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On pure amplitude I’d call Ayre’s upper bass or power region neutral. Qualitatively this turns into dry, defined, quick, rhythmic and somewhat wiry. Once frequencies press noticeably south, one hears that while the combo is capable of low bass, it’s not the make-it proposition of the sale. The Ayre duo is solid way down low but relative to price and type (transistor amp) noticeably more remains possible elsewhere. More mass, more contrast. At the other extreme of treble to high treble, one is allowed to pun that Ayre hath air. But not to excess. Here this amplification duo plays it slightly defensive in fact. The treble appears freshly laundered, pure, utterly bereft of artifice and nervousness. I only had positive reactions on quality. That said the Ayres didn’t introduce any particular freshness into my rig. Already the lower highs of the presence region were more relaxed than forced. The upper treble was sufficiently present to render everything wonderfully smooth. Even so I couldn’t shake the impression that the uppermost octaves were primarily a light industrial lubricant which coated the mids to more easily penetrate the ears. To infuse my room with a wholesale spacey aura requires more air.

My notes read mids to die for which wasn’t exclusive to female vocals but true for those in particular. Be it the recently reviewed Blumenhofer Fun 13, my Ascendo System F or Thiel’s SCS4 speakers, vocals always exuded a very particular charm over the Ayre combo. I thought this was only partially explained by tonal balance. True, the somewhat relaxed presence region summed with the well- but clearly not over-nourished lower midband for a small tendency towards the mildly warm or sunny. And that is always pleasing. But there was more to it. Here one had a special sort of cleanliness—the absence of haze, hardness, grey film, scrim and whatever else can happen to a recorded signal upon gain application—that held joint custody for a non-spectacular low-key sonic picture which really impressed only upon second listening as it were. Tori Amos, Feist and Joanna Newsom appeared before me so simply and naturally à la "that’s how we perform and no differently" that each time I suspected some slick acoustic trick whereby the Ayre twosome called up this impression, I couldn’t find any.

Johnny Cash with his famously wrecked voice on the American Recordings albums is another yard stick. If you’ve heard him over a less than expertly tuned or even forward and overly present system, you’d probably agree that he can go on your nerves after a spell. The Ayres didn’t equalize Cash’s spry charm (lisps, sloppy enunciation, creaks and croaks) but didn’t pornographically zoom in on it all to depict the voice out of context either (which I’ve 'enjoyed' during a few hifi shows). This avoidance of either approach made for that tacit sense of authenticity and realness.

My impression was that the pure stuff was being passed on without any spices or fancy twists to not send the results in any particular direction. This form of self-evident true midband was high class. That means you can’t be looking for the next sonic spectacle but must want an amplifier you'll keep for the next ten years. Such profound realness always runs the risk of understatement. If that seems insufficient bling and glitter, it simply means that the Ayre combo talks straight to the experienced mature listener, not those who neurotically tinker with their systems every six months.

The above of course held true not only for voices but instruments as well. An acoustic guitar for example exhibited wonderfully wooden body but not in any emphasized fat-but-formless manner as though someone had somehow opened the lower midrange faucet to its stops. True, individual guitar picks did seem slightly soft—I noted this repeatedly on snare trills and piano attacks too which had less incision and penetration power, something I traced back to the milder presence/treble region for softer transients—-but I never suspected any loss of essential information. Data weren’t served up on a silver tablet but didn’t appear robed in warm steam either. Call it well-tempered resolution.

Nearly better yet than acoustic guitars were e-guitars. Depending on recording, those can approach the shrill and aggressive over my work system. The Ayres simply flooded my room with their dry energy. This was arguably a bit warmer just as seems to be their natural inclination but it was also particularly firm, well-structured and expressed with believable power.