Ask an expert: CD replay; North Star, Bow, Ayre – what?

Howard - I have been reading your writings and musings for some time , yourself and others have been increasingly saying the same thing regarding CD replay i.e. its days are numbered , save the music on a hard disc , and get a good dac. But now I am confused I have got to the point where I wish to upgrade my CD player (Arcam CD82)- plan to spend £1500ish , I am considering a (used )Bow Wizard , I have a Bow Wazoo XL , the Player is reasonably well reviewed and having two pieces of kit that match has a high WAF, also in consideration is an Ayre CX7e also well reviewed and then you post the Northstar transport and dac up for sale.

The problem with these items is that they are all reasonable components but it is difficult to compare them and properly experience them before spending. Advice on as to make a decision as I cannot find a three sided coin.

Thank you for this. I hope I can help you, if only a bit. As you may recall, I was a major Ayre dealer for some while. Even though I resigned the agency (nothing wrong with the gear, but I just gave up wanting to deal with the importer) I am still very impressed with the sound. My customers who bought them have all kept them. A worthwhile endorsement I think.

Sonically, as indeed is usually the case with very fine pieces of digital replay equipment, the Ayre and the North Star are quite similar. In fact I would, in a blind test, find it quite difficult to distinguish between the Ayre and the North Star Sapphire

However my North Star 2 box machine is another step up. Tonally, again is similar to both the Ayre and the Sapphire, but gives the impression of being more extended at the frequency extremes. I am convinced that I can hear more top end detail on the 2-box. Although having said this, it is quite easy to convince oneself, even if the reality is slightly different.

In the bass region though, the 2-box produces a controlled bass 'thunder' which in my room, with all my equipment, has never been equalled via CD.

I'm not sure what contributes to this. It might well be the current state-of-the-art Philips PRO-2 mechanism and in all probability it is the very rare and semi professional i2s interconnect mechanism. In fact this curious connection (included in the price incidentally) has been compared by me and others using the standard RCA to RCA connections between the 2 items. The improvement via i2s is magnificent to behold. I remain deeply puzzled by this in that given the immediate and consistent improvement, why is it so few other makers use it. I think DCS do, and that’s about it.

You might find this thread interesting. I certainly have! HERE

As for me, I haven't decided. Just too many variables and too little verifiable evidence in either direction for me to be even reasonably confident about my ability to make a sensible decision.

Howard Popeck hp@no-alibi.demon.co.uk