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Reviewer: Ken Micallef
Financial Interests: click here
Digital Source: Raysonic CD-168, Ayon CD-1 [in for review]
Analog Source: Kuzma Stabi/Stogi turntable/arm combo, Denon DL-103 cartridge, Auditorium 23 Denon step-up transformer [on loan]
Preamp: Shindo Allegro
Amp: Shindo Haut Brion
Speakers: DeVore Fidelity Nines
Cables: Auditorium A23 speaker cables, Shindo interconnects, SilverFi interconnects [in for review]
Stands: Salamander rack, 2" Mapleshade platforms (8" x 15" x 2"), Blue Circle custom amp stand
Powerline conditioning: JPS Labs Kaptovator, Shunyata Black Mamba and Anaconda Vx Powersnakes, Hydra 4 [on loan]
Accessories: Mapleshade Surefoot and Heavyfoot brass points and IsoBlocks; (8) RPG ProFoam damping panels/ceiling treatment, Mapleshade Ionoclast for static cling
Room size: 24' x 12', short-wall setup, suspended wood floor, 1-foot deep plaster covered 2x4 walls, wood-beam 10-foot to 11-foot ceiling
Review component retail price: $4,299

Ayon Audio is an Austrian concern with a deep product line. A quick visit to their website reveals dozens of products of every stripe possible but typically tube-driven designs: five integrated amps (three of them single-ended triodes); a single-ended stereo amp; three sets of monoblock power amps; Polaris and Spheris preamps; and seven different speaker systems. Prices range from the $3,999 pentode/triode switchable Spirit integrated amp to the new $29,399 60-watt Vulcan SET monos. Founded by Gerhard Hirt, Ayon seems nothing if not ambitious.

Deja Vu
Ayon makes two CD players: the CD-1 and CD-3. The latter features a hefty outboard power supply and four 6H30 'super tubes', the number of 6H30s in the CD-3's design seemingly being the main difference between it and the piece under review, the Ayon CD-1. Using two 6H30 tubes and two 6922s in its output stage, the CD-1 also features: "ceramic tube sockets; automatic upsampling (24bit/192kHz); Sony KSS-213Q transport mechanism; 9 separate voltage regulators (power supply); MOSFET tube anode-voltage regulation; Mundorf and Solen MKP capacitors; large noiseless
custom C-core power transformer; AC phase control indicator; hand assemblage to insure the highest level of craftsmanship; high-grade 8mm brushed and anodized aluminum chassis; display dimmer and mute function; heavy-duty RCA gold-plated output jacks; absorber aluminum feet."
Ayon apparently uses the same enclosure as that of the Canadian Raysonic Audio CD-168, my highly prized unit. The two players look virtually identical save for the location of control and power buttons and digital display. Otherwise, they both employ the same top-loading, aluminum stabilizer arrangement. Even the acrylic top plate is similar if not indistinguishable. The companies' CD remotes match as well. Even the specs pan out similarly but with some slight/major differences (depending on your viewpoint and concern for specs): both use Solen and Mundorf caps, weigh in at 11kg, use ceramic sockets and C-core transformers and run class A outputs single-ended and balanced. The CD-168 uses a Phillips VAM 1202 transport, produces an output level of 2.3 volts to the Ayon's five volts and maintains an impedance of 110/330 to Ayon's 30/170 (RCA/XLR). The CD-168 uses two Burr Brown PCM 1792 chips while Ayon relies on the Crystal CS 4398 chip. The rub? The CD-1 sells for $4,299 while my trusty Raysonic CD-168 sells for an ever cooler $2,500.

So how do they compare? First, let's take the Ayon on its own terms. Even before breaking in the machine -- kicking it hard and heavy in repeat mode for days on end -- it sounded nothing less than exceedingly dynamic, rich, fat and - er, musical. Sure, that term is overused to the point of distraction. How many eyes have glazed over at yet another attempt to describe yet another fantastic sounding CD player? Years ago when digital sounded like a train wreck or glass breaking in your ears, reviewers put on a brave face. Now with so many great digital products to choose from just as the CD format seems to be dying a million deaths, the real task for any reviewer is to communicate why this player, in that room, is worth your hard-earned green, your children's college fund. I have been lucky to review many CD players for 6moons and back in the day, for Downbeat magazine. If memory serves, the best cost-no-object players in my opinion remain those from Esoteric, Oracle and, for sheer efficiency and jaw-dropping noise floor, Wadia. The Ayon is yet another mighty beast to add to my digital hall of fame.
Sidebar I: Ayon US Head Honcho, North American Union Man - To learn a little more about this outstanding product and what I imagine to be many more like it from this unknown (to me) company, I spoke with Ayon Audio's North American distributor Charlie Harrison.

When and where was the company founded?
The audio firm began with Vaic in 1995. Founder Mr. Gerhard Hirt still owns the Vaic trademark. In 2001, Vaic merged into Ayon Audio founded in Austria
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