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The Soulution preamp integrated very naturally with my system. A special synergy with the 710 power amp was evident while the system link simplified the overall operation. This was the absolute high-end. About this I had no doubts from the beginning to the end of this review. I learned a lot along the way. I managed to correct a few seemingly well-founded claims to observe my system from a slightly different perspective. Actually I do not know where to begin. There are so many things to say. I wouldn’t want to get sidetracked. To show everything in its proper proportions and cast some light, I’ll start with where my Ayon Audio Polaris III custom version was better. Not that there will be much to say—some things were linked to my particular audio system and listening preferences—but I did identify a few bits nonetheless.

The Swiss preamp had a slightly less saturated lower midrange. My preamp is unique in this respect. It’s really exceptional. No other machine thus far surpassed it or even proved its equal. It's not even so much about tone color because the Audio Research Reference 5 SE, a great tube preamp, has it lower and denser than both Ayon and Soulution. It simply lacks the same energy in that range and equal differentiation. Here the Soulution sounds a bit less focused, a little less dense than the Ayon. While other characteristics pointed to the 720 as the better device, I preferred the Ayon’s lower midrange presentation.

It was related to what may be called my comfort zone - my private area where I feel safe and comfortable, a place where I belong and which I like, where I sit down and drift away. That is what I get with my Polaris. Listening to the Soulution 720 I finally managed to grasp what it was all about, exactly; to define first of all for my own use my own expectations for my own audio system. I will return to this.

My Austrian Ayon also had a bit deeper bass. But the point was not really that it goes any lower. Here the Swiss is unbeatable. I never heard such well-defined well-differentiated low end. Only the TAD C-600 from Japan could approach it (no coincidence in my mind as both companies are run by engineers). But the Soulution was more transparent with less signal coloration. It better showed what’s on the recording. In my opinion the Ayon simply attempts to somehow better render real instruments not necessarily exactly as they were recorded but rather how they would sound live.

That is the basic dilemma facing audio engineers. On one hand their machine should be so transparent, turn inevitable signal coloration so invisible as to best show what ancillaries precede it – in our case source and recording. On the other hand there is a phenomenon for which we as yet have no sensible explanation. Some audio components can ‘jump over’ certain source limitations and regenerate material causing excitement that's really more associated with the real event rather than its reconstruction. In an ideal world these two should be on and the same. In reality we deal with recordings that concern a completely different reality than that of the concert.

Probably due to its extraordinary depth of sound, resolution and fantastic harmonics as they relate to sonic fullness, the Ayon in my audio system/listening room creates a sort of bubble into which I sink comfortably. I like a deeply saturated midrange and I like it dense even though I know it to be an artifact, distortion and departure from full correctness (at least in terms of the live event; its recreation at home is another matter). Without any rudeness or vulgarity, the Soulution was more honest. That provoked a slightly different reaction and attitude.

I promised I’d write about certain things the Ayon did better. I tried my best to describe those. I would easily understand those readers however who found the entire previous paragraph to be one great song of praise to the Swiss preamp. It is the most resolved most transparent device of this type I’ve ever heard not only in my system but in general. I thought I heard a lot over my system before and that I already had a wide open window on various recordings. However now it appeared that maybe yes but not necessarily so and probably not always. It turned out that the music could be presented in an even more interesting and diversified fashion.

I’m not saying that such a presentation was limited to reference recording or albums of rare mastering excellence. The Soulution did not butcher inferior albums, did not highlight their defects. Like the best audio components it passed lightly over recorded flaws, focusing instead on the music itself. I experienced that with the Beatles’ Rubber Soul, Pat Metheny’s Offramp and Do Not Cover by Me, Myself and I only to mention a few. I could hear how well the kick drum had been recorded on the Beatles album; how skilful a musician the fourth least respected Beatles really was. The edition I used (Toshiba-EMI from 1998) is quite old. It's often accused of a muddled sound and lack of resolution. The 720 proved that to be a misunderstanding. There are many different sounds here albeit recorded at a low level to be difficult to extract.

The same was true for Metheny’s album which will sound fairly light and bland on most systems. It turned out that most instruments here really are very saturated and well portrayed. Although the synthesized backdrop was more strongly emphasized by the Ayon which showed it even denser, the foreground instruments were deeper and more differentiated by the Soulution 720. Despite such fantastic resolution and transparency, the Swiss preamplifier still sounded different than a direct-coupled CD player to a power amp or superior passive preamps like the Music First Audio. The 720 sounded more like a tube amp when it came to color and attacks. It did not harden, highlight or isolate anything nor was it hyper detailed. It also didn’t subtract anything from the sound as almost always happens once I disconnect a preamplifier.