Ayon Blog Review from Audio-Philia
March 26, 2016 – Linda Gray
Introducing Ayon Audio – New to Audio-philia
Ayon Audio is an award-winning Austrian company offering one of the most extensive and highly regarded ranges of vacuum tube components in the world, including amplifiers, preamplifiers, headphone amps, phono stages, network players, CD players and DACs. Also in their design portfolio is a range of loudspeakers specifically designed for use with low powered tube amps, and a unique range of super triode power tubes used exclusively in their own amplifiers.
Specializing in Single-Ended Tube (SET) designs, Ayon are passionate ambassadors for tube amplification, believing tube amplifiers to be the “sonically superior technology for audio”. Recognizing that the technology requires some effort and “know how” from its users Ayon have developed more reliable tubes, and automated systems to take care of tasks such as bias adjustment and tube matching so that users don’t have to.
The stunning aesthetics and legendary build quality of Ayon’s products, which are designed and hand assembled in-house, has lead to the company being referred to by The Absolute Sound magazine as “The Bugatti of Audio” (Cover Story, March 2011).
The Ayon Audio brand, along with Lumen White and others, is part of Austrian distribution company Living Sound GmbH, founded by Gerhard Hirt.
Having been fascinated with tube amps since he was a schoolboy, Hirt went on to gain a Masters degree in mechanical and electronic engineering. He began creating tube amplifiers under the brand name Vaic Audio at Mastersound in Vicenza, Italy in 1994, using power tubes manufactured in the Czech Republic by the Alesa Vaic Vacuum Technology (AVVT) company.
His first Vaic Audio amplifier, the 52B Monoblock, was a single-ended triode power amp that attracted international attention when it was awarded a 5 Star review by the hugely influential American audiophile Harry Pearson in his The Absolute Sound (TAS) magazine.
In 1999 Hirt dropped the Vaic Audio name and created the Ayon Audio brand, and around this time moved manufacturing headquarters from Italy to Austria. He also acquired part of the old AVVT factory in Prague, disused since the company stopped trading in 1998, and, having recruited Tesla’s former chief tube engineer, began designing and producing a new generation of single-ended triode power tubes.
In 2001 the Ayon Reference 52B Monoblock amplifier, with its new aluminium chassis, circuitry and transformer design, was exhibited at CES in the U.S., along with the Lumen White Light loudspeakers: they won Best Sound of the Show.
Now distributed in over 50 countries worldwide, Ayon has gone from strength to strength, pushing boundaries with new designs and technologies, and continues to win major awards including both ‘Best Sound of the Show’ and ‘Best of the Best’ at the 2016 High-End show in Warsaw.
Design and Technologies
Modern Tube Sound
With their super triode tubes Ayon aims for a modern sound offering the holographic, ‘warm’ sound of tubes combined with the fast, tight and transparent qualities normally associated with solid-state technologies. Their amplifiers have been specifically designed to take advantage of these ground-breaking sonic properties using a combination of classic tube designs and advanced technologies such as their zero-feedback Class A circuitry.
Greater Reliability & Lower Maintenance
Though widely regarded as being sonically superior, tube amplifiers require more ‘know-how’, care and maintenance than solid state amplifiers. It’s vital that the bias voltage of the tubes be adjusted appropriately for their age and the mains voltage (which can vary widely across Europe, and even within each country). They also require replacement from time to time, and usually need to be bought and replaced in cathode current matched pairs or quads, even if only one tube is faulty.
To address these inconveniences, Ayon’s team of renowned experts has developed the unique Auto-Fixed-Bias (AFB) safety system, making tube amplification a more reliable and easy-to-use technology, and reducing the cost of tube replacement.
Auto-Fixed-Bias (AFB) System
The AFB system first mutes the amplifier, then runs a program that adjusts the bias on each tube individually and checks for failures (indicating which tube needs to be replaced via an LED on the back panel). It can be started by the push of a button, and is also run automatically at start up, and whenever the amplifier is switched off after at least 45 minutes of use. After 45 minutes the tubes will be at optimal temperature – the best time to adjust bias.
Some of the advantages of the AFB system are that it:
- does not compromise sound quality because it doesn’t run during music playback (unlike fully automatic biasing systems)
- prolongs the life of vacuum tubes
- removes the need for users to regularly adjust tube bias themselves (and with that, the possibility of users accidentally harming them)
- automatically ‘breaks-in’ new tubes by reducing bias to 60% of normal for the first ten hours
- incorporates a protection system that ensures that the amplifier itself is not damaged should a tube short
- removes the need to purchase a matched pair or quad of tubes when only one needs to be replaced
12 Month Warranty on SET tubes
Ayon Audio’s own SET tubes are made using ‘laboratory’ glass (the highest standard for glass), gold wire for the filament and a special zirconium coating on the anode plate. A special welding process is also used for the highest precision – precision being especially important for SE-Triode tubes.
In addition, every tube goes through a robust 5-point test before being shipped, and comes with a very reassuring 12 month warranty, instead of the much more common 90 days.
Ayon has designed many ground-breaking products as its portfolio has grown, including: the first network player with tube output stage (the S-3) and the first with an external tube power supply (the S-5); the first tube-based D/A converters with DSD and the first tube-based CD players with DSD DAC; a native DSD Network transport, and PCM to DSD converter.
Highest Levels of Craftsmanship
The sleek and solid chassis of all their components are built from non-magnetic, anti-resonance, high-grade anodised aluminium for a richer, more lustrous tonality and are fully hand-assembled in house to ensure the highest levels of craftsmanship are maintained.