Wavelength Proton DAC vs. Codex & Adding a server/renderer

My current system is an Rega Apollo R CDP, or Music Hall MMF-5.1 TT with Clear Audio Phono Pre into Ayre Ax-7e integrated driving Vandersteen 2Ce Signature II. I also have a Wavelength Proton DAC not currently in use, and I have a PC in the basement, not currently used for audio. 

I’d like to add the ability to stream from Tidal, or  play digital rips of my CDs. My budget will be $5k or less.

First question is this: I know that Ayre licensed the same asynchronous technology developed by Wavelength's Gordon Rankin for the QB-9 that is used in the Proton DAC. From what I've read the Codex sounds great, and I presume it must be better sounding than my Proton DAC, but I wanted some opinions on whether it's worth the extra $2k to swap in a Codex for the Proton DAC.

Second question is this: When I spoke with Ayre a few months ago they mentioned that the Ax-7e was discontinued and they were working on a new product to come out this year.  Naturally they were pretty mum. I'm thinking they are going to come out with something akin to a lower priced renderer/something like the QX-5 twenty, but maybe closer to $4k to $5k instead of $9,000.  Does anyone know, and can they share, what's in the pipeline?

The last, and big question is this:  It seems my options are:

1.) use existing Proton DAC and laptop or mini-mac. Pro: Free if laptop, Con: laptop in and out when playing, or $ for mac mini and have to upgrade it/pay for stuff it can do that I don’t need

2.) use PC, add long USB cable & USB booster + DAC + server software Pro: remote control, Con: $ of cable, USB booster, Roon, etc. and possibly Codex, it seems overly complicated/dirty

3.)  use Proton or Codex, add Streamer 

Assuming I go with option 3, I'm still left with a wide range of products.  Here is where I need the most help. I want to concentrate on SQ value. Here is what I found so far for consideration:
 Auralic Aries Mini $499; Blue Sound Vault 2  $ 1,199;  Bryston BDP-PI $1,295;  Auralic Aries $1,600; Antipodes DS-Edge  $ 1,785;  Aurender N100H  $2,700;  Bryston BDP-3 $3,500;   Aurender X100L $3,500

The Aires Mini "can do" everything I'm looking for but I wonder: how well can it do it?

I've read a lot of positive reviews of the Blue Sound, but my impression is that the company is focusing on features/ease of use, and I don't need to auto-rip.

That leaves me with the other players. So comparing within brands:
Bryston BDP-Pi vs BDP-3. I like that the 3 offers connectivity to USB or NAS storage. Otherwise they look similar. Is there significant SQ difference between the two?

Aurender N100H vs X100L, unless I'm missing something the N100H would fit me better than the X100L, since it seems the X100L only offers more storage, that I don't need.

This ultimately leads me to think my last question:  your thoughts on SQ and synergy of my system (with Codex) and either Aurender N100H, one of the Bryston BDPs, Auralic Aries or Antipodes DS-Edge.


It makes the most sense to buy a Codex.Its the best match for your amp amp speakers. Once you have that in place, your system will phase correct from source to speakers. Also, having your entire system fully balanced makes a big difference. Its much better than having just some balanced components.
I upgraded from a Rega Apollo CD player to the Rega DAC and then to the Ayre Codex, and the improvement in each step was significant.
I use the Codex with my Bluesound Node (1's). It is a great way to get music throughout the house at high quality without spending a fortune.
I agree with @sfall, if you're going with Ayre balanced, go with the Codex.  I'm fully balanced with Ayre components including Codex and Vandersteen speakers.  Very happy with the results.  
Thanks, that makes sense. I hadn't thought of the balanced vs. unbalanced aspect. Sorry, I can be dense that way. 

Anyone have thoughts on the streaming source?
I'm using the Aurender N100h to the Codex, very happy with the performance and sound quality, both with stored music and Tidal content.  Per Bob's comment, I've heard the Bluesound vault and that sounded pretty good with the Codex.  If you have the funds to spend, Aurender or Melco are both great options.