AYON Spheris III "State-of-Art" tube Preamp dual chassis with AC Regenerator

AY 27 PA SPH LS
NZ$ 54,995.00 ea (incl. GST)
Ayon Audio

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

New

"Only the Mark Levinson No52 preamp came close (among linestages I reviewed). and on top of that Ayon Sphreis-III offered also this immense richness of the sound that Levinson couldn't quite match. With Spheris there are large, very distinct, palpable, intense phantom images rendered in space. Each of them combines many layers that overlap one another to create something that I would describe as “natural” sound, assuming that “natural” means: causing impressions similar to those we experience during live concert. That means that this “artificiality” of music reproduction is somehow not an issue here. It is still not the same thing as “live music”, it is “an impression of naturalness”. One listens to the music and gets sucked in.....
High Fidelity Gold Fingerprint Award - Wojciech Pacuta

"STATE OF ART"
The Spheris III - Linestage is designed to be the new reference standard in vacuum-tube linestage pre-amplification and for audiophiles who will accept nothing less than simply the best. It is a marvel of engineering with its unique C3m tube circuit design, a new revolutionary volume control system and construction. 

This preamplifier sets a new standard for natural musical performance with its extraordinarily wide bandwidth, extremely low distortion, colourful, superior dynamic range and an airy three-dimensional holographic soundstage.

The external Spheris III AC~ Regenerator offers stable, regulated and purified AC power regardless of the incoming AC line quality. This power supply provides a lowered noise floor, more liquidity, better spatial three-dimensional imaging, greater focus, richer colours, and decreased glare & haze.

Ayon Spheris III  „High Fidelity“ BEST PRODUCT 2014, Poland
A preamplifier is a heart of a classic, analogue audio system. The final sonic effect relies a lot on how well this “heart” works. Many manufacturers don't understand that, treating this element of the system lightly, often not realizing how different it is from other system elements and thus treating it not differently than a headphone amplifier or D/A Converter's output. Compared to them, Gerhard Hirt seems to be an alien from another planet. He treats preamplifier as one of the biggest challenges. He devoted a lot of time and spent even more money to achieve proper results. Spheris III is the product that took Ayon's engineers and Gerhard himself most time ever to develop. Since “HighFidelity's” chief editor, Wojciech Pacuła, spent last few years with Ayon's Polaris linestage, using its consecutive versions: II, III, and finally III (Custom Version), he knows the path Gerhard worked his way through. That is why he can claim with utmost certainty that Spheris III outperforms all previous models by a large margin. It is the best preamplifier that ever played in Wojciech Pacuła's system.
Ayon Audio Spheris III is now a partof “HighFidelity's” reference system.

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Features

2 Chassis full-featured Class A – triode/pentode single-ended & true balanced vacuum- tube stereo preamplifier
Unique new pure vacuum tube-circuit design with single gain stage and incorporates only one coupling capacitor at its output stage

“Limited production”

Vacuum TubesThe 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.

  • Special tubes for stereo line-amplification ( tube life min. 10000 hrs )

Signal Path
We believe that the simplest circuits work best together with the shortest signal path. 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.

  • Ultra short signal path
  • Simplest direct circuit path for purest musical sound and high reliability
  • Very low output impedance to drive any tube or solid state power amp
  • 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
  • No followers or buffers in the signal path
  • High quality parts throughout
  • 0dB negative feedback  (of any kind )
  • All line inputs - impedance > 1MOhm
  • Selector switch engages relays located near RCA jacks to switch all inputs
  • Special alloy solder used for the best electrical connection

AC~ReGenerator - Power Supply
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 stages which makes this a pure power source. 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.

  • Tube rectified power supply with built in AC ~ Regenerator
  • Regenerated AC power and low distortion sine wave
  • Superior noise reduction
  • 2 separate low noise –insulated power transformers
  • Power transformers are encased, excellent damped and RFI/EMI ultra-shielded
  • Innovative power supply provides a high speed energy delivery on transients
  • Triple choke filtered power supply for power tubes
  • Separate and isolated power supplies over each stage of amplification
  • Regulated DC filament supplies with soft-start power up for extended tube life
  • AC power line filter to avoid noise and hash from entering into the unit.
  • High capacitance energy storage. 
  • Frequency meter (60Hz)

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)

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.

  • Ultra selected, absolute best 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 / High quality – RCA input jack
  • Neutrik/Swiss - XLR chassis connectors
  • Special isolated - internal wiring
  • Premium internal signal cable uses ultra pure, soft annealed copper and super low loss insulation
  • Gold-plated industrial grade PCB
  • Elma/Swiss - Input selector switches
  • VTC – “volume transformer control”, 4 channels / 42 position - electronic-relay system, custom made by ayon
  • This stepped volume control system has a channel balance  within +/- 0.05dB.
  • Tantalum – The best sounding precision special resistors 0,5% are used everywhere, best resolution and lowest noise.
  • Rifa - Long life capacitors

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

  • Improved heat ventilation chassis
  • Backlit front panel displays indicate level attenuation & input selection
  • 3 Platinum knobs with backlit glass pivot,  custom-made by Ayon
  • The aluminium feet are resonance absorbing types
  • All front & rear panel descriptions are engraved
  • Ground switch
  • AC phase polarity control indicator
  • Volume & Mute function - RC
  • Metal remote commander
  • Chassis finish: black / chrome

Specifications

Class of Operation: Pure Class A, Triode-Pentode
Tube Complement C3M
Maximum Output (at 1 kHz ): 40V rms
S/N ratio: > 98 dB
Input Impedance: > 1MOhm
Output Impedance: 30 Ohm
Frequency Response / Line;  0.5Hz - 500kHz
Harmonic Distortion (at 1V ) Line:  < 0.01%
Harmonic Distortion (at 1V ) Phono;  < 0.1%
Input;  x Line RCA, 1 x Bal XLR
Output: 2x RCA, 1 x Tape out, 1x Bal XLR ,
AC~ ReGenerator: max. 300 W
Frequency; 60Hz
Dimensions Pre; 500W x 430D x 110H mm
Dimensions ReGenerator P.S: 500W x 430D x 110H mm
Weight (Pre & Power Supply); 43 kg

Specifications subject to change without notice

Reviews

Spheris III is a perfect fit for me. I could easily enjoy music with every of the above mentioned preamplifiers and be really happy about it, but it is Ayon that comes closest to my personal expectations, that is the best "fit......
Wojciech Pacuła,

REVIEW SUMMARY: As of today the Spheris III really nor reasonably cannot be improved anymore; it is matured in itself for almost 23 years and brought to perfection as perhaps no other series tube preamplifier on the actual world market.

One can't really overrate preamplifier's role in audio system. From time perspective I can now see that preamplifier shapes the final sound in a way that is more difficult to perceive (unlike when one changes amplifier, speakers, or source). But it is a preamplifier that plays the key role, that sets a sonic direction for the whole system. In my opinion top models of speakers of most brands aren't really their best ones, when it comes to amplifiers and digital sources sometimes top models are the best and sometimes they are not, but when it comes to preamplifiers flagships always offer top performance.

Spheris III is not only Ayon's flagship linestage but it is also one of the best linestages I've listened so far to. What's more—the set of features it brings to the table, the way it shapes the sound of my system is almost perfectly "tailored" to my needs and expectations. In other words, Spheris III is a perfect addition to "High Fidelity's" reference system making it complete. I am sure that it is still possible to create even better device, and I am sure it will be developed. But I also realize that it will be very, very difficult and it will take a lot of time. How do I know that? Well, I've been waiting for Spheris III in its today's form for 10 years!

Spheris III allows listener to hear or understand exactly what I am talking about. It adds some density, richness to the sound, it increases the depth of the sound. That means it modifies sound in such a way to fit a huge church, stadium, or a large club into a very limited space listener has in his room. I like that! That's what I want/need/expect. I think that this sort of sound modification is the right one for a high-end audio in general. It allows a system to convey more layers of music.

With Spheris there are large, very distinct, palpable, intense phantom images rendered in space. Each of them combines many layers that overlap one another to create something that I would describe as "natural" sound, assuming that "natural" means: causing impressions similar to those we experience during live concert. That means that this "artificiality" of music reproduction is somehow not an issue here. It is still not the same thing as "live music", it is "an impression of naturalness". One listens to the music and gets sucked in.

EXTENDED REVIEW: My memories from (I think) the first edition of High End Show in Munich (after it moved from Frankfurt's Kempinsky Hotel), survived in few "capsules". Each of them contains a part of me, but also – as I can see it now – sort of prelude to the future events. That's what happened in 2005 in Munich where I met for the first time (among others) Mr Fabio Camorani, the owner of Audio Nemesie, Ms Eunice Kron, chief of KR Audio, Mr Hervé Delétraz—the boss of darTZeel and many, many others. It was also then when I first talked to Dirk Sommer, who, at the time, was a Chief Editor of Image Hi-Fi . and today is a Chief Editor of hifistatement.net.

All these people were really nice and friendly and I started a cooperation with some of them right away. One thing they all had in common was a certain reservation about Polish audio market and Polish audio journalist as they were all convinced that there was no high end market in our country. So they all suggested that if I wanted to review some of their products it should be rather something not too expensive. I mean, they all said that in a very nice, indirect way, but it was what they meant.

A year later even though I'd known many of them already for a year, their approach was still about the same. They were still nice, friendly and very professional but they still didn't see Poland as a market for their top products .

In 2006 I saw something that really stayed in my head for a long time: products of Ayon Audio. And again, just like a representative of Soulution later, someone for Ayon (probably the owner, Gerhard Hirt, but it was a long time ago so I can't be sure) didn't really think that any of their products could be reviewed by "HighFidelity" in a foreseeable future. I was disappointed since I fell in love at the first sight with Spheris preamplifier presented this year. It looked great (you can see its picture in my Show coverage), sounded even better and immediately became my personal Holy Grail.

As it turned out less then ten years was more then enough to completely change the (audio) world. Most manufacturers I met then now are present on Polish market and for many of them Poland is the second biggest, and sometimes even the biggest market in Europe. A Soulution power amplifier has been a part of my reference system for a few years now. And Gerhard Hirt (Ayon CEO) is a friend and an honorary member of Cracow Sonic Society. What's more, his preamplifier, Polaris (only second to the top of the line, Spheris), has been my pride and joy for the last few years. We live in interesting times and it is (unlike the meaning of this saying in China) a good sign.

The Polaris preamplifier, in its few versions, has been a part, or rather a heart, the key element of my reference system since 2009, meaning since my review that was published in "High Fidelity" in April that year (issue No. 60). Over this time it underwent several upgrades.

The more expenise Spreis version that is under review was already marked with number "II". The gain stage was based on Siemens C3m penthode working in triode mode, it sported a tube power supply and a volume control based on step-up transformer. After the review I bought this device as I couldn't image my system without it.

A little while later Gerhard with his engineers developed a completely new power supply, well—a power conditioner actually, still using tubes and generating high voltage sinusoid for signal tubes. Improvement of sound quality was significant but the character of the sound remained the same. I had no choice but to upgrade my preamplifier by purchasing the new power supply. The new version was now called Polaris III.

And I was happy. Until, in 2009, I listened to the top of the line Spheris II. This was a game changing experience despite the fact that I knew, more or less, what to expect. After this review, knowing I couldn't afford changing my Polaris III for Spheris II, I asked Gerhard if he could upgrade my preamplifier. It was a custom one-time job, and the result was called Polaris III [Custom Version]. The upgrades included changing all passive elements for the same as used in top preamplifier, and also upgrading few other details. Progress in sound quality was significant and while performance was still not the same as offered by Spheris, I was happy again.

But I knew then already that sooner or later I would have to get myself Ayon's top of the line preamp. So even when Ayon presented Polaris IV, despite the fact I appreciated another progress of performance it introduced, I still wanted Spheris III.

It took Ayon five years of hard work to develop improvements worth implementing. They concern mostly the volume control. It is still based on step-up transformers, but now these are controlled by sophisticated electronic system and contact relays instead of mechanical pot. Another element of this solution is an alphanumeric display on the front panel that allows user to read a current volume level.

The prototype of this device premiered in Munich in 2013 and the same unit was a part of a system awarded with Best Sound Audio Show 2013. It took Ayon another year to finalize the production of this device. I have received one of the first production units for a review. And it stayed for good…

A few simple words…

GERHARD HIRT (Ayon Audio | CEO)

Gerhard Hirt with Spheris III, prototype – Audio Show 2013, Warsaw
In the year 2000 one of the developers of my single-ended amplifiers visited me with a prototype of a free-wired preamplifier mounted on a wooden board. He succinctly asked me to completely unbiased listen to "the thing". It always was his hobby to make experiments with exceptional and crazy concepts (on this board he has worked secretly for almost 8 years, and he never mentioned about it) and he knew all our top preamplifiers very well we were distributing at that time. Actually he also made the service of all foreign brands.

But on this wooden board there were the cheapest components etc. and connections respectively and everything looked so different (even the C3m tubes) from a "normal" preamplifier which I was used to. Actually I did not really want to listen to this thing, but as luck would have it, my reference preamp struck and had to get the tubes changed.

What I heard then completely turned upside down all my imaginations of the previous preamps. Abruptly also tonally many things were different, an airiness, speed, incredible sound colors, plenty of transparency and deep dimensional picture and everything so tangibly true or a spatiality I did not know before - and this from a "wooden board model" with simplest components, barely enough to make it work. Spheris I (first version, with small power supply) – High End 2006, Munich

I said to myself that in the design of preamps this happens only once every 20 years. We sat together and talked about a possible small limited series production, but first the wooden board had to give way to a real prototype housing and we needed an adequate power supply. Then we started working, first with the components. We started to change the components on a high level, but then noticed that this preamp (a special C3m triode/penthode design) reacted very stubbornly to components and hence again and again we had to listen to every component and try out new arrangements. The component mix was very delicate and we reduced the unnecessary components wherever possible; but with every component less the total became "to the square" more difficult to master. Additionally also the C3m tube itself made life difficult: this posttube frivolously tends to microphony and therefore is difficult to handle for audio application. Its tonal properties are beyond any discussion, no small signal tube (e.g. ECC81, 82, 83, 88, 6SN7, 6H30 etc.) is able to hold a candle to it. For years we needed to reach deeply into our bag of technical tricks to eliminate this disadvantage. Until today we do not know, where someone seriously came to grips with this problem; however, immediately after the presentation of the Spheris there were 2 top preamps with C3m, but they disappeared after a very short time. I have also seen some "funny" power amps using a C3m as driver for the 300B, this never can work cleanly and satisfactorily.

5 more years passed until all critical points were finished or solved and the first serial Spheris was put on the market in 2005. We had never thought, that we had to go into so many uncharted waters to reach technical maturity; incredibly many difficulties as every piece in the preamp had a big influence on the sound, many in-house purpose-built items as the design was completely different from everything previously known; we even had to change the housing and the layout 3 times until we were completely satisfied. But the first success of the Spheris showed us that we were absolutely right and over and over we were overwhelmed by the worldwide feedback. But they were 15 long painful years with many setbacks, until this concept could be developed from the first prototype design to technical maturity.

This stimulated us further to promptly improve the original design and its peripherals around this circuitry.

Another 5 years passed until the Spheris II appeared on the market in 2010; a completely novel tube power supply with re-generator (a re-generator which now was adopted perfectly to all internal operating voltages and we bypassed the bothersome re-transformation to 230 V as is necessary for traditional re-generators). And we developed chokes combined with film cap filtering, the peak of feasibility for a preamp power supply.

Spheris II
Then came the next milestone: the step-switched 4-channel ELMA volume potentiometer with 192 resistors of the Spheris I had to be replaced. There was only one acceptable solution: super-permalloy transformers placed on the output (not one resistor in the volume control system); an extreme challenge as here a completely different requirement (voltages) had to be considered; in the sense of being different from positioning the volume control at the input as is the case of almost every conventional preamps. We used up an enormous number of test equipment of step-up transformers until the right tonal combination of number of coils and transformation etc. became evident.

The Spheris II again set a landmark based upon the legendary Spheris I and was built for 5 years. By the way, every Spheris is assembled by hand and tested by only one person (no work-share with others) from A to Z. This assembly is extremely complex and a great challenge of craftsmanship. 

Spheris III, prototype – Audio Show 2013, Warsaw
But there was still another "little something" that annoyed us to make the Spheris II absolutely perfect down to the very last detail; we wanted a volume control without any mechanical switching support via potentiometer. The idea was to drive the 4 super permalloy step up transformers not by means of a mechanical potentiometer (Spheris II) but by a sophisticated electronic control system. Consequently, we needed an encoder instead of a mechanical pot, every single super permalloy transformer got its PCB with 24 reed relays each and an MCU with special software (i.e. in total 96 relays an 4 MCU components). This MCU receives the switching signals from the encoder potentiometer, processes them accordingly and with every operation always switches 8 relay contacts with a switching speed of 2/1000th seconds.

The development of this system took 3 years and even our digital specialists had to tackle this task to scrupulously adopt the software for the precise 4 time MCU-control! Thus, the most complex volume control ever incorporated into a tube preamplifier was born. In 2014 at last the series production of the Spheris III preamplifier started.

As of today the Spheris III really nor reasonably cannot be improved anymore; it is matured in itself for almost 23 years and brought to perfection as perhaps no other series tube preamplifier on the actual world market.

SOUND

Recordings used during test (a selection)
Zapach psiej sierści, soundtrack, music by Włodzimierz Nahorny, GAD Records GAD CD 019, "Limited Edition 500 Copies", CD (2014)
• Bill Evans Trio, Waltz for Debby, Riverside Records/Analogue Productions APJ009, "Top 25 Jazz", Limited Edition #0773, 2 x 180 g, 45 rpm LP (1961/2008).
• Bing Crosby, Bing Crosby's Greatest Hits, Decca Records/MCA Records, MCA-3031, LP (1941-1945/1977).
• Chet Baker Quartet, Chet Baker Quartet feat. Dick Twardick, Barclay Disques/Sam Records, "Limited Edition", 180 g LP (1955/2011).
• Cream, Disraeli Gears, Polydor/Universal Music LLC UICY-40023, Platinum SHM-CD (1967/2013).
• Depeche Mode, Ultra, Mute/Sony Music Labels, Blu-spec CD2, (2007/2014).
• Hans Theesink, Live at Jazzland, Sommelier Du Son sds 0016-1, 180 g LP (2014).
• Leonard Cohen, Popular Problems, Sony Music Labels SICP-4329, CD (2014);
• Ludwig van Beethoven, Sonatas op. 109, 110 and 111, piano: Evgeni Korolov, Tacet 208, "The Koroliov Series Vol. XVI", CD (2014).
• Miles Davis Quintet, Relaxin' With The Miles Davis Quintet, Prestige/Universal Music LLC (Japan) UCCO-40005, Platinum SHM-CD, (1958/2013)
• Pet Shop Boys, PopArt: Pet Shop Boys – The Hits, Parlophone/Toshiba-EMI TOCP-66252-54, 3 x CCD (2003).
• Queen, Queen Forever, Virgin/Universal Music LLC (Japan) UICY-15347/8, 2 x SHM-CD (2014).
• The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, Elektra Entertainment Group/Audio Fidelity AFZ 187, "Limited Edition No. 0115", SACD/CD (1965/2014).

One can't really overrate preamplifier's role in audio system. From time perspective I can now see that preamplifier shapes the final sound in a way that is more difficult to perceive (unlike when one changes amplifier, speakers, or source). But it is a preamplifier that plays the key role, that sets a sonic direction for the whole system. In my opinion top models of speakers of most brands aren't really their best ones, when it comes to amplifiers and digital sources sometimes top models are the best and sometimes they are not, but when it comes to preamplifiers flagships always offer top performance.

Spheris III is not only Ayon's flagship linestage but it is also one of the best linestages I've listened so far to. What's more—the set of features it brings to the table, the way it shapes the sound of my system is almost perfectly "tailored" to my needs and expectations. In other words, Spheris III is a perfect addition to "High Fidelity's" reference system making it complete. I am sure that it is still possible to create even better device, and I am sure it will be developed. But I also realize that it will be very, very difficult and it will take a lot of time. How do I know that? Well, I've been waiting for Spheris III in its today's form for 10 years!

It's primary feature is sound's density. This element can be also interpreted as rich, mature sound, as the ability to convey the full body of each sound and not just its leading edge. It's like a colouring book for children, or a painting in its frame. The more of this "something" that fills the frame in, the better, the more natural, or should I say: the more palpable the content of it is. Using the word "natural" for anything coming from a system that only reproduces live music probably isn't really justified. Transferring a live event in 1:1 proportions to our home using any audio system is not possible.

What we get is always sort of approximation of reality and an artistic creation at the same time. People responsible for it are: musicians, producers, sound engineers, and also (especially when it comes to pop music) record labels. It so happens that we, audiophiles, attribute significant role also to companies manufacturing the final audio medium, or selling audio file.

Anyway the "naturalness" is one of key features of any audio system. But it is not that easily defined, its definition might change or "bend" in particular cases. Because since the reproduction of music in our home is sort of creation that imitates live event, this "naturalness" has to be different from the one of live concert. It has to appeal to our sensitivity to beauty.

Spheris III allows listener to hear or understand exactly what I am talking about. It adds some density, richness to the sound, it increases the depth of the sound. That means it modifies sound in such a way to fit a huge church, stadium, or a large club into a very limited space listener has in his room. I like that! That's what I want/need/expect. I think that this sort of sound modification is the right one for a high-end audio in general. It allows a system to convey more layers of music.

Another amazing feature of Spheris is how resolving it is. It was already an advantage of Polaris III. But having a chance to compare it with competitors like: Thrax Dionysos (see HERE), Robert Koda's Takumi K-15, or ML Ni52, I realised that Polaris had its limitations. They didn't really bother me as they were a part of the whole sound concept that I liked, but I realised they existed. Top High end is about getting rid of any limitations, so surely I wanted these gone.

Spheris III in this aspect is a totally different device. Only the above mentioned Mark Levinson came close (among linestages I reviewed). And on top of that Ayon offered also this immense richness of the sound that Levinson couldn't quite match.

With Spheris there are large, very distinct, palpable, intense phantom images rendered in space. Each of them combines many layers that overlap one another to create something that I would describe as "natural" sound, assuming that "natural" means: causing impressions similar to those we experience during live concert. That means that this "artificiality" of music reproduction is somehow not an issue here. It is still not the same thing as "live music", it is "an impression of naturalness". One listens to the music and gets sucked in.

The reviewed preamplifier sports only a single gain stage using tubes. Such minimalist setups, especially one using tubes, are hardly something one would suspect of delivering a very focused sound and a truly deep bass at the same time. But that's exactly what this linestage delivers. It was were obvious with Soulution 710 power amp and Harbeth M40.1 and Trenner & Fried Isis speakers. Both loudspeakers sport huge bass woofers so are well equipped to deliver even lowest bass notes. Bass not only went really deep, it was also amazingly rich, and it seemed to still have some headroom no matter how deep it went or how much energy was already released. That allowed the system to present more of other things—it conveyed acoustics of the recording in a better way, more dynamics shades, tiniest tone shifts and so on. Almost all other preamplifiers I know tended to homogenise those tiny differences.

It wasn't cold, emotionless sound that we get—unfortunately—from most passive preamplifiers or from sources with adjustable output signal level (with some exceptions like from: dCS and Ancient Audio). Those devices do homogenize those small differences to even larger extent. They don't really differentiate them, they try to "carve" those differences out and that has nothing to do with music, it might, at most, has to do with technical issues.

I've praised bass so much because this part of the range is a foundation for everything that happens up the range. Yes, there is a beautiful, colorful, rich and resolving treble that seems to be bit darker than with Mark Levinson №52. It is not as warm as absolutely exceptional (in this aspect), but to be honest I don't think I've ever heard something like Canadian linestage before. Ayon presents a slightly subdued picture comparing with a true world. It's like it was saving us something, like it presented to us only what it "believes" is good for us. That's a very subtle feature of this preamplifier but since on this level of top high end every little detail matters, getting it the way we want it costs a lot of money, I had to mention it for you to know what to expect if you plan to buy it for your system.

Before I wrote this review I had listened to Spheris III for a few months, using it in combination with different systems and different speakers. And before that I had listened to it couple of times during shows in yet another systems. So I could keep writing about it for a long time. But it would be pointless really —if you decide to treat seriously what you have already read, putting for a moment aside a reasonable approach of not completely believing in what you read (which is reasonable and understandable!), if you really ACCEPT what I've already written you already know almost everything you need to about this preamplifier.

And yet, I'd like to add a few words about soundstage. The whole idea of delivering a three-dimensional space via two speakers is somewhat artificial. When it comes to recordings done with microphones, i.e. with acoustic or electric instruments (the latter with their own sound sources like Leslie speakers for Hammonds, or guitar amplifiers, and so on), the space/soundstage is determined by the microphone technique chosen by a person conducting this recording. Whatever choices this person makes they always have some downsides, but they also have something that other techniques do not offer. Putting few techniques together will result in emphasizing some elements at the expense of others—that's how it goes. When it comes to studio recordings stereo effect is always in fact a realization of recording's producer vision.

It is sometimes hard to understand how in a particular case such a believable holography of the recording was achieved using such a unreliable means that producers had at their disposal. I'd say that we play some active role here too—we just got used to certain way of presentation and, unconsciously, we adapt to it by using or applying our experiences from concerts to what we can hear at home. It kind of replaces what we can really hear. It seems to work really well.

The micro-information about phase and level are conveyed by Spheris III in a uniquely good way. Only Mark Levinson and Thrax did something similar, but they were different in presenting other elements.

With Ayon soundstage becomes a part of the room and speakers are no longer perceived as sources of the sound. Even when the sounds came directly from the speaker, which happens with some stereo recordings from 50ties and 60ties, I could usually hear them BEHIND speaker, or from the same place in space where the speaker was. If the idea behind particular recording was to surround listener with the sound I truly felt surrounded with it. Sounds coming from behind my head? Absolutely and not only with Roger Waters' Amused to Death but also with some stereophonic Opus3 recordings and some others too. A dense, focused presentation.

Summary

It's the richness of the sound, its energy that makes this presentation so emotionally engaging. Almost every recording I listened to was an interesting experience assuming that music was actually interesting, of course. But even these bit boring, or those I'd been avoiding (for whatever reason) became interesting, involving. I can't really image a better recommendation for an audio product.

It is still not an "absolute sound", as it doesn't exist, it's just an idea that everybody pursues. There are few more devices that I liked very much, each of them offering something that others didn't: Tenor Audio Line 1 - richness and warmth, Solution 720 - amazing smoothness and coherence, Dionysos Thrax Audio consistency, richness and smoothness, and Mark Levinson offered it all plus remarkable openness in higher frequency and sheer energy in each sub-range, ( but the Ayon Spheris III still wins out).

The point is that each of us has to find his/her perfect fit, like a perfect pair of gloves that fit. If the fit isn't perfect it will bother you on some level and it won't matter whether there will actually be a problem with a glove or a hand. Spheris III is a perfect fit for me. I could easily enjoy music with every of the above mentioned preamplifiers and be really happy about it, but it is Ayon that comes closest to my personal expectations, that is the best "fit" for me and my system. And that's why it has become a part of my reference system. It allows my system to sound in a very pleasant, satisfying way, while still being a useful tool for a reviewer. It encourages me to listen without hiding weaknesses but also allowing me to ignore them. But it is ME who ignores them and not my system, it is my choice. That's the role of a reference system.
........
Wojciech Pacuła,

GOLD FINGERPRINT

AYON AUDIO SPHERIS III
Development of current version of this preamplifier took 25 years—it is really hard to imagine—a quarter of a century! That also means 25 years of investing in a project—it took not only a lot of time but also effort and money. Spheris III playing music confirms in every millisecond that it's been a damn good investment worth every penny, sweat and minute spend on development. It is remarkable in every aspect. It offers its own vision of sound that is rather different then better than few other equally fantastic linestages.

This was a "no-brainer" for me. This device pushes all buttons inside my head that make listening to the music a pure pleasure and a challenge at the same time. This preamplifier works flawlessly with any power amplifier and any source. It is built of innovation and passion. And passion is a bonus we get with it, it is what makes it special and not just another product. This is priceless for every music lover.

DESIGN
The Spheris no. III repeats the idea Ayon used already in 2005 for version no. I—separate casings for power supply and the rest of the device. Starting with no. 'II' casing started to look similar to that of Polaris, i.e. with round corners and all panels made of aluminum. Also large chromed knobs are similar. These allow to select an active input, control volume and set balance between right and left channel. There is an additional element that makes it easy to differentiate Spheris from Polaris—all knobs have a round, red, backlit acrylic bands around them. The backlit can be switched off with a small switch placed on the back of the device. It is so discrete though that I never felt a need to do so. On a front panel there is another new element—a small alphanumeric display showing current volume.

This last element make you wonder—why there is exactly the same knob for volume control taken from version 'II' that sports a large dot that help you to recognize the position of this round knob. This dot was useful before but now the knob controls encoder and just turns round and round. So in fact this dot misleads user.

There are two small red LEDs next to the knob that indicate that device is on (same as those red bands around knobs) and the other shows when "mute" function is active.

The back panel looks very nice. There are two rows of RCA sockets and XLR input and output—it is a fully balanced device. There are six inputs—one balanced and five unbalanced, and as many as four outputs—one balanced and two unbalanced (with adjustable signal level), and one tape out that might be also use to send signal to headphone amplifier. But to use it the device must be on.

Sockets are arranged in a different way than in previous versions—before Gerhard used Audio Research's system, with right (red) channel on top, and left (white) below. Most manufacturers use opposite arrangement and this device also uses it.

All electronic circuits are mounted on few PCBs. The most important of them are the ones with four horizontally mounted Siemens C3m penthodes—the ones in my unit were made before II World War and come from a supply of German post. Each of them works in triode mode, a pair works in each channel—as channels are balanced they require two tubes for right and two tubes for left channel.

It is amazingly simple circuit, at least if we consider only a signal transfer. Signal goes from inputs to the PCB with relays. Then, with cables, it goes to the front of the device, to four (two per channel) transformers with multiple tappings. Signal level is changed via change of ratio between primary and secondary winding. It is the same solution as the one used in Music Firts Audio preamplifiers for example.

Transformers with classic core are made by Ayon in-house, and to switch windings they used an innovative system of relays instead of mechanical switch they used previously. And finally signal reaches tubes, and than the output via a single large Mundorf MCap Supreme Silver/Gold capacitor. All passive elements were carefully selected during listening sessions and all, obviously, are high class ones. There are Lundahl transformers in the input section—signal from RCA inputs is symmetrized and then processed in balanced form.

The power supply sits in a separate casing but its small part is located in the main casing of the device. There is a large Lundahl choke and two huge polypropylene capacitors that are a part of power supply circuit for anode. There are no electrolytic capacitors in tubes' power supply circuit.

The main unit is connected with external power supply with a multi-core umbilical. Cable for Spheris III is more flexible and it sports much larger plug than the one for Polaris III (have a look at the picture in the gallery).

Power supply sports two large (I mean high-power amplifier large) toroidal transformers, shielded with metal covers. The anode voltage is rectified in CV135 tubes, full-wave rectifier, with polypropylene capacitor following. As you can see both channels use the same power supply. It seems that the second transformer supplies a large PCB at the back of main unit's casing, that transforms voltage from power grid into pure sinusoid @ 60Hz. You can see this value displayed on the front panel of the device. Only this "re-generated" voltage is sent to transformer that supplies power to the main unit. This whole circuit is called: AC~ ReGenerator.

This device has a classic Ayon's looks with extremely solid casing, engraved writings on it and anty-vibration feet. It still benefits from a good anti-vibration platform and even more advanced feet – I use Franc Audio Accessories Ceramic Disc Classic. The whole electronic circuit seems very simple from electric point of view but its execution is very complex. Power supply itself is as important as the circuit supplying it.

The Ayon Spheris III will be out of reach for most of us who can afford them but to which they had indulged! It is the best that the market has to offer.
JÜRGEN SAILE (review is a Google translation)

REVIEW SUMMARY: The precursor meets all sonic aspects of the high-Ender could want: high resolution, transparent reproduction, plenty of tone colours, excellent dynamics, Prat ... Did I forget something? The Ayon brings us the musicians back into the living room, so playback is a bit more direct. An important point I would like to highlight, which is the consistency of Play. No frequency range is preferred in some way, the music is presented as a whole. If I even arrive with the famous black background, it is immediately: hackneyed phrase! True, but if this is true anywhere, then at the Spheris! Here obviously makes the elaborate PSU paid. In this context, a further point: The Play differs much less of how the grid is loaded, or in other words: It sounds on Sunday evening not much different than on Monday, when all their electrical appliances running have. The Spheris III can depict instruments very vivid and three-dimensional, this I know, in the form actually only of amplifiers with directly heated triode.

The incredible stage presence of Baker in this piece comes across incredibly well. In other words, the Spheris III manages a frighteningly acting holographic reproduction.

A negative press deteriorates karma of the author. This is the conclusion one could come to what is read;however, it is much easier, I simply found nothing negative. The development of the model III has taken a long time, much has been tried, but it was worth it!

EXTENDED REVIEW: What happens when a company like Ayon Audio pulls out all the stops and the technicians of the leash can?The controller together with cutbacks in the holidays sends? That's what happened with the new Spheris III precursor. At least it seems. But I will do the devil and tell all equal

We have two adult units in front of us, the one containing the power supply, the other is the actual precursor.Together supple 43 kg and a width of 50 centimetres, which have to be housed in the rack. This is not enchanted integrated amplifier, but a Line Level! The enclosures have the typical Ayon-shape, black anodised with rounded corners and chrome knobs. In addition to volume and input selection, there is also a balance control, almost a rarity nowadays!

As the name suggests, is about to see the third incarnation. But before it is philosophically now and also outweighs the curiosity, we the device but to hear us once. Quick and dirty, so to speak. In addition I have Chet Baker and Gerry Mulligan's Carnegie Hall Concert selected. West Coast jazz of the 50's at its best!However, here in a somewhat up Bretz sparkled cast with guitar, vibraphone and piano. Unusually, for a piano would only water down the sound, so Mulligan once said. Not to mention a guitar. The soft, lyrical tone of Bakers trumpet - at that time he still had all his teeth - with "My Funny Valentine" is about the Spheris III pure goosebumps music. Unless one is a goose. Only trumpet and bass, as if lost in the comparatively huge Carnegie Hall, the audience is quiet as a mouse. Toll like this probably unique atmosphere on the Ayon comes across. If that's not a good place to start, or otherwise thought: Actually, I did not expect anything else. Although it should be said that the device only has a half-day warm-up on the hump and you really should write about nothing at this stage. But the curiosity just ...

Usually family are used in the tube preamps for reinforcing European types of ECC .... This is a cost-effective solution, especially here mostly products from China or else where used. That came for Ayon course out of the question, so you have to use a "German authorities tube" chosen from the 50-ies. It uses a NOS C3m pentode, which had been constructed by Siemens and Lorenz for the telecommunications operation and was prepared exclusively for the German Post. If a price list from 1992 you look at, so hit them with 274 to Mark Beech, was therefore intended more for professional purposes. The tubes are individually numbered by the way, recognisable by the yellow band. This pentode - triode connected as here - was already used by Ayon in the previous models and has proved to be excellent. One of its features is the high reliability and durability. It was used, among other things to strengthen in relay stations for deep-sea underwater cables and as a malfunction in 4000m depth had arrived not so good. The demands on such a tube were therefore: high gain, no noise, no distortion, long life and small size. Unusually, the high heating voltage of 20 volts. All together nothing to sneeze at! Siemens had guaranteed at least 10,000 operating hours for this tube. So if you every day belongs to two hours of music, then take the pleasure of 13 years.

Another feature of the C3m is the high microphonic sensitivity. However, at the Spheris III is not much of it to remember, obviously, the housing is constructed so massive that no vibrations to the tube penetrate. Gerd Hirt said on this subject: There is a trick. But all he did not reveal. Suspicious to see is in the device unfortunately not.The tubes are installed horizontally, but what is not a problem with indirectly heated tubes. On display are four C3m tubes, the precursor is thus fully symmetrically and equipped with the requisite four amplification stages. The XLR inputs are therefore not - as is often seen in the professional sector - desymmetriert via transformers. The RCA inputs directly is of course nothing, here the signal via Lundahl transformers is balanced, so there is no unbalanced signal into the amplifier. The tubes have a metal casing around the actual glass body so that the tube lovers can see no lights the filaments. For indirect, red illumination of the three switches for a little tube feel makes.Apart from the fact that the tubes would anyway not be seen in the enclosed case.

If one lifts the lid, you finally get to see once something else, as is usually otherwise obstructed. Tube sockets from our own production with copper / beryllium contacts, switch from Swiss manufacturer ELMA, tantalum precision resistors with 0.5 percent, electrolytic capacitors of the company RIFA, the PCB boards are equipped with gold-plated conductor paths to prevent oxidation of the tracks over the years. These chokes and transformers from Lundahl, Mundorf Supreme Siber / Gold capacitors; to high-quality components has not been saved. But even more interesting is the volume control, Ayon relies on an inductive solution, ie control via auto-transformers with various Sekundärabgriffen, in this case 42! The volume control is used as a donor and selects a bank of relays the desired output - and thus the volume - from. When the unit is turned on again, it starts regularly at -42 dB attenuation, so he does not remember the last selected volume. After the controller for the 42 positions "spins", ie uses more than one revolution, the gag is pointed in a different direction. So one has to be based on the digital display. Or you follow the operating instructions (sic!) And adjusts the volume before switching to minimum.

From the solution over mechanical switches and a motor drive with gearbox have been abandoned again.Meanwhile, the transformer is placed in the output, thus the output impedance varies depending on the volume a bit. Here, however, were heard no tonal differences. With this principle, which is "excess" signal is not derived through mass, more or less transformed lossless down like a resistor network, but. This elaborate and costly solution is found sporadically in quality appliances such as those of Thomas Mayer or the Greek Ypsilon PST 100. Ayon makes this car the way shaper itself forth.

Also convenient is the fact that with the universal remote control of CDT drive the volume of Spheris III is adjustable. Wink with the fence post? Well, of course not enough to buy up the most expensive components and then zusammenzubasteln in any circuit just available. Since I knew someone once. No, somewhere the Ayon-people need to have a technician who knows where to go. Who's that, but knows except Ayon only the NSA. By Gerhard Hirt was only to learn that it is a duo that for 20 years now to the development of the Polaris and Spheris cares precursors.

Another very handy feature you get to see the inside, there are four switches (the amplifier's symmetrical), with which the gain to 0, -3 and -6 dB can be set. This is to prevent that at DA converters overridden with very high output voltage (about three volts) of the input. However, one should thereabouts play only when switched off. The C3m are capacitor coupled, here Mundorf Supreme Silver / Gold used capacitors. These are, incidentally, the only capacitors in the signal.

On the back you will find a ground lift switch, which serves to eliminate any ground loops. This signal ground and earth ground can be separated. However, the two positions usually do not sound the same, so you should try quite what fits best. If you have no problem with a ground loop has.

Very high effort - and here much more than in the previous models - Ayon operates in the power supply. For EIE is one of the sound-critical assemblies in each active Hifi device. After the crap that comes to us increasingly over the power line to the house, is in a conventional manner and lossless hardly filter out, there are really only two solutions: either a supply via batteries, which also has its pitfalls, or a complete regeneration of mains voltage. The latter way is Ayon went to his flagship. The front of the power supply is emblazoned the number "60", which would already be half the battle for fans of the TSV 1860 München ... um what I really wanted to say? Oh yes, the number now does not display the grid frequency - which would be here yes 50 Hertz - but the frequency that produces the generator itself. It provides a perfect sine wave having a frequency of 60 Hertz. Without Radio Yerevan.

A bit crazy that is already what we need to take today to get a clean anode voltage. From the wall outlet AC comes with a frequency of 50 hertz, this is generated from scratch in the generator, now has 60 Hz, then the alternating current is transformed via a transformer to 450 volts, then rectified by a Graetz bridge and with a choke-capacitor system smoothed. Ideally, the internal resistance of this system should then also be as low as possible, otherwise the dynamics suffer. The generator can provide 300 watts of power, which should be sufficient for both Shostakovich as well as for AC / DC.

Sodele, now we want everything but listen more closely again. The tubes - and not only this - you should treat yourself to a break-in period of at least 50 hours. At least. Better would be 100, as you have just carried. Although Simple Preheating helps the tubes, capacitors and transformers but also want to be busy, and there's only one thing: play music. This is now no Ayon-typical feature, but applies to every tube device. However, one can already hear where the journey will go well even with relatively uneingespieltem device.

Upon completion of this warming up it goes down to business. For that I first sought out a recording with the Concerto Köln. The Concerto Köln is an orchestra that specialises in historical performance practice of music of the 18th and 19th centuries. The present disc was created for 250th anniversary of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. From the first track, the overture to the opera The Magic Flute.Already after the first few bars, one wonders, that here play only 11 musicians. The orchestral representation on the Spheris III is very spacious, our listeners across the Atlantic would this might be described as "large scale". Viewed spatially, the playback is a bit more broad than deep. It is very easy to hear that there are arranged left and right with respect to the violins, as it was customary end of the 18th century. The musicians made of flesh and blood. Nevertheless go intricacies of how the fact that here who also plays a harpsichord, not under.This speaks for the high resolution of the precursor. Even the special sound of historical musical instruments is very natural reproduced. By differentiated articulation of the orchestra here a very interesting and exciting interpretation has arisen which is somewhat reminiscent of Rossini.

Inspired by the highway toll-Kasperltheater we take but even the solo piano recording: Vignettes with Marilyn Crispell, appeared on ECM. Crispell has often been compared with Cecil Taylor and is an advocate of Modern Creative Jazz, but also has a strong sense of lyrical playing. This recording has partly a more introverted character; everyone gets older once. Nevertheless, the first piece is somewhat reminiscent of John Cage.

In this recording the sound engineer has probably helped along a little, the wing sounds sometimes extremely spectacular when the microphones were dropped into the instrument. The space Hall seems a bit artificial. The falls on a normal chain not in shape, but is extremely clear with the Spheris III. Has nothing to do with the actual music, I know. Anyway Crispell plays on Vignette # 1 obviously open pedal, that is, the individual tones and their reverberation overlap constantly and are also reflected in the body of the instrument umpteen times, with all the beats and resonances. At the end of the track you can still hear the quieter always expectant Reverberation of the strings, which are then absorbed by the pedal, shortly after the recording stops, the whole room is suddenly gone.Also impressive is the velocity, whereby the wing is rendered very lifelike. One gets the feeling, as he stands in front!

Finally and as a contrast a little Groovy, Manu Dibango Live '91. Dibango is a Cameroonian saxophonist, who had once created a new musical style, by having jazz elements connected to the Cameroonian Makossa dance music.Soul Makossa was in the 70s his first hit, which later even Michael Jackson had stolen the chorus. Anyway Dibango had in 1991 burned a firework at a live concert at the Munich theater factory, which it had in itself. The CD was now in the same year, with the same cast, only at a different Location. Unfortunately, in these years was the digital technology is not so advanced, so that the CD is not technically now the madness. If you would now consider the Spheris III as a man - about as James Butler in "Dinner for One" - you could see how he struggles to form from the existing material still something useful. I'll do my very best, so to speak.

Anyway, playing reminds me here very close to the concert at the time, in all the weaknesses of the CD. To let live this music, macro dynamic capabilities are needed that can provide an extraordinary degree of Ayon here. He succeeds in presenting a mediocre recording so that you can still have fun.

Whoever thinks that through the use of a historic tube all sounds a bit antique, I have to disappoint you. The precursor plays completely neutral, some favoring one frequency band does not exist. By this I do not mean that now everything sounds sober and cool, on the contrary! A timbre exists only at all somehow. If I did not know it before, I could not tell if this is a transistor or a tube is the potter. Now if you III reduces the performance of Spheris to any hi-fi attributes like bass, middle treble or space, then you will not get far in this preliminary stage. All you other in some form also. What the Ayon but has in addition it is a reproduction, responsive us and our concentration on the essentials, namely directs the music.

When described in an earlier test shot Egmont by Ludwig van Beethoven in the Munich Gasteig room acoustics and echo with the combined Spheris III comes - Mayer 211 ELROG extremely well over. The echo in this building for large ensembles was indeed one of the great problems of the Philharmonic. The strings are played with a great many tone colors and finer resolution. In this perfect form that's so far managed only a preliminary stage in my four walls. Do I have to mention that the precursor neither rushing nor buzzing, nor makes any antics?

Eventually, of course, come back to the discussion, which raison d'être as a device actually has. In the digital age, where many converters have a control possibility of output voltage and the DAC can thus be connected directly to the power amplifier. Low output impedance of the converter of course. And if the precursor already "not sound", then we can leave them out again? However, I have made in most cases the experience that it sounds even better with a potent line level, so to speak, as an afterburner. The music is more lifelike, gets more body to produce more energy, look more natural. Ultimately, depending on the quality of the precursor used. Incidentally, this is not just my opinion; However, you lose a touch of transparency by the additional electronics in the signal path. Not, however, if one uses a caliber like the Spheris III.

The precursor meets all sonic aspects of the high-Ender could want: high resolution, transparent reproduction, plenty of tone colours, excellent dynamics, Prat ... Did I forget something? The Ayon brings us the musicians back into the living room, so playback is a bit more direct. An important point I would like to highlight, which is the consistency of Play. No frequency range is preferred in some way, the music is presented as a whole. If I even arrive with the famous black background, it is immediately: hackneyed phrase! True, but if this is true anywhere, then at the Spheris! Here obviously makes the elaborate PSU paid. In this context, a further point: The Play differs much less of how the grid is loaded, or in other words: It sounds on Sunday evening not much different than on Monday, when all their electrical appliances running have. The Spheris III can depict instruments very vivid and three-dimensional, this I know, in the form actually only of amplifiers with directly heated triode.

We place to wind up again Gery Mulligan and Chet Baker on and look at what was harmed in the burn: a lot! Not only hifi attributes such as spaciousness or focusing have greatly improved, but also the natural flow of the music. Bakers' trumpet playing shows yet more finesse and above all more expressive. This is an important aspect for me, because not always accompanied all Hifi-typical improvements even with an improvement of musical expression. The incredible stage presence of Baker in this piece comes across incredibly well. In other words, the Spheris III manages a frighteningly acting holographic reproduction.

A negative press deteriorates karma of the author. This is the conclusion one could come to what is read;however, it is much easier, I simply found nothing negative. The development of the model III has taken a long time, much has been tried, but it was worth it!

STATEMENT
The precursor makes the music, this ancient wisdom has been confirmed here again. The Ayon Spheris III will be out of reach for most of us who can afford them but to which they had indulged! It is the best that the market has to offer.