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This review first appeared in the April 2013 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read it in its original Polish version here. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own articles, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity or Ayre - Ed

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacula
CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition
Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory Shilabe & Kansui
Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III Signature with Regenerator power supply
Power amplifier: Soulution 710
Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom
Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic + Acoustic Revive custom speaker stand
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro 600Ω vintage, HifiMan HE6
Interconnects: CD/preamp Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, preamp/power amp Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo
Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx
Power cables (all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
Power strip: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate
Stand: Base IV custom under all components
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under CD player, Audio Revive RAF-48 platform under CD player and preamplifier, Pro Audio Bono PAB SE platform under Leben CS300 XS
Review component retail in Poland: 43.010zł

Confessions of a Part-Time Audiophile in their RMAF12 show report called Ayre’s room Best of Show. The Audio Beat gave them their Hot Product award. This was when the new Series 5 models bowed as the AX-5 integrated, VX-5 power amplifier and DX-5 universal A/V engine. Today's amp looks exactly like Ayre fans are used to. It sports exceptionally clean design lines. It's also very solidly made and most user friendly. This particular combination of high craftsmanship and ease of use is unique. Ayre handled it intelligently without applying shiny flash. Without overreaching one can confidently state that this machine must have been created by sensitive intelligent people for other sensitive intelligent people.

The AX-5 combines a slightly simplified circuit of the KX-R (the very top preamp in this catalogue) and a new Diamond output stage. It uses zero feedback but fully-balanced discrete circuitry, both Ayre trademarks. Before incoming AC reaches the power transformer, a small circuit borrowed from the Ayre power filter cleans it up. To operate more than one Ayre component the AyreLink communication cables help to control them all. When powered up the amplifier produces considerable heat because its class A/B output stage is biased in class A up to several watts. To appease green sensitivities, Ayre offers both a hard mains switch on the back and a soft standby in the front for 48-watt low power consumption which keeps the preamplifier on line but powers down the amp section. If we leave the amp on, it consumes 230 watts at idle to become a small space heater.

Sound. A selection of recordings used during my auditions: MJ Audio Technical Disc vol.6, Seibundo Shinkosha Publishing, MJCD-1005, CD (2013); Bogdan Hołownia, Chwile, Sony Music Polska, 505288 2, CD-R (CD 2001); Charlie Haden, The Private Collection, The Naim Label, naimcd108, 2 x CD (2007); Czesław Niemen, Katharsis, Muza Polskie Nagrania, PRCD 339, "Niemen od początku, nr 9", CD (1976/2003); Depeche Mode, Heaven, Mute/Columbia, 47537-2, maxi SP, CD (2013); Diary of Dreams, The Anatomy of Silence, Accession Records, A 132, CD (2012); Diorama, Even Devil Doesn’t Care, Accession Records, A 133, CD (2013); Ella Fitzgerald, Ella Fitzgerald Sings the Cole Porter Song Book, Verve/PolyGram, "Verve Master Edition", 537 257-2, 2 x CD (1997); Eno/Moebius/Roedelius, After The Heat, Sky/Captain Trip Records, CTCD-604, CD (1978/2007); Frank Sinatra, Nice’N’Easy, Capitol/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, UDCD 790, gold-CD (1960/2002); Frank Sinatra, Sinatra Sings Gershwin, Columbia Legacy Sony Music Entertainment, 507878 2, CD (2003)...

... Jean Michel Jarré, Essentials & Rarities, Disques Dreyfus/Sony Music, 62872, 2 x CD (2011); Jochen Rückert, Somewhere Meeting Nobody, Pirouet Records, PIT3055, CD (2011); John Coltrane, Coltrane, Impulse!, 589 567-2, "Deluxe Edition", 2 x CD (1962/2002); Kamp!, Kamp!, Brennessel, BRN016, CD (2013); Marc Copland & John Abercombie, Speak To Me, Pirouet Records, PIT3058, CD (2011); Mel Tormé, Hello, Young Lovers, Pacific Delights/Sinatra Society of Japan, "Historical Recordings", XQAM-1059, CD (2012); Pat Metheny Group, Offramp, ECM/Universal Music K.K., UCCE-9144, SHM-CD (1982/2008); Pat Metheny Group, Offramp, ECM/Universal Music K.K., UCCU-9543, Jazz The Best No. 43, gold CD (1982/2004); Peggy Lee, Black Coffee, "Jazz The Best No. 17", Decca Universal Music K.K., UCCU-9517, Jazz The Best No. 43, gold CD (1956/2004); Radiohead, The King of Limbs, Ticker Tape Ltd., TICK-001CDJ, Blu-spec CD (2011); Richard Strauss, Also Sprach Zarathustra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, Zubin Metha, Decca Lasting Impression Music, LIM K2HD 035, K2HD Mastering, CD (1968/2008); The Oscar Peterson Trio, We Get Request, Verve/Lasting Impression Music, LIM K2HD 032 UDC, "Direct From Master Disc. Master Edition", gold CD-R (1964/2009).

Your Ayre AX-5 offers a significant advance in the musical performance of high-fidelity equipment. The warmth and immediacy of a live performance are apparent from the first listening. The combination of superb resolution and a natural relaxed quality will draw you into the music time and time again (AX-5 owner’s manual). Are you familiar with the feeling of anticipation, the thrill of unpacking and playing a CD for the first time? You don’t get that from playing audio files because music bought that way is treated with much less respect. [Really? And there I thought that for music lovers surely new music is new music regardless of delivery medium – Ed.] It's some kind of psychological reaction manifested as a certain indifference to the first contact. It's a completely different matter when it comes to physical media like CD, SACD or LP. Our expectations, preconceptions and curiosity are the reason why that moment of taking the record out of its sleeve, box or even a classic plastic or digipack is something special. If we happen to be audiophiles, there's one extra layer of expectation. Sound. It is important how it sounds, how its tone-in other words its production-completes its notes and interpretation.

There are several ways in which one can recognize how any given recording was produced depending on how a designer pursued his/her concept of the 'absolute sound' [if one had been in the studio to compare the live feed to the final mix – Ed]. It also depends on the effect the music lover intended by how a system was set up. One can try to extract from a recording every smallest scrap of information, present it selectively and observe how this approach performs across various records. Or everything can be presented more homogeneously, sculpted so it always is pleasant, with no record getting unpleasant enough to lose our interest. In both cases the common denominator is music but the means to reach the goal are different. The two approaches are as different as can be but each has its followers who rightly point to the advantages of their choice. I support both. In the end what counts is how we perceive music. Even though there is an absolute quality with any given product, how it is used varies. We must make our choice between accuracy and pleasure. I lean toward the approach pursued by the AX-5.