If someone well heeled were to ask you for the 'perfect digital source' component, what would you recommend?

I haven't heard Ayon Audio's latest CD-5 yet but the specs look intriguing. First off, it's a one-box player. Separating the power supply into a second box often nets dividends and Ayon did just that with their former CD-3 range topper.

One might assume the CD-5 is better since it replaces the CD-3. Offering superiority in one box has advantages. Two, the player has digital i/o ports including USB so it interfaces with PCs. Three, the player has two analog inputs, remote volume and a max output of 8V to become an integrated CDP/DAC/preamp. Four, it offers lo/hi gain selection for more flexible integration. Five, it's tube powered with 4 x 6H30s in the output and 4 x 6X4 in the power supply. Six, it uses the Philips PRO-2 top loader. Seven, it offers switchable 24/192 upsampling and 4 x 1704K DACs. Eight, the display can be dimmed or turned off. And so forth.

As I'm beginning to think, using triodes in low-level circuits where they're asked to provide voltage rather than current gain and needn't deal with reactive speaker loads and high output power has distinct advantages if a desire to harness them at maximum linearity and minimum distortion is present. This linearity/resolution equality can be easily tested with tube vs. transistor headphone amps, preamps and sources. If one desires tubes—many do not—but is less enamored with heat, failures and unpredictable distortion behavior, running them in the front end seems like a good idea as long as the noise floor behavior has been optimized.
The ultimate—still very conventional—hifi source prior to the perfect do-everything music server could very well run along the lines of what Ayon Audio proposes. Keeping all PC functionality offboard is likely a very good idea and the ability to eliminate a preamp by providing a bona fide line-drive output stage is clearly attractive.

Might Ayon's CD-5 fit the 'perfect source' bill? I image for some it very well could. If someone liquid for roughly €10K should ask for a reco, I'll certainly advise looking into this particular machine to perhaps arrange for an audition.