The crux of the CD-10’s sonics has to do with the PCM-DSD converter. I realize that in some circles upsampling—and data manipulation in general—is controversial due to potential re-quantization noise, but my policy is to take an agnostic stance with regard to such technical issues and simply let my ears be the judge. It didn’t take me long to fall in love with the converter. To be clear, I’m describing here the sonic impact of converting a Red Book 16/44 PCM signal from CD playback or USB input to DSD before conversion to analog. When it came to high-res 24/192 files via USB input, the converter didn’t help matters. In fact, it resulted in grainer textures. In this case, just switch the converter off. In general, high-res files via USB input never sounded any better due in part to the excellent XMOS xCORE USB interface. Similarly, SACD playback sounded artificial when upsampled to both DSD128 and DSD256, as transients became somewhat etched.

Think of the converter as a useful tool strictly for Red Book PCM. Time and time again my ears preferred the DSD256 conversion, and the effect wasn’t subtle at all. In the process, the upper octaves sounded airier and more spacious, allowing greater access to the inner recesses of the soundstage. Sheen of stringed instruments and upper registers of brass gained in textural purity and clarity. This greatly benefitted Jacqueline du Pré’s passionate rendition of the Dvorák Cello Concerto in B Minor [EMI CDC-7 47614-2], a 1970 recording in Chicago’s Medinah Temple, a favorite recording venue for the Chicago Symphony Orchestra in the 1970s. Commissioned by the Shriners in 1912, this Middle Eastern extravaganza included a large auditorium. I have my doubts about its excellence as a recording space, and the fact that the building now serves as a Bloomingdale’s furniture store attests to that. Since this recording, like most at the time, used a mix of spot mics together with overhead mics, the success of the recording was very much in the hands of the recording engineers. Du Pré’s spot mic seems to be a tad too distant during standard PCM playback. Upsampling to DSD256 brings the cello slightly forward and into greater relief, benefiting du Pré’s style of intensely passionate abandon. 

To my surprise, image focus improved versus the raw 16/44.1 program material, making individual voices in an ensemble much more distinct and lifelike. The CD-10 was able to dig deeply into a complex mix with exceptional resolution of instrumental lines. Despite its tube output stage, bass authority was undiminished relative to a solid-state analog output stage. No need for any apologies here. One clear benefit of the tube output stage was enhanced soundstage dimensionality, and in particular, a clear perceptual gain in depth perspective. As EveAnna Manley is fond of saying, “tubes rule,” and that’s true when it comes to 3-D dimensionality, and it’s a major reason to continue embracing tube technology, as Ayon has done, in an increasingly digital age.

The overall effect of the PCM-DSD converter on 16/44.1 music may result in a discernible tonal balance shift, since the presentation tends to have a livelier and more vibrant character. In the context of a system with a neutral to slightly laid-back balance, the impact of the converter would be most welcome. I certainly embraced it with open arms and found it to make for a much more engaging musical experience during PCM signal playback. However, a system that is already voiced toward the brighter side of neutral may be nudged further in that direction.

Opus 3 Records’ Jan-Eric Persson was kind enough to send me a copy of the Eric Bibb & Needed Time Good Stuff SACD, a must-listen for any Eric Bibb fan. Since its inception, Opus 3 has been committed to single-point stereo recordings using a Blumlein array. Here an AKG C-24 vacuum-tube microphone (complemented by a Neumann U-89 for bass only) is used to perfection to capture the sound of a small ensemble. Playback through the CD-10 resulted in an exceptionally wide and linear soundstage, extending laterally well beyond the speakers, while image outlines were arranged with believable spatial extension.

For years now, my reference SACD player has been the ModWright-modified Sony XA-5400ES SACD player that features a 6SN7-based tube output stage. Its biggest limitation has been the lack of a USB input which forced me to use an external DAC for playback of high-res files. And now my immediate problem became the realization that the Sony was being sonically decimated by the Ayon in just about every category you can think of. Advances in the art have been swift over the past several years, and with the CD-10 Ayon has forged a nearly perfect marriage of digital and analog technologies. The PCM-to-DSD conversion capability is a big deal for Red Book CD playback. Add an excellent USB interface, top it all off with an all-tube analog output stage, and what you have is a superb player that I would be proud to own for years to come. Simply put, with the CD-10 you’re in for one helluva musical ride.

no one else but Ayon, in its newest player, decided to revive the feeling of vinyl-like intimacy and joy coming from listening to music provided in this way.
Marcin Olszewski & Jacek Pazio

SUMMARY: So for whom is the Ayon CD-10? Against appearances not for the lovers of digital media, trying to have more and more resolution and detail, but it is for all those people, who have thousands or tenths of thousands of CDs, and want to gain the option of using files, via the USB port, or SACDs, while not losing the basic CD playing capability. Due to this move, Gerhard Hirt can gain more followers, from music lovers, who treat all novelties like something interesting, but not the main aspect of what they want, while still being able to use them relatively effortlessly. The CD-10 shows, that those are not so difficult to use, and you can use those for intensification and help while listening to music, what results in only positive impressions.

Opinion 1
REVIEW: Like Mark Twain used to say, the rumors that the CD is dead are vastly exaggerated. After first hype about the files, and the return of the vinyl, it turned out, that there is also place for the silver disc. But to draw such conclusions you did not only need to watch the market closely, but also work hard in the meantime, to have something for your customers to buy during awakening. Currently we can split the manufacturers into those, who are doing just what they did – like Accuphase, those who dropped the idea of the CD, and are marginalizing themselves, what was best shown by Linn, and finally those, who can draw profit from both parts of the market, like Naim, and the hero of our test, the Austrian Ayon. If you start to think now, what novelty Gerhard Hirt has come up with, then I will briefly explain, that he accumulated his portfolio a bit, while bringing it to a higher level, as he exchanged the popular models 07s and 1sx for one new construction, called CD-10, which we will test now.

Moving to the external description paragraph, again, I cannot come around the thought, that everybody sees how it looks like. The Austrian CD players are similar to each other like identical twins. This time we have a perfect reproduction of the looks of the 1sx, even at the level of the smallest details. Exactly the same size, weight and chassis, the same display (at least when it is powered off) placed in the center of the fascia, the same row of navigational buttons surrounded with red light rings and the bullseye drive on top, with the heavy acrylic cover. Only the back plate has a few, rather insignificant changes, brought by the irrational addiction to safety of European bureaucrats. Please imagine, that for EU safety people, the red LED indicating proper polarization of the power cord was something deadly unsafe, as when you smash it (using a sledgehammer for example) this could result in the person operating the hammer to be electrocuted. Following this trail, they should rather prohibit the usage and sale of hammers, as those can hurt people, if you aim them wrongly. This is really something.
Fortunately, all the other sockets and switches did pass the Brussels sieve, so when we decide to own the 10, we will have line inputs in RCA and XLR standards, a set of digital inputs in the form of a coaxial, optical and USB ports, there is also a coaxial output, if you would wish to connect a digital recorder or DAC to the unit. There are also the switches used to set the amplification, output and operating modes.
According to official communiques of the manufacturer, the price and chronology the CD-10 is a successor to the CD-1sx model, but it does also use solutions applied in the flag model CD-35. So how this mixture work? Quite convincing I must say, as logic would tell us this model is an evolution of the CD-1sx platform, while used technology shows the CD-10 as the CD-35 “younger” brother. Don’t you believe me? There is proof for that. The digital to analog conversion is done in 10 using the same AKM 4490 DAC chip as in the flag model, which has a 32 bit 768 kHz resolution and also handles DSD256 signals natively. The difference is, that in the 35 there were two chips applied, while in the 10 only one is used. Of course its implementation required a significant rework of the digital section “borrowed” from the 1sx, which was based on the ESS 9018 chip. However there are elements of the puzzle, which work well for years now, so there was no need to modify them on this level. So in the output stage we will find the 6H30 triodes and the single 6Z4 (6C4P) in the power supply.

So how does this combination of new with the old fare sonic wise? Without too much ado, I will say … it was surprising. It cannot be denied, that during the last years Ayon worked out their own “sound school”, combining out of the ordinary dynamics and resolution of the “dense” formats with saturation and juiciness attributed to the tubes employed in the output stage. A very palpable confirmation of the said definition was the CD-35, which debuted at the end of last year, which turned out to be deadly contender for the competition, as paying more for players which did not sound better, but only matched the performance of the Austrian device, would be perceived as extravagance and quirk. Yet, the CD-10 shows a more lyrical and old-school side of the silver discs. You could say, that using the newest technologies, it cultivates the sound aesthetics of the TDA 1541 chips. Yes, dear Readers, no one else but Ayon, in its newest player, decided to revive the feeling of vinyl-like intimacy and joy coming from listening to music provided in this way. So we have homogeneity, almost indecent saturation and euphony, things, you might think, other manufacturers forgot about. In this way, playing practically every disc, we become overwhelmed with the musicality, delightful and addictive, which moves us from the level of critical listening to indiscriminate joy of listening. Instead of concentrating on nuances and splitting of the sound into atoms, we put on the hedonist pleasure of following the melodic line and enchanting vocals. Surprisingly, when we push ourselves to coldly look at the sound reproduced by the newest Ayon player, we still have splendid resolution, gradation of planes and focusing of the virtual sources, but those elements were put together in a different way than it was the case before. This time the midrange plays the most important role, and similar to what was happening with the very musical 07, also in the newest player, the extremes of the sound spectrum accompany it, amending the midrange. And it does not mean, that the treble is veiled, or that the bass is of “bookshelf speaker” kind, but from the first notes you can hear, that those are not most important here. To see this, you do not need to search for any special, audiophile samplers. The Leonard Cohen epitaph, “You Want it Darker” is absolutely sufficient, the vocal of the late singer is presented so close and intensive, that even drinking tea during listening seems to be out of place. It is very dense, organic and analog, similar to how the mentioned TDA 1541 sounded. The emotions are key, and they make the show. This is not just reproduction, this is something much more palpable – we are part of the event. So we stop worrying about the format, date of issue, or “density” of the source material, we just use our intuition and heart in our musical searches.
Even the seemingly inhumane and cacophonic “Rust in Peace” Megadeth showed its, unknown to date, lyrical face with nicely lowered center of gravity, and with communicative, yet somehow toned down treble. There was no more of the irritating ticking and cymbals sounding like they were made from scrap metal by a home-brew handyman. Their parts were fuller, more saturated, and at the same time they were a bit shortened, well … on this level, there is always one thing for another, although I must say, that the compromise achieved by the manufacturer will probably satisfy a vast array of customers.
It is also worth mentioning, that the available filters, as well as upsampling (in the Signature version) to DSD work a bit softer and with more finesse than in CD-35, where activation of the upsampling is like going from warp 1 to warp 6 in Star Trek – where warp 1 is equal to light speed, while warp 6 is 392 times as fast. Here everything is toned down, softer and fluid.

So for whom is the Ayon CD-10? Against appearances not for the lovers of digital media, trying to have more and more resolution and detail, but it is for all those people, who have thousands or tenths of thousands of CDs, and want to gain the option of using files, via the USB port, or SACDs, while not losing the basic CD playing capability. Due to this move, Gerhard Hirt can gain more followers, from music lovers, who treat all novelties like something interesting, but not the main aspect of what they want, while still being able to use them relatively effortlessly. The CD-10 shows, that those are not so difficult to use, and you can use those for intensification and help while listening to music, what results in only positive impressions.

..............Marcin Olszewski

Opinion 2

You may say what you want, but in contrast to some opinions, appearing on internet forums, the hero of the test, a product from Ayon Audio, is known amongst music lovers in three ways. First of all, a lot of people amongst lovers of good sound, confirms the high quality of sound produced by Ayon. Secondly, due to the contemporary design, which should fit almost all interiors, the brand is immediately recognizable from the first look. And thirdly, Gerhard Hirt does not just make small changes to already known, and well received products, but he is working hard, all the time, to create better and better products. And due to this work, we are able to showcase on our pages new products very often. And as this happens so often, I will not talk about the history of the brand (as you know it by heart) but will jump immediately to the main thing – the new version of the not so expensive CD and SACD player, which can also function as a DAC, called CD-10, and was supplied for testing by the Polish distributor Nautilus.

I think I do need to tell, how Ayon looks like, so I will do it very briefly. Starting from the chassis, we have a very solid, quite flat box, with rounded edges, finished in brushed aluminum. An important information for all potential users is, that similar to all its predecessors, the tested device is a top-loader, what limits the usage of low shelves in your rack. Writing about the front, I must tell, that there is only a red display there, as well as the company logo and model name. Going to the back, we have on top the opening for loading the discs, covered by a round, acrylic cover, while more to the front, there is a line of eight function buttons present. On the back, besides the typical XLR/RCA outputs, there are also digital connections: Coaxial, Optical and USB. But this is not all, there is also an IEC power socket and three switches, which allow us to select the gain, analog output selection as well as activation of the preamplifier mode. The final information would be about the location of the main power switch – on the bottom of the player, close to the front left foot.

What do you think, what did the CD-10 offer in terms of sound? You might be surprised, as it was quite a lot, and only your preference will decide it this goes for the good or for the bad. So what am I talking about? The Austrian brand steps a bit away from the way of very precise drawing of virtual sources, it had for years, and which was regarded by many as the player playing too offensively. The newest source is drifting towards musicality, probably expected by some people. This is so visible, that for the first time, while playing with a device from this manufacturer, I drowned in music without looking into its deepest secrets and without splitting the sound into basic items. I just put a disc with my beloved ancient music into the player, and tasted the reality of the church music. No vocalization or timbre of instruments could throw me off the following of the melodic line. Also when I deliberately decided to move away, then it turned out, that everything is a bit denser and more colorful than I have presented at daily basis, but this is so subtle, that it does not heat the atmosphere too much. Just a reminder – my set does have such combination of color and smoothness as basis for its existence, so it clearly shows the good taste of the Austrian player. Ok. But how other genres fare? If we take ECM Jazz as the second genre, then the only minor discrepancies to the truth were with the cymbals being more golden and heavier, as well as the contrabass playing with a bit more of the body in the sound. Everything else, including the instruments like a saxophone, guitars, or even the base drum, which was a bit heavier due to the Ayon manner of sounding, were only making us happy from each note generated. Of course this material showed us, that there is always one thing for another, and all virtual sources, although very clear, and precisely positioned on the wide and deep stage, were drawn with a bit less sharp. But like mentioned before, this effect resulted in deepening the musicality of the set, and did not create any slowdown, which could be seen as mudding of the sound. And when I stroke my ego with ancient music, which fit the manner of sounding of the CD-10 perfectly, I had the idea, to put a disc with electronic music in the player. The result? Well, that was the only kind of music, which could create tension, that cannot be overcome, at least for fans of such music. Why? You probably know, that this music has lots of clipping and whizzes, which can be harmful for our ears. Yet the spirit of musicality did not fully harmonize with this tendency of sound attack. Our hero, tried to do its best, to reproduce most of the sound, from the midrange to the lower ends, but on top, it did soften even the most brutal whizzes. Frankly speaking, I perceived it as very pleasant, but orthodox lovers of electronic music, should try out, before purchasing, if this way of polite presentation is acceptable for them. If a tad of nobleness does no harm, all other parts of the sound spectrum will rather fit their expectations.

Maybe this will sound dubious, but till recently, during testing of players from Ayon, I was always thinking, how far the constructor will go in reproducing the clarity of the virtual sources. Of course, this is important, but the drawing line being too fine may cross the borders of good taste. Thankfully this never happened during the tests we conducted, but I think, that from some time, there was a group of people, who expected from the brand, to go a bit in the direction of saturation. And I do not know how, but I think, that their dreams were fulfilled by this CD player. Which group of people could this be? The first beneficiaries will be listeners, who have too offensive playing systems. A second, bigger group (it is clear, that every system means different expectations, and different impressions of the same device) I would see in people already having very musical systems. Why? Well, even in my, genetically very colorful system, the test went very well, and this gives a lot of margin from any failure for many of users interesting in this player. And even if during your personal testing you will not see big changes in terms of quality of the sound, please remember, that the Ayon CD-10 has the ability to play SACDs and play dense files. And following this track, maybe not from personal experience, but I know (I am a dinosaur using the analog and I am emotionally not yet prepared to play files), that a modern audiophile, or music lover, is not comfortable without access to streaming services. And the tested player eliminates any problem with that.

...........Jacek Pazio

The new CD-10 is primarily a CD player, although it also formally plays Super Audio CDs. It has adjustable output, tubes on board and DSD upsampling. In addition, it doesn't cost a fortune. We check whether it is really something special.
Marek Dyba,

SUMMARY: In analogy to tapes or vinyl records, Ayon CD10 enables the user to have close, highly emotional contact with music. Then it turns out that the bass, midrange, resolution, dynamics, i.e. all those aspects of the sound that we usually subject to selective analysis, disappear from the list of priorities. Please understand me well - none of these basic aspects of the sound is bad here: it is good, very good, and for some even excellent. However, I have the impression that in the case of CD-10 the final result is the most important. It is he who makes many audiophiles, especially lovers of analogue media, including me, put the CD10 in a row with even twice as expensive competitors. It really is rare for me - a fan of an analogue - to feel the desire to own it after a CD player test. CD-10 is just one of those cases. (MD)

REVIEW: At the end of last year, Ayon launched a CD-35 player. In a sense, it heralded a new opening of the brand to digital sources. The Austrian company finally decided to use the full capabilities of StreamUnlimited drives, giving the opportunity to read Super Audio CDs. Another, perhaps even more important, novelty was the PCM to DSD signal converter, also developed in cooperation with former Philips engineers. It was this second element that made this compact, but not at all expensive, compact player a sales hit of Ayon. His boss, Gerhard Hirt, admitted that he was modelled on the sound provided by the best possible medium, i.e. the analog mother tape. To achieve this, Hirt used the DSD format. However, we have PCM recording on CDs, so the only way was DSD upsampling. Work on the appropriate DSP system lasted several years. The CD-35 and then also the S-10 streamer were Ayon's first devices to use this solution.

No matter how excellent the 35 player is, the expenditure is over 40 thousand. For most audiophiles, the zloty (this is the Signature version) is a complete abstraction. That is why a much cheaper CD-10 player was created, which formally replaces the CD-1sx model. Similarly to the previously mentioned, two versions of the device are available: basic and Signature. The latter is equipped with the mentioned DSP upsampler and higher class Mundorf coupling capacitors. We just tested it.

Building

Nothing has changed from the outside. The company consistently adheres to its characteristic design. So we have the same black, solid, anodized aluminum housing with rounded corners, topped with a massive round collar, which is the support for the plexiglass cover, which we cover the plate with. The CD-10 - like its predecessors - is loaded from above. Press the disc with a small disc with the Super Audio CD logo. The reader comes from the already mentioned StreamUnlimited. The workmanship is, as usual, very good. The player weighs less than 11 kg (2 kg less than specified by the manufacturer).

Along the front edge, on the top plate, there is a row of buttons to operate the drive, select input, play format and volume (all these functions can also be operated with a metal remote control). A clear display with red characters displays information such as the number of songs, the number and duration of the song being played, as well as the output level - this can be adjusted. Around there are a lot of smaller, illuminated indicators informing about many functions, but from a distance of a few meters they can hardly be read. We will learn in detail whether a CD or SACD (layer) is played, which of the two digital filters (slow rolloff or fast rolloff) has been selected, whether PCM conversion is enabled -> DSD (or DSD upsampling) and what DSD sampling has been chosen (5, 6 or 11.3 MHz), or the sampling frequency of the played file in PCM format. The main switch, as usual with Ayon, is located on the bottom of the device, near the front edge. It is worth mentioning here that the CD-10 is extremely power-hungry. When idle (with the record still) it consumes almost 55 W of power, which is definitely more than the average amplifier.

During the test, I corresponded with Gerhard Hirt, who clearly emphasised the fact that the CD-10 is by definition a compact disc player. So why the SACD logo on the disc clamp and information about compatibility with this format in the technical specification? The reason is quite prosaic - no dedicated chipset to read Super Audio CD. As you know, Sony has ceased production of this system. Some manufacturers of high-end players have started to deal with this problem (even Marantz), but the costs of implementing the new solution are too high to make sense for them in relation to two models of players whose sales - let's not fool ourselves - are still small. The StreamUmilited reader reads the SACD layer, but it cannot do it fully. So we have a kind of prosthesis. The main functional handikap are artificially inserted gaps between songs (a problem known from early network players). During the test, I also discovered that on two discs (from just a few SACDs that I have) the player happened to automatically jump to the next song after just a few seconds of reading. So do not focus on listening to recordings in the DSD format - unless you use the USB input, which provides such a possibility. Windows computer users must install the driver available on the manufacturer's website to take full advantage of the USB input.

In addition to the USB input, the rear panel of the device has two digital inputs (optical and coaxial), one digital output and two sets of analog outputs: RCA and XLR. There are also three small switches. One selects the active analog output, the other - amplification (two settings), the third - disconnect or activate the built-in volume control. If you control the tip directly (i.e. level control is active), you can use two more (separate for each channel) switches on the bottom of the device. This is in case it turns out that the noise of the lamps is excessive. Then you can lower it (at the cost of a reduced output level).

Electronic system

The architecture of the interior of the CD-10 strongly resembles previous models of CD players from this manufacturer. Almost the entire system (apart from tube buffers) was assembled "upside down". It consists of a large number of plates connected with each other with no less numerous wire bundles. The manufacturer's materials read about the short signal path, but to tell you the truth, I'm not sure how to match these declarations to the actual state.

Just below the drive there is a servo board, and right below it - a large SMD board of the DSP system containing the familiar-looking gray "PCM-> DSD converter" (the correct processor is invisible). This element communicates with the c / a converter section using a multi-contact shielded conductive tape. Closer to the back is a small board with an XMOS 8U6C5 chip that supports USB. This part of the system uses a single bone of the 32-bit AKM AK4490EQ converter surrounded by a large group of gold electrolytes. The analog signal is already the domain of OPA134UA operational amplifiers (two pieces per channel). The culmination of this analog part are four M-Cap Supreme Mundorfa 1.5 µF / 600 VDC signal capacitors. This is where the compact and short SMD signal path ends, and the A-class tube part begins, without feedback, based on 6H30 triodes, built according to a little forced dual-mono concept. The cables connecting the mentioned analogue board to the right and left channel are definitely of unequal length, which results from the fact that the right outputs are located almost at the analogue board itself, while the left channel outputs are moved to the other side of the housing. This solution has been continued by Ayon for many years and to tell the truth, it's difficult to guess why. It is also interesting that the left channel lamp buffer plate is integrated with the high voltage power supply section for lamps (a lamp rectifier was used here), as a consequence of which another wiring harness runs back to the right channel plate. In general, it must be admitted that the system is highly dispersed, and the number and length of connections resemble more extensive amplifiers than CD players. As long as I can remember, Ayon players have always been built in this way.

The power supply operates a low-noise R-core transformer with several secondary windings for individual sections of the device. These, in turn, have individual degrees of stabilisation based on the LM317 / LM337 and LM1086 systems. (FK)

Sound

Gerhard Hirt suggests that hybrid SACD discs (and the vast majority of them) be played from the CD layer, using DSD upsampling. This recommendation is not surprising in the context of the above observations regarding reading Super Audio CD.

The test of the S-10 player showed that it is the conversion of PCM to DSD, at least from my point of view, that makes Gerhard's new proposals unique. Therefore, this time I turned on the DSD 256 conversion properly from the machine.

In spite of the creator's recommendations, I started with SACDs. The sound from the SACD layers (with DSD256 upsampling enabled, but also without it) was excellent - dense, fluid, tangible, with amazing, huge, but precise space, with large virtual sources and fine micro-dynamics. This created an exceptionally natural, engaging picture of music in which analogue tapes could be heard. Gerhard was right, however, saying that the sound that can be obtained from the CD layer (at least for those few hybrid discs - mainly samplers that I have) with upsampling turned on does not differ much from that of the SACD layer. So if you have a large collection of SACD hybrid discs, this is very good news.

The advantages of this sound are many, but in my opinion those that make the biggest difference (compared to even a lot more expensive CD players) are a fantastic way of presenting space, the size and density of virtual sources and this extraordinary organicity offered by analog media, which in however, my digital feeling is most often lacking. As for the stage, the thing is not that it is always huge, because the CD-10 has no tendency to enlarge it. It is more about realism, which begins with the size and exceptional palpability of virtual sources, showing spatial relations between instruments on stage, great reflection of room acoustics, reverbs, reverb, etc. All this together with the unique expression and energy of the sound creates unusual, immersive performances - especially when it comes to well recorded concerts. When the album was made in a small club, it is perfectly clear that the space is limited, though three-dimensional, tangible, close-up. However, when we managed to capture a huge space, say a church, the listening room grows to an unbelievable size. This is one of the very few digital sources (they also include DACi LampizatOra), which so differentiates the spatial aspect of the presentation so well depending on the recording.

This organic sound that distinguishes the CD-10 from most CD players I know of is a combination of smoothness, saturation, coherence and naturalness of the sound, so with good recordings it's easy to forget that it's just a reproduction. It is unforced playing, free, open, full of air and natural energy of instruments. Of course, this applies primarily to acoustic instruments, but - as the next auditions have shown - not only them. Reaching once again for Audionet Planck, which has given me a reference, it should be noted that Ayon does not offer such precision, such excellent separation and there is no such a fast attack and such impressive dynamics (especially on a macro scale), and the resolution is not so high. Except that these are features that at least in part can be attributed to the PCM format. All you need to do is turn off DSD upsampling, and the tested player will gain a bit in these aspects (which does not mean that it matches Planck), but this is at the expense of the features mentioned above. For me, the choice for most recordings was clear - I preferred the presentation with DSD upsampling.

There were exceptions, for example, well-realised rock pieces. In their case, the attack speed, dynamics, slightly harder bass are desirable, and the spatial aspects or naturalness of the sound - less important. Just press the appropriate button on the remote control and you get another, more suitable for such albums sound. Ayon showed a lot of dynamic possibilities in them, played energetically, managed the tempo and rhythm well, and his natural, dense way of presenting virtual sources worked well. With those less well realized (i.e. let's be honest: with the majority), the more forgiving character of the DSD format was useful, which did not reveal the obvious compression, brightness and roughness of the treble, and even a bit "made up" the spatial flatness of such recordings.

In our opinion  

In analogy to tapes or vinyl records, Ayon CD10 enables the user to have close, highly emotional contact with music. Then it turns out that the bass, midrange, resolution, dynamics, i.e. all those aspects of the sound that we usually subject to selective analysis, disappear from the list of priorities. Please understand me well - none of these basic aspects of the sound is bad here: it is good, very good, and for some even excellent. However, I have the impression that in the case of CD-10 the final result is the most important. It is he who makes many audiophiles, especially lovers of analogue media, including me, put the CD10 in a row with even twice as expensive competitors. It really is rare for me - a fan of an analogue - to feel the desire to own it after a CD player test. CD-10 is just one of those cases. (MD)

Ayon always manages to stir my music-loving soul,.... fabulously well-textured and sure-footed, organic and emotionally captivating, highly dynamic and rhythmically infectious, the CD-10 II pushes all the right buttons.
CHRISTIAAN PUNTER

CONCLUSION: Even in the Standard version, the CD-10 II impressed me enormously. Regular readers will know that I am used to listening to very esoteric gear but somehow Ayon always manages to stir my music-loving soul, and, as it turns out, even with their entry-level products. Fabulously well-textured and sure-footed, organic and emotionally captivating, highly dynamic and rhythmically infectious, the CD-10 II pushes all the right buttons. It is the kind of sound that engages immediately, making one want for nothing more than just listen to more music.

REVIEW: Regular readers may have spotted it in my system on several occasions starting as early as January last year. That first exposure for the CD-10 II was the result of it having been delivered to me along with the Ayon Spirit III amplifier that was the main focus for the review. I did listen to the CD player in a limited setting and added a brief description to the amplifier review but left it at that.

Soon, I realized that there is a certain involvement aspect to a good CD player or transport that is lacking with music servers which is hard to define. It’s certainly not the rounding of transients or the overt smoothness of old and off-spec players. In fact, a good CD player or transport can sound more lively and dynamic and even more immediate than any server that I heard to date. The Ayon CD-T II Signature CD transport is the perfect example of this. When I reviewed it in 2018, I already noticed that it outperformed my music server in terms of transient sharpness and dynamic impact but by that time I was already so much invested in Roon that I did not want to go back to the CD format.

The Compact Disc is now once again the primary source in my main system for attentive listening sessions while the music server remains in use for casual listening, reviews and assessments.

CD-10 II

Now that my affection for the CD format was fully re-sparked I remembered the CD-10 II and decided to request a review sample to give it a proper review after all. The CD-10 II is the company’s most affordable CD player and this is its latest incarnation. Compared to its forebear, the MkII version incorporates a new AKM DAC design with optimized new low-pass filter technology and the power supply, the CD-mechanism and its new integral magnetic clamp were reworked. The CD-10 II is available in three versions: CD-10 II “Standard”, CD-10 II „Signature“ and CD-10 II “Ultimate”. This review covers the Standard version.

For a quality brand such as Ayon, “most affordable” does not mean cheap but the CD-10 II does actually offer an excellent price/performance ratio. For starters, it has many of the features as the higher-end Ayon models and the exact same build quality. Further, it’s not just a CD player. It is a DAC, digital preamp and CD transport in a single housing. Ayon did not slap on just any DAC, either. The CD-10 II has a Class-A triode vacuum-tube output stage for single-ended & balanced operation and it outputs to both cinch and XLR. These outputs can be selected individually or, if desired, simultaneously, using a switch on the rear. All outputs can be used at the same time but as Ayon mentions in the manual, the best sound is obtained by using one set at a time.

The coaxial, optical and (DSD 64x/128x-compatible-) USB inputs make it possible to use the CD-10 II as the control center of a minimalistic but very high-quality digital-only system.

The CD-10 II can be switched between line-out mode (normal) and amplifier-direct mode. The latter should be selected when the unit is connected directly to a power amplifier. In this mode, the player always starts at -40dB after having been switched off. Also, it disables the Volume Bypass function that otherwise can be selected from the remote control. This is a safety feature that prevents heart attacks and speaker damage.

Conveniently, the player offers dedicated back-lit volume buttons on its top panel and a permanent volume indication on its front panel. With the very comprehensive IR remote control, all of its functions can be controlled, including those for Ayon amplifiers.

As per usual for the brand, the power switch is on the bottom of the unit, near the left side of the front panel. There are two more switches on the bottom that are labeled DMP which, I assume is short for “damping”. From the factory, they are set to ON but when I tried the OFF setting the volume is lowered which seems counter-intuitive. For what the function is intended is not made clear. The manual mentions only the following: “Only for factory settings and DMP is set to ON” from which I deduct that “ON” is indeed the factory standard setting. However, I know from earlier experience with the Ayon S10 MkII that DMP reduces the level by 6dB and increases the damping factor, thereby reducing the audibility of tube-related noises. Because the level was in line with other sources, I left them at the factory settings.

Conveniently, the puck is integrated into the lid making loading a CD a breeze

The CD-10 II offers two filter options. Filter 1 is described in the manual as a slow roll-off filter that sounds smoother and Filter 2 is described as being a fast roll-off filter that sounds more analytical. From my listening tests, I think these two descriptions are probably mixed up in the manual as Filter 1 sounds the liveliest and most open in the treble to me. In any event, I preferred Filter 1 and used this for the remainder of the review.

The Ayon combo sounds great in every setup that I tried it. Here, with Wilson Benesch Precision P1.0’s.

Listening

In the secondary system, I use the Ayon Spirit III KT-150 tube amplifier with an Antipodes EX music server and an ever-changing selection of turntables as sources but, so far, without a CD player. The CD-10 II sure looks great in tandem with the Ayon amp but does it also pair well? Let’s find out! Normally, this setup is flanked by Xavian Perla Esclusiva speakers and it was with these speakers that I first listened to the CD-10 II.

Powered with a Belden 19364 cable with Bals schuko and Oyaide C-004 IEC and connected to the Spirit III with an AudioQuest Water interlink, I loaded the first CD. Even fresh from its box, the CD-10 II sounds solid, upbeat, dynamic and immediately engaging!

Break-in period

Rather than straying away from the subject, Ayon addresses the break-in period and describes precisely what happens during running in.

“The unit will not perform to its full sonic potential when first installed in your system. This is partially due to a residual polarization of the dielectric materials used on the printed circuit board such as resistors, capacitors, chokes, transformers and internal wiring. As music is played through the unit, the electrical signals will gradually anneal these materials”.

Ok, that’s something I can relate to. The manual goes on to describe the audible effects and notes that the break-in period should normally last 30-50 hours.

The regular setup with Xavian Perla Esclusiva’s

But instead of letting the unit just sit and play music, I jumped right in to hear it from the very first notes that it played. In line with what I have known to be the Ayon house sound, the CD-10 II has a bold, sonorous and earthy presentation. There are good openness, transparency and detail but it’s in many ways the antithesis of the typically overly-clean and dry super-analytical sound and that’s precisely what I like so much about Ayon. The brand always puts the music first. It starts with the bass which is solid, upbeat and remarkably powerful. The midrange does not have the kind of a ripe lushness that some tube aficionados may expect. But that overly euphoric creaminess, in my view, is a sign of bad tube design and no Ayon component that I heard has ever shown any signs of such flaws. Rather, its midrange is rich in texture and highly credible and lifelike. With this player, wooden instruments also sound wooden and real and absolutely in no way synthetic. The treble treads a fine balance between articulate precision and airy finesse. I wouldn’t say it is the most delicate or refined treble I’ve heard but it’s certainly well-integrated, not white, not blurred and not hard but just highly credible.

Switching to the USB input, the CD-10 II functions as a DAC with volume control, just as with the CD player. The input can conveniently be selected from the unit’s top panel or with the IR remote control.

Although I currently feel that CD’s bring something extra and this is the case with the CD-10 II as well, using a USB cable with the Antipodes EX, however, the CD-10 II still sounds great! There are the same robustness, the same convincing tonality and very similar textures. What’s different when fed from the server, mainly, is the way that the music flows slightly less organically and the soundstage that is now a little bit more stuck to the speakers, more static, as it were. But it’s still a darn good sound!

When you want to switch back to CD, all it takes is a press of the play button and the appropriate input is automatically selected.

And all this was with pretty much no break-in. Imagine what is still in store! Well, of course, I don’t have to imagine it as I have heard how it improves over time. What happened, mostly, is that it developed a slightly more organic nature (less rigid but still very solid and authoritative) and its soundstaging flowed more freely, the more it played. I had a feeling that it stabilized already before even reaching 30 hours.

The CD-10 II also has a digital output to use it with an external DAC. While this works as it should, I wouldn’t look at this as a means to upgrade the player down the line. First, the CD-10 II is designed to be used as an integral player and as it happens in many cases, going via SPDIF to an external DAC brings advantages as well as disadvantages. The CD-10 II really is pretty hard to beat. 

Upgrading the CD-10 II that can be done right at the moment of purchase or later on. Significant steps can be taken by opting for the Signature version of the CD-10 II which includes a PCM-DSD converter for all PCM signals and very high-grade capacitors. If this works out as it did with the S-10-II Signature, then this will dot the last remaining i’s by filling in the last bit of refinement and resolution, further elevating it closer to the reference level. If you want to take it to the max you can opt for the Ultimate version which includes the PCM-DSD converter as well as a 6H30 Tube-output-stage and very high-grade coupling capacitors and other parts. This should take it all the way up to the reference level.

If the idea is to assemble a top transport-DAC combo, now or down the road, then the CD-T II should be on the top of your list. I’ve already reviewed it and it is one of the very best transports I have heard.

Connected with Vermouth Reference power cable and FoilFlex interlinks

Power cables

While the very neutral Belden cable works well pretty much everywhere and it clearly upgrades the standard power cord that is in the box, the CD-10 II’s inherent qualities are maximized by using a high quality power cable to make the player sound even more solid, well-textured and authoritative.

More Listening

Due to speaker experiments in the main listening room, I moved the very heavy Kroma Carmens to the secondary listening room. While I know that the Kroma’s can sound cleaner when given more space, with the exception of some unneeded room gain in the lowest frequencies, the sound is well balanced, intimate, richly textured and there is a surprisingly large soundstage that even extends beyond the front wall.

I also used the CD-10 II as the central hub in the role of a CD player and preamp in a minimalistic setup as part of the atm-audio EPM-50 review and that also worked absolutely marvelously.

Much more so than with the Xavians and now using FoilFlex speaker cables and interlinks, the Kromas highlight how fabulously well-textured and sure-footed the CD-10 II is and how natural it sounds. I already heard it with the Xavians but the Kromas confirm that the CD-10 II not only has an organic and emotionally captivating delivery, it’s also highly dynamic and rhythmically infectious.

Listening to this system, it is hard to imagine one could desire for more authority or dynamic impact. But these are actually the main areas in which dearer Ayon models distinguish themselves, usually along with even bigger soundstaging. But as it stands, I already feel that the CD-10 II offers class-leading performance in its price class. Heck, I like it so much that I made it a permanent part of my system!

Conclusion

Even in the Standard version, the CD-10 II impressed me enormously. Regular readers will know that I am used to listening to very esoteric gear but somehow Ayon always manages to stir my music-loving soul, and, as it turns out, even with their entry-level products.

Fabulously well-textured and sure-footed, organic and emotionally captivating, highly dynamic and rhythmically infectious, the CD-10 II pushes all the right buttons. It is the kind of sound that engages immediately, making one want for nothing more than just listen to more music.