New DAC, Ayre QX-5 vs Moon 680D, suggestions?


I am new to the forum. I’ve been updating my system in the last years, and the weakest link is now my DAC,  Moon 280D, the first DAC that I’ve had, and that opened the door for streaming; it has been an exciting journey.

My current system: AQ Niagara 3000, Bryston BCD-1 CD Player, Ayre V5/K5 amps, B&W 802D3 speakers, AQ cables.

I am thinking of updating my DAC, and the two candidates that I’ve considered are Ayre QX-5 (CDN $13K retail in Canada)  and Moon 680D (CDN 11.5K). I tested the Moon in my system, and I like the improvement to SQ in terms of detail and sound stage. The unit is massive, with big heatsinks that I find hard to justify, if not for marketing reasons.

In a perfect world, I would listen to the Ayre QX-5 to compare.  Unfortunately, I am not able to try the Ayre QX-5, not in my system and not in my city.

I’ve read the reviews of the QX-5 and also comments about the unit in this forum. Informed by these reviews, the fact that I really like my Ayre amps and the excellent customer service and reputation from Ayre, my inclination is to go for this one, although price is even higher.

I contacted a couple of dealers with questions about these two DACs, and their qualities. In a way, I was hoping to hear a confirmation about the QX-5 being superior. What I heard, though, was that both units are very good. I didn’t hear a clear preference for one or the other.

I mostly listen to European jazz and classical music. I am looking for a relaxed, more refined and warm sound that is not fatiguing and brings additional resolution.

My questions: have any of you had a chance to listen to these two DACs? What are the qualities that you can comment from each unit? How would you compare them?


Haven't listened to both, but do have the Ayre X5/20. V5/20, and Q5/20, a perfectly matched trio, all balanced connections of course, with AyreLink turning all on with the click of a mouse.  Roon in via Ethernet, beautiful music out via balanced analog.  What more could you want?  Well, I add a matching DX-5 DSD.  I listen mostly to jazz, baroque and classical.  The sound is refined and not at all fatiguing, yet with great detail and soundstage.  Speakers are KEF Reference 1s supplemented below 80 Hz with a pair of room corrected Velodyne HGS-15s.
If I were you, I would opt for the most current Ayre DAC technology (-if it is within your budget).
That being said, the new QB-9 Twenty or QX-8 would be my recommendation. 
(BTW- Ayre is having an upgrade promo for the QB-9. If you can score a used one, they can upgrade it for $1500 bucks).
I have just done the above and will be selling my Ayre Codex's.
Thanks for your comments. I believe the QB-9 is for USB, and I am streaming from Roon, the QX-8 is for sure an option Bob, good point.

dbphd1, it is in my list for the future to update my amps for the AX5, I'm sure it would also make an improvement. Nice to hear that we've got similar tastes in music. I notice the QX-5 doesn't do the full MQA unfold, was that a consideration for you? Cheers 
Yes, QB-9 has a single USB input. I had mine upgraded to the Twenty version and am super happy, no longer trying to figure out how to afford a QX-5. I use Roon via a NUC to stream Qobuz and play my collection. The only time I wish for a second input is the odd time I want to watch a concert video and send the audio to my stereo (I use JRiver on a different PC for this purpose). I have the QB-9 in a position that makes it awkward to swap out the USB cable. Definitely a first-world problem.

The QX-8 might be an option if budget dictates. It’s supposed to sound almost as good as a QX-5 but costs far less.

When I had Tidal, I used Roon to decode MQA files. I was not impressed. To my ears MQA sounds, not bad but, not as good as PCM versions. I dumped Tidal in favor of Qobuz. If MQA is important to you, Ayre is not your product. OTOH, Ayre is great if SQ is important.
One of my setups uses QX-5 as the Roon endpoint with balanced analog to a KX-5 preamp, the other uses ultraRendu and QB-9 DSD DAC with balanced analog to an Ayre A7e integrated. Of course, the QX-5 is the neater setup. I use both Qobuz and Tidal. With either, the sound quality ranges from superb to good, depending on the file selected. I’m not a slave to 192/24 files, because much of the music I most enjoy is only 44/24. Full MQA unfold is not a consideration for me.

The setups differ in other ways as well: DX-5 DSD to the KX-5, C-5xeMP to the A7e; VX-5 to KEF Reference 1s, A7e to LS50s. Comparisons are not of interest to me. I enjoy both setups.
Not having MQA is not a deal breaker for me. At the beginning I liked MQA, but after more research and comparing I don't see it as a recipe for better sound. In some cases it can sound better, in others it just sounds different, not necessarily better. Most important for me is the recording and a lossless format. I don't get Qobuz in Canada, so I am only using Tidal, where MQA seems to be getting more relevance, and my CD collection.

As much as I enjoyed the 680D and appreciate the SQ, I think my heart is with Ayre and will probably try to get the QX-5, or QX-8. Your comments have been useful, thanks.
at these price points, do not buy something that you cannot audition first. i strongly recommend auditioning the ayre prior to purchase, some find it a bit on the ruthless side of things. i have extensive time with both ayre and chord dacs... you should also consider the DAVE. i'm not anti Ayre, i have a QX-5/20, i also have the chord. they are quite different. each has their pros/cons. i think the ayre is the more forward and with some recordings is a bit fatiguing. but it beats the chord in other ways. also tho, a 10K dac is not 50% better than a 5K dac... theres some great DACs at lower prices too. find a way to hear some of these first.