All ARC vs All Pass Labs vs All CJ system compare

Has any body compared a complete analog set from each of the manufactures?

Have they all ended up evolving to the same sound profile

clear, noise free, detailed, wide soundstages ?

I have a friend with an all ARC and my bet is the sound profiles/house are very close 

just wondering , so many options , so little time, not enough money






PasLabs XA25, and XP20 

Pros: XA25 was a master grip on my PMC Twenty26. Great bass mids and clear trebs 

Cons: the XP20 was boring. Despite upgrading to seal noise and dampening. Didn’t combine with Esoteric K03Xs CD/DAC, too transparent showing edginess of the Esoteric. A little underpowered for the replacement speakers (MB2SE).


ARC Ref CD9, LS10, D240

Pros best DAC CD player ever. Sweet transparent no edginess just wonderful easy to listen to for hours. Red book CD’s sound like SACD on anything else. Whole set up is EMI RFI sealed. connected using XLR, fully balanced end to end. Just amazing. Detail, tonality, punch and feel. Listening through large horns with 2x12” woofers.

Cons not much I’ve got the tv connected via optical and stream Tidal or YouTube. It sounds great too. 
Cheaper gear used and fabulous sounds.

I’ve had Luxman cd 6u, M900u, and lots of other gear. This ARC gear remains the best set up for me.




I will second the ARC CD9. A very fine player indeed.  I also love my Luxman D-03x.

Happy Listening!



I would like to see CJ build a robust Control (integrated) Amp. The CAV 45 S1/S2,  is very nice, could use a measure more Current and Power.


Happy Listening!



+1 My  Audio Research Reference CD9SE CD / DAC is the best I have heard and I have heard much more expensive.

I have been using ARC pre with Pass Labs amps since 2002.  I love the combo.  I started with the X-350 and am currently using the X260.8 mono’s with the Ref 5SE/Ref 2SE phono.  This combo was great with my Thiel speakers for many years as well as with my current Wilson speakers.  Together they make music fun.  I put about 1300 hours/year on my system per the tube counter in the Ref5 SE.  

One thing about tube vs SS amps- damping factor.  Tube amps have low damping factors compared to Pass Labs SS amps.  Matching tube amps to speakers and speaker cables is much more critical work compared to SS amps.  

I enjoyed my ARC CD player for many years.  I have heard the CD9 in an all ARC system a few times- very nice.   One day I heard someone’s system in their home who was using an Ayon CD (SACD) player.  I was very impressed.  So a couple of years ago I bought the Ayon Stealth XS and CD transport.  I was blown away by the sound.  I also found a good power cord increases the pleasure even more.  The Stealth XS uses 6n6P tubes vs. the Stealth which has the familiar 6H30 tubes in the output.  They also use 6Z4 tubes in the rectifier.  Avon’s top CD player uses 6H30 tubes in the output section.  I opted to go the separate DAC route although it is a bit more money.  The Stealth DAC is also a preamp but I like the sound better going through the Ref 5SE.  The Ref 5SE expands the soundstage width and depth.