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This review first appeared in the November 2009 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read this review of the Ayon Skylla in its original Polish version. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own reviews, 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. - Ed.

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacula
Review system: Go here
Review component retail: 25.000zł

When I spoke with Gerhard Hirt, owner of Ayon Audio and Vaic and distributor of Lumen White during this year's High-End exhibition in Munich, I could not fail to notice how particularly proud he was of three products - the CD-5 deck, Skylla D/A converter and Lumen White turntable. That was quite a spectrum of products with digital on one end and analogue on the other but united by one common goal – music playback of the best possible sort. If we disregard the fact that his preamplifiers often include wonderful phono stages, Mr. Hirt's focus has been on digital for a few years now. He began with a line of CD players—the CD-1, CD-2 and CD-3—which plotted the direction of his future research. I call it research because the compact disc standard only presently reached its zenith to demonstrate true high-end aspirations regardless of the present mood of analogue fans. There are many areas for digital exploration like the transport mechanisms, digital filters, analogue and power supply circuitry and yes, each element was researched, developed and improved for Ayon Audio’s own digital product range.

Let’s start with the transport mechanism. In the beginning, Gerhard used Sony's transport with the KSS-213 laser which had been designed for CD players during the golden age of the format. It’s worth mentioning that Accuphase still relies on it. When it came time to revamp the line with the CD-1, that machine underwent a complete redesign and the transport mechanism became a Sanyo, albeit with software developed by former Philips engineers who now offer their services to OEM accounts. It’s no wonder that for his newest CD-5, Mr. Hirt decided on one of the best remaining dedicated CD transports, the newest LH version (the M model with RoHS certificate) of the Philips CD-Pro 2. All his players are top loaders but since today’s review is about a D/A converter, there is no transport mechanism. We can only discuss it as an external device which might be connected to this DAC.

When developing the Skylla, Ayon’s research naturally focused on digital processing, the analog output stage and power supplies. For the digital side, they used experience gained during the development of the CD-2 which implemented a new 24/192 upsampler. Quite unexpected now is the choice of converter chips, namely Burr-Brown’s PCM-1704, a fantastic 24/96 chip in its more expensive and carefully selected and matched ‘K’ version. The only issue is this chip’s NOS status. It’s already out of formal production.

As is typical for Ayon, the output stage is based on Sovtek 6H30-EB triodes. In the power supply Ayon culled from their work on the CD-3 and its tube rectifiers. They probably borrowed further enhancements from the Polaris II preamplifier. For the Skylla converter, Ayon uses four 6X4s to build a full-wave rectifier. Unlike the earlier 2-box top player, the CD-5 and Skylla—which in fact is the DAC section of the CD-5—return to a single chassis with integral power supply which delivers the necessary voltages via three expensive R-core transformers. The Skylla offers I²S, USB, S/PDIF and AES/EBU digital inputs but also volume control and two analog inputs to transform into a full-blown preamplifier.