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Ayon Audio Spark III Review – Hi-Fi Choice

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Ayon Spark III

Ayon Audio Spark III Review – Hi-Fi Choice – SET “Best Sound”

Single-ended construction, triodes working in pure class A and 20 watts of power!

  • Date: 2012-11-05
  • Author: Arkadiusz Ogrodnik

Austrian Ayon has already gained a large crowd of fans on the home market, and the offer of the company belonging to Gerhard Hirt continues to expand with new and improved versions of earlier designs. When it seems that he has created something close to perfection, he again improves it and releases another, more refined version of the amplifier or CD player.

This time, the Spark III model has been added to our editorial team, equipped with several novelties that put it above the previous version. I think that currently Ayon in terms of designing tube devices belongs to the top producers. I have had the opportunity to test the equipment of this company for many times and I have always been impressed by how much heart and audiophile passion he puts in Ayon Gerhard Hirt. This is manifested above all by the extraordinary sound of almost all devices from this manufacturer. The offer of Ayon tube construction is large and diversified in price, so everyone has a chance to find something for themselves. Among the amplifiers, the amount and variety of design can make you dizzy, the same with the players, and all these devices combine one? glowing bubbles, which magic attracts, as in the case of turntables, which are still popular, and yet they were foretold to be forgotten. Ayon has shown more than once that with his constructions he contradicts the tube stereotype of sound, I mean above all those negative qualities, through which many people have become more and more attracted to this type of solutions. The most common objections that are usually faced by lamp opponents are too low power, especially in the case of single-ended designs, low current efficiency, high failure rate and, finally, insufficient resolution of the highest tones range and higher distortion than in the case of transistors. However, it should be remembered that these unflattering opinions have been in existence for a very long time, and yet the world is moving forward. Most contemporary tube constructions, especially those from the higher end, break with stereotypes. A great example are products bearing the Ayon logo,

Take for example the Spark III model with powerful network transformers? Can he have any problems with driving columns with average efficiency? In addition, its mass of 32 kilograms clearly indicates that we are not dealing with a cherlak. Added to this are powerful transformers hidden under large, chromed mugs.

Automatic adjustment

The Spark III model, unlike its predecessor, does not require the user to pick up the potentiometers and select the appropriate current values ​​for individual lamps. Now it is done for us by the system of automatic bias regulation. It is a very convenient solution, and at the same time ensures trouble-free and possibly the most efficient operation of lamps in the case of this type of amplifier. Just press the button on the back panel and this system will guide you through the entire procedure. In addition, Auto Bias constantly watches over the proper value of currents for the tube stages, and the initiation of the process itself starts only when we replace the lamps with new ones.

A model worth following

In terms of construction, Spark III is one of the better designs for me in this price range. Devices supporting the operation of lamps and a well-developed power supply system take up a lot of space? without them, the interior of this amplifier would not look so impressive? while the components used are first-league. I will start from the top, though. When it comes to end stage lamps, the manufacturer has used the so-called? Devils? with characteristic projections in the upper part of the bubble? they are solid Russian triodes 6C33 working naturally in pure class A and in a single-ended configuration, loved by tube construction purists. These lamps have high-quality ceramic bases with perfectly matched pins (when installing the lamps you could feel a slight resistance, but the fitting itself was not so tight, which did not force too much force to push the lamp into its place or during the disassembly for transport). There are two 6H30 control triodes in the preamplifier stage and a pair of double triodes at the input in the form 12AU7 Electro-Harmonix. Attention is also drawn by huge chrome cups covering transformers. It is precisely hidden inside them, flooded with a special resin that suppresses vibrations, they are responsible for such a large mass of the device. This proves great diligence and pragmatism of the constructor in pursuit of the ideal, which, unfortunately, translates into a price, but in the case of such uncompromising constructions you have to be reckoned with. The huge network transformer is supported by a suitably developed power supply system. After dismantling the aluminum bottom plate, my eyes showed individual modules mounted on dedicated printed circuit boards with gold-plated paths. Each power supply has a separate rectifier and additional stabilizers for the lighting current of the lamps. In addition, there are also separate reactors for the stages supplying the final lamps and one for lamps operating at the signal input to the preamplifier section. The capacitance of electrolytic capacitors has been slightly increased compared to the previous model (Spark II) and the signal system has been redesigned. The preamplifier board has excellent polypropylene coupling capacitors for lamps and high-performance, high-power metallized resistors. The signal that goes to the input sockets travels to the controlled logic of hermetic relays (however, we choose the source using the classic mechanical selector), and then to the potentiometer through specially prepared sections of silver braid in Teflon insulation. The potentiometer itself is also powered by an electric motor for the needs of a remote volume control system using a remote control, so malcontents so often complaining about the lack of this type of facilities do not get used to this time. There was a network switch in the unfortunate place? underneath, right at the side edge of the left wall? and on the back panel there was also a characteristic of Ayon brand, a red diode indicating the correct polarity of the network cable plug. Spark III gained in terms of both aesthetics and functionality compared to its predecessor. For example, the volume knobs and the source selector now look much better, and are moreover retouched, so that your fingers do not slip. Other details, such as terminals for speaker cables, also look much better, and are arranged in such a way as to clearly highlight those for the left and right channel, so it will be more difficult to make a mistake.

A stereophonic ideal

Spark III sounds specific in many respects, even for a lamp, but my attention was especially caught by its ability to create realistic spatial phenomena. This amplifier showed a great class with concert discs, eg Raz Dwa Trzy? Młynarski? or Companion? Patricia Barber. The first one, in my opinion, is perfectly recorded and perfectly reflects the atmosphere of songs performed live. But on the other hand, Ayon with his perfectly drawn soundstage, which brings together around vocalist Adam Nowak, all his accompanying instruments, drawn with sharpness, precision and, above all, physical fulfillment close to the ideal, which for many people is the essence of the atmosphere of works performed? live ?. Writing about the great location of individual instruments, I mean not only their breadth of distribution, but also a clear positioning deep into the scene. During the first moments of listening to Ayon, comparisons to the American style of playing appeared in my head, and thus a pan-rich space with well-audible sounds located far away in the background. Spark III adds to this perfectly legible first plan, thus reconciling the tastes of many fans of extremely different models of creating a stereo experience. The triode 6C33 with a disciplined sound has a great influence on this style of playing. However, this does not diminish in any way the merits of the constructor of this amplifier, who managed to squeeze out of these lamps all the best by providing them with comfortable working conditions. During the first moments of listening to Ayon, comparisons to the American style of playing appeared in my head, and thus a pan-rich space with well-audible sounds located far away in the background. Spark III adds to this perfectly legible first plan, thus reconciling the tastes of many fans of extremely different models of creating a stereo experience. The triode 6C33 with a disciplined sound has a great influence on this style of playing. However, this does not diminish in any way the merits of the constructor of this amplifier, who managed to squeeze out of these lamps all the best by providing them with comfortable working conditions. During the first moments of listening to Ayon, comparisons to the American style of playing appeared in my head, and thus a pan-rich space with well-audible sounds located far away in the background. Spark III adds to this perfectly legible first plan, thus reconciling the tastes of many fans of extremely different models of creating a stereo experience. The triode 6C33 with a disciplined sound has a great influence on this style of playing. However, this does not diminish in any way the merits of the constructor of this amplifier, who managed to squeeze out of these lamps all the best by providing them with comfortable working conditions. and thus a space built with panache, with well audible sounds located far away in the background. Spark III adds to this perfectly legible first plan, thus reconciling the tastes of many fans of extremely different models of creating a stereo experience. The triode 6C33 with a disciplined sound has a great influence on this style of playing. However, this does not diminish in any way the merits of the constructor of this amplifier, who managed to squeeze out of these lamps all the best by providing them with comfortable working conditions. and thus a space built with panache, with well audible sounds located far away in the background. Spark III adds to this perfectly legible first plan, thus reconciling the tastes of many fans of extremely different models of creating a stereo experience. The triode 6C33 with a disciplined sound has a great influence on this style of playing. However, this does not diminish in any way the merits of the constructor of this amplifier, who managed to squeeze out of these lamps all the best by providing them with comfortable working conditions.

I had similar feelings during the session with the second concert album and probably lately the most liked by me, namely? Companion? Patricia Barber. Listening to her, I felt the almost physical presence of each instrument in the listening room. Apart from the three-dimensional specifics of the construction of stereophony by the Spark III model, I paid special attention to the well-balanced and resilient bass. A double bass from this album, which I know by heart, was transmitted without the slightest trace of compression or releasing the rhythm. I am convinced that this is largely due to the brilliantly refined power system available to Spark III. This amplifier has a real concert kick and adds to this type of recordings something like an additional post-burn element, which makes the recording? Live? they acquire special blushes,

Adequate power

Someone may say that 20W is not enough, but I will not agree with it, because in a single-ended configuration it’s a lot, and a lot will depend on the loudspeakers that we hook to this amplifier. Structures with 89dB and higher efficiency will be the most suitable. I would not care about the impedance, because Spark III is doing great with 4-ohm loudspeakers. However, if we want to obtain sufficiently high volume levels, we should choose loudspeakers with at least average efficiency. I had the opportunity to listen to this amplifier with two-way floor loudspeakers (8? And 90dB) of my own design and the incredibly easy to drive Diva model from WLM. It is with this type of speakers that Spark III feels like a fish in water. However, I am convinced that many people in the blind test with the participation of this amplifier could be fooled even by the information that this construction had two or three times more power. This subjectively large freedom of playing and a sense of greater power than the one available to an amplifier results from the specificity of its sound, but also from its considerable current efficiency. In the case of driving the loudspeakers with efficiency in the vicinity of 90dB, you can easily obtain high volume levels when the volume control is unscrewed around 11 o’clock (in a room with an area of ​​about 20 square meters). However, what is responsible for the vigor of this Austrian construction based on 6C33 lamps and? Hoof? For which you could not suspect, for example, construction based on 300B tubes, it is primarily the current efficiency (something like the equivalent torque in an internal combustion engine). This amplifier always wants to play at full speed and does not let you know that in a moment you will get breathless, even if you listen to a complicated musical material with lots of low-down bass, for example album? Contact Note? Jon Hopkins.

Is it a lamp or a transistor?

Spark III is the devil incarnate! Certainly arouses controversy, but at the same time encourages reflection, forcing you to verify your previous views related to structures equipped with glowing bubbles. I mentioned earlier about the specific characteristics of the sound of this amplifier. Well, despite the fact that Spark III is a tube construction with a full mouth, it does not warm the sound, it does not sweeten and no musical genre, neither cools it, nor does it heat it, because its playing is mainly about high neutrality with almost phenomenal precision in rendering the climate and colors of individual recordings like solid transistorized constructions. I experienced this, among others, listening to the third concert number? Will we survive? from the previously mentioned album? Młynarski? One Two Three band? belonging to my favorite and probably one of the best in Poland, performing such music, based mainly on “live”? instruments. The musical landscape in this piece that allows you to break away from everyday life is perfectly stored in my memory and often listening to it through specific stereo systems, I catch even the smallest differences in the sound of individual instruments, especially their timbre. That was also the case with the listening session via the set, whose healthy heart with the dynamically presented tempo was Spark III. I could give many examples here, but this one was particularly memorable. I expected that Grzegorz Szwałek’s accordion sounds lush and warm, because this is the nature of this instrument, and I often took it that way, sometimes even slightly exaggerated in its sweetness, even in the case of transistor amplifiers. But this time it was different than in the case of many stereo systems that I had the opportunity to listen to. The mentioned accordion became a bit cooler in reception, but Spark III still kept the right color temperature for this instrument, but the very structure of the sound presented by Ayon showed a complicated sound texture of the accordion? its complexity in terms of the presentation of color or dynamics in the micro scale was amazing. Listening to the accordion via lower-class equipment, we do not even realize that this instrument can sound like that! Bravo Spark III. sometimes even slightly exaggerated in its sweetness, even in the case of transistor amplifiers. But this time it was different than in the case of many stereo systems that I had the opportunity to listen to. The mentioned accordion became a bit cooler in reception, but Spark III still kept the right color temperature for this instrument, but the very structure of the sound presented by Ayon showed a complicated sound texture of the accordion? its complexity in terms of the presentation of color or dynamics in the micro scale was amazing. Listening to the accordion via lower-class equipment, we do not even realize that this instrument can sound like that! Bravo Spark III. sometimes even slightly exaggerated in its sweetness, even in the case of transistor amplifiers. But this time it was different than in the case of many stereo systems that I had the opportunity to listen to. The mentioned accordion became a bit cooler in reception, but Spark III still kept the right color temperature for this instrument, but the very structure of the sound presented by Ayon showed a complicated sound texture of the accordion? its complexity in terms of the presentation of color or dynamics in the micro scale was amazing. Listening to the accordion via lower-class equipment, we do not even realize that this instrument can sound like that! Bravo Spark III. The mentioned accordion became a bit cooler in reception, but Spark III still kept the right color temperature for this instrument, but the very structure of the sound presented by Ayon showed a complicated sound texture of the accordion? its complexity in terms of the presentation of color or dynamics in the micro scale was amazing. Listening to the accordion via lower-class equipment, we do not even realize that this instrument can sound like that! Bravo Spark III. The mentioned accordion became a bit cooler in reception, but Spark III still kept the right color temperature for this instrument, but the very structure of the sound presented by Ayon showed a complicated sound texture of the accordion? its complexity in terms of the presentation of color or dynamics in the micro scale was amazing. Listening to the accordion via lower-class equipment, we do not even realize that this instrument can sound like that! Bravo Spark III. Listening to the accordion via lower-class equipment, we do not even realize that this instrument can sound like that! Bravo Spark III. Listening to the accordion via lower-class equipment, we do not even realize that this instrument can sound like that! Bravo Spark III.

In turn, in the sound of this model, of course, we will find typical attributes of tube playing? After all, creating a tube structure that imitated the sound of transistors would make no sense. The tube character of this amplifier is revealed in the form of a pleasant smoothness, regardless of the musical genre. It was difficult for me to detect any distortions in the presentation of individual instruments, even if they would deny measurements.

No kitsch

I will risk a rather breakneck comparison of Spark III’s sound to the Raz Dwa Trzy team. Both musicians from Raz Dwa Trzy (as well as their music) do not charm listeners with spectacular costumes, scenography, fireworks or other special effects like contemporary stars, which are full in the music industry today. Does not this amp show anything special? no goodies or cheap tricks! Spark III is like the musicians from Raz Dwa Trzy, who appear on the scene normally dressed, unnecessary trinkets and distracting ornaments, conquer the hearts of listeners only with music. Thanks to Spark III, we can invite? to the house of both musicians from Raz Dwa Trzy, as well as other celebrities and enjoy the sincere, natural musical message. With properly selected loudspeakers, we can obtain spectacular sound effects,

Verdict: Ayon Spark III

★★★★★ On the one hand, freedom and neutrality, on the other – stage character of playing and precision and a pinch of tube smoothness

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