Ayre Acoustics, out of Boulder CO, has been a staple at Audio Advice for over 10 years now. Charles Hansen founded Ayre in 1993 with the goal of making components that can provide a lifetime of musical pleasure.
We’ve always felt Ayre components were some of the very best value in solid state electronics on the market. One incredible unique factor in Ayre’s favor is their upgrade program. High performance companies in any business, be it audio, auto, golf, boating, you name it, regularly come out with new and improved products. That’s just the nature of the people behind the companies who have a passion for constant improvement. Typically, to get the latest and greatest, you have to sell your piece and buy the new one. Well, for the most part, this is not the case with Ayre! The typical model life span of an Ayre component is about 7-10 years. This is how long it’s current in their product catalog, not how long it will last. During that time, several improvements will be made which result in a change to the suffix of the model number.
Now get this: if you are the original owner, you can simply send your unit back and for a very minimal fee (usually $200 to $450) get yours upgraded to the new one. As an example, the C-5 is now in its third version, the C-5XEmp. This is a $6000 universal disc player that came out in 2007. For less than 10% of the original price you can send your unit back and have it upgraded to the latest model! Can you imagine a car, boat, or golf club company offering an upgrade program?? This truly shows the philosophy Charles has about a lifetime of enjoyment.
So now that you understand and better appreciate the Ayre philosophy, the real news is two brand new products that are turning the audio world on its ear! And, lucky me, I’ve got one of them in my house!
I’m talking about the new integrated amp, the AX-5 and the VX-5 power amp. The VX-5 is a new design that comes in at 175 watts per channel. I got one of the first ones shipped out of Colorado, and it is spectacular. When you first take it out of the box, as with all Ayre gear, you are struck with its incredibly high build quality. While the Ayre is somewhat compact, it is by no means a light weight. It took both my son and I to get it up onto its shelf! I also just love the speaker terminal connections Ayre supplies. They are easy to torque down and firmly hold even the heaviest speaker cables in place. The VX-5 even has two per side for bi-wire applications.
I’ve spent a couple of days now listening and am just amazed at how good this amp is. Ahead of it is an Audio Research REF5, and Ayre QB-9 DAC. I have fond memories of the late 80’s when an extremely popular combination of amp and preamp at Audio Advice was the SP-9 tube preamp from Audio Research, and the Bryston 4B solid state power amp. I think I’m back in that sweet spot again as this combination is just magical. I’m hearing all kinds of little subtle micro dynamics. The soundstage is extremely wide with an 3 dimensional sense that is almost spooky. And best of all, I am tapping my foot and playing song after song way into the wee hours!
I’m planning to bring the REF5 back to the store soon (Ivan is dying to get it back) and try out the new LS27 from ARC. I have a very good suspicion, that the pair of the ARC LS27 and Ayre VX-5, might be just as popular as the ARC/Bryston combo from almost 30 years ago! I’ll be sure and let you know in a few weeks.
The other newcomer is the integrated amp, the AX-5. The AX-5 shares similar amplifier technology with the VX-5 and is just slightly less powerful at 125 watts per channel. At just under $10k, it’s not inexpensive, but so far, everyone who has purchased one, and it’s been quite a few, have been super impressed with the sound of this new integrated. The AX-5 is as beautifully made as anything to ever come out of Ayre. Worldwide acclaim is starting to stack up fast for the AX-5 as well.
The VX-5 is so new, it’s not even on the Ayre website yet, but you can read a lot more about the AX5 here.
We’ve got the AX-5 in our Raleigh store and should soon have a demo VX-5 as well. If you are into high performance audio, you owe it to see and hear the new gear from Ayre, equipment for a lifetime!