Ayon Crossfire III AA62B(300B) 30w Single Ended class-A Integrated/Power amp AFB

AY 23 AI CROSS
NZ$ 18,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Ayon Audio

"The Bugatti of Audio" - according to respected TAS: The Absolute Sound magazine

New

"After Saturday when we set up the new Ayon Crossfire 300B integrated I decided to look at using the Auralic Vega DAC again. What a difference - with the Crossfire installed there is now much more clarity, definition and texture. I can also get a lot more volume and headroom; it's like using the previous Triton amp but with greater definition and timbre. Fantastic. You'll have to come and have a listen".  .....Stephen

The Crossfire III continues the evolution of the Crossfire II amplifier by once again offering dramatic improvements to its completely revised third-generation power supply, tube regulator and new gain stage technology.

The gain stages have been optimized to provide for the shortest signal path and the most direct signal flow. Furthermore a new revolutionary MCU based volume control system with analog relay switches (fixed 1% resistor type) has been installed.

The Crossfire III is our most powerful SE-triode integrated amplifier featuring single-ended triode circuitry with our exceptional Ayon 62B power tube. Zero dB feedback, pure class-A operation for the most natural fast and authentic 3D holographic sound. It’s uncompromising design with rich and varied interplay of macro- and micro lines of dynamic performance. The ambiance of the original event is reproduced with uncanny precision as space illuminated by music. The Crossfire III is a magic masterpiece of simplicity and function which is pleasing to the eye and pleasant to the touch.

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Testimonials

Features

Full-featured single-ended tube stereo integrated amp or pure power amplifier
SE - pure Class-A triode vacuum tube-circuit design
AA62B Power output tubes high peak current & high voltage delivery
Ideal also for more difficult loudspeaker loads

Vacuum Tubes
The choice of signal and power tubes have a significant influence on the sound and hence on the inspiration and joy of listening. This is not only the decision between good and bad tubes but finally the interaction of the different types of tubes and their combination that are used in the various Ayon amplifiers. Today only few manufacturers still produce tubes for pure audio amplification; one of them is Ayon Audio with its outstanding single-ended triode power tubes (AA32B-S, AA52B-S and AA62B) based on the WE 300B.

Signal Path

We believe that the simplest circuits work best together with the shortest signal path. That is why our SE-Triode amplifiers to date have used single-ended pure class A circuitry. The shorter the signal path is, the less possibility of sonic degradation from various sources, including the wire itself. Even on the circuit boards, the copper traces are kept to a very minimum length. The completely redesigned circuit board provides a more straightforward and direct approach to the signal paths.

Logical sequenced soft-start power up for extended tube life
Tube and electronic protection circuit system
0dB negative feedback  (of any kind )DHT
Ultra short signal path
Simplest direct circuit path for purest musical sound and high reliability
No solid state devices in the signal path
High current and low impedance design that operates tubes in the best areas their curves
Minimal discrete wiring for optimum signal propagation
External static bias adjustment
No followers or buffers in the signal path
High quality parts throughout
Selector switch engages relays located near RCA jacks to switch all inputs

Power Supply
Single ended amps are more susceptible to power supply aberrations than push-pull amplifiers. The power supplies have been further refined with new components and enhanced AC line noise filtration. Separate power transformers, chokes and filters provide total isolation between the input and output stage which makes this a pure power source and it is a critical attribute for a single-ended amplifier. We also use electrolytic capacitors with much larger storage capacity to make up for the loss in filtering when using resistors in lieu of inductors.

2 separate low noise –insulated power transformers
Power transformers are encased, excellent damped and RFI/EMI shielded
Innovative power supply provides a high speed energy delivery on transients
Dual choke filtered power supply for Ayon AA62B
Dual choke for pre and driver stage
Tube regulated power supply (5U4G)
Separate and isolated power supplies over each stage of amplification
Regulated DC filament supplies with soft start 
AC power line filter to avoid noise and hash from entering into the unit. 
High capacitance energy storage.
Current in-rush limiting
Auto sequencing - Power on cycle completes in 1 minute

Dual Grounding System
The modification of the grounding topology leads to increased rejection of noise from the power supply and other areas. The dual grounding topology used in all of our amplifiers is quite unique to the whole hi-end tube amplification industry. Such extensive topology provides for quieter backdrop for which the music can unfold in its entirety. It further establishes the quick and controlled bass response and the full bodied expression of the high frequency. The ground leg of the signal has not been neglected and given meticulous attention in its implementation. The importance of proper grounding cannot be over emphasized.

Ground switch
Central one-point star earth grounding
Dual grounding system (switchable)

Output Transformer
The super-wide bandwidth output transformer’s major strength is that it can deliver the current in the bass, while at the same time maintaining the speed in the high frequencies, dramatically improving the square wave response of the amplifier. The effect is a much more natural and relaxed sound with much better clarity, resolution and fluidity. 

Super-wide bandwidth high performance output transformer (made by ayon)
High efficiency with low insertion loss for optimal current and voltage transfer 
Multiple tight layering and coupling for extended frequency response
Output transformers are sealed with an anti-resonance compound material

Components
The type of parts used therefore must have a synergistic relationship to the circuit they are placed in. It is this relationship of which type of part to use where, that ranks our products apart from the mass.

Selected, premium quality passive components used in all applications
High speed  & high quality audiophile grade coupling capacitors
Special tube sockets with beryllium- copper spring pins, custom made by Ayon
WBT/Germany – binding posts
WBT/Germany – input jack
Neutrik/Swiss - XLR chassis connectors
Special isolated - internal wiring
Silver-copper matrix - internal signal cable
Gold-plated industrial grade PCB
All wiring to the circuit boards is done with the use of special pluggable pin- connectors. 
This is done for easy of repair should ever the need arise.

Mechanical Construction
The high grade aluminum chassis impart a richer, more lustrous tonality with a cleaner background and less hash and grain. All brushed anodized anti-vibration-resonance and non-magnetic chassis’s are fully hand assembled to insure the highest level of craftsmanship.

Improved heat ventilation chassis
Custom-made machined control knobs
The aluminium feet are resonance absorbing types
Backlit “ayon” logo
All front & rear panel descriptions are engraved
4 line inputs & 1 direct input - for pure power amp operation
Ground switch
AC phase polarity control indicator
Volume & Mute function - RC
Bias analog-instrument with mV scale
Metal remote commander
Chassis finish: black / chrome

Specifications

Class of Operation: Single-Ended, Pure Class-A
Tube Complement: 2x AA62B (exclusive to Ayon based on WE 300B)
                                 4x 6SJ7 tubes
                                 2x 6H30 tubes
                                 1x 5U4G tube
Load Impedance: 4 & 8 Ohms
Output Power: 2x 30 Watt
Frequency Response: 8 Hz - 35 kHz/ 0 dB
Input Impedance at 1kHz: 100 KΩ
S/N ratio at full power: 98 dB
NFB: 0dB
Volume Control: MCU based with analog relay switches & display (fixed 1% resistor type)
Remote Control: Yes
Inputs & Output: 3xLine In, 1x XLR In, 1xDirect In, 1x Pre-out
Dimensions 520W x 420D x 250H
Weight: 45 kg
Shipping weight: 55kg

Reviews

If I want to continue to really love music then somehow I'll need to get the money together to buy one,
Geoff Husband - TNT France
SUMARRY REVIEW: This is the most transparent amp I've ever heard - including similarly priced 300b amps from Wavac, Audion, Audionote, Loth-x and Opera, not to mention half a dozen other valve amps, five of the new digital wonders and the shed load of more prosaic transistor amplifiers...

You could listen to it (as I did) at high levels for hour after hour. Because the presentation is so open and there's so much space for it all to breath it never becomes congested.....underpinning this is the best bass I've ever heard from a valve amp, a street ahead of any 300b - in fact in terms of speed, and tunefulness, and verve it bests even the Korato Class 'A' transistor monsters that have been my reference. But that bass doesn't stand out - it just integrates in a seamless sweep through the mid-band and onto the high treble....How significant is this? - Just before the Ayon arrived Kate said "you don't seem to listen to music any more" and she was right. ..... I'd starting reading without music. Watching the odd DVD. Or just putting the nearest CD to the player on (and on and on) - I couldn't be arsed to put an LP on. Maybe I was just getting old - maybe just jaded after having so much hi-fi go through my hands and having to dissect every piece of music they produced - Yea, I was jaded.....Then the Ayon landed, and though it was hard to fundamentally pin down what it was doing to me, I found I listened every evening. Vinyl came out and sleeves spread on the floor. My enthusiasm for music and even hi-fi came back. Suddenly I was back to checking tracking weights, fiddling with supports and so on. 

EXTENDED EVIEW: 've bemoaned the lack of originality in valve amps more than once in this august publication. It seems odd that the majority of the better valve amps are based around 50+ year-old valves and circuits. Perhaps there was a 'golden age' when perfection was attained, but that the 300a/b valve should be widely seen as the greatest of them all, a valve designed in 1933, is just a little disappointing.
 
So having spent a lot of time reviewing, and owning various Single-Ended (of course) 300b amps, I've decided my next quest is to chase up the alternatives, whether they are less well known 'classic' valves or part of the new-wave of modern variations on the theme. That these latter valves should surface now is hugely gratifying - it's easy to forget that though the transistor almost entirely replaced valves in the West over 40 years ago, in the old Communist Bloc and China valves were actively developed well into the 1980's. My fear has been that the expertise, and more importantly the manufacturing facilities of these would be lost as their markets collapsed with the free passage of technology.
 
The 300b is of course a great valve, and in single-ended mode it has powered my system in one amp or another for the last 5 years. But it does have limitations and the most serious in the real world is that the power is limited to somewhere around 8 Watts, you can get more but only at the cost of greater distortion and shortened valve life. Though 8 watts may sound OK compared to some flea-powered SET's using 2a3 or 45's it's still a factor that limits it's applications to systems with high efficiency speakers - not necessarily horns, but not mainstream speakers either, you just need more power and driving ability. Of course the 845 and 211 and derivatives manage this trick but these transmitting valves were not, unlike the 300b, designed specifically for audio. So for now most of the newer audio valves have primarily sought to improve on the 300b in the area of output.
 
Design/construction
 
Which brings us neatly to the first amplifier in this series, the Ayon Crossfire. Ayon are a relatively new name in amplifiers, but they bought the Viac company and name - which was one of the biggest and most respected valve and amplifier manufacturers, and one of the few pushing new valve designs. This factory in the Czek republic makes all the Ayon valves (and some other OEM valves) and those valves are exclusive to them. All Ayon amps are built in-house in Austria using mostly German components.
 
This pedigree was why I so wanted to play with one of their designs, and to my great delight a very large and heavy box arrived on my doorstep on the day promised (top marks for that for a start!). The amplifier I decided to review was the new Crossfire. There were several reasons - it's the cheapest model that showcases Ayons top AA62B power tube, it's price was not a million miles away from the majority of 300b amps I've had here, and I was quite keen to see how such an amp stacked up against my own Audionote M3 preamp (circa 7000 Euro), and Opera 300b PSE monoblocks (ditto), a combination that cost considerably more than the Ayon.
 
Opening the box won Ayon some more points in their favour - well boxed and with the amp and each chrome transformer cover covered in deep red velvet. These are small points but when you shell out the price of a small family car on an amplifier you need a feel-good factor when it comes to unpacking your new toy.
 
And that feeling continued because the Crossfire is a very beautiful piece of kit. It looks very different to the wood and alloy delights of my gorgeous Opera amps, but in it's own way - all black anodised alloy and those huge transformer covers - it looks as good. This is an expensive amplifier, but it looks the part and in my book that's important too.
 
It's also very heavy, and at 40 kgs it's at the very limit that this reviewer is happy to move about. In fact leaning into my equipment shelf and gently lowering it whilst bending over I felt the strings of my old back pinging - people smaller/less stupid than me should get help...
 
The weight is mainly because of the huge transformers needed to feed the AA62B power tubes. These are monsters, considerably bigger than any 300b and with a different shape to the glass. They are beautifully made, very solid and reassuring - the only valve that matches its build quality in my experience is the KR300b. This valve allows the Ayon to produce a claimed 30 Watt per channel continuous, 45 watt peak. That is a huge output for any single-ended amp. Even the best 845/211 struggles to match that, and my own parallel 300b amps (2 x 300b per channel) are left well behind.
 
Talking to Ayon it transpires that the '62 is a cousin of the 300b - it's connections are the same for example - but it is in no way a plug-in replacement - certainly the internals are quite different, it is just too distant a family member.
 
These valves, as already stated, are only available as service items to Ayon owners, and at a price of 350 Euro. Ayon apologised that they were so expensive, but in my opinion they are better made than most of the boutique 300bs which command similar prices, and produce more power than pairs 300b's. The other thing I like about these valves is that Ayon have great confidence in their longevity. The '62's come with a 12 month guarantee, a failed valve being replaced by a pair of new valves free of charge. If in the second year a valve fails, the pair are replaced for the cost of a single valve - very impressive, but not as generous as it sounds, because to date Ayon tell me they have yet to have a failure! To put that in perspective, my Opera PSE's ate a set of two matched pairs of Full-Music 300b mesh plates in just over 12 months at a cost of about 700 Euro, and few manufacturers extent valve guarantees past 3 months.
 
Both the pre-amp stage (yes this is a proper integrated - not a power amp with a pot) and the driver are powered by one of the hot valves of the moment - the 6h30 - two for each section.
 
Beyond that the technical specs can be found here so I won't repeat it all and pretend I know what I'm talking about.
 
The controls are a simple volume and selector for the 4 inputs, and the volume is operable using the simple remote - what else would you need?
 
At the back are the usual phono inputs and speaker binding posts (with 4 and 8 ohm taps) - all excellent as you'd expect. The power valves need to have their valve bias adjusted using the meter on the top plate and two screws behind - no chore and rather exciting in a hands-on way;-) There is also a 'direct in', which completely bypasses all controls and the pre-amp section to leave you with a pure power-amp, more on this later.
 
On the front the Ayon logo is cut through the front plate and glows red when the amp is on - it's different and I quite liked the effect - YMMV.
 
Lastly there is a little neon light on the back panel that will glow if the polarity of your mains is in reversed phase - nice touch.
 
Sound
 
"My" Crossfire was brand new and so needed running in. I always hate this bit and try to do it in my new music/review room where I can leave it on without disturbing people. However the Crossfire was to be tested in my living room, where my own, personal system resides (i.e. the stuff that belongs to me) - and blowed if I was going to haul 40 kgs back and forth more than I had to.
 
So it was plugged into my Loth-X Polaris horns. Now I know what you are going to say, "here is a new, relatively high-powered SE amp and he's gone and plugged it into a pair of speakers that can make your ears bleed with a Watt".
 
Yes you're right - but for me the point of these reviews is not to find out what SE amplifiers are available to drive real-world speakers. No. For me I wanted to see what the sound quality was of amplifiers using alternatives to the 300b. I took it as read that the Crossfire will drive more difficult speakers, but that's not my point, any more than I will criticise the 2a3 amp due in a few weeks for low power...
 
And of course that's a bit tricky for Ayon - if in this review I ignore the one undeniable advantage the Crossfire has then its task is all the more difficult. The Ayon was to be judged on sound quality alone.
 
Driving the amp were my Acoustic Solid turntable with Opera ST600 fitted, and the Dynavector Karat 17 into my ESE Nibiru phono stage. But sitting next to the amp was it's matching sister - the Ayon CD-2 CD player. I will be reviewing this in a couple of months so I won't spoil that review by giving the game away but needless to say it didn't let the side down.
 
After checking the connections half a dozen times (I'm paranoid) I switched everything on. With it cold and new, I wasn't expecting to hear the best from the amp, but in such circumstances I often find that you get a clear, if a little mechanical presentation that can be quite appealing - for a few minutes until you start to get bored with it. In fact it sounds like a good transistor amp, and the Ayon certainly filled the stereotype. But there were some promising signs. Firstly the amp had one characteristic I hadn't considered - as an integrated the Crossfire regulate volume by reducing the output of the power section.
 
Let me explain. Amplifiers have background noise - all of them. Valve amps are poorer than transistor amps and SE amps the worse of all. Here there is double-trouble because the speakers needed for such amps, e.g. my horns, will make this background far louder than normal speakers. In the case of my own Loth-x horns, two SE 300b amps have been returned to their manufacturer before review simply because they were so noisy as to be unusable.
 
With my own Audionote / Opera combination the background noise is a hiss and slight hum - it's enough to irritate my wife when I'm not playing music, but no worse than any other valve pre/power I've had here. And because the power-amps are in effect flat-out waiting for the signal then there's no way of getting rid of this background.
 
With the Ayon, turning the volume to zero left a silent speaker, racking up the volume to max (with no signal) increased the background noise to similar levels to my pre/power. You see the point? With very high sensitivity speakers the integrated had a major advantage over the pre/power. The noise levels only rose when volume was turned up and of course then it's utterly drowned out by the music. My wife liked this... This is not insignificant - especially if listening to music at low levels.
 
So we have a very pleasant amp, sounding a bit glassy but very promising. A day or two later it sounded a little dull and restrained and then on day 4 it started to sing.
 
Gushing review alert...
 
Transparency. I'm trying to hold back on the hyperbole here, especially as I'm painfully aware that next week another amp may arrive that sounds even better and so going over the top will leave me little 'headroom'.
 
Nah - what the hell, tell it how it is...
 
This is the most transparent amp I've ever heard - including similarly priced 300b amps from Wavac, Audion, Audionote, Loth-x and Opera, not to mention half a dozen other valve amps, five of the new digital wonders and the shed load of more prosaic transistor amplifiers...
 
Through the Loth-x Polaris the veils were removed, the crystal clear mountain stream babbled down the mountainside - it sounded like after I have my ears waxed, but not so glassy. It was as transparent as a see-through thing. The sheer natural, openness of the thing had me in raptures. How can this sound better than 12,000 Euro of pre/power? Sheesh I maybe I should write for someone other than TNT because I'm in danger of talking about palpability and I always promised not to...
 
Examples? 
 
You want examples? Well you've read my eulogising of the 'King James' album, well if ever there was an amp made to demolish your back wall and insert the Wylie Chapel and a big band in the hole then this is it. I'm not (I think) talking about extra detail, new tunes, massive soundstage - though it has all that - but simply the opening of a window, I honestly cannot think of a better, and less cliche'd description.
 
And it didn't sound like any of the 300b amps I've had here. I've never considered the 300b to be particularly warm, but it was as if the 300b amps were putting a little rosy haze over the midband and the Ayon had just ripped it off. It's NOT a question of balance. The Loth-X 300b actually sounded brighter and more forward - it's possible to engineer almost any balance, but even with the Loth-X amp, there was something that the Ayon stripped away. The best I can do is to imagine that the air around you somehow damps down what you are hearing, and the Ayon removes this effect.
 
Let me emphasis the point, I don't want anyone to get the wrong idea - the Crossfire isn't forward, bright, pushy, aggressive, etched. At no time did those adjectives come to mind, in fact you could listen to it (as I did) at high levels for hour after hour. Because the presentation is so open and there's so much space for it all to breath it never becomes congested.
 
Underpinning this is the best bass I've ever heard from a valve amp, a street ahead of any 300b - in fact in terms of speed, and tunefulness, and verve it bests even the Korato Class 'A' transistor monsters that have been my reference. But that bass doesn't stand out - it just integrates in a seamless sweep through the mid-band and onto the high treble.
 
How significant is this? - Just before the Ayon arrived Kate said "you don't seem to listen to music any more" and she was right. Sure I'd put on the Stones and dance around whilst doing the washing up, but it was getting to the point where I'd just as likely put it on the kids ghetto blaster as playing it through the 30,000 euro system in the living room. I'd starting reading without music. Watching the odd DVD. Or just putting the nearest CD to the player on (and on and on) - I couldn't be arsed to put an LP on.
 
Maybe I was just getting old - maybe just jaded after having so much hi-fi go through my hands and having to dissect every piece of music they produced - Yea, I was jaded.
 
Then the Ayon landed, and though it was hard to fundamentally pin down what it was doing to me, I found I listened every evening. Vinyl came out and sleeves spread on the floor. My enthusiasm for music and even hi-fi came back. Suddenly I was back to checking tracking weights, fiddling with supports and so on. Why? How can an amp that is providing only subtle changes over a very fine system possibly have this effect? I have no idea...
 
As the amp works as a dedicated power-amp I did try a pre-amp direct into it. As I suspected the big advantage of that low noise at low level was gone, the combination becoming as noisy as my own pre/power. The music took a small, but noticeable step back. What that tells me is that the Crossfire pre-amp section, gaining all the advantages of no cabling, no connections and perfectly matched to the power section would be very difficult to improve on. Indeed, for my application I would think it unlikely I'd improve on the Crossfire by using one of Ayon's pre/power amp combinations. I don't need the extra power, I'd miss the silent background and I'm not sure I could cope with more information:-) However there's a twist to this. The 'direct' setting is just the fifth stop on the input selector. There's nothing stopping you running four line-inputs AND a pre with as many extra inputs as you want, or a CD player with a variable output direct. The Ayon could easily run 10 inputs in such a way, or be used as the front amplifier for a surround system run from a five-channel pre and so-on - it's a remarkable flexibility.
 
So now I get to the bit where I say that I was "so impressed I bought the review amplifier". And here the wheels came off.
 
I've used and loved my Audionote preamp for four years now, but in my system, for the very first time I could see myself letting it go. And of course those gorgeous Opera amps would have to go too. Before I knew what I was doing they were on EBAY. In order to buy them in the first place I'd sort of "borrowed" from the family kitty on the condition I'd pay it back, but I'd every confidence there would still be enough to buy the Ayon. Well you've guessed it. They sold, but they didn't sell well. A week of agony followed, but though far from destitute it's not a good year in the cycling holiday business and so I took a deep breath and unplugged the amp, slipped the velvet over it and boxed it up...
 
Then after the Ayon had gone. What then...
 
I took a valve pre-amp I have here and played it into the Lehmann Stamp digital power amp - sheeeesh it sounds so grey! It improved once warm, but this fine little amp, the best of the digital breed just seems to lay a slightly grubby layer over everything - a dull putty filled the spaces between instruments where before there had been nothing - nothing at all... True the Stamp costs a fraction of the Ayon but the total cost including the pre-amp was close. I couldn't live with it...
 
So out comes one of my favourite amps, the SQF Son-of-Pharao. At much the same size, weight and cost as the Ayon this EL34 PP amp produces more power, and through the Polaris it sounded... well... very good. Anyone walking into that room who had heard the Ayon there the day before would have recognised another fine amp and thought nothing more of it. But then you sit down and you listen. Or rather, in my case you don't. Because it's as if a dead hand has been put over the music. The life, and sparkle and the damned transparency have gone - Since the Ayon left and been replaced by the two amps above I can honestly say I've not sat down and listened to music for pleasure, rather than background, once in six-weeks. It's pathetic and I hate myself for it because it's the music that matters, but once you've tasted that magic everything else seems to turn sour.
 
Conclusion
 
I've been reviewing hi-fi for well over 10 years now and in that time I've heard very few poor systems, quite a few reasonable ones, a few excellent ones that frequently I ended up buying, but only three components that changed the way I listened to music so much that once sampled, everything else sounded wrong. The first were my Loth-X Polaris, a pair of speakers that at the time cost more than the rest of my system combined. Again it was difficult to pin down why they were so good, but over the review period they got under my skin so much that when they had gone I was bereft. Though they cost more than I could possibly justify, I managed to get the money together to buy them and I've not regretted that for one millisecond. The second was the ESE Nibiru phono stage which just was an order of magnitude better than any phono stage I'd heard, and more to the point showed me just how much most people missed from their vinyl. Hideously expensive and well out of my price range, the manufacturer made me an offer I couldn't refuse and so it now sits on the equipment shelf and I can't see it ever being replaced.
 
And the last is the Ayon Crossfire. It shares with the two previously mentioned components a transparency that takes you ever closer to the musical event, and because each is voiced in this way they share a stunning synergy. The Crossfire too is very expensive, but not ludicrously so, and in a way that almost makes it worse, because I can almost afford it... But I'm coming to the conclusion that if I want to continue to really love music then somehow I'll need to get the money together to buy one, or find something out there that matches it. Such is the sad life of the Audio addict.
 
And if I do you the reader will be the poorer. I don't review speakers in my main room any more because I just don't want to move the Polaris and I really don't want my personal listening screwed up. Ditto the ESE, I've stopped reviewing all stages. In fact I've now built a reviewing room where all these pretenders can come and go to be listened to, and reviewed and appreciated, but never loved, without disturbing my personal system. The Crossfire I fear, would shut all other amps out of my living room - they too banished to the also rans. But on the other hand, at least my enthusiasm for the subject would be rekindled.
.........Geoff Husband - TNT France
Ayon Crossfire PA shows all advantages of triode without its weaknesses. I’ll remember how it sounded with Avalon Transcendent speakers for very long time. Beautiful sound ‐ full synergy. Listening to this amp I was happy as a child.
“Hifi-Muzyka” Magazine – Poland (English translation)

REVIEW SUMMARY: In one of his messages Gerhard stated that Crossfire PA can get people into serious addiction. After three weeks of listening I wanted to disagree but it was too late. I would like to but this amp so much but I just can’t, because I need very versatile transistor for my work. This is the only thing which makes Ayon go back to its distributor. Such a shame, especially as it doesn’t neglect the lowest and highest end of acoustical range. The highest and lowest tones are not rounded nor overheated, but always clear and present with the rest of sound spectrum, precise all the time. Especially the bass is a huge surprise. Beautiful trebles of triode – that’s not a big deal. But to get precise bass of it – it’s sort of magic trick. And Ayon made it possible. Power triodes and transformers have to be really top quality, resulting in very massive and consistent low frequencies. Usually the base of SET – if there is any base at all – is very soft and round. The depth is not a problem but its contours and permanent lasting during longer accumulation – it’s usually a problem. Crossfire generates very strong and energetic low frequencies with satisfying amount and depth. Of course you can get some better bass, let’s say Mark Levinson mono blocks or power amp from Solution will show you no mercy, but that’s not the idea. Crossfire is so much full range, it doesn’t leave any deficiency here. You don’t have to put some sort of handicap on it and constantly say “even as a SE triode”.  It just sound linear and any justification won’t be necessary here.

EXTENDED REVIEW: Ayon Audio was created in Austria in 1999 by Gerhard Hirt, who has been cooperating with AVVT – which was lead by Alesa Vaic, well known man in audiophile’s world – since 1993.  Vaic produced tubes which Hirt used in his amplifiers. Alesa Vaic Vacuum Technology had big history in producing high power tubes. One of the events was re‐launching production of 2A3 triode in mesh plate (anode) version which produced 18 watts. Mesh plate was used also in 300B triode, giving even 22‐28 watts depending of version. But even that did not helped and the company bankrupted in 2001. Hirt bought part of the company. Its factory belonged to TESLA earlier and hired highly qualified personnel. The Ayon owner decided to continue production, and after some time he upgraded some tubes to his needs and this practice works until today. Triodes with AA mark made in Prague are destined for Ayon amplifiers only. They are not available for other brands and hobbyists. Of course the factory is making other tubes as it would not be possible to live only from Ayon orders, but few models are exclusive for Ayon and they are created under full control of Gerhard Hirt.

Ayon Catalog
Ayon product catalogue is impressive. In audiophile world there is a saying: „ weekend without Gerhard’s idea for a new model ( or improving an old one) is a weekend lost” and like every joke there’s a little piece of truth in it, as Ayon has almost every type of product in their offer: sources, amplifiers, pre‐amplifiers and speakers. It’s a list of several dozens of models, starting from hi‐level to ultra hi‐end. Further it is also full range of speakers from Lumen White brand ( it also belong to Ayon Brand). If budget is not a problem, you can easily build completely satisfying stereo set by this brand. The core of Ayon catalog is amplifiers: pre‐, power and integrated. Ayon is focused on vacuum tube technology, letting semi‐conductors perform additional function only.

Crossfire amp is available in two versions: Crossfire III Integrated and Crossfire-PA stereo power amp. This model is something special for several reasons. At first, despite high price, it’s very popular among end users. Second, it’s the cheapest Ayon amp containing AA62B tube. Ayon Crossfire is not a weakling. Four transformers hidden in chrome caps, the same amount of chokes, massive and rigid 45‐kg housing can impress even an amateur, no doubt about that.

Audiophiles will be even more surprised with AA62B power triodes capable to produce 30 crystal clear watts. Such power coming of single‐ended triode is a rarity. No problem to drive standard efficiency speakers at all. A set with Avalon Transcendent was worth to remember.  

The sound was free of “plush” and rounded low frequencies. It was clear, dynamic and natural. Ayon is rather far away from cheating with warmth and sweetness of typical “tube”. It also doesn’t limit the clarity. Accompanied by a quality source and preamplifier it will take us up to higher level of listening culture. With its presence chamber as well as symphonic music sounds superb while the rock and pop music surprises us with huge energy and discipline. Crossfire PA is an amplifier able to

convince even great skeptic for SET configuration. And enthusiasts will become even more assured. Huge applause here.

AA62B
It is not an ordinary tube as it’s strong and very universal. Its built is similar to legendary Western Electric 300B: it’s Directly Heated Triode just like the original, but overall dimensions are much bigger. It generates more than 30 watts of power so it can be clearly named high performance version – as the original one was only 8 watts.

High power is a result of using high current capacity cathode and high temperature resistant anode. AA62 is closed inside huge glass, about 1.5 size of original 300B which means that bigger electrodes can be used. The cathode is directly heated and it consists of spirally bent large diameter rods. Original 300B had only four of those and AA62 has eight. The anode is much bigger as well and it’s cooled with wide heat sink plates, therefore overall cooling surface is much larger. Additionally, small tubs cool the first grid. The transparent tube itself, containing all these goods, is made of high temperature proof laboratory glass. It’s not exaggeration as the temperature inside may rise to 1200 Celsius. Wherever temperature is highest, the tube is shaped wider as it helps to minimise internal tensions. Inside the glass we can see three getter rings – two lower and one upper. Their aim is to preserve vacuum inside, which is necessary for proper working conditions of the tube. Similar job is done by zirconium coating, which absorbs possible contamination emitted by heated electrodes. Base is ceramic and pins – thick and gold‐plated. The idea of AA62 originates in the best valve traditions, with addition of modern thinking and use of very durable materials.

As mentioned before, this version of tube offers over 30 watts with low distortions. Manufacturer says it should work without problems for over 10 years. In many cases owners use them for 15 years and nothing bad happens. Lifespan is extended thanks to delayed anode power up and initial bias control. Starting sequence takes about one minute and after that time the amp is ready to play.

Ayon gives 2 years warranty for these tubes (3 months for the rest). More to say, power triodes don’t need to be replaced in pairs for the first 6 years. If any of them gets damaged, one can replace it easily and Auto‐Fixed Bias system is going to pair it with the remaining one.

Like the two other power triodes, AA32B and AA52B, AA62B can be found only in Ayon amplifiers. It is the strongest one, but it can be changed in nearest future as Gerhard Hirt is working on more powerful AA82B which is going to create output of 35‐40 watts. If this tube hits the market, I am pretty sure that it’s going to be used in the new amplifier model and it will become highly desired by music enthusiast who don’t own high efficiency speakers. But before we take a trip into the future, let’s focus on Crossfire PA and its 30 watts. Serious stuff.

Other tubes
You can find 9 tubes in Austrian amplifier and 8 of them are in signal path. The 9th – General Electric 5U4G – is a rectifier tube which powers up low level section. At the input and pre‐amp section there are 6SJ7 pentodes, two for the channel. They are NOS (New Old Stock – brand new from old stock) made in March 1983 in Novosibirsk. Their main feature is low amplifying factor and relatively high power of 2.5 watt. Their designed reaches back in the past to end of 40s. They are closed in nonstandard black metal cases which makes them able to dissipate heat better. They are usually used in low frequency amplifying circuits due to their low hum and nice sound.  And they don’t have microphone effect. The driver tuber are modern double 6H30 produced by Electro‐Harmonix. These are long‐life tubes with high amplification factor and tensioned grid.  

Every 6H30 drives one power triode in this amp.

Build
Crossfire PA is very reliable and carefully designed device. The housing is made of brushed and anodised aluminium. The colouring process allowed gaining very deep black tint and it makes a great match to chrome transformer caps. 12 mm thick profiles come from Hungary, Slovenia and Austria and in Austria all of that is put together. Ayon amplifier doesn’t look Spartan, but it’s not extravagant at all. We can find discretely lit logotype and engraved model name (without PA letters though). 

On/off switch is placed underneath the unit which helped to keep the front panel clear. Rear panel is equipped with 2 line inputs: RCA and XLR. The second one is technically not that important and it serves only as optional: only two pins of three total are used (signal and ground). It is the best to use classic good quality RCA cables as any 1 cm of signal is not balanced inside the amp. The input can be chosen by the first small switch. The second serves to decrease amplification by 6dB which helps us use the amp in case of high efficiency speakers. The rest of switches are used to choose the power tube we want to set BIAS and to cut off ground in case any hum in speakers is heard. Crossfire PA is able to work with wide range of speakers. We can select between 4 and 8 Ohm impedance. WBT NExtGen terminals are nicely marked with colourful rings, but we can use spades or bananas only. No chance to use bare wires. Beside the tubes, on the top of chassis we can find four huge capsules made of extruded steel. Two of them hide output transformers and other two – the power supply ones, separate for anode voltage and heating. All transformers are high‐class E‐I type designs, shielded and insulated with specially produced (and apparently very expensive) resin. We can also see last and clearly smaller capsule. This is the housing for big electrolytic capacitor which along with rectifier 5U4G tube prepares the voltage for pre‐amp.

Interior
As we gaze at open Crossfire, we can get very surprised at first while. Gerhard Hirt calls himself a supporter of short signal path but we can find a lot of circuit boards and components inside. Well, after we take a closer look, we can see that whole sound path is fitted into two boards and the rest is very sophisticated power supply and parameter control circuits.

The designer of this device kept in mind that tubes have to work in optimum environment to cast a spell with their sound and they shouldn’t be any worry for their user in long time run. Long power‐up sequence equals not only to the time needed for switching on delayed anode voltage, as cathode is initially heated up. It’s also used for control / correction of power tubes initial bias and checking the proper working conditions inside the amp. As we turn the amp on, the keeps blinking and “mute” LED stays on. Once everything’s correct, the logo is permanently lit and LED is off, the input is switched on and amp is ready to use.

The interior is filled mostly with power supply circuits. Similar to its integrated brother, Crossfire PA is the 3rd and so far most refined generation so far. The rectifier in power amp section is a semiconductor one and it’s placed on the same board with anode filter. The latter consists of eight 220 μF / 400 V capacitors signed by Ayon Audio and fused by 330 kΩ resistors. There are also 4 H /200 mA chokes in case of electricity oscillations. Another six 4700 μF / 16 V capacitors smooth the heating voltage. Ayon’s designer is not the enemy of semiconductors and uses them consequently wherever needed – i.e. outside the signal path. Voltage rectification, delays, fuses, but not for musical signal itself. Crossfire PA is not exception here.

During the whole test, which took 3 weeks, Crossfire PA worked perfectly. Not even a single hum nor crack was heard in my room. I can say it was a dead silence. Only two relays during power‐up procedure and that was the only sound – apart from music. Even if I put my ear close to the speaker, I was not able to hear any noise. Most of transistors give some signs of life but this tube amp – none.

The only thing I was able to catch was crackling of incoming call on my mobile phone – ah, the power tubes have some microphone effect. Beside this, Crossfire was dead‐silent to the point when you’re able to perceive the amp is on only by the glowing tubes and logo on the front.

Configuration
Crossfire PA was hooked up directly to Accuphase DP‐700’s variable output at first. After that I used the newest Ayon Auris preamplifier. Both setups were driving Avalon Transcendent speakers. Signal was flowing through Kondo KSL‐LPz and Acrolink 7N‐DA2090 interconnects as well as Acrolink 7NS8000 speaker cable. The electricity was filtered by Gigawatt PC‐1 Evo and Acrolink PC‐6100 together with Gigawatt LS‐1MKII. Unit was put onto table rack from Sroka and StandArt STO MkII.   It was insulated additionally by Symposium Acoustics Ultrapad elements. The room was 16.5 square meters, acoustically treated a little bit.

Sound review
I was fond of Single‐Ended. Let’s say it’s sort of weakness of mine, once every couple years. Listening to something that far away from technical perfection, being able to sound magical on vocals and chamber music at the same time. SE triode has many limits but it speaks seductive voice which invites you to another world. You can be so conscious of rounded bass, warmed up midrange and lack of power, but you want to feel full taste of vocals and enjoy full microdynamic scale. The dissonance on mind‐heart line seems to be relatively deep but there’s no sign of discomfort about it. We suspect what can go wrong but enjoy music anyway. And there’s only one flash of thought from time to time: couldn’t this magic be equipped with versatility of transistors? But it can be possible yet. Really?

Crossfire PA tempted me with its power. As to regular Single‐Ended based on lonely triode per channel, this amp is unusually efficient. I hope for at least proper driving of my Avalons. The Transcendence are not that demanding for the amps, nevertheless 88 dB efficiency makes you keep at least the minimum of sense. 8 watts from 300B couldn’t make it, but 30? Come on, it should work.

During this review it turned out all my concerns are worthless. As I was exchanging e‐mails with Gerhard Hirt, he mentioned one of his very demanding German customers asked him for specialist opinion for hooking up Crossfire PA to his Avalon Eidolon speakers. As Gerhard used to be the distributor of the American company to Austria, he knew the speakers very well, and their appetite for high power, to say the least. Acting against his own business, he told the customer not to use

Crossfire and recommended a way to use a more powerful amp. To Gerhard’s surprise the customer was back after a few months, saying he wouldn’t follow the advice, tried the amp on and it was the sound he had been looking for more than two years. He’d bought Crossfire that time and wasn’t able to stop listening since then. He also claimed Eidolons worked in the proper environment at last. I can really imagine that. Or I don’t even have to, because I managed to achieve some spectacular sound with Transcendent model. And the amp refused typical accusations for “SE triode” sound, by the way. The sound of Ayon amp is very clear and transparent and free of technical vapours at the same time, which is not surprise as it’s a a SET, but it’s extremely precise and easy‐going. Crossfire PA is going to show you every single change inside your system. It’s so neutral I was able to perceive immediately what happened after switching to Auris preamp, or even after replacing one mains filter by another. Transparency of this power is worth big respect and makes the work of reviewer who’s comparing different hi‐fi elements so easy.

Ayon fed directly from DP‐700 showed a bit thinner midrange and cooler tones. The soundstage was wider but I wouldn’t be offended by some more accurate depth. After switching to Auris preamp the sound got some more body and warmth. It showed some more details, precisely melted into the background. Soundstage got closer to its centre and depth was shown way better. Another advantage was very full and “round” sound from the very beginning of volume level. I didn’t have to turn it loud to get all the round shapes and fluent finishes. Crossfire didn’t make it with DP‐700 connected directly. Once I listened quietly, I was able to notice serrated edges – probably as a result of resolution limited by digital volume control of Accuphase. It’s a bit disturbing in a long run and it’s so much better to use the power amp partnered by its mate Auris. Besides, both are just a perfect match. Crossfire PA has really detailed and precise sound, but so refined at the same time. The timbre doesn’t even try to get too bright and it won’t sting your ears with no reason to do that. Even muted trumpet – though very realistic – didn’t do any discomfort. The grand piano formant gives just a tiny bit of pleasant sharpness but smoothness and culture are the main players here.

Crossfire PA shows maximum details, but it doesn’t push it to the border of non‐homogeneity.  The sound is not bright. We get a huge palette of information’s which makes the musical picture complete and clear. At the same time we can relax and enjoy the harmony of sound.  

No range favoured, nor neglected.
Ayon shows music full being of nuances and contrasts, without a bit of exaggeration. Overall message is attractive and multicoloured. You won’t get tired but even more interested after long hours.

In one of his messages Gerhard stated that Crossfire PA can get people into serious addiction. After three weeks of listening I wanted to disagree but it was too late. I would like to but this amp so much but I just can’t, because I need very versatile transistor for my work. This is the only thing which makes Ayon go back to its distributor. Such a shame, especially as it doesn’t neglect the lowest and highest end of acoustical range. The highest and lowest tones are not rounded nor overheated, but always clear and present with the rest of sound spectrum, precise all the time. Especially the bass is a huge surprise. Beautiful trebles of triode – that’s not a big deal. But to get precise bass of it – it’s sort of magic trick. And Ayon made it possible. Power triodes and transformers have to be really top quality, resulting in very massive and consistent low frequencies. Usually the base of SET – if there is any base at all – is very soft and round. The depth is not a problem but its contours and permanent lasting during longer accumulation – it’s usually a problem. Crossfire generates very strong and energetic low frequencies with satisfying amount and depth. Of course you can get some better bass, let’s say Mark Levinson mono blocks or power amp from Solution will show you no mercy, but that’s not the idea. Crossfire is so much full range, it doesn’t leave any deficiency here. You don’t have to put some sort of handicap on it and constantly say “even as a SE triode”.  It just sound linear and any justification won’t be necessary here.

You don’t have to read a review of mid range in this case as well. SE triodes are famous for it and this is what makes your heartbeat louder. Thanks to this people are put into a spell and forgive any drawbacks. Let’s make it straight: you don’t have to forgive Ayon anything. The mids are just fascinating, not overplayed at all and warmth is only icing on a cake. Even in this range of frequencies the amp so neutral and gets no coloration. It tries to remain as close to original as possible and show all the smallest details.

Microdynamics is another advantage of triode. Full dynamics might be another side of the coin but you really don’t have to worry about Ayon as its powerful enough. Of course you’ll need more sensitive speakers if you have larger room but in the average one (25‐30 m2) the amp will do very well. I wasn’t able to reach the end of scale in CD, not to mention pre‐amp… Crossfire will give you some serious power capacity and you can hear it straight away. The sound is so live, full of energy, not restricted by transients and fortissimos. There are no coloration's even if we listen very loud and soundstage remains clear and precise. Ayon guides the signal, shows all the contrasts and doesn’t do shortcuts. Full of dynamics, verve and momentum – the only accusation may be that listening pleasure is so exceptional.

Conclusion
Ayon Crossfire PA shows all advantages of triode without its weaknesses. I’ll remember how it sounded with Avalon Transcendent speakers for very long time. Beautiful sound ‐ full synergy. Listening to this amp I was happy as a child. Now I have to stay under very adult impression.

Awarded!
● Awarded as the best SE power amp 2015 !

.......so real that hardly anyone had heard before something better.......42 kilos of the very finest tube sound.......this is one of the best sounding amplifiers in the world.
German magazine test translation
The Ayon Crossfire III is one of those rare specimens in the tradition of the legendary Western Electric 300B tube stand. Only do not always seek the old circuits, Ayon boss Gerhard Hirt. "It's nonsense, already completely rebuild the umpteenth version out lutschter circuits. We are always looking for something new, something better. 

Ayon Crossfire III: Construction

In the case of power tubes of the new Crossfire means: A pair AA62B provides a capacity of 30 watts (into 8 ohms) per channel in class A mode,  well above the not even 10 watts that are most out of a classic 300B.

The AA62B, is more or less an uprated 300B being built for the Czech Republic shepherd in the former Tesla factory. This tube is designed for low frequency and does not need this huge voltages of over 1,000 volts as some other power tube of this caliber. "For the classical (high frequency) radio tubes," says Shepherd, "you always have to drive a huge effort to get them quiet. This is not necessary in the AA62B "On the other hand, the AA62B is not so special that you have no other tubes you could use: If one changes the voltage, then a 52B is just as feasible as a 32B or even a 300B.

Interview: Ayon boss Gerhard Hirt on triode

And on we go in time with the unusual placement: The preamp tubes are not just classic ECC83, but models of type 6SJ7. These pentode dates back to the times before the Second World War (1935), but for various Hirt advantages: firstly, it was a relatively large lattice installed. This brings the 6SJ7 a "more loving" dealing with small signals. A popular saying in the 60s said: "The larger the grid, the better the sound tube." So here shepherd would hit a home run, especially since this tube is protected by a metallic coating to electromagnetic interference. From this preamp tube per channel two sit on the deck of the Crossfire III. What's the point?

More dynamic

Usually work preamp tubes to a fixed anode resistance. In the Crossfire circuit mutated the second 6SJ7 to resist, but to a variable. Then the 6SJ7 work in the so-called SRPP circuit (shunt regulated push pull), in which the "top" tube quasi a plate resistor forms, which is also controlled in time with the music. This facilitates the lower tube obvious manner the work, which reduces the harmonic distortion and offers more power when needed at the output.

So even the previous works Crossfire II New at III rock is, however, volume control implemented: Instead of a classic potentiometers successors when the volume is controlled by a processor that directs a network (analog) high precision resistors. Of these, Hirt promises even better noise performance and a longer service life.

Ayon Crossfire III: Hearing Test

Adorable. Alluring. Absolutely the essence of music aptly. At the JBL Studio 4365 and the small Cabasse Bora CrossFire conjured III sound images of such beauty, holographic depth and ultimately of such authenticity in the listening room that major Ayon-Monos Vulcan had II difficulties even in some areas to catch up. Of course, had tubes references at higher levels greater strength and stability, but these airiness, the completely natural representation of voices….

The Ayon triode manages that rare blend of the highest resolution and heat, a fine representation without any harshness. Compared to the Octave V 110, the most universal of Amp stereoplay history, voices had more timbre, the singing was still alive. In addition, was plasticity of representation so close, so real that hardly anyone had heard before something better.

We found many speaker with which the Crossfire harmonised well and was able to make decent level. On the right speakers this is one of the best sounding amplifiers in the world.

Testimonials

Fantastic

Terry,
"After Saturday when we set up the new Ayon Crossfire 300B integrated I decided to look at using the Aurelic Vega DAC again. What a difference - with the Crossfire installed there is much more clarity, definition and texture.
I can also get a lot more volume and headroom; it's like using the previous Triton amp but with greater definition and timbre. Fantastic. You'll have to come and have a listen".
Regards,
.....Stephen