Stereo digital source components (CD and SACD players, DACs, music servers, etc.) reviewed on the SoundStage! Network in 2009. All prices are in US dollars unless otherwise noted and are accurate at the time of the review.

The entries are shown alphabetically by company name.


Price: $2199

Website: www.arcam.co.uk

Roger said: After listening to the Arcam FMJ CD37, I can understand why so many audiophiles listen to SACDs. Its performance with these high-resolution recordings was breathtaking.

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Read the SoundStage! review.

The gist: Buy it for your SACDs.


Price: $5995

Website: www.audioresearch.com

Tim said: The performance I heard from the CD5 told me silver discs hold more information than I previously thought -- and Audio Research has figured out how to deliver it at an honest price.

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Read the SoundStage! review.

The gist: A sure bet for your last CD player.


Price: $3495

Website: www.audioresearch.com

Jeff said: It is a beautiful-sounding component that captures the gestalt of finely recorded music. It might not be the absolute champion in terms of high-frequency transparency and upper-treble extension, but I’m not sure how musically relevant those areas are to the majority of music selections recorded at 16-bit/44.1kHz.

Read the Ultra Audio review.

The gist: Digital solid-state from a company known for analog tube amps.


Price: $2500

Website: www.ayre.com

Peter said: . . . I’m sure that many thousands of QB-9s will soon be enhancing the lives of many thousands of computer audiophiles.

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Read the Ultra Audio review.

The gist: Awesome asynchronous audio à la Ayre.


Price: $2995

Website: www.belcantodesign.com

Tim said: But given what I heard, the CD2 on its own will far surpass many other digital components; just make sure it’s in 24-bit/192kHz mode when using its analog outputs.

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Read the SoundStage! review.
Read the Ultra Audio review.

The gist: Modern sound and chic design at a fairly reasonable price.


Price: $2495

Website: www.belcantodesign.com

Dan said: The Bel Canto e.Ones also made my short list of gear that encourages further listening. The pleasure of my extended listening sessions with them was characterized by a desire to hear “just one more CD,” regardless of the hour. That, to me, distinguishes the best from the rest.

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Read the SoundStage! review.
Read the Ultra Audio review.

The gist: Good now, and upgradeable in the future: a solid buy.


Price: $4395

Website: www.bluecircle.com

Doug said: The BC501 is a topnotch performer that bears the hallmarks of the Blue Circle Audio name, and is strongly recommended for those who don’t mind paying a premium for something that looks and sounds distinctive, and comes with the sort of personal touch that’s possible only with handmade manufacturing and customization.

Read the SoundStage! review.

The gist: Gilbert Yeung’s latest digital thinking.


Price: $6995

Website: www.bluesmokesystems.com

Jeff said: Blue Smoke Entertainment Systems espouses the benefits of listening and technical tests for their products, an approach that has always seemed to me the most balanced and most correct. Both litmus tests are very much parts of TWBAS 2009.

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Read Ultra Audio’s TWBAS 2009: The Arrival and The Event  .

The gist: Now there are high-end audio computers, too.

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