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The Return of the Titanic
The first words that come to mind when listening even casually to the CD-1 are calm, correct and concise. The CD-1 puts my ears at ease like no CD player I can remember. Not that is lacks energy. Anything but. Yet what it does lack is anything resembling digital glare. It also maximizes attributes like extension, ambience, spatial reality, back of the hall/room ambient cues and coherence, all adding up to one really sweet CD player. The CD-1 has the best handle on absolute extension of notes I've heard. From acoustic jazz trios to chamber string quartets, from vocals to acoustic bass, from electronica to post bop, the CD-1 presented all the texture, note ambience and decay, the reverberation and absolute power of the recorded event. Blood flows through the CD-1 like water gushing down an amusement park chute. I hate to say the CD-1 sounds like analog because it doesn't. It out-powers my Kuzma/Denon vinyl rig but also out-soundstages it. The CD-1 presents a grand view into and out of the music, its palpable music plane extending deep and wide in every direction. And like my latest amplification addition, the Shindo Haut Brion power amp, the CD-1 follows a musical line with the kind of understanding and musicality that it almost seems to have a flesh and blood heart beating in its high-tech core.

Playing organist Sam Yahel Trio's Truth and Beauty [Origin 82479] was like a trip to the recording studio if that studio was a Blues-drenched Philly soul bar circa 1975. A hot-wired organ trio of drums, Hammond B3 and tenor sax, the CD-1 served up Truth and Beauty's energetic stick flurries (Brian Blade), blasting tenor beauty (Joshua Redman) and deep-boweled organ growls (Yahel) with exquisite humanity. Hammond B3 organ is the be all and end all for low-end verification and the CD-1 did it proper justice.

Bass. The CD-1 excelled in that regard as perhaps no other machine I have heard, laying out clean, very tight, tonally correct notes that let my brain swim in its luxuriousness. The best word I can use to describe its character is palpability, if that is really a proper word. The CD-1 also has the lowest noise floor, producing astounding clarity coupled to its already generous and big-hearted grasp on the music. The CD-1 never faltered or sounded closed in when relaying complex dynamic passages and it simmered like soup on ballads, gentle solos and sensitive pianissimo instrumental efforts.

Rimsky-Korsakov on call
Still coming to grips with the CD-1's fantastic low end grasp, I marveled at Truth and Beauty one more time, how the Ayon relayed the tremendous oiliness and growl of the Leslie-amplified Hammond while also extracting the top-end air and space of Brian Blade's cymbals. Within a rich soundstage, the CD-1 drenched my senses in full color music, a fullness that is usually only heard with vinyl. But in some ways this was better than vinyl. The sound was equally relaxed, smooth and transparent but its power and extension were superior to my vinyl rig.

Okay, I've established that the CD-1 is tops at recreating bass notes of terror-inducing proportions. But what about the overtones, the dynamics and hall ambience of a good classical recording? Playing a Rimsky-Korsakov collection with Ernest Ansermet conducting the L'Orchestre De La Suisse Romande [London CSCD 6012] proved the CD-1 to be more than up to snuff in this regard. The full-scale dynamics of this 60s era disc were truthfully displayed, from the sweet timbre of bells and strings to the soaring sonics of brass and canon-like bass drums. I could hear deep into the recording, sensing all the various instruments within a vast hall (though my small room doesn't allow for much back-to-front layering). Best
represented were the tremendous dynamics and humanity of this London FFRR disc. Humanity is another prime word in describing the Ayon Audio CD-1. It expresses all the warmth, depth and musicality, the speed and texture of the notes.

The CD-1 consistently moved me. It seemingly went beyond the basic digital domain to reveal the recorded experience with all the emotion intact. The CD-1 has much character - meat on the bones in spades. Strings and organs take on warmth and richness but never at the expense of speed, clarity or transparency. The CD-1, like my Shindo Haut Brion amplifier, simply follows the notes and lets go of them with speed and again, humanity. It allows me to forget the player and focus on and become enthralled with the music, a trait the CD-1 shares with the Shindo products I have heard. Japanese and Germans making love over 1s and 0s? It may not look pretty but it sounds great.

I drink your milkshake!
Enough of the love fest, how does the CD-1 compare to its lookalike, my very own Raysonic CD-168? The players use different tube and chip sets so you already know that while they may look the same, they are going to sound different. Returning to the Rimsky-Korsakov, the Raysonic portrayed the CD's large hall acoustics with similar soundstage characteristics. Ditto for its bass treatment though it was a mite cloudier in that respect. The Raysonic's midrange was more closed-in and less expressive however and when required to reproduce complex passages at higher volumes, it could turn strident by comparison to the Ayon. The Raysonic created more of a 5th-row perspective compared to the Ayon's front-row center perspective. Though its tonality was generally of a similar mien, what the Raysonic really lacked compared to the almost twice as expensive Ayon was that machine's sense of pure, unadulterated emotionalism. The Ayon drinks of the Raysonic's basic ingredients yet produces superior results of creamy liquid goodness. The Raysonic benefits from tube rolling and proper cabling (Shindo interconnects work warm wonders) and within its price range, it's unbeatable but the Ayon gives a more powerful, heart-pounding take on the same music.

And so, for its sheer musicality, versatility in recreating all forms of music, fleetness of tonality and colors, profound emotionalism and consistently earth-shaking dynamics and extension, I award the Ayon Audio CD-1 my second-ever Blue Moon Award. For $4,299, the Ayon CD-1 is a superb musical CD machine. Fans of both blood and guts showmanship and gentle audio epiphanies avoid this extraordinary player at their own peril.
Quality of packing: Heavy cardboard box, styrofoam inserts, indentions for puck and CD cover.
Reusability of packing: Yes.
Ease of unpacking/repacking: Painless.
Condition of component received: Flawless.
Completeness of delivery: Includes batteries for remote, power cord, manual.
Quality of owner's manual: Acceptable.
Website comments: All the necessary info is there though reviews translated into English would be a welcome inclusion.
Pricing: High but worth it.
Usage conditions: Plug 'n' Play.
Human interactions: Prompt e-mail responses.
Sidebar II: For a photo gallery on the CD-1's innards, continue

Ayon Audio website
Ayon Audio USA website