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Ayre QB-9 directly on active speakers. Experiences?

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Is there anyone out there using the Ayre QB-9 directly on active speakers or directly on a power amp (i.e. without using a preamp in between)? While the Ayre QB-9 itself does unfortunately not provide a volume control, one could do this on the computer or by using a passive monitor controller. Any experiences out there? How much sound quality do you loose without a preamp such as the Ayre K-5xeMP? Or in other words, by how much would your sound improve by using the Ayre K-5xeMP? Wouldn't it be more puristic to go directly into the power amp? Less cables/devices etc. that can change the sound provided by the source? (Since I am not planing on other source, the preamp would anyhow be used for the Ayre QB-9 only.) Thanks in advance for your replies.


On this occasion, I would like to express my sincere thanks to Charles Hansen (and Gordon Ranking) for the Ayre QB-9. I think it is a fantasic DAC. I would not have thought that it would be possible to get such a sound out of my Mac Book. It allows you to have all the iTunes comfort and at the same time this premium sound quality ... Just great. Of course, it has its price and that is why I am hoping that I can save some by not having to buy also a preamp of a quality that would be appropriate for the Ayre QB-9.


Apple Powerbook G4 15\", iTunes, Metric Halo LIO-8, active speakers

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Hi FDS (what does that stand for?),

as you can see in my signature, I am using the QB-9 directly into my active speakers. I am also using Amarra. First, it does offer better sound (more resolution, more air, better seperation... look at the various posts regarding amarra on this site), second, it has a dithered volume control. Dithering deals with the flaws of digital volume controls (how do you devide a 1, when there are only ones and zeros? ;-) ).

I myself am eager to try the ayre preamp. Because I love the sound of the qb9 so much, that I am really curious, what the ayre preamp does. Sadly there is no dealer in Berlin, who has an Ayre Preamp. I tried various other preamps, in the pricerange of up to 4000 Euros. None of them improved the sound. I guess that has something to do with the very elaborate analog outputstage of the Ayre. Theoretically speaking, a very good analog volume control should be superior to a control in the digital domain.

Listening to I-Tunes with a preamp is defintely better, than using the I-Tunes Volume Control. And the volume of I-Tunes is not as sensitiv as you would like it to be. In the lowest position, the overall volume is still very loud (way above normal listening levels).

So far I am very satisfied with the Amarra, Itunes QB-9 solution going directly into my speakers. If you prefer the sound of pure vinyl, pv also has a dithered volume control. The soon to be released Twiligth player also has a dithered volume control. So there you have 3 solutions which all provide great sound, AMarra being the most expensive but to my ears the best. But if you listen to a lot of music, which is not very good recorded, PV will defnitely make these recordings more listenable! And you have much more convenience, than with Amarra (just use an I-Phone or I-touch with the apple remote). With Amarra you can only change the volume by using Rowmote, so you have to switch betwenn remote and rowmote. Also the new playlist feature can only be accessed via you computer. With PV you just check "memory play" and each song you choose will automatically be loaded in your ram.

I first feared, that I might "fry" my speakers if by accident I play a song with the volume turned up all the way. But you get used to this.

So buying something like amarra or pure vinyl will save you lots of money, you can spend on more music or taking your wife out to dinner.

BUT: if you have the chance to listen to the Ayre Pre, do it! And please report back. I have a dealer who will send me one (but not burned in!).

I will also try some more espensive pres in the next couple of month.


Hope this helps.



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I have my DAC directly connected to my active speakers. With iTunes I organize my music, for playback I use a software called COG. In cog you can control the volume. There´s also a hardware solution from tc electronics called level pilot, works very well too. You don´t need a power amp between the QB-9 and your speakers and I´m quite sure that you don´t need amara... Try it before you buy! I had the QB-9 at home for testing, very good DAC, I would not put anything behind it.


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Hi Andreas,


Thanks for your reply. What do you actually use to control the volume in your system? COG or the TC electronic level pilot? I am a bit worried that a device like the TC electronic level pilot might be a weak element in the hifi chain. In particular, compared to the price of audiphile interconnects, the TC electronic level pilot is really a bargain. Does this manifest itself in the sound quality? By the way, is the COG sound quality comparable to iTunes or is it superior and thereby a competitor for Amarra and Pure Vinyl?


Best, Frank


Apple Powerbook G4 15\", iTunes, Metric Halo LIO-8, active speakers

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Using any volume control in software like Amarra, iTunes or whatever changes the resolution of the output signal is not good.


You really need to put some kind of analog volume control in between them or use the volume control on the active speakers.


Ok here is the way this works on any digital volume control (no the Proton is analog).


If the Volume = 100% it skips the next process, which is why we suggest leaving it at 100%.


Since Volume is a percentage and 100% = 1 and since most of the samples are converted to Floating point 32 (Float32) so will the Volume value. The two are multiplied together and then the output sample is converted from Float32 to fixed whatever..... in the case of QB-9 24 bits. But the problem here is that when it converts Float32 to fixed 24 a lot of the low level information gets dropped out.


With dither it's more like rounding the value either up or down by 1 bit.


With an analog volume control that does not happen.





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Wow, the level pilot looks great and is quite a bargain for what it is.

If you can test it, do so. You can test Amarra and PV very easily. Especially PV. Just download the latest release and test for 15 days.

If you have the chance to test both, level pilot and PV, I am very much interested in the result. Since the level pilot is only a attenuator, a knob (very well designed, so not cheap) and 4 cables plus XLR connectors it should not exactly meet the standard of the qb-9. It should, but then again it might as well do so.

If you want remote control and have an I-pod touch, software will be the cheapest way to control the volume.

Dont know about the sound quality of COG, but I would ask the developer if the volume control is dithered. Dithered should sound better.

To the sound quality of all the players:

Please try for yourself and only!!!! trust your ears. What sounds better to your ears is better. I had people at my house, who did not hear a difference between Amarra and I-Tunes. For me the difference is huge and easily justified the 900 $.

What about your system? Do you use the xlr out of the QB-9? What kind of input do your speakers have (XLR?).



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So what do you think about the level pilot? I guess you have an idea, on how good the parts can be, if it costs 99$. I am no manufacturer. But i imagine, that this is kind of like a 1000$ pre (max)?


A rather theoretical question. It is argued that digital volume control has to be well implemented (see white paper of daniel weiss), than it can be of very high quality. Of course even Daniel thinks, that an analog volume control is better, he just introduced an passive attenuator (impressive pictures on his site), but a very costly one. Isnt there a price or quality point, where one could say that a well implemented dithering should sound better than an attenuator?




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Thanks for replying so actively to my post. I really appreciate that.


Currently, I am in the process of planning and building a high-end system more or less from scratch. So far, only Mac Book with iTunes, external HD with lots of music, iPhone, and some medium quality active speakers. Most likely, I will decide to go for the Ayre QB-9 plus high quality active speakers (with XLR) or plus a power amp (with XLR) and high quality passive speakers. I hope that I will not need a dedicated preamp so that I can spend more on the speakers.


Best, Frank


PS Claude, I did also send you a private message since it was in German. Not sure whether it had reached you or whether German was o.k.


Apple Powerbook G4 15\", iTunes, Metric Halo LIO-8, active speakers

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is a mac mini, a chord qbd 76 and Backes & Müller BM 12. The mac mini is connected via toslink to the chord. Amarra doesn´t sound very good to me, I hear the difference between itunes and cog but not in a way I like. Between itunes and cog there is no difference, as I said, the volume control in cog is much better. When I use the level pilot, i put itunes volume control to the maximum. Why do I use both? The problem is really only when I want to listen to music on a very low volume while working or reading. Then I use cog. When I have friends around, I use itunes an level pilot because the navigation in itunes with the iphone is much better.


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I am using the TC Levelpilot since almost one year now, and if you had tried to tell me this story a year ago, I definately had called you ... ;-)


It might not be the best "analogue" volume control out there, but for its price - and its simplicity ! - it is hard to beat (just my opinion, surely ;) ).


The point with digital level control is, that you will need a perfectly level-matched system, so not to run into the problems Gordon has pointed out in his post.


Most DACs (I dont know the exact specs for the Ayre ...) will give you a signal to noise ratio of about 100 - 110 db. So, if you dont want to risk loosing too much resolution, you might want to keep the digital level control at figures of around max. - 20 db.

This could be problematic, if your power-amp (or active speakers) doesnt offer some sort of (input-) level control (be it a poti or a switch).


If you could trim the input sensitivity of your amp (active speaker), it should be worthwile to test it out without additional "pre-amp" (passive or active).





Esoterc SA-60 / Foobar2000 -> Mytek Stereo 192 DSD / Audio-GD NFB 28.38 -> MEG RL922K / AKG K500 / AKG K1000  / Audioquest Nighthawk / OPPO PM-2 / Sennheiser HD800 / Sennheiser Surrounder / Sony MA900 / STAX SR-303+SRM-323II

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Hi Harald,


Wow. For almost one year, you have been using the TC Levelpilot between the Esoteric x-03se and the Geithain speakers (both excellent high-end equipment as far as I know) and you seem to be satisfied. That seems to be a clear votum in favor of the TC Levelpilot. Very interesting. Did you actually do comparisons of the TC Levelpilot with preamps? For example, some experts (incl. authors of the German magazin 'Stereoplay') recommend the Oktave HP 300 MK2 preamp with Geithain speakers. Would be interesting to hear about the results of such comparisons.


Did you do any adjustments on your Geithain speakers (or on the Esoteric x-03se) to get best results with the TC Levelpilot? What are the additional interconnects that you are using? Actually, while I have not tested it yet, it is not unlikely that I will end up with the Ayre QB-9 on the Geithain RL940 speakers and the TC Levelpilot in between. That is why I am particularly interested in your setup.


Cheers, Frank


Apple Powerbook G4 15\", iTunes, Metric Halo LIO-8, active speakers

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Hi Frank!


I will put it quite short here, but if you may have some additional questions, feel free to PM or mail me direct (and in german ;) )!


1. I have changed the input-sensitivity of the RL-922's to match the output level of the X-03se.

The Levelpilot stays (at comfortble listening levels) at around the "12 o'clock" position, or above.


2. I have used the Pre-out of a Jeff Rowland Concentra Mk.I before I got rid of it, and needed some "pre-amp" for a - then so thought - interims period (to the time when I would get a computer-setup up and running).


3. I'm not shure about it, but I think that sometimes the sound in the upper middle region (say 2khz to 6khz) is a bit straight forward with the Levelpilot. But this depends massively on what records I will play ;), so maybe it is a kind of placebo.


4. I have heard a lot of good reports on using a (good, not to "tubey") tube-pre with the Geithains.

There where recomendations for Octave, MT (italian based) or Audio Research.


For me, I've decided to get rid of anything in between the DAC (be it standalone or inside a player) and the active monitors, and keep the signal path as simple as possible ...







Better don't ask ;)


Esoterc SA-60 / Foobar2000 -> Mytek Stereo 192 DSD / Audio-GD NFB 28.38 -> MEG RL922K / AKG K500 / AKG K1000  / Audioquest Nighthawk / OPPO PM-2 / Sennheiser HD800 / Sennheiser Surrounder / Sony MA900 / STAX SR-303+SRM-323II

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Weiss have come up with a smart solution - a rough adjustment to output level done via a four setting potentiometer and a fine adjustment through dithered digital volume control.


Works great in my system, I don't use a preamp between DAC2 and my active speakers.


Nyal Mellor, Acoustic Frontiers LLC.

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