Ayon S10-II tube Music Streamer 32/192 DSD256 Roon Tidal Qobuz JRiver Audirvana

AY 13 MS S10
NZ$ 12,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Ayon Audio

"The Bugatti of Audio" - TAS: The Absolute Sound magazine

New
After three very successful years we have technically redesigned the S-10 to a great extent by refining and expanding the modular concept design. Based on this modular platform, the new S-10 II can be configured individually in different versions, depending upon the request and the requirements.

The S-10 II includes a Music network player, computer playback, USB drive playback, analogue preamp with a quadrable analogue volume control system, a new dual mono Digital to Analog converter, an updated PCM – DSD converter converting all PCM-signals to DSD. Additionally, a separate self-sufficient server unit with variable hard-disk capacity can be installed. Furthermore, we have implemented a completely new streamer platform that can be equipped with a second self-sufficient streamer module for the server option.

Of course, for Ayon the best possible reproduction has top priority. It’s spacious 3D sound illustration combined with an enormous agility, timbre and powerful reproduction are only a few trademarks unified in this exceptional device.

This tube-based network player offers the outstanding performance you would expect from an ayon product, setting a new sound performance standard in its price range.

This tube based network-player represents a new sound performance standard in its price category.

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Features

Full-featured Network Music Player
Class-A triode vacuum-tube output stage for single-ended & fully balanced operation

 

Signal Path
We believe that the simplest circuits work best together with the shortest signal path. That is why our pre-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.

Network Player

Functionality

 

    • User interface on QVGA 5” TFT display 
    • Tidal – online streaming 
    • HiResAudio - online streaming 
    • Qobuz - online streaming 
    • Airable Services 
    • Roon ready 
    • JRiver and Audivrana Media Server applications approved 
    • UPnP/DLNA 
    • AYON Controller app for iOS & Android 

       

       

        • DSD (DIFF, DSF) 
        • WAV 
        • FLAC 
        • AIFF 

       

       

    • Dual-Band WIFI connection 
    • RJ45/LAN Gigabit Eternet 
    • Digital input - S/PDIF (RCA), Toslink and USB “B” for computer playback 
    • 2 x USB “A” inputs – for external disk 
    • Digital output / Streamer - S/PDIF (RCA) 
    • Analog line inputs: 2 pair RCA (optional) 
    • Quadruple electrical -analogue volume control for preamp (optional) 
    • PCM ? DSD converter (up to 256x switchable) for all PCM signals (optional) 
    • Separate Server with Harddisk (SSD variable diskspace - optional)
    • Logical sequenced soft-start power up for extended tube life 
    • Warm up function 
    • 0dB negative feedback (of any kind) 
    • Ultra short signal path 
    • Simplest direct circuit path for purest musical sound and high reliability 
    • Low output impedance for driving long runs interconnect to an amplifier, and any tube or solid state power amp 
    • No solid state devices in the analog tube output (signal path) 
    • Minimal discrete wiring for optimum signal propagation 
    • No followers or buffers in the signal path 
    • No DC servo that degrades the signal 
    • High quality parts throughout 
    • Separate analog output stage for left and right channel

 

Power Supply

The power supplies have been further refined with new components and enhanced AC line noise filtration. Separate power transformer windings 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 6H30 output stage. 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.

 

    • R-Core / Low noise – insulated power transformer for digital & analog 
    • Innovative power supply provides a high speed energy delivery on transients 
    • Separate and isolated power supplies over each stage of amplification 
    • AC power line filter to avoid noise and hash from entering into the unit. 
    • 8 separate voltage regulators
          

 

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 
  • High quality tube sockets with gold pins 
  • High quality capacitors (MKP) 
  • High quality – RCA & XLR jack 
  • Gold-plated industrial grade PCB   

Specifications

Conversion rate:  764kHz / 32 bit & DSD256
DAC confirguration:  Fully symmetrical / Dual mono
PCM - DSD converter:  All PCM signals - DSD128 or 256 switchable
Tube complement:  6H30
Dynamic range:  > 120dB
Channel separation:  >105dB 20 Hz to 20 kHz
Output level @1 kHz/0,775V -0dB/RCA/XLR:  0 – 8V rms variable
Output impedance Single-Ended-RCA:  ~ 700 Ω
Output impedance Balanced-XLR:  ~ 700 Ω
Digital inputs: 
   75 Ω  S/PDIF (RCA)
   TosLink
   USB-PC (PCM & DSD)
   Front mounted USB type ‘A’ socket for external disk 
   Rear mounted USB type ‘A’ socket for external disk 
Digital output - Streamer:  75 Ω  S/PDIF (RCA)
Network inputs:
   RP-SMA plug Wifi Aerial input (“wireless” network connection) 
   RJ45/LAN Gigabit Ethernet socket (“wired” network connection) 
S/N ratio:  > 115 dB
Frequency response:  20Hz – 20kHz  +/- 0.3dB
Total harmonic distortion @ 1kHz:  < 0.002%
Remote control:  Yes
Analog line inputs:  2 pair RCA
Analog – Main outputs:  1 pair RCA & XLR
Dimension (Wide x Deep – incl. terminals x High – incl. feet) cm:  48 x 36 x 12 cm
Weight, unit only:  12 kg
Specifications subject to change without notice

Reviews

the unit sounds open, communicative and very dynamic. It has a foot-tapping and highly lyrical delivery has a more engulfing soundstage than many transistor-based competitors.
Christiaan Punter

CONCLUSION: While not inexpensive, the S-10 MkII offers a very complete package. It’s not only a streaming endpoint and a DAC but also an analog preamp complete with two analog inputs. And, unlike many competing products, the Ayon’s preamp can actually replace a very good separate analog preamp. I want one! Be careful. Because after having given it a listening session, I think you will want one, too. Highly recommended!

REVIEW: t’s becoming annoying…  Irrespective of what fancy equipment is set up in my system at any given time, pretty much every Ayon product that comes to visit immediately gets to my heart and makes me want to hang on to it. It happened with the Stealth DAC and preamp, the CD-T-II CD transport, the Scorpio amp, and the Spirit III amp. As regular readers know, I have held on to the Stealth and the Spirit III and after having performed fabulously in the star role of their own reviews as well as in a supporting role for countless other reviews, neither product has anything left to prove. And now Ayon has issued the S-10 MkII, the successor of the S-10 and big brother of the now discontinued S-3 Junior. Incidentally, the latter also surprised me even if its friendly price point meant it couldn’t quite match the Stealth’s performance. I’ll admit to having been prejudiced, thinking that a tube company was not likely to excel also in the streaming field. I was wrong. The streaming section is not just any board slapped on to the units but made by highly regarded Austrian company Stream Unlimited, who might be best known for their CD transport modules that are/were used by many high-end brands including Wadia.

Functionality

The S-10 MkII in its basic guise is more costly but for that it also offers a much better display and a very similarly high-quality output stage with the same tube complement as the Stealth and adds Roon support and Bluetooth connectivity and a host of other streaming options including Tidal and Quobuz support, still for less than the Stealth’s list price.

All it’s missing is I2S connectivity which only matters if you use the CD-T II CD transport and the front-panel knobs of which the latter is actually my only gripe with this unit. The centrally placed display is excellent but it does not have touch functionality and whereas the S-3 Junior offered various buttons and knobs, the S-10 MkII has no accessible front panel functionality other than the standby button. This would not be an issue if the functions could be controlled from the Ayon iOS/Android tablet app but it only allows streaming-related functionality, none of the preamplifier or DAC functions.

The unit does come with a very complete IR remote control but because the input and volume level are displayed on a tiny display next to the unit’s main display, the info cannot be read from any distance greater than a few meters. After a few days of use, I got accustomed to this by counting the number of steps to know what input is selected and the volume can be adjusted by ear but it’s not ideal. Anyway, as I said, this is my only gripe. Otherwise, I am in love with the S-10 MkII.

What’s really great is that all the music’s metadata is shown on the unit’s front panel, including the album cover. The display is of very high quality and looks great from any angle. In the Ayon tablet app, the same info is also visible, even when using Roon, in parallel with the Roon app. What’s especially great is that the Ayon’s IR remote control also controls the Roon stream, making pausing and skipping track very easy.

Above: the S-10 MkII has practically the same dimensions as the Stealth minus the curves on the rear

Incidentally, Ayon already has the answer to my gripes in the shape of the S-5 or the more affordable version of the S-5, the S-5 XS. Both have the same rotary front panel controls as found on the Stealth along with a range of pushbuttons in addition to offering an even higher sound quality than the S-10 MkII. Although I certainly can’t say that the S-10 MkII’s sound quality is in need of improvement.

Signature version with Preamp option

Reviewed here, is the Signature version of the unit with preamp option which adds 4-fold, fully symmetrical volume control and enables the twin set of analog inputs. The Signature version adds audiophile quality coupling capacitors and a DSD upsampling module. The precise configuration of the capacitors can vary depending on the availability of these components. For my review sample the Mundorf MKP MCap capacitors and Jantzen Silver-Gold Z-cap coupling capacitors were fitted. With preamp and in the Signature version, this brings the total to a not inconsiderable 9.360 euro. But as will become clear further down, I think this is justified. A server option will also become available, turning the unit into an all-contained music storage and playback system. At the time of writing this option is not yet available.

The DAC section employs dual AKM 4490’s, one per channel and can decode all of the popular bitrates and sample rates. Traditionally, I have always favored multi-bit DACs over Delta/Sigma DACs but these days, I’m afraid there is no escaping it anymore. Unless one opts for one of the few Discrete R2R ladder DAC implementations but in that case as well, the end result is heavily dependent on the implementation. In any event, of all Delta/Sigma chips, in my experience, those made by AKM’s have always lead to great results and as it would turn out later, this is also the case with the S-10MkII.

Setup

The S-10 MkII comes with two very comprehensive manuals: the main one for the unit’s day to day operation and one dedicated to general NAS, router, JRiver and Media Server settings. While some setups may require a bit of work, Roon functionality is Plug and Play and easy as pie and a nice upside of using Roon is that volume control is built into the app.

The S-3 Junior only worked with USB drives or UPnP via the network but the S-10 MkII also adds full Roon support. Starting with the S-10 MkII as a DAC with fixed volume level receiving its input from the Antipodes CX and EX combo via a Final Touch Audio Callisto USB cable and the output routed into the Lejonklou Sagatun dual-mono preamp and from there to the CH Precision A1.5 power amp, I was happy to find the endpoint in Roon right away and have music playing in no time. The S-10 MkII’s response to commands is a little slower than the Antipodes EX’s but it is certainly manageable and it works very stably.

Listening

Straight from the box, the unit sounds open, communicative and very dynamic. It has a foot-tapping and highly lyrical delivery along with what seems to be a more linear, more refined and more transparent sound than the Stealth. A direct comparison will provide more definitive results but I will get to that later.

When switching to the S-10 MkII’s direct Roon streaming function, the sound is even tighter and more direct, closer to the source, in a way. Along with the higher precision comes more dryness and a subjectively and comparatively more matter-of-fact sound which took me some getting used to but after repeated back and forth switching I have the strong feeling that the Ayon’s approach is the more accurate one and the cleaner and tighter delivery quickly grew on me. The EX does add a richer tonality and a nice sense of soundstage depth and it has a more forgiving delivery but it also loses some bass articulation and speed in the process. The direct Roon delivery counters with superb timing and very convincing timbre. These differences aside, I find both deliveries to be involving and lyrical. And because the Ayon is a tube product, it already has a more engulfing soundstage than many transistor-based competitors.

It has been suggested that more accurate signal processing can lead to a flatter sound or, turning that upside down, less accurate processing can add perceived depth. I’m not sure if one rules out the other but recent experiments do seem to indicate that they are at the very least correlated. Either way, I always encourage to choose the delivery that provides the most involving delivery, no matter if it is more or less accurate. The success of either delivery depends on the rest of the system and the speakers that are used. In my case, I much like the EX sound with the Martin Logan ESL15A’s but prefer the Ayon’s direct Roon sound with the Kroma Audio Carmens. Fortunately, with a component as versatile as the S-10 MkII all the options are there for the user to choose the one that gives the most-liked results in a given situation.

DSD upsampling

Although I had mixed results with the DSD upsampling offered by the CD-T II CD transport, this turned out to work absolutely fabulously with the S-10 MkII. Whereas I much preferred the direct non-DSD upsampled PCM stream with the CD-T II for its tighter and more lively sound, enabling the function with the S-10 MkII has only benefits. The bass remains as tight and articulate while the treble becomes a little airier and the soundstage becomes considerably deeper and more engulfing, without softening, thinning, or blurring anything. Between 128 and 256 fold, the differences are smaller, but still, they are profound enough for me to have a preference for the latter.

Throughout my listening tests and in various speaker- and amplifier combinations, I kept switching back and forth but, in spite of my general preference for PCM, I consistently prefer the DSD upsampled delivery.

CD playback

Using the Jay’s Audio CDT2-Mk2 CD transport I also tested the S-10 MkII’s digital coaxial input. Although both the player and the DAC offer I2S they are sadly on different connectors so I could not try this. Regardless, the sound via Coax was also fabulous. The CDT2-Mk2 uniquely uses a Philips CDM-4/19 swing-arm mechanism and these transport’s fluid delivery is present here, too. It’s very different from any music server playback, less accurate maybe but also less factual and very easy to get into. Smooth, fluid, and highly lyrical, this CD/Tube combo encourages to play CD after CD.

LP via the analog input

Using the Origin Live Calypso mk4 turntable with ViRa Aidas MC cartridge via the CH Precision P1 phono preamp either into the Stealth or the S-10 MkII, I set out to see how the S-10 MkII differed from the Stealth.

While I have heard other ESS Sabre-equipped DACs sound flat and lifeless, this certainly does not go for the Stealth. But while it has a bolder and more impactful delivery than the S10-MkII it is also less subtle and less finely resolved. However, these differences are also not earth-shattering and in practice, both products make music in the Ayon-typical toe-tapping, dynamic, and highly engaging manner. Although I can’t make any hard claims without having heard the basic S-1o MkII version, it seems plausible that the increased fluidity and refinement are specific benefits that come with the Signature Upgrade.

Rack placement

The Stealth worked most synergistically when set up on the Artesania Exoteryc rack which lends it some more transparency and refinement. Conversely, the S-10 MkII worked more synergistically on the Artesania Modular rack which lends it more drive and slam. However, as mentioned before, the differences between these two Ayons are not night and day and I’m sure that they will both work well on a wide range of audio racks.

As a preamp

The S10 MkII, direct into the power amp using Vermouth Reference XLR cables, sounded even more solid and chunky (in a good way!) than via the Lejonklou Sagatun preamp while retaining excellent treble fluidity and a great sense of flow. Clearly, the Ayon’s preamp functionality is not just an afterthought as it can be with some DACs that start to sound flat and overly dry when used without an analog preamp. With the S-10 MkII, an analog preamp can be omitted without any penalties. Via the Lejonklou is more supple still but I can’t really say that I prefer one delivery over the other. Both make my feet tap and both make music in a highly lyrical manner.

After finishing the review I read in the manual that the twin DMP switches on the bottom are to be used when deploying the S-10 as a preamp directly with a power amp. DMP reduces the level by 6dB and increases the damping factor, thereby reducing the audibility of tube-related noises. The manual doesn’t go into effects on the sound quality but going from this, I’d wager that DMP stands for “damping”, of which you do not want to have too much as it can reduce the musical flow. Perhaps it was worth checking but all I can say is that the S-10 never made any noise besides sweet music even when connected to the power amp directly.

XLR/Cinch outputs

The S-10 MkII’s output stage is built in true balanced form which means that the best way to connect it should be via its XLR outputs. Using a range of cables and with the S-10 MkII as a DAC and preamp straight into the CH A1.5 power amp, I set out to put this to the test.

Now, this is always a tricky assessment because it involves many variables, some of which have nothing to do with the source component’s outputs and this is further complicated by cinch and XLR cables tending to differ from one another even when of the same type and made by the same manufacturer.

The Final Touch Audio Ganymede XLR cable provided a very nice alternative to the Vermouth. Dreamy and sweet and very gentle, the sophisticated Ganymede is not as “on edge” as the Vermouths but it retains the speed and a big portion of the drive. Although it is perhaps not as immediately impactful and “impressive” as the Vermouths or some other cables, its lush and easy on the ear yet truly hi-res delivery soon grows on you, making it hard to switch back to soberer and more earthy sounding cables.

Especially with the Martin Logans, this combination worked very well. With the Kroma’s, which are relaxed and full-bodied themselves, I found that the presentation was better balanced when using the Vermouths. What also worked surprisingly well with the Ayon and the Kroma’s are the very affordable Siltech Paris MXT interlinks. Less colorful and full-bodied, they counter with very clean and articulate bass and an open midrange which works highly synergistically in this combination. Meanwhile, the Ayon proved that its output stage works splendidly with a wide range of cables, fully leaving the choice to the buyer rather than imposing restrictions.

MkII upgrade

Fortunately, the MkII upgrade will become available for existing owners of the S-10. 

Conclusion

 

While not inexpensive, the S-10 MkII offers a very complete package. It’s not only a streaming endpoint and a DAC but also an analog preamp complete with two analog inputs. And, unlike many competing products, the Ayon’s preamp can actually replace a very good separate analog preamp. I want one! Be careful. Because after having given it a listening session, I think you will want one, too. Highly recommended!