The CD-5s is surprisingly large and heavy. Its thick, brushed anodized aluminum chassis is stylishly black except for a pair of chrome mesh cooling ducts on top and the CD drawer cover, which is plastic. Aluminum was chosen because it is non-magnetic, among other reasons. The unit doesn’t get hot, merely warm to the touch. Function selector buttons are on top, back-lit in a cool way with a glowing red surround. Obvious care was expended to make the chassis vibration and resonance free.
The top-loading CD-5s can be used as line-level preamp. It accepts a full range of digital inputs plus two-line level ones, and it has a quality analog potentiometer. Switching among inputs and volume adjustment are accessible from either the chassis or the remote.
The chassis controls and the full function remote engage with assurance. Overall, it’s obvious the design team didn’t cut corners or skimp on quality.
I situated the CD-5s on a Vibraplane ELpF. All cabling was the outstanding K-S Elation! As the unit has its own AC line noise filtration, I bypassed external power conditioning and plugged it into a prototype K-S passive power block.
Early on I determined the superiority of the 24 bit/192kHz upsampling mode. That stayed on for the duration.
What a pleasant surprise! The AYON CD-5s evidences none of the usual digital issues. There’s not even a hint of grit or harshness or missing texture. Oh, yes, tubey colorations are present—the sweet top end, the rounded edges, the added body, the beautiful tone—after all, this is a CD player with eight tubes from a company known for their SET amps. But the AYON CD-5s manages to keep them in check. They are present to a much smaller degree than classic “tubey” sounding components. In fact, if you were to hear it, I bet you wouldn’t single it out as particularly tubey sounding. It is a fine example of the latest generation of tube gear that melds these traits from the S-E world to modern virtues like extended frequency response, tight bass and surprisingly high resolution.
Those conclusions apply to the CD-5s used in balanced mode in conjunction with reduced volume. In that configuration the AYON CD-5s demonstrated a rare dynamic quality only found in the best units. It vaults to the top of the pack and I rate it a top choice at its price point.