Ayon Spirit III KT150 tube P70w/T45w class-A Integrated/Power amp with AFBias

AY 16 AI SPIRIT
SPECIAL PRICE: NZ$ 7,495.00 ea (incl. GST)
Original: NZ$ 9,995.00 (incl. GST)
Saving: NZ$ 2,500.00 (incl. GST)
Ayon Audio

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

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Ayon is pleased to introduce the all new Spirit III, a substantial advancement of our already highly regarded “Spirit II” model offering. The Spirit III is not a simple update; it is a new re-design featuring new circuit boards, automatic bias, bigger power transformer to handle the KT150 power tubes and increased the power supply energy storage two times. Also featuring new operating and protection circuit boards. All the gain and driver stages have been also re-designed and optimised as well to provide for the shortest signal path and the most direct signal flow.

The Spirit III is switchable between Integrated amp and Stereo Power amp.

The Spirit III is a “superb value” and powerful pentode-triode vacuum tube stereo integrated amplifier. It’s fast, airy, dynamic, punchy and controlled bass, clear and holographic soundstage is already a standard in this amplifier.

The Spirit III is a new milestone it its price class and categories and the best “Spirit” what Ayon Audio ever built.

The Spirit III integrated is also available as a pure stereo power amp, the SPIRIT-PA

STEREO PLAY (Germany):
Some review quotes: (English Translation)
“This integrated amplifier is not only powerful, consistently precise, and definitely tonally extremely well balanced, it also delivers so much colour and fine differences, that one could get enthusiastic about it.

The massive power of the bass unexpectedly appears when needed. However, it is blindingly easy to attest the power pack even a certain delicateness and still unlimited dynamics. Actually, you cannot make it better. GORGEOUS!

Assessment: 
“performance, outstanding, captivating sound and plenty of fine features, relieving the user from all tube care - exactly the way it should be. No doubt: a HIGHLIGHT !”

 - Outstanding value for money-.
 - Awarded the Stereoplay Highlight logo

Features

Specifications

Reviews

Testimonials

Videos

Features

Full-featured pure class-A tube stereo integrated amp or pure power amplifier
Switchable between pentode and triode mode
Power output tubes - KT150 std (KT88 & KT120 optional)
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.

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.

  • Logical sequenced soft-start power up for extended tube life
  • Power tube and electronic protection circuit system
  • 0dB negative feedback  (of any kind )
  • 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
  • Automatic and manual 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
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.

  • Low noise –insulated power transformers
  • Power transformer is encased, excellent damped and RFI/EMI shielded
  • Innovative power supply provides a high speed energy delivery on transients
  • Choke filtered power supply
  • Separate and isolated power supplies over each stage of amplification
  • High current filament-regulator for pre and driver tubes
  • 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
  • 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
  • Ayon high quality – binding posts
  • High quality – RCA 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 ease of repair should ever the need arise.

High Grade Speaker Binding Posts
The new ayon gold plated solid body speaker binding posts provide performance levels that are truly in the very High End. The solid body construction ensures that there is no gap or breach in the flow of electrons. The gold plating provides for superior contact and resistance to oxidation. These binding posts are chosen primarily for their sonic performance, edging out even more expensive counterparts.

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
  • Metal remote commander
  • Chassis finish: black / chrome

Specifications

Class of Operation: Triode* or Pentode mode, Class-A*
Tube Complement: 4x KT150 Tung-sol tubes 
                                 4x 6SJ7 tubes 
                                 2x 12AU7 tubes
Load Impedance: 4 & 8 Ohms
Bandwidth: 12Hz - 60kHz
Output Power-Pentode mode KT150 2x 70w
Output Power-Triode mode KT150 2x 45w
Input sensitivity for full power: 700mV
Input Impedance at 1 kHz: 100KΩ
NFB: 0dB
Volume Control: Potentiometer
Remote Control: Yes
Inputs: 3x Line In, 1 x XLR In, 1 x Direct In
Output: 1x Pre out
Dimensions 480W x 370D x 250H
Weight: 32 kg
 
Specifications subject to change without notice

Reviews

It is, on balance, the finest amplifier I've heard in my system....
Tom Campbell

This review was on earlier MkI model, now replaced with new upgraded MkIII version)

For me, the Spirit managed to retain all of the typical strengths of tube amplification while avoiding most of the pitfalls. Although amps of this type often specialize in small-scale acoustic music, I found the Spirit to be an excellent all-rounder. It was able to communicate the scale of a large orchestra, and also did surprisingly well with rock 'n roll—it didn't soften and dull the edges of electric guitars the way some tube amps do.

Ayon Audio may not be a name you've heard before, but they are working hard to change that. The company—maker of a full range of audiophile products featuring all-tube amplifiers—has been around for twenty years, but is currently making a push to expand its market beyond its native Austria.
 
All of Ayon Audio's products are painstakingly designed and assembled in-house; the company even makes their own tubes. While they specialize in low-powered, single-ended designs, the Spirit integrated is the company's ostensible attempt to craft a more mainstream offering: switchable between push-pull pentode and triode operation, the Spirit pumps out a robust 50-watts per channel in pentode and 30-watts in triode. With a list price of NZ$6875 (incl GST), the Spirit and the similar, triode-only Spark integrated, are Ayon's twin entry-level offerings (since released the Oorion III as 1st entry level).
 
Entry-level it may be, but the Spirit is still a gorgeously built amp. Having it in your listening room will instantly identify you as someone who is quite serious indeed about their music playback. Looking at the photograph on the Ayon website before actually receiving the amp, I completely misjudged the Spirit's scale, thinking it much smaller than it actually is. So I was surprised to see the FedEx guy standing on my sidewalk a week or two later, laboring to pull an enormous, and enormously heavy, box up my front steps on his cart. He placed the box at my feet and fled, clearly wanting no part of getting the package up to my second-floor apartment. With considerable effort I did it myself—something I wouldn't necessarily recommend to any of you out there.
 
I let the ice-cold block (this was early April in Boston) sit for 24 hours in my apartment to get to room temperature, and the next night I unpacked the 75-pound beast—19 inches wide, about 14 inches in depth, and more than 10 inches in height, with transformer towers the size of quart paint cans. Build quality in general is impeccable, and design features (brushed aluminum casework, chrome transformers) are of uniformly high quality.
 
The Spirit uses four KT88 (Ayons own special Black Treasure tubes and/or KT120) and three 12AU7 tubes. It is a zero negative feedback design and runs in pure Class A, making it one hot-running, power-sucking machine.  The preamp section has four line levels and there are speaker taps for both 4-ohm and 8-ohm impedances.  I found the 8-ohm setting to be the correct one for both my Harbeth 7-ES monitors and Spendor 3/1P mini-monitors. 
 
Though an integrated, the Spirit occupies a spot on the audiophile spectrum where convenience features give way to more purist priorities. The small, chunky remote—brushed aluminum to match the amplifier's finish—controls volume and muting only.  There are no non-essential front panel buttons of any kind: no balance control, no tone controls, and no mono button. The amp not only has fully manual tube biasing, but has located this important feature on the back panel. The power switch is also located in the back. This may be wise given the damage that could occur if the amp was accidentally turned off in use, but is hardly convenient given that most owners will switch the amp on and off frequently to preserve tube life. Given its height, weight, and the need for easy back-panel access, the Spirit seems designed with the assumption that it will be placed either on top of a rack or on a dedicated stand.   
 
So the Spirit may not rate high in convenience, but with performance like this, I very quickly forgave and forgot. All things considered, this is the best amplifier I've had in my system. Until now that distinction belonged to my reference amp, the Coda Unison, which had easily bested all competition over the past four years—and there had been a number of challengers. While I would score the Unison and Spirit very similarly on an absolute scale—the solid-state Unison is better in some areas, the Spirit in others—the ways in which the Spirit is superior are the most important ones for me in terms of musical enjoyment.
 
Tthe Spirit really—and I mean really—distinguishes itself in terms of tone, depth, and micro-dynamics.  Instruments just had a palpable presence and dimensionality. Virgin Classical's CD of Truls Mørk playing the Bach 'cello suites provided a perfect illustration of the Spirit's strengths: the weight and woody resonance of Mørk's instrument came through in startling fashion, while the subtle nuances of his performance, the small-scale dynamic gradations that make music-making a living, breathing entity, were extraordinary.  
 
One of my desert island albums is Blue Note's three-disc collection of pianist Herbie Nichols' complete recordings for the label (also available as a Mosaic LP set in the '80s).  Nichols was an indelible composer and musician, both soulful and cerebral at the same time, and this music is some of the most beautiful, cliché-free jazz you will hear. I have been listening to these trio recordings—in very good mid-fifties mono—for years, but hearing them through the Spirit really did bring me closer than I've ever felt before: the piano tone was supple, the subtleties of Nichols' touch came through beautifully, and the whole sound picture had incredible depth and intimacy. Tone, depth, dynamics—my Unison is no slouch on any of these fronts, but the Spirit was something special.
 
The important thing to clarify at this point is that although these are areas where tube amps can sometimes impress by rendering the music in a pleasingly plummy fashion, the Spirit's sound was not exaggeratedly rich or euphonic. That 'cello sounded deep, warm and woody on the Bach CD, but it also had plenty of bite, with well-defined transients that a tilted-down treble would tend to smooth over. Yes, the Spirit does have a slightly darker balance than the solid-state Unison, but my net impression is that the Spirit makes the Unison sound a bit cooler and more clinical than the real thing, rather than the Unison making the Spirit sound too warm. 
 
For me, the Spirit managed to retain all of the typical strengths of tube amplification while avoiding most of the pitfalls. Although amps of this type often specialize in small-scale acoustic music, I found the Spirit to be an excellent all-rounder. It was able to communicate the scale of a large orchestra, and also did surprisingly well with rock 'n roll—it didn't soften and dull the edges of electric guitars the way some tube amps do.  On LPs like R.E.M.'s new Accelerate, the Spirit captured the crunch of Peter Buck's guitar parts with visceral impact, and on Elvis Costello's latest, Momofuku (again, on vinyl), the raw, live-in-the-studio vibe was captured to a tee. 
 
The Spirit and my E.A.R. phono preamp were very happy partners, but the amp and my new digital reference, the Bel Canto PL-2 universal player, were a match made in heaven. The Bel Canto is a big step up from my previous player, the (unmodded) Sony DVP-NS999ES, a unit which also played CD, SACD and DVD (but not DVD-A, which the Bel Canto does support). The PL-2 has a deep, detailed, involving sound, and is the first CD player I've owned that does not induce the fatigue factor that occurs so often after an hour (or less) of digital listening. About the only tiny fault I've found—at least through my reference amp—is a slight dryness that removes just a bit of the "air" from certain recordings. 
 
When teamed with the Spirit, though, this sense of additive dryness almost completely disappeared—that is, recordings simply sounded dry or "wet" according to the source. Whether the recording was of a live performance in a natural acoustic (the church venue of the Bach 'cello suites CD was instantly identifiable) or a layered, studio production like Beck's folky Sea Change (reasonably warm but dry as a bone), the Spirit conveyed the ambience of each CD or LP with impressive versatility and range. 
 
The Spirit also did well with the hi-rez digital formats. I've auditioned a couple of warmish amps lately (one tube and one solid-state) whose chaste top end performance essentially negated the extended dynamic and frequency range that the SACD and DVD-A formats deliver. That was not the case here. To give just one example, the recent Living Stereo SACD of Jascha Heifetz playing the Sibelius violin concerto was absolutely stunning. This is a well-known audiophile classic, but I've never heard it sound so beautiful, so powerful, so majestic. Some of the Living Stereo SACDs have been criticized for being a little leaner than previous issues of the same performances, but through the Spirit, this particular remastering (and others, like the Reiner/CSO Scheherazade and the Munch/BSO Daphnis and Chloe) sounded perfectly judged.
 
Most of my initial listening was done (and all of the above observations were made) in pentode mode. This was a purposeful strategy. Just about every review I've read of a switchable tube amp seems to conclude that the triode setting simply smokes the push-pull pentode mode. And as a company, Ayon is very much associated with its triode designs. So I wanted to get a baseline on the amp via pentode and then see if triode kicked it up to a whole new level. The fact that I found the sound in pentode to be very, very good set that baseline pretty darn high. 
 
Switching to triode revealed that this form of amplification does have something uniquely magical about it. The first track of jazz lion Charles Lloyd's wonderful new CD, Rabo de Nube, features Lloyd playing saxophone, initially accompanied only by percussionist Eric Harland, who occupies the rear left-center of the stage switching between several different shaker instruments. Through pentode mode, it sounded superb, but in triode it was uncanny: the reach-out-and-touch-it quality of both Lloyd's saxophone and, especially, of Harland's percussion was incredible—the most strikingly real reproduction I've heard in my home.
 
This "uncanny" experience was repeated with several subsequent recordings. The Tokyo Quartet's recent double-CD of the early Beethoven string quartets on Harmonia Mundi is another state-of-the-art recording, but through the Spirit's pentode mode it has just a bit of digital edge—still first-class, but a little toward the bright side of neutral. In triode, though, it's another miracle: the quartet is right there in front of me, with proper scale, gorgeous tone and three-dimensionality.  
 
Those two recordings, and numerous other small-ensemble acoustic offerings, made clear the Spirit's superior mid-range purity when in triode operation. But at least with my average-efficiency Harbeth and Spendor speakers, triode function did have its limitations. That Heifetz/Sibelius disc, which sounded so majestic in pentode, was less so in triode; and rock music in general lost too much testosterone. It didn't sound like the amp was running out of watts—climaxes in the Sibelius and other orchestral recordings held together just fine—but musical power, authority and bass foundation suffered in these larger-scale (or, as the case may be, simply louder) works. So while the most spine-tingling moments I spent with the Spirit came courtesy of its triode mode, it was not a slam-dunk winner to the point where I'd listen to it exclusively; I appreciated having both options to choose from. 
 
After 12 or so years of engaging in this hobby in earnest, I have reached a point where my system components all fall within a range that might be called "the serious but sensible audiophile." My Harbeth speakers currently retail for US$3500; my Coda integrated is about SU$4K, as is my Nottingham turntable/Grado cartridge combo; and my Bel Canto digital player, the now-discontinued PL-2, originally retailed for US$5K. 
 
I point this out only because I think it's important for readers to know the perspective that a reviewer brings to his/her job. I am not a mega-buck reviewer. Some audio writers who have a continual stream of high-end products in their living rooms—and more power to them—can sound a bit blasé when faced with a less-than-super-luxe item. That's inevitable and understandable, but as a reader, I often find myself trying to handicap their somewhat tempered impressions against what my own might be. The Ayon Audio Spirit integrated, is right in the range with which I'm most familiar. And I've auditioned quite a few products in that range that I liked and/or respected, but that just didn't thrill me. But for NZ$6,875 (incl GST), I want and expect something to thrill me. 
 
Well, the Ayon Audio Spirit integrated thrilled me. It is beautifully built and beautifully engineered, and while I often find tube amps to be jazz and classical specialists – and not particularly strong with rock or other types of popular music—I found the Spirit convincing with just about everything I threw at it (with pentode operation being better for rock and large-scale classical, and triode best for smaller, acoustic ensembles). It is, on balance, the finest amplifier I've heard in my system, and will now join the Audience adeptResponse power conditioner as one of the two components I've found hardest to return to its distributor.
 
I have to think that the Spirit is some type of loss leader as Ayon tries to establish itself in the U.S. market.  So act now—if you are looking for an integrated amplifier in this range or even a little above, it is a must-audition.
......Tom Campbell
 
The amplifier is capable of conveying not only the basic sonic components but of something over and above, like the recording atmosphere or the type of remaster in its upper layer, where we talk about artistic expression.
Wojciech Pacula

Gerhard Hirt belongs to a group of designers who know what they are doing. He seems to fully control all aspects of his products, from their enclosure design to their sonic characteristics. .....the Ayon is a really refreshing perspective. The new

This new version of Spirit III presents us with a big, saturated sound. A large, expansive soundstage is well controlled and "grasped" so there’s no need to worry that something may be too "puffed up". The bass extends low and deep and has a nice colour. It skilfully differentiates colour and attack, which also stretches over to the midrange. 

n November 2010, Ayon sent out information about having completed a new version of its classic Spirit amplifier. Some time later, I reviewed it for the "Audio" magazine and it turned out to be a good amp. Maybe not outstanding, in the sense that it would put everything else to shame, but very well built and sounding very solid and well ordered. A strong “B” to denote a good, safe choice. I recently heard the news about the launch of a new version Spirit III 
 
It turns out that the Spirit III (New) is based on some design solutions recently introduced in the higher Triton III integrated amplifier and in the Eris line preamp. From the latter it’s taken the preamp section in the form of new circuits and new signal attenuator. Now it’s electronically controlled with an alphanumeric display visible on the front next to the volume knob. The tube driver section is also new and sports 6SJ7 metal vacuum tubes for a much better protection against signal noise, including hum. The tube output section in turn uses brand new speaker transformers with a wider frequency response and better protected against vibration - both self induced and coming from the outside.
 
I asked Gerhard for details:
 
We’ve done a mild exterior facelift and a few upgrades inside but didn’t want to brag about it, hence the amplifier is still called Spirit III. The implemented changes are, in fact, quite extensive: a new volume control with a display screen, a new driver stage, the latest version of the "auto-fixed-bias" circuit and an advanced tube protection circuit, which all brought a big sonic improvement.
 
Regardless of what we think about the amplifier name, the basic specification is not based on “numbers”. We know that it is an integrated amplifier with pre-out but also with direct-in. While the pre-out is a classic, the direct power amp input is quite rare for a tube integrated amplifier. Apparently, however, it is Gerhard’s nod towards home theatre owners as the Spirit can work in home theatre systems. Just connect your AV’s stereo pre-out to Ayon’s direct-in and you end up with a pimped out stereo and multi-channel system in one. The input can of course be use for something else and if you have a better preamplifier or a source with an integrated preamp that is better than the one in the Austrian amplifier, this way you can skip the Spirit’s preamp. The output stage is based on a pair of KT88sx power tubes per channel, driven by interesting 6SJ7 pentodes in triode mode, housed in characteristic metal cups instead of usual glass bulbs. KT88sx is a variant of the KT88 manufactured for Ayon by Shuguang. 
 
A new addition on the front panel is a an alphanumeric display with volume indication. Already in the previous Spirit 'III' the volume control was electronic, but the volume level indication was conventional via the volume knob position. The volume logic was controlled by a classic rotary potentiometer with a start and end point. Hence, there was no need for a separate indicator. 
 
How do we understand the term "tube sound"? I, for one, am deeply convinced that it is commonly understood in a rather clear-cut way. It is naturally a stereotype, but like any such simplification it helps to quickly assess the situation and there is lots of truth to it. Mostly historical, granted, but truth nevertheless. So how do we understand "tube sound"? Everybody knows it is warm. It also has a rolled off and rounded treble and not fully controlled bass. And there is no use expecting good speaker control unless we are talking about tube monsters. These are the minuses. Among the advantages the first is the so-called musicality. While itself a buzzword disliked by many, in such cases it automatically springs up to mind. It’s a bit like describing a stereotype with another stereotype, but it often works! Musicality would be understood here as vividness, smoothness and fluidity, combined with the absence of irritating sharpness and distortion. If that’s how we understand the "tube sound", then Gerhard Hirt has been for years doing everything to make his amps deny such a stereotype.
 
I'm talking about amplifiers instead of products, generally, because Gerhard "handles" his digital sources in a different way and his preamps in yet another way. At least that’s my understanding based on a comparison to other such products from leading manufacturers. His preamps seem to be the most neutral. Not only are they neutral but they take away the least from the sound. It’s because they are also natural. Gerhard’s digital sources sound incredibly natural, too, except that in their case it’s more difficult to talk about neutrality. Their bass is usually beefed-up and midrange strongly emphasised. It's very likeable and sounds great so it’s not surprising that to many they represent the “Ayon sound”. Last but not least, the amplifiers sound less natural than the preamps but perhaps even more neutral. If anyone is for example worried about tube amp’s bass control, Ayon shows that the problem is largely not in the technology itself but in its proper application. Ayon will prove wrong anyone who finds it hard to believe that a tube amp can drive speakers with a lower-than-average sensitivity. It will also cure of any complexes related to the treble presentation.
For all these years, what I appreciated the most was what Gerhard did with his preamplifiers and digital sources (I basically don’t know his speakers). Although his amplifiers sounded great and were liked by many music lovers, I missed a better tonal balance and their sound seemed to me a little too calculated. Not always so, as there were exceptions, but this is how I generally remembered them. Naturally, a careful selection of the accompanying components would be a great remedy and often brought spectacular results. I've heard it many times.
 
The Spirit III is the first Ayon amplifier that goes in exactly the same direction as the best sources from this manufacturer, such as the CD-5s Special. It doesn’t ruin the image Gerhard worked for years to achieve, but it adds to it some characteristics that make it now an extremely versatile machine.
 
Upon firing it up we get a large volume of sound. It is a bit "tubey" but is not identical with such presentation. The volume that we get with the new Spirit III is not based on emphasised midrange and rolled off highs, which usually results in vividness. Here big simply means big. Listening to Daft Punk we get pushed in a big balloon, into a dense, expansive sound cocoon. It’s not a midrange chirp-chirp just in front of our nose, but an impetuous, colourful sound. The lower bass is massive and well-defined. It is complemented with the treble that’s not harsh but can be feisty and present when needed, such as on Nirvana's In Utero. A heavy compression did not hamper the album from showing the dirty sound created by the musicians together with the sound producer.  The Spirit has a tendency to sound just that way. With smaller ensembles where silence, pause and reflection are equally important, such as on Bach’s violin concertos performed by Yehudi Menuhin, the amp was held back, as if lurking. One could sense it was only temporary, just to play with the rules of the game, and it would strike back when needed. Yet it do never crossed the line between what’s acceptable and what’s not.
 
It seems that it results from a kind of focusing on the sound. It's not as much an excessive control as "mindfulness." Although the Ayon has an inclination towards a strong and slightly beefed-up sound, it stays within the operating limits of a high-end amplifier and is very versatile. It differentiates well without blending the material into a pulp. The difference between the new remaster of the said Concerts… supervised by Mr. Kiuchi from Combak Corporation, and their previous version was huge, indeed; nothing of the sort of "a little better here, a little worse there". The classical EMI remaster from 1990s could only be rejected as lacking in comparison. The amplifier is capable of conveying not only the basic sonic components but of something over and above, like the recording atmosphere or the type of remaster in its upper layer, where we talk about artistic expression. The Spirit is at the same time a very safe choice. It may not be exceptionally resolving, but neither does it blend everything together - it just accentuates the larger groups, bigger planes rather than individual sounds.
 
You'll love the soundstage it creates. It is a large and expansive. I think it has been achieved through the saturation of the bottom end. While the common opinion is that the accuracy and size of soundstage is determined by the treble, the reality is that its quality and maturity depends more on what happens on the other end of the frequency band. For the soundstage to have a reliable size, that is to resemble what we know a live event, the sound can’t be rolled off at the bottom or compressed. I know it well from practice. Almost every mixing console sports a switchable high pass filter, typically 100 Hz, at the microphone input. Sound engineers often use it to prevent the speakers from accidental pops and hum (50 Hz and harmonics) and as a kind of general "protection". Theoretically, the relatively low set filter shouldn’t specifically affect the vocals. And yet even a high female voice is thinner and shallower with the filter on. I have experienced this many times and avoid using it now, if possible. Linear bass means a higher sound volume and its better anchoring on the soundstage.
 
That’s exactly what I faced, listening to the Spirit. Its bass was very low and deep, also in the triode mode. Gerhard told me once that he drives the tubes quite hard running them at high plate voltages, but the sound is muffled and "rounded" otherwise. Fortunately, that’s not a big problem for the new Spirit as it employs the latest version of bias adjustment and an integrated soft-start circuit for extended tube life. This translates into the kind of sound we don’t expect from vacuum tubes. In addition to a slightly soft and colorful sound known from good tube amplifiers, we also get here high dynamics and a very good control extending to the bottom end.
 
Conclusion
 
Gerhard Hirt belongs to a group of designers who know what they are doing. He seems to fully control all aspects of his products, from their enclosure design to their sonic characteristics. We may not always agree with him, as these are HIS choices to which WE can say "no" and everything will be fine. But it will be a response to his specific, well thought-out proposition. One that helps us make an equally informed decision. After an endless parade of products that happen to turn out better or worse, sometimes with their designers not even knowing why, the Ayon is a really refreshing perspective. Here, we don’t need to reject the designer’s wrong and accidental decisions but can simply react to his quality proposition.
 
The new version of Spirit III presents us with a big, saturated sound. A large, expansive soundstage is well controlled and "grasped" so there’s no need to worry that something may be too "puffed up". The bass extends low and has a nice colour. It skilfully differentiates colour and attack, which also stretches over to the midrange.  This new set of compromises suits me much better than the previous one. Gerhard’s new integrated amplifiers sound more like his preamps, in not try to hide they employ tube technology. But they don’t show it off, either. Instead, they manage to keep everything in balance. That’s something needed most in audio. A truly great paradigm shift!
 
Testing Methodology:
 
I spent with the Spirit much more time than usual because I also used to review all anti-vibration platforms presented in the previous issue of "High Fidelity", (see the archive HERE). While its mechanical design is very good, it sounded different and usually better with each of them. The best results were with the CEC ASB3545WF Wellfloat and the HRS M3X. They are expensive accessories but will help us achieve a much better sound without the need to upgrade the component. It’s also worth trying out the Resonator 1000 Hz from Finite Elemente, which brings clearly positive results. Or to check out quartz resonators, putting them on output transformer casings. The review had a character of an A/B comparison with the A and B known. The reference point was my reference system amplifier and the Corus + the 625 from Jeff Rowland as a two-box amplifier. Music samples were 2 minutes long. The power cord used was the Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved Version, while the interconnects and speaker cables were from Acoustic Revive ("System II").
 
Design:
 
As strange as it may seem, Ayon components didn’t always have a "typical" Ayon look. Have a look at a 300B amplifier from this manufacturer reviewed by us in June 2008 (see HERE) to find out what I’m talking about. As you can see, its shape and enclosure design solutions brought to mind small manufacturers employing several people, which is actually what Ayon was back then. It turned out to be the last such design from early Ayon whose next components were soon to look like the CD-3, reviewed by us a month later (see HERE). Except for some details, it was the shape that remained with us till today – thick aluminium plates, rounded corners and hidden mounting screws. And a big Ayon logo in the centre of the front panel. It all started in 2006 with digital players. Their enclosures were manufactured for Ayon in China by Raysonic. However, as often happens in such cases, this cooperation got out of Gerhard’s control and the market saw CD players and amplifiers with Raysonic’s logo and electronics that didn’t have much in common with the Austrian company. They were, however, associated with it as they looked similar and used similar enclosure design concepts. Gerhard ended it quickly by buying his own factory in Hong Kong, in which he has since manufactured all the mechanical components. And what about Raysonic? Well… Some time ago, Mr. Steven Leung, its owner, embezzled its money and fled, leaving the plant with despairing employees (part of the story can be found HERE). Once a thief, always a thief, it seems.
 
After transferring production to its own factory Ayon visibly improved assembly and finish quality of its products. Eventually, the contemporary "Ayon look" came about. It is based on black-anodized aluminium with touches of chrome. In the Spirit III, the latter is used for transformer casings, located behind the tubes. Silver are also octal valve holders for the KT88sx (Black Treasure) tubes, here one pair per channel working in push-pull AB. The tubes have Ayon logo and a distinctive black glass container. They are manufactured for the Austrian company by Chinese giant Shuguang that also sells them under the name "Black Glass" Treasure Tubes. The rest of the Spirit enclosure is black, including the two knurled knobs for volume control and input selector respectively. Next to the former we find a display screen that distinguishes model III from the II. It shows the current volume level (on an absolute scale, in dB) for a few seconds before going off. It's a proof that volume control is not via a resistive potentiometer but is probably based on a digitally controlled analog resistor ladder network. There are of course more differences, such as improved bias auto-calibration system, of which Gerhard is very proud, and different driver tubes. The input stage is classic, built on the 12AU7W from Tung-Sol, but next we see black metal containers of the 6SJ7, here NOS Russian military 6Ж8 from 1972. Registered for the first time in 1938, this octal base tube was originally intended for radio and then also television sets. It’s a pentode, unlike the input tubes, here working in triode mode.
 
The other knob is the input selector. Adjacent to it we see red LEDs indicating the current active input as well as the “mute” and "triode" modes. Ayon quite often lets the user choose the operating mode of the output tubes. They can be operated either as classic beam tetrodes (which they are) or as triodes. The output power drops in the triode mode but the sound character changes, too. Switch between the modes with a small knob visible in front of the input tubes.
 
I mentioned the auto-bias circuit. In fact, it is semi-automatic as the initial calibration is performed manually. Once that’s completed, auto-calibration is used on each power-up of the amplifier. It doesn’t take long and is signalled by a flashing illuminated logo on the front panel. During this power up time the soft-start circuit gradually increases filament voltage to warm up the tubes before full plate voltage is applied. This significantly extends tube life. A part of this circuit are the LEDs on the rear panel, a "reset" switch and a USB port used to measure voltages.
 
The rear panel also sports two rows of large, solid speaker binding posts manufactured in-house by Ayon. There are three posts per channel – the ground, 4 Ω and 8 Ω taps. Next you we see three pairs of equally solid RCA connectors and one pair of XLR connectors. There is also the "Direct In" input to bypass the preamp and volume control, useful in home theatre systems. Adjacent to it is the pre-out connector that can be used for bi-amping. Next to the IEC mains socket there is a switch to decouple the signal ground from the chassis and a red light indicating incorrect phase of the power cord. If it’s on, the mains plug needs to be turned over – if it’s a Shuko. The power-off switch is mechanical and placed on the bottom, close to the front panel. The amplifier can be operated by a small remote control that features volume control and "mute" buttons.
 
The bottom panel is made of perforated aluminium plate, visibly thinner than the other panels. Electronic components are mounted on gold plated circuit boards and yet the interior is full of wires that connect individual sections. Some of them are used in other amplifiers from the manufacturer. Power supply and logic circuits take the most space. Output stage voltage is filtered by eight sizeable capacitors with Ayon’s logo and two large chokes, one per channel. Separate power supplies are used for the preamplifier and logic circuits including the volume control chip, and for filament voltage. The tubes are coupled via polypropylene capacitors without any logo. Attention is drawn to an oversized AC line filter on a massive choke and a capacitor. One of the circuit boards is potted with a black material, which prevents identification of its components. The audio circuit uses no feedback.
its dynamic capabilities generate tangible atmosphere through picking up on reverberation and the subtlest of spatial clues.
TechRadar

This review was on earlier MkI model, now replaced with new upgraded MkIII version)

Triode mode is a timbre-lover’s dream....it is exceptionally and delightfully revealing of timbre, tonality and small dynamic shifts.
And especially with voices, that can be truly captivating. If you’re keen on stereo imagery you’ll find much to like here, too. The Spirit creates a broad and deep soundstage with sympathetically recorded material, and its dynamic capabilities generate tangible atmosphere through picking up on reverberation and the subtlest of spatial clues.

 

The amplifier really shifts up a gear when presented with the John McLaughlin Trio recording Live at The Royal Festival Hall, which it savours for its mix of vibrant acoustic guitar, sonorous electric bass and Trilok Gurtu’s dazzling array of percussion. It portrays this last element with an appropriately deft mix of delicacy and dynamics to complement McLaughlin’s nimble guitar play and Kai Eckhardt’s fluid bass-lines.

Ayon Audio might not be that well known to UK enthusiasts, but it’s a situation that is sure to change. Brought into the UK by John Jeffries’ Sussex-based distribution firm, Metropolis Music, Ayon is based in Gratkorn in the Styrian region of Austria, where it produces high-end valve amplifiers, cables, loudspeakers and a pair of CD players.
 
As if that wasn’t enough, the company even designs and manufactures its own valves. All of these products, according to Ayon, are designed to: "reward music lovers with an authentic and excitingly realistic reproduction of music as a real live event."
 
The new Ayon Spirit is an entry-level, four-input, integrated design that can operate in either Pentode or Triode mode thanks to a small rotary switch that nestles on the amplifier’s top-plate, between the valves and the shrouded transformers. The layout of the Spirit is delightfully straightforward. The fascia houses a volume knob, an infra-red eye for the remote control, a backlit logo that glows red when the amplifier is powered up and an input selector to choose between the four line-level inputs.
 
Connectivity
 
At the rear, you’ll find RCA phono connectors for the inputs, two sets of chunky binding posts for four-ohm or eight-ohm speaker connections, trimpots and test points for setting the bias on the output valves, and the mains connector/switch alongside a phase-indicating lamp that illuminates to tell you whether your mains is wired with the correct polarity.
 
Unless you are of a super-tweaky disposition, or have to change the valves without help from your dealer, you can safely ignore the trimpots and test points and simply plug your speaker cables and interconnects into the relevant orifices. The only concern will be whether to use the four- or eight-ohm sockets: if you are in any doubt, phone your dealer.
 
On top of the amplifier you’ll find two shrouded output transformers flanking a similarly encased mains transformer and seven exposed valves: a trio of 12AU7s and two pairs of KT88 output types. Apart from its substantial weight and bulk, the Spirit gives the impression of being very well built, no matter from which angle you assess it.
 
Every part of its construction, is reassuringly solid and robust. If the Spirit were a 4WD vehicle it would definitely be a no-nonsense, farmer’s Land Rover, rather than some prissy school-run special. Its 50-watt power output speaks volumes for this amplifier. In fact, that wouldn’t be a shameful figure if this were a push-pull design, which it can be, but 50 watts is very respectable for a single-ended Triode.
 
Sound quality
 
To fully assess the Spirit’s performance it was hooked it up to a Naim CDS CD player, with Chord Company Indigo interconnects and Signature bi-wire speaker cable to Neat Acoustics’ Momentum 4i speakers. The Spirit happily drives these to the sort of listening levels we enjoy with enthusiasm and ease, even in its lower-powered, single-ended Triode mode.
 
Mind you, the Spirit does encourage you to listen to rather more thoughtful music than you might do under other (solid-state powered) circumstances. This certainly isn’t an amplifier designed for a drum’n’bass fan, for example. That’s not because it can’t handle the genre, but because such music doesn’t really offer it appropriate scope for expression. We’re not being snobby, simply pointing out that the range of musical ‘colour’ and expressive vocabulary that this amplifier is capable of delivering is wasted on music that doesn’t properly exploit it.
 
The Spirit seems particularly enamoured with vocalists, especially female ones. A selection of our favourite female singers sounds particularly splendid through this amplifier, especially when it’s in Triode operating mode, which seems to bring out the subtlest qualities in their voices. The way in which Christine Collister or Pat Mears can dig into the lower, almost masculine registers of their ranges, yet retain the obvious femininity in their voices is particularly rewarding, while it simply adores Nancy Griffiths.
 
Similarly, the male voice also relishes Triode operation. The Spirit, despite its Austrian origins, does a superb job of unravelling Christy Moore’s often convoluted Irish lyricism and Dr John’s lazy Louisiana drawl, rendering both with the utmost clarity and expressive feeling.
 
Switching to Pentode mode does seem to benefit some music. The aforementioned D’n’B has more punch and rhythmic impetus, as does Rage Against The Machine, where the percussion and bass guitar have more overt snap and leading edge impact. Nonetheless, in Triode mode it is far clearer how, for example, Tom Morello is extracting the weird and wonderful tones from his guitar.
Ultimately, Triode operation beats Pentode into a cocked hat with all musical genres. The slight lessening of rhythmic snap and impetus, along with the reduction in volume, is a small price to pay for the enhanced exposition of timbre, tonality and three-dimensionality that is so evident on vocals and all instruments.
 
Broad and deep soundstage
 
The amplifier really shifts up a gear when presented with the John McLaughlin Trio recording Live at The Royal Festival Hall, which it savours for its mix of vibrant acoustic guitar, sonorous electric bass and Trilok Gurtu’s dazzling array of percussion. It portrays this last element with an appropriately deft mix of delicacy and dynamics to complement McLaughlin’s nimble guitar play and Kai Eckhardt’s fluid bass-lines. And therein lie the strengths and weaknesses of the Spirit. It isn’t the ultimate pace, rhythm, and timing machine (understandably, it can’t match our solid-state reference amps), but it is exceptionally and delightfully revealing of timbre, tonality and small dynamic shifts. And especially with voices, that can be truly captivating. If you’re keen on stereo imagery you’ll find much to like here, too. The Spirit creates a broad and deep soundstage with sympathetically recorded material, and its dynamic capabilities generate tangible atmosphere through picking up on reverberation and the subtlest of spatial clues.
 
The same ability also makes light work of discriminating between period and modern orchestral instrumentation. Interestingly, the Spirit also seems to time more insistently with classical recordings than it does with rock, such that its musical presentation is on a par with the more cosmetic aspects.
 
In fact, the only question we really can’t answer is why Ayon bothered with the Triode/Pentode switching when the single-ended mode sounds so superior to the push-pull alternative.
They are champagne for a person with a wine box budget.
Doug Schroeder

These two dodge the warm, wet blanket sound of an all-tube system with a tube source, yet retain the best of the glow and vitality of tubes. As a relatively new name to North America, and to win the hearts of audiophiles, Ayon’s products have to be not only good, but very good. Having run this pairing through my gauntlet, I can recommend them without reservation. Putting myself in the shoes of an audiophile who wants a taste of the authentic high-end, but without the worry of component matching or spending one’s self into the poor house, Ayon is a name to remember! Individually or in tandem these pieces play well with elegance and effervescence.

This is really one of the best tube amplifiers you can buy to a price level of 30-40 thousand zlotys I have heard.
Marcin Olszewski

SUMMARY: Starting with “Rhapsodies” Stokowski and ending with “Orchestral Works, Vol. 2” Lutoslawski, the newest Spirit produced a reference setup of a symphonic orchestra, building it far beyond the boundaries of my loudspeakers, and allowing to look inside the recordings, look at individual musicians, but without losing the overall view and coherence. It seems, that Gerhard Hirt finally combined fire with water – the, characteristic for older Ayon, analyticity with the legendary, tube musicality and emotionality. From the more “Hollywood-like” productions I often used the soundtrack of the “Space Battleship Yamato” Naoki Sato & Yasushi Miyagawa, which combines the romantic notes from “Pearl Harbor” and the bombastic apocalyptic vision from “Gladiator” by Hans Zimmer with elements characteristic for Japan. For such albums dynamics and breath are key. The sound must be big, bombastic, to be able to have the “wow!” effect. It was doable with the Spirit 3. I should say, it was the nature of this amplifier.

EXTENDED REVIEW: As I already mentioned on Facebook, this is my third meeting with the model Spirit 3 from the Austrian manufacturer Ayon. This situation may be seen as a joke, because you might think, that the distributor is sending the device as many times as needed for the amount of superlatives and positive remarks reaches the desired level, or that the reviewer has memory problems and does not remember what he already reviewed. But both, the Krakow based distributor Eter Audio as well as myself, we have esteem for the readers and would not allow ourselves to act like that. This confusing situation is caused by the manufacturer. The company modifies the product heavily without changing the name. No mk2, 3, or anything. The amplifier started its existence and as Spirit 3 and continues it under the same name, so we cannot determine the version based on it. Theoretically we could use the tubes as reference, but when the owner tends to change them often, the only way of detection of the version remains the serial number.

Let us start with some history of this product, looking on how the Spirit 3 changed over the last 24 months. The first version I reviewed in May 2011, was equipped with the jubilee Shuguang Treasure Series KT88 (50th anniversary) tubes, while the other stages were built around the JAN Philips 12AU7. The next version, described on the Soundrebels portal (link), used KT88 tubes branded by Ayon, while the JAN tubes were replaced by a pair of Tungsol 12AU7 and a pair of 6SJ7 NOS General Electric tubes. The newest version, we are reviewing now, boast changes in the output section, where instead of the 88 tubes the Tungsol KT150 were employed, which are gaining popularity among advanced tube lovers. No other modifications were mentioned to me, however there is a change increasing user friendliness of the device – the LEDs indicating faulty tubes, that were on the back plate, were replaced by a display, that has a similar function and additionally displays the countdown during power-up. Also the service USB port was removed, as many do-it-yourself freaks tried to use it, and the manufacturer was not happy about that. Besides those, quite insignificant, changes, the device looks the same as the previous version. There is a phase correctness indicator, massive loudspeaker terminals, dedicated to 4 and 8Ω speakers, four inputs (one of them XLRs), preamplifier output and power amplifier direct input. There is also a mode selector present (Normal/Direct).

The front panel of the current version of the Spirit does not differ from its predecessor – the centrally placed and red backlit logo (it blinks during start-up and power-down), knurled knobs for volume control (with a dedicated display) and input selector placed on the sides, with a column of ruby colored LEDs indicating the input and showing the mode of the amplifier. There is also a IR receiver. We can also see the close relationship between the older and newer version looking at the top plate of the amplifier, where we can see, that initially KT88 tubes were planned to be used for the amplifier. This was also confirmed by the manufacturer, who confirms, if we can use KT150 tubes based on the serial number of the unit. Of course we can also switch between triode and pentode mode for the output stage. To cut things short, when you know at least one model from the Ayon offering, you know them all. One more thing – to alleviate any conspiracy theories – in May I tested the amplifier with the serial number 04191, while the current unit bears the number 04402.

Before I unpacked the hero of this test from the double box and the perfectly fitting foam shapes, I was thinking, if Gerhard Hirt allowed the more lyrical side to surface, like in the newest version of the Crossfire 3 (link), or returned to the transparency he promoted for years. Because the tested unit came to me directly from a listening session, preceded by a two-week burn-in, I decided that the time required for fitting the tubes, setting up some internet radio broadcast, as well as preparing a brownie and placing it in the oven is more than enough for trying to listen to the Ayon using some of my favorite recordings.

In the beginning a small digression. Because the manufacturer/distributor provided the amplifier with a manual referring to the KT88 version only, I had to perform a small research. The web pages of the manufacturer and distributor quoted only “archival” data, only with some pictures of the newest version, so I needed to search further. Finally, the pages of a distributor in New Zealand quoted very important parameters, including the output power of this version. So I quote after Audio Reference Co. (15 Graham Street; Victoria Quarter; Auckland 1010; New Zealand) – pentode mode: KT88 2x55W / KT120 2x60W / KT150 2x80W; triode mode: KT88 2x35W / KT120 2x40W / KT150 2x60W. As you can see, the power output increases significantly, so that even the triode mode is fully usable even with conventional speakers.

So I turned the output mode selector to the magical “T” and founded myself some repeat treat and turned on “La Tarantella - Antidotum Tarantulae” (L'Arpeggiata / Christina Pluhar). Before the first notes of „La Carpinese (Tarantella)” faded I had already a smile on my face, which later could only be removed surgically. The ethereal and aerial tube sound was supported by contours stable like a concrete wall and such an immediate articulation of the vocalist supported by the virtuoso playing of the ensemble, that I got up from my couch to verify the settings of the amplifier. There was place for beautiful timbres, passion and romance in “Lu Gattu la Sonava la Zampogna (Ninna Nanna)” or fiery, catching, Spanish rhythms in “Tarantella Napoletana, Tono Hypodorico”, which sounded with the Spirit almost like the guitar acrobatics of Rodrigo Y Gabriela. Well, I thought. OK, let me give you something to try – and keeping the previous playlist in mind I fed the player with the album “Lento” Youn Sun Nah and … I do not know, when I finished listening to the whole album. Each tap on a string was so clear and palpable, as if Ulf Wakenius would sit between the loudspeakers and play in my room. To be sure I listened also to “Enter Sandman” from the album “Some Girl”, by the same lovely artist, and I did not detect any veiling, rounding, slowing down or losing any agility or savageness. However this idyllic mood slowly disappeared when I started to play heavier repertoire. Although “Misplaced Childhood” Marillion was still OK, although I expected more kick from the drums solo opening the “Bitter Suite (I: Brief Encounter/Ii: Lost Weekend/Iii: Blue Angel)”, already with “American Idiot” Green Day I decided to stop torturing the Austrian integrated switching it off, as preparation for switching over to pentode mode. Cooling down the unit before the switch is recommended by the manufacturer.

Putting the switch over was like starting a second turbo, and the sound run forward as a classy, absolutely not ecologic, but very macho V8. Mad tempo, rough music, hitting your heart directly, did not allow to just sit down quietly. You could feel the hard rock roughness, roguish sparks in the eyes and lack of care for tomorrow. There was no finesse in that sound, and that was right, as trying to place rock musicians into black suits often results in hilarious, tragic or hilarious and tragic events. So I stayed in the area of untamed harshness and reached for things like “Countdown to Extinction” Megadeth, issued by MFSL, or “Inhuman Rampage” Dragon Force with the virtuoso “Through the Fire and Flames”. Both albums allowed me to quickly verify my ideas about placing tube amplification into my system. While the Crossfire 3 with Avantgarde speakers still seems unbeatable, given you will the main prize in a lottery, yet the newest Siprit 3, equipped with a quartet of 150 tubes, seems like a winner when your pockets are not so deep. It really can be very satisfactory, regardless of what we are used to listen to. Please believe me, or better try it for yourselves in your own listening rooms, but to date no other tube amplifier was able to reproduce the potential of the phenomenal melodic line, ornamented with truly byzantine guitar sounds, of the “Hangar 18” Megadeth (“Rust in Peace”) with such a finesse backed with a titanium skeleton and a touch of sweetness. I start to believe, that the presence of at least one Rammstein album during the presentation of Ayon electronics is not pure coincidence. I searched through my library, found “Reise, Reise” and played “Ohne Dich” and “Amour”. It was pure sweetness like in marzipan covered with dark chocolate and enjoyed with a cup of double espresso. The vocals of Till Lindemann, boosted appropriately, sibilants present, audible but far from becoming offensive, and the German edginess became a nice prelude to more civilized, yet placing the threshold even higher, challenges.

Starting with “Rhapsodies” Stokowski and ending with “Orchestral Works, Vol. 2” Lutoslawski, the newest Spirit produced a reference setup of a symphonic orchestra, building it far beyond the boundaries of my loudspeakers, and allowing to look inside the recordings, look at individual musicians, but without losing the overall view and coherence. It seems, that Gerhard Hirt finally combined fire with water – the, characteristic for older Ayon, analyticity with the legendary, tube musicality and emotionality. From the more “Hollywood-like” productions I often used the soundtrack of the “Space Battleship Yamato” Naoki Sato & Yasushi Miyagawa, which combines the romantic notes from “Pearl Harbor” and the bombastic apocalyptic vision from “Gladiator” by Hans Zimmer with elements characteristic for Japan. For such albums dynamics and breath are key. The sound must be big, bombastic, to be able to have the “wow!” effect. It was doable with the Spirit 3. I should say, it was the nature of this amplifier.

Now with all those positive things I wrote about the newest version of the Ayon Spirit 3, equipped with the Tungsol KT150 tubes, we should think, if there are any shortcomings there? Well … given the price you have to pay for it, I cannot find any. Maybe one thing – with the covers for the tubes in place, it looks horrible, but on the other hand, they protect well against over active youngsters, or animals. This is really one of the best tube amplifiers you can buy to a price level of 30-40 thousand zlotys I have heard.
.......... Marcin Olszewski

Testimonials

Iam impressed with this valve amp

hi terry  
i have just deposited the balance in to your bank ..i had a good listen to the AYON SPIRIT !!! valve amp over the weekend and it sounds VERY GOOD to me,  i am impressed with this valve amp,  very clear in the mids and trebles so I thank you VERY MUCH for your patience over this journey, and thanks for letting me have a home demo off those other two fine amps [hegel & sanders] .. again thanks heaps.
.....ian

Videos

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