Ayre AX-7 integrated amplifier Sidebar: Ayre's Accessories
Steve Silberman of Ayre paid me a visit right after his company's amp arrived here, and he brought along three accessories to try with the AX-7e and some of the other components in my system. First was an 8'-long Cardas Golden power cord, which Ayre endorses as an upgrade for their own products. As I've mentioned before, out of about a dozen different aftermarket power cords I've tried, the JPS Labs Digital AC, used with a CD player or a D/A converter, was the only one I ever felt made a consistently audible change for the better.
Until now. The Cardas cord made the AX-7e's already black, empty silences between and around the notes noticeably blacker and emptier: no mean feat. And the information that remained had a cleaner, more natural feel. Those differences weren't enormous, and only you can decide whether the improvement is worth the cost, or the sheer pain-in-the-assosity of a power cord so heavy and stiff it seems forever on the verge of popping out of the amplifier's AC socket (footnote 1). Still, Ayre and Cardas now have my attention on the subject.
Speaking of Cardas, the second accessory was another of their developments: The Ayre Myrtle Block, neé Cardas Golden Cuboid. Myrtle is a dense, open-grain hardwood, and Cardas mills it into little blocks that measure 1.61" by 0.97" by 0.6"—numbers that will no doubt resonate (sorry) for fans of The Da Vinci Code (footnote 2)—and these are intended for use as accessory feet, usually in groups of three, and usually directly under the chassis (not the feet) of the component being supported.
Like other isolation products, these effect a subtle but real clarifying of the sound under some products; for once, the accessory in question is priced reasonably enough ($5 each) that you can experiment more liberally than usual. I heard them make a slight improvement under the AX-7e, as well as under my Rega Planar 3 record player, Lamm ML2.1 monoblock amplifiers, and, surprisingly, my Linn Lingo turntable power supply. But I heard no difference at all when I put Myrtle Blocks under my Fi preamp or any of my moving-coil step-up transformers. Go figure.
Third and last was also an accessory from Ayre and the good folks at Cardas: a CD titled Irrational But Efficacious. The idea is that playing this recording—especially its series of 5Hz–20kHz sweeps—through your system will bring about enhanced performance. That may impress some or even most of you as nonsense, so I won't hesitate to suggest that playing the Ayre CD through my system did affect its sound—and I hated it. Maybe I internalized the experience overmuch—because the sound of the sweep jangled my nerves and put me on edge, I think it did the same for my system. (I admit that I have also, on occasion, mistaken thunder for the sound of elves playing ninepins.)
But as I heard it, my hi-fi sounded mechanical and utterly devoid of human feeling for close to an hour after playing this CD. Not only did I refuse to allow it to be played again, I put the CD back in its case and hid it—seriously. If it were up to me, it would be retitled Irritating But Irritating, and he only good thing I can say is that, after a while, its effects wear off.
But hey: As Mr. Loaf himself has observed, two out of three ain't bad.—Art Dudley
Footnote 1: In Cardas's defense, this same complaint applies to almost every other aftermarket power cord I've tried, the JPS Labs Digital AC excepted. In fact, the Cardas Golden was slightly more flexible for its size than I'd expected.—Art Dudley
Footnote 2: An entertaining and well-plotted book. From what I've seen, The Da Vinci Code's critics are mostly sciolistic nerds from various disciplines who seem miffed that they weren't consulted in its writing, or that author Dan Brown didn't devote more text to their own hobbyhorses—and, of course, religious crackpots. Are its characters two-dimensional? Yup. Is the dialog believable? Nope. It's a pop novel, for God's sake—just as this is just an audio review. Relax!—Art Dudley