Ayre Acoustics V-3 power amplifier Page 4
"I don't think it's because we limited the bandwidth; I suspect it has to do with adding that extra stage."
To my ears, the top end was open and clear—not that other amps won't sound even more so. Am I abdicating my critical responsibilities? I don't think so. I'm simply stating that, listening to music through the Ayre, I didn't find the natural response or range of the music to be inhibited by the amplifier.
Compayre & contrast
That said, I did compare the Ayre directly to my long-time reference amp, the similarly priced ($3495) Conrad-Johnson Premier Eleven A—long a staple in the Class A amplifier listing in Stereophile's "Recommended Components." They did sound different, but they also shared more traits than the traditional tube/solid-state dichotomy would allow. They were both articulate, warm, and remarkably transparent, but the C-J had a palpability and—yes—purity in the overtones that the Ayre simply didn't match. Though I'm not sure I'd attribute that harmonic purity to the C-J's ultra-wide-bandwidth design, I guess I can't totally dismiss that hypothesis either.
There was another area where I found the Premier Eleven A superior: soundstaging. The V-3 threw a wondrously wide stage across the room, but it lacked depth when compared to a soundstaging champ like the C-J. No real surprise there—that's what tubes do. Yet the Ayre didn't lack for palpability; it merely ceded the layer-after-layer onion-like orotundity of the glass amp.
As with any piece of hi-fi equipment, the true value of the Ayre lies in how its particular set of compromises matches your own sonic priorities. I found the V-3 to be a doughty performer with a lot going for it. I found it consistently engaging on a musical level, and I never tired of its silence, exemplary pacing, and timbral accuracy. Since I now run a fairly long set of interconnects between my amp and preamp, I found the Ayre's differentially balanced mode a real boon. I also admire Charles Hansen for reviving the inductive-choke power supply, a concept that may have lost its vogue but not its practicality. I rate the Ayre V-3 a success. A rousing one.
There are definitely other amps out there, like the C-J Premier Eleven A, that can give the V-3 a run for its money. But I'd bet most of them are tubed and many cost more money. A lot of folks don't want to own tubes; for them, the V-3 is a must-audition. Heck, I think the V-3 is a must-audition for anybody spending up to five grand. You just might find yourself with some extra discretionary income—not that, as an audiophile, you'll keep it for long. It might make a good start on your preamp fund.
Hey, guys, you're not going to make me wait so long to hear the preamp that goes with this, are you?