Charley Hansen: The Wizard of Boulder

Twenty-three years ago, in 1993, Charles Hansen cofounded Ayre Acoustics, Inc., in Boulder, Colorado. On Ayre's website, Hansen is named as Research Director for Ayre, and it seems an apt description. Along with experimenting in and developing audio-electronics hardware and software, Hansen has strongly hewn to certain design principles, among them fully balanced operation, an absence of loop negative feedback, and solid-state circuitry. Ayre's current flagship preamplifiers and amplifiers, the twentieth-anniversary R Series, have received reviews and accolades, while at the other end of the budget spectrum, Hansen's design work was a key element of Neil Young's widely publicized and crowdfunded PonoPlayer project.

My Stereophile colleague Herb Reichert described Hansen to me as "a wizard." But Charley (as he prefers to be called) lives not in Middle-Earth but in Colorado. Perhaps it's the water, or the air, or both—people in Boulder are a bit higher than in Denver. Whatever the reason, Boulder is home to several high-end audio companies.

In 2006, in a bicycling accident, Charley Hansen experienced a severe spinal-cord injury that left him partially paralyzed (footnote 1). Some might have been defeated by such an event, but Hansen has actually increased the pace of innovation and high-quality manufacturing for which Ayre Acoustics has become known. Here is part of a recent conversation I had with the Wizard of Boulder.

Sasha Matson: Are you pleased with the state of high-end audio in general?

Charles Hansen: High-end audio is a mirror of the world at large, best summed up by Charles Dickens: "It was the best of times, it was the worst of times." When you think about the world—all the horrible things that are happening—then you can go on about all the wonderful things that are happening: that we can have this Skype call. You are in Cooperstown and I'm in Colorado, and we're having a video call! Remember when we were kids, and Dick Tracy had his [two-way wrist radio]? And it's happening right now. Or music—you can put your entire music library on a computer, and push a button, and have it magically appear.

SM: How did you get started in what I like to call "music re-creation"?

CH: My first manufacturing job was cofounding Avalon Acoustics. I had made some fundamental breakthroughs in loudspeaker design. To me, they were so dead simple and obvious that we never talked about it. I thought that if we talked about it, everyone will just copy us. And here it is, 35 years later, and guess what? There are only two companies in the world that have figured out what I figured out 35 years ago.

SM: Do you want to briefly state what that is?

CH: It's called pistonic motion. And people have been talking about it for 10, 15 years. And mostly they don't really know what they're talking about.

SM: At this point, is the tired old debate of solid-state vs tubes over?

CH: Yes and no. It kind of goes back to the best of times and the worst of times. There are two different things going on. There's the surface, and what is underneath the surface. On the surface, things have been converging for a long time, and that's what you read about. But then there are some writers that talk about what is under the surface. When you read something from Art Dudley or Herb Reichert, they aren't talking about soundstaging or imaging or resolution—or all these terms that first [J.] Gordon Holt [founder of Stereophile] and then Harry Pearson [founder of The Abso!ute Sound] came up with. What it boils down to is that when you listen to music, it makes you feel a certain way, and that's why you listen to it. It's not because it sounds a certain way. And how do you talk about your feelings? So the sound of tubes and the sound of transistors have been converging—but what about the feeling?

I didn't really understand it for a long time. When I first made the Ayre MX-R amps and KX-R preamp, I thought, Okay we've done it. We've made stuff that is so good it's as good as tubes—why would you bother with tubes? But I would still get customers and manufacturers who would say, "Yeah, that's nice, but I'm still sticking with my tube piece, because you haven't got there yet." And one of my weaknesses, for better or worse, is that I have such a big ego, I don't have to listen to other kit. I just listen to my own designs. If I had, I would have known what they were talking about.

When we made the KX-R Twenty, we took all our ideas we had been working on for 20 years, and getting feedback from people who were able to teach me how to listen better, and what to listen for—20 years of hard work. And then I hooked up the KX-R Twenty and I went, "Holy cow! This is what they were talking about. No wonder they didn't want to listen to solid-state—this is what they wanted to hear." It just hit me: This is what all those tube nuts were talking about. I would send stuff off to these dyed-in-the-wool tube guys, and they would say, "Nope, it's gotta have a tube in it or it's never going to work right. No, it's just sand. How can it sound right?"

SM: And there are other factors, like break-in time.

CH: This is all just theory, but I think that as you strip away all the colorations, all the things that shouldn't make a difference become more and more important. As you peel back the layers of the onion and you get rid of all these first-order problems like feedback, and second-order problems like the power supplies, and third-order problems like the grounding schemes, and fourth-order problems like the PCB layout—then you start to get into Woo-Woo Land. Like break-in time, and what are the feet made out of, what is the plating on the conductor of your power cord.

SM: The voodoo dimension of audio.

CH: Careful system setup is at least half of it, if not more. I'll tell you a story. One year, we went to [the Consumer Electronics Show]—we had the prototype MX-Rs. I said, "Let's go with Wilson [loudspeakers]." They sent them to us a month ahead of time. We took that system—it had been all dialed in, all broken in, and set up for a month in our listening room. I knew how it sounded. We drove it to the show, and set it up, and I listened to it and I said, "Something's wrong. This does not sound the way it sounded back home." This was in a room we had been in before—I knew how it sounded. I spent five hours trying to figure out what it was. I was trying everything I could—room treatments, moving the speakers around. I was so frustrated. The show's about to start—it sounds wrong—something's wrong with the system—it's broken.

I lean my head against the wall, and I'm practically in tears and exhausted. I'm ready to kick a hole in the wall. And I'm looking at my feet. We put all our cables on these little wooden blocks. But guess what? The power cord going from the wall to the preamp was missing one wooden block. So there was two inches [of cord] that looped down and touched the carpet. I said, "Why is this cable touching the carpet?" There were only two guys left with me at that point, as everyone else had gone to sleep. And one said, "Oh yeah—I was setting it up and I ran out of wood blocks. I meant to get another one, but I forgot." I said, "Go get that other wood block, please." We put that one wood block underneath that one power cord, and I listened to it and I went, "Aaaahhh. Now it sounds right—now we can go to bed!"

SM: The devil is in the details.

CH: And the flip side of that: God is in the details. When you get the details right, you get to experience the beauty of music.

SM: What comes first when you start a new design: thoughts about technology, or musical and sonic goals?

CH: For me, it's always the technology. Because I already know what it's supposed to sound like. I have two boys, and we sent them to the Waldorf School. In third grade, they get to pick an instrument. They both picked violin, so every day for 10 years I heard a live violin being played in my house; I know what it sounds like. You know what a voice sounds like—you pick up the phone and hear someone's voice you haven't heard for 30 years, and you can recognize it. What can I do to get that sound in a stereo? What is going to capture that magic, wiggle the air? It is so ineffable, nothing you can measure. I figured out some secret measurements for speakers that I can't talk about. But for electronics? Not one.

SM: Do you think people can have an emotional reaction to the re-creation of music that is comparable to what they feel at a live performance?

CH: The key word in that sentence is comparable. There is something that is really special about a live performance. That's why you go, that's why you pay. Today, if you are crazy enough to set up a really good stereo system, you can press a button and get that on demand. It's not the same, but it is comparable—it creates that same type of feeling.

SM: Ayre offers products at the upper end of the high end in terms of cost, but you've also designed for the other end of the price spectrum, particularly recently, for the PonoPlayer.

CH: I am so proud of the PonoPlayer. I think it is the best thing I've ever done in my life. Yeah, it doesn't sound as good as the other equipment we make. But you keep learning—you keep peeling back layers of the onion. We've got new tricks now. A lot of what we've figured out is really scalable. You can do it at a higher level, with solid aluminum chassis, and super-expensive connectors, and super-expensive circuit boards. You can also take that basic technology and implement it at a much lower price point. Now a "normal" person can get that same feeling, without spending tens of thousands of dollars and dialing in the system just right.

SM: You put a lot of emphasis on parts quality and upgrade paths. How do you go about vetting all that?

CH: I've got an advantage: I'm single-minded. When I get on to something, I'm like a pit bull on a pant leg—I do not let go. I'm fanatical about everything. Take resistors—here's what we do. We make a fixed attenuator. We take two of the best XLR connectors we can find, and we solder them back to back. So we are either listening to the best piece of wire we can find or we are listening to a resistor. And with the right gain, we can compare resistor to wire bypass, with everything else constant: the same number of connectors, the same number of solder joints, the same brand of solder. We do similar things with other components.

SM: So the bottom line is that you're doing A/B comparisons that are based on actual performance and listening?

CH: Oh yeah. And it is very rigorous. And when we compare, everything has to break in as well. We have figured out ways to accelerate that break-in process, as otherwise it would take years. You have to be smart, and you have to be methodical. I can tell you stories. For example, to make a solid-state circuit sound good, if it's in the analog domain, the input has to be JFETs. Because if you use anything besides a JFET, it has got to be capacitor-coupled. And there is no capacitor that is as good as no capacitor. Guess what? They stopped making JFETs. We couldn't get what we wanted, so we bought a 50-year supply. It was a big pill to swallow!

SM: Is there more than one way to get to the goalpost with factors that are important to you in your design work?

CH: That's a really good question. For me, the question is: What can you leave out and not lose the magic? When we did the PonoPlayer, it was, "Oh, we can't do this, and we can't do that, it's got to work off batteries, it can't use that much current, it can't use that much space, and it can't cost that much." So where can you cut the corners? Everyone misunderstands balanced circuits. This started in the studios—worrying about hum pickup in walls with a lot of other wiring. But we are not worried about hum pickup in home audio. What we are worried about is that every circuit in the world is a modulated power supply. A balanced circuit rejects imperfections in the power supply the same way balanced cables reject hum. With fully balanced circuitry, all of a sudden your power supply becomes a thousand times better—literally. That's all it is. Remember, garbage in, garbage out. The better your power supply, the better your circuit is going to sound—both analog and digital.

SM: When you listen to music re-creation, what are you listening for? What is most important for you?

CH: When you get a new component, you set it up carefully in your system as best you can, and you make sure it's broken in, and maybe you have to try some different mix-and-match variables. You find a good combination, whatever it takes—and it's either going to be compelling to listen to or it's not. Either you get engaged with the music or you don't. In 30 seconds, you can go, "Oh—yes, this is good, I can feel it, this makes me feel good." Or "Oh, this is just a noise, a recognizable noise. I can recognize that this is Beethoven, or the Beatles, but it doesn't feel like anything to me—it doesn't suck me in."

SM: When I'm engaged with music, sometimes I feel that I'm getting a physiological transfusion of energy. Has music given you strength to address the challenges you face?

CH: Absolutely. That's why people pay money to go to that live concert—because they get that transfusion. There is that whole thing about distractions. Like when you get something in your eye—you get that gnat out of your eye because it hurts. Since I had my accident, it's been over nine years now. The level of pain I have on a daily basis is hard to talk about. You can kind of imagine: If you were at a concert, you went to the symphony, it's at Carnegie Hall, it's your favorite composer, your favorite conductor. You're all excited—and suddenly, someone pokes you in the eye. Ow! That hurts. How can you enjoy that music now? That's been my challenge. I don't listen to as much music as I used to. It's been a blessing to have the PonoPlayer. I can get a music fix—and not try and have to sit down in front of my stereo, try and set some time aside, try and ignore the pain.

SM: It means a lot to people, Charley, that you continue to be creative and do great work with Ayre.

CH: What's the number-one rule when you go camping? You always leave the campsite better than when you found it. A very wise man once told me that is our true purpose in life: to leave the world a better place than when you came. It's the most I can do.

Footnote 1: Ayre Acoustics has a page on its website to help raise funds for spinal cord injury research.

jim davis's picture

The Ayre warranty is for only 90 days. 90 DAYS!! They make customers (who just shelled out a chunk of coin) jump through hoops to obtain a longer warranty. One can only presume it's with the hopes that they'll fail to jump. In today's economy, a company who (a) believes in their product and (b) values its customers, does NOT engage in this type of you-should-feel-fortunate-that-we're-here arrogant behaviour.

Axiom05's picture

All you have to do is send in the warranty card along with proof of purchase to get the five year warranty. This process is not unique to Ayre. Not exactly jumping through hoops is it?

jmsent's picture

but the part about the missing wooden block under the power cord has my bullshit meter pinned and emitting copious amounts of smoke.

BillK's picture

As with many audio tweaks, there are certainly times that something that could not possibly affect the sound… does.

If you tried it and hear no difference, that's great, but why not wait until you've tried it to see if it does?

rhubarbsuburb's picture

I don't know about 'smoke' but if one must have wooden blocks under every cable else the gear sounds 'broken', this stuff is clearly out of my league. 2" of contact with floor and it doesn't sound right? Gee whiz. It seems so elitist. I just want electronics that sound good when used as most normal joe's would use it.

jim davis's picture

It's not simply a matter of a customer sending in the warranty card. Two years later, when a unit requires service, it's Ayre's word against the customer's as to whether they ever received it. Why do you think they do NOT allow on-line registration, if some form of action from a consumer is necessary? They have a limited distribution network. They know to whom what piece was sold by which authorized dealer and when. The requirement for the consumer to then qualify for a warranty beyond 90 days is for one and only one reason -- to avoid warranty repair liability. They may make great products. They simply lack integrity.

BillK's picture

If so, please tell us about it.

If not, it's rather disingenuous of you to comment on what Ayre will or will not do in the situation you cite.

rhubarbsuburb's picture

If there is absolutely 100% no doubt that a five-year warranty will be honored even if one fails to send in the card, why does Ayre even make that a requirement at all?

Allen Fant's picture

Very good article- SM.
the panel is correct CH can be a flake about many things, including,
servicing his gear? Proceed w/ caution.

michaelavorgna's picture

As a very happy owner of the Ayre AX-5 Twenty, I'd suggest sticking to facts when talking about a company's integrity. I've been in and around this hobby for longer than Ayre's 23 years and if there was a real issue with the company servicing their gear, it would be common knowledge. And it's not.

Mailing in a warranty card isn't a hardship. Further, making suppositions based on hypothetical scenarios and including a "?" while saying "proceed with caution" strikes me as a tad...careless (to be kind).

Michael Lavorgna
Editor, AudioStream

AvilleAudio's picture

Has anybody who sent in their warranty cards on day 91 or even day 234 been informed by Ayre that they won't provide warranty service? Other readers and the good folks at Ayre are welcome to respond.

It was a race for me to mail in the warranty card as I neared the 90 day mark. I was a bit disorganized and busy with other matters at the time. I received no acknowledgement from Ayre after sending it. I choose to believe it arrived on time and that I'm covered.

With all due respect to Michael Lavorgna, I think it is an opportunity for improvement on the part of Ayre. Anxiety over warranty repairs shouldn't be part of the buying experience when you spend thousands or tens of thousands of dollars on high end electronics

Nice article. Like most "magic," the Ayre sound is the result of inspired imagination coupled with hard work and practice.

michaelavorgna's picture

...improve what, exactly? What anxiety should Ayre address? The only people expressing anxiety over warranty repairs here are either speculating, i.e. making stuff up, or guessing.

I should have added, if I was you I'd just give Ayre a call to put your mind at rest.

Michael Lavorgna
Editor, AudioStream

AvilleAudio's picture

The "anxiety" that they will use the 90 day warranty card to wriggle out of service that would otherwise be covered by their warranty. Many here say that's something they would not do. If so, why have the 90 day warranty card return policy to activate the 5-year warranty? Honestly, Michael, you can't answer that--only Ayre can. And you're right, a call could (and will) answer that for me, but Ayre could settle it outright for everybody reading these posts.

michaelavorgna's picture

...I don't find mailing in a warranty card to be a burden. But that's just me.

When you call Ayre, one of two things will happen; a) they will say "You sent in your card a few days late so no, you're not covered! You fell for our trap and now you'll have to pay us if anything goes wrong (insert evil laugh here). That's why we're all rich, rich, rich (insert more evil laughter here)."

Or, b) they'll say something like, "No problem you're covered."

BillK's picture

It's a great way to incentivize people to promptly return their warranty cards before they and the manuals get stuffed in a drawer somewhere.

Ciamarasound's picture

I've been selling Ayre for 10 years and have personally owned a few Ayre products. In my experience, they will absolutely take care of you if you bought an Ayre product from an authorized dealer. With all due respect to the people questioning Ayre's warranty policy, Ayre will not deny any legitimate warranty claim regardless of whether or not an owner has submitted their card in the 90 days. Furthermore, I find this type of bashing a little disturbing and disingenuous towards a company like Ayre that has always provided excellent service and done right by their clients.

jim davis's picture

you, as AD, are not a party to the warranty agreement between manufacturer and consumer. Plus, you're just a tad biased.

The vast majority of high-end consumer goods (audio, cars, watches, etc) manufacturers do not make this demand of their customers. Why does Ayre if not to always have the option of denying warranty service after 90 days? Again, if it's just a matter of registration and confirmation, why do they intentionally NOT offer on-line registration at their website as so many others do? Isn't it just because that would give the consumer claim to when they did so?

This type of very reasonable criticism is not 'bashing', nor is it 'disingenuous', though one might call your clearly biased view exactly that.

michaelavorgna's picture

...that you know you were completely off base, i.e wrong, will your apology be forthcoming?

BillK's picture


What is your preoccupation with online warranty registration? Even many consumer appliance companies don't have it yet, still relying on the return of postcards for such.

I'm more troubled by your accusations of why you believe Ayre has this policy than by the fact they do.

I myself am a customer and they have never treated me with anything but the utmost respect, and when I recently had to have a repair done they didn't even ask for a dated receipt, they simply fixed my product (admission: I had in fact returned my card.)

rhubarbsuburb's picture

Customer will have receipt that will show date of sale and that it was from an authorized dealer. Authorized Dealer will have record of buyer and date of sale. So, why the card? Why the deadline?

Herb Reichert's picture

I always tell my drawing students, "You can't find what you are not looking for." This interview confirms what I already knew: Mr. Hansen knows what he is looking (and listening) for!

Like Sasha said, "It means a lot to people, Charley, that you continue to be creative and do great work with Ayre."

Jay Cook's picture

There is no need to worry about warranty cards. They are simply marketing tools.

§ 700.7 Use of warranty registration cards.

(a) Under section 104(b)(1) of the Act, 15 U.S.C. 2304(b)(1), a warrantor offering a full warranty may not impose on consumers any duty other than notification of a defect as a condition of securing remedy of the defect or malfunction, unless such additional duty can be demonstrated by the warrantor to be reasonable. Warrantors have in the past stipulated the return of a “warranty registration” or similar card. By “warranty registration card” the Commission means a card which must be returned by the consumer shortly after purchase of the product and which is stipulated or implied in the warranty to be a condition precedent to warranty coverage and performance.

(b) A requirement that the consumer return a warranty registration card or a similar notice as a condition of performance under a full warranty is an unreasonable duty. Thus, a provision such as, “This warranty is void unless the warranty registration card is returned to the warrantor” is not permissible in a full warranty, nor is it permissible to imply such a condition in a full warranty.

(c) This does not prohibit the use of such registration cards where a warrantor suggests use of the card as one possible means of proof of the date the product was purchased. For example, it is permissible to provide in a full warranty that a consumer may fill out and return a card to place on file proof of the date the product was purchased. Any such suggestion to the consumer must include notice that failure to return the card will not affect rights under the warranty, so long as the consumer can show in a reasonable manner the date the product was purchased. Nor does this interpretation prohibit a seller from obtaining from purchasers at the time of sale information requested by the warrantor.

jim davis's picture

But, see, thing is.....Sec 700.7 plus $7 gets you a 90-day warranty at Ayre plus a tall soy latte at Starbucks.

No submission of card is required for their full generous 90-day warranty. They fully comply with 700.7 in this regard.

alexbrinkman's picture

Hello Everyone,
My name is Alex Brinkman, I work here at Ayre Acoustics. There are sixteen other people here in Boulder who work every week to make sure the Ayre gear you own continues to provide you with great sound. Sometimes the great sound stops. When it does we have a generous warranty policy (five years) to keep you covered and supported. We have been doing this for twenty three years now. Charley (Hansen) founded Ayre with the idea that he would treat Ayre customers the way he would want to be treated. This means that we have many times extended the courtesy of repairing a product without charging the customer even if warranty had expired.
Michael Wiedmaier is our Customer Service Manager. His phone number is 303-442-7300, ext. 223. Please call him if you have any questions about our warranty policy. It's his job to make sure you get great support and care.
So, are we perfect? No. For example, we do ask that you use antiquated technology to mail (snail mail, I know, I know!!) us a warranty registration card within three months of having taken delivery of your product(but we include a stamp, so this should help lessen the burden). We do this because we simply want to ensure that the customer who purchased the product from an Ayre dealer is the customer who receives warranty support. There have been cases wherein people attempt to take advantage of our generosity. I don't think anyone here would do that, but it's true. People might find a warranty registration card in the box of a used product and attempt to claim the warranty that should have gone to another. But as many have found out when you've called here, even if you missed the three-month deadline for sending us your registration card, we know who you purchased your product from based on the serial number. We will still support you and your product.
We do know that an online registration form is a more efficient way to handle this and are actually in the process of developing this service for our customers. I'm sorry it's taking us longer to do this, but we are a small company and can't do everything right now, or yesterday. We just have to keep picking our tomorrows.

Nobody here is trying to cheat anyone, we're just trying to make great gear for you to hear your music.

Mr. Davis, please call us if you have any issues that have yet to be discussed. It sounds like we may have wronged you unintentionally at some point. At the very least maybe we can clear up some bad communication.
Thanks all,
-Alex Brinkman

jim davis's picture

Thanks Alex. So, just to confirm then -- warranty is valid only for original purchaser and is not transferable should that person wish to sell, correct?

alexbrinkman's picture

Hi Jim,
That's correct. We offer a five-year non-transferable warranty. However, we understand that there are always exceptions and extenuating circumstances which will help govern our actions in support of the customer.

Charles Hansen's picture

Just to clarify, to qualify for the 5-year warranty the unit must have been purchased from an authorized dealer. "Grey-market" or stolen merchandise carries no warranty.

Used equipment may or may not have a transferable warranty, depending on how it is sold. If the original owner sells it or trades it in to an authorized dealer, the warranty is transferable. However if the original owner sells it privately (eg, on the internet) the warranty is not transferable. This is all spelled out in the "Statement of Warranty" which is in every owner's manual. Owner's manuals are on the Ayre website under the heading "Library".

I hope this helps.

AvilleAudio's picture

Perfectly clear. Thanks.

Jay Cook's picture

In thirty years in the business, no manufacturer I dealt with ever required anything greater than a copy of the sales receipt to prove the unit was under warranty. If Ayre does indeed deny their five year warranty to buyers who do not mail in a card, that is truly poor customer service. I never did sell Ayre, so I cannot say whether that happens or not.

michaelavorgna's picture

Someone makes something up based on nothing more than guess work and it mutates into, "If Ayre does indeed deny their five year warranty to buyers who do not mail in a card, that is truly poor customer service." And, "I never did sell Ayre, so I cannot say whether that happens or not."

I have a great idea, why not know what you're talking about before typing.

rhubarbsuburb's picture

I myself recently bought an Ayre component. Greeting me in the box upon opening it is a card with a fire-engine red box and in bold black print "Important!". It states 'To receive a five year warranty free of charge you MUST [note - MUST is not only all caps, but the friendly folks at Ayre have considerately made it bold black, as well] complete the following steps:...'

The comments about being provided a 90-day warranty, but having to qualify for the 5 yr warranty by mailing in a card that offers no proof of delivery or acceptance is factual and valid, in my experience.

michaelavorgna's picture the idea that a) if you do not mail in the card on time you will not qualify for the extended warranty, b) this bit of complete nonsense, "The requirement for the consumer to then qualify for a warranty beyond 90 days is for one and only one reason -- to avoid warranty repair liability", and c) that mailing in a warranty card, yes even one with ALL CAPS, is some kind of hardship.

rhubarbsuburb's picture

If, in fact, Ayre includes a document stating that a warranty beyond 90 days requires sending in the card (as they do), the poster's claim of exactly that cannot be said to be 'made up.' That's simply untrue. I'd agree it doesn't seem to be a hardship, but even after reading the comments by the company reps, I'm not clear on the reason for the requirement. If they and you are saying that it's really not necessary to send in the card, why don't they simply eliminate it?

michaelavorgna's picture

This is getting really, really silly. Let's just say we do not see things the same and call it a day.

If you want to know why Ayre ____ (fill in the blank), I'd recommend asking Ayre.

IR Shane's picture

Bad assumptions have highjacked a great and provocative interview. Hopefully after a few more "nothing to see here people, move along" posts some people will actually discuss what Charlie had to say. Which I found, as I always do, compelling and interesting to no end!

michaelavorgna's picture

And I agree, this is a great interview and it's a shame that some people are using the comments section as an anti-Ayre campaign based on...nonsense.

rhubarbsuburb's picture

I read questions/criticism for the warranty qualification process, but nothing negative about the products. I don't necessarily consider that 'anti-Ayre.'

michaelavorgna's picture

So you think this is a rational statement and not anti-Ayre:

"They may make great products. They simply lack integrity."

Assuming that's the case, you lack integrity ;-)

rhubarbsuburb's picture

I never said anything about whether statements are rational or not. And I don't understand how someone who says 'they make great products' is 'anti-Ayre'. But I do agree with another that you seem to be thin-skinned and have a sense that you're the Comments Warden, and I certainly don't appreciate you saying that I lack integrity.

michaelavorgna's picture

...even with a smiley face, yet you don't appear to understand how it is not OK for someone to accuse Ayre of lacking integrity based on nonsense. Thank you for making my point.

I'm not the comments warden, I'm just pointing out B.S.

michaelavorgna's picture

How are you in "the business"? In other words, what is your business?

Bill Leebens's picture

...have provided exemplary products and service for 23 years now. We're proud to know them.

We try not to gloat too much about the fact that PS Audio has a 20-year headstart on them!

IR Shane's picture

While I owned Ayre's MXRs for many years, I was one of the tube nuts who admired Charlie's original KXR preamp (and even the K-1x before that!) but I didn't love it and stuck with tubes. For additional context, I had never owned a solid-state preamp from anyone else either. It was always tubes for me at the front end. Until I heard the KXR-20 about a year ago. Tube vs solid-state went out the window. All the delicate textual detail and spontaneity and realism that tubes do is there, with the drive of solid-state. Love at first listen and holy cow, I can't believe I finally bought a solid-state preamp!

Now if Charlie would just put all this digital stuff aside and get to work on that 20-series phono stage I'm dying for ...

hollowman's picture

JA, can you please post (upload) Hansen's reply (print issue, Oct 2007, Manuf. Comments) to your July 2007 blog about THD:

Also, a very good reply (rebuttal) to Hansen's Oct 2007 comments appeared in the Letters to Editor column (Jan. 2008), and posting this letter would also be beneficial.

John Atkinson's picture
hollowman wrote:
JA, can you please post (upload) Hansen's reply (print issue, Oct 2007, Manuf. Comments) to your July 2007 blog about THD:

Will do. I'll append it to that news item.

hollowman wrote:
Also, a very good reply (rebuttal) to Hansen's Oct 2007 comments appeared in the Letters to Editor column (Jan. 2008), and posting this letter would also be beneficial.

I'll retrieve it also from the archive.

John Atkinson
Editor, Stereophile

John Atkinson's picture
hollowman's picture

Thx for upping that addit. material!
About that 2007 reply to JA's orig. THD article ... I, too, (like Bob Cordell; see his letter) am a bit confused by CH's emotional response. IAC, (and possible as a result of improvements to IC topology) I wonder if his opinion has changed in the intervening 9 yrs?

Charles Hansen's picture

JA, thanks very much for uploading that old letter to the editor. My opinions are unchanged in the intervening 9 years (perhaps even strengthened), although I would have written the letter differently today. Sarcasm doesn't come through the internet too well, so I would like to clarify two points:

1) There aren't many resistors in a modern IC, but when there are they are almost always made of silicon. Silicon resistors are have a very high tempco, are relatively noisy, and are extremely difficult to make with any degree of accuracy. As I noted in my original letter, if silicon resistors were any good, you could find them on the Digikey website alongside the metal film (nichrome and tantalum nitride), carbon film, thick film (ruthenium oxide), conductive plastic (potentiometers) wire-wound, metal foil, and even carbon composition resistors. I've never seen a silicon resistor for sale, nor do I expect to in my lifetime.

2) Bob Cordell argued that there was nothing wrong with feedback, and that the Halcro amplifiers were praised to the skies for their sound quality.

Halcro used far more negative feedback than any other design I've seen. Their patents disclosed the basic schematics and there was an "error correction" output stage (whereby a short feedback loop with gain is applied around the output stage), multiple complementary feedback pairs (there's a reason why the name of this two transistor circuit has the word "feedback" in it), I believe (but can't remember for sure) that there was another feedback loop around the driver stage, and then the whole thing was wrapped in an overall feedback loop. This constitutes multiple nested layers of feedback - which is the only way to get the specs they did - THD less than 0.0001% at any power below clipping at any frequency in the audio band, and a damping factor of over 1000 (output impedance <0.01 ohms).

With the benefit of 9 years of hindsight, I think it is fairly obvious which viewpoint is correct. Just ask yourself where is Halcro today? QED. YMMV.

Jay Cook's picture

30 years selling Levinson, Conrad Johnson, Bryston, McIntosh, Magnepan, B&W, KEF, M&K, Paradigm, Nakamichi, B&O, Denon, Yamaha,Sony ES, Lexicon, and many others. I also spent time as a manufacturers rep for some of those lines.

I was not making anything up, merely replying to the concern and experience that several posters seem to have had. I had never heard anything negative about Ayre in the past and it surprised me. I would hope that Ayre does not require the return of a card in order to receive a warranty. Now Ayre has replied themselves.

Every place I worked, we told clients that they did not need to mail warranty cards if they did not want to, their sales receipt was their proof of purchase date. Some felt that such cards were an invasion of privacy, and an additional security concern, as it provided the location of expensive gear to additional sets of eyes beyond the dealer. Others wanted to keep all packing and documentation, as it helps the resale value of their gear, even if the warranty card is worthless.

michaelavorgna's picture

...I have a great idea, why not know what you're talking about before typing.

Jay Cook's picture

You seem a little testy Michael.

michaelavorgna's picture


ctsooner's picture

I'm in SHOCK as to how this thread went. I have an AX-5/Twenty and it was upgraded from the AX-5. Nothing but outstanding things to say about Alex and the team at Ayre. I can't wait to meet him in person this Saturday at Audio Connections in NJ to hear the QX-5/Twenty. I have one on order and it's the first time I've EVER bought a product like this site unheard. I trust Ayre and the people they folks who work there. They have gone OUT OF THEIR WAY every time I've called for anything. I find it amazing that folks who claim to be in the industry have not read the posts by Alex Brinkmann nor Charley Hansen himself and seen what the warrantee is. So they ask you to send in card that has a stamp on it. I personally just put it in my mail box the next day after I got my AX 5 home and never thought about it.

I know many in the industry from Richard Vandersteen (he of the other Pistonic movement of a cone (Charley said two of them believe in it)) to the folks at AQ to others who love associating with Ayre at shows etc... Class act is what you always hear. I've not heard of one personal who had to have an Ayre repaired complain. Every....and I know plenty who have Ayre gear. The thing is that I rarely hear about anyone even having a problem with their products.

Pono is a wonderful product for the cost. Thanks for a great interview and to the Ayre folks who actually care about their products and are willing to set folks straight who don't post the truth.

tomic's picture

the other Jim Davis who owns a VX- R twenty....weighing in....
Always great service
of course the dealer, authorized and excellent dealer who let me monopolize his high end room for 8 hours to pick and choose from his top 5 amps, sent in my card for me. He also assured me that he and Ayre stand behind the product. Turns out they do and when the amp did go back to factory after 5 years of service I had them upgrade it to Twenty series. Total turn time a week, expertly handled by Alex at Ayre and Alan at Hi Fi buys in Atlanta. IMO that other Jim Davis should say more than thanks to Alex for his well consdered reply. JD your cynical attitude and negative conjecture about Ayre motivation are sad. Try reaching out and establishing a relationship with the excellent people in this hobby and business. This sad thread came to my attention - Richard Vandersteen called me incredulus that I would post comments like that about Ayre. We chat every few weeks. I respect and trust his work as I do CH. Likely my next DAc and digital Hub wiill be Ayre and when the tubes need replaced on the REf 5 SE I will give his R series preamp and honest at home listen...after I shred the warranty card and change my name..ha.

tomic's picture

a philospophy and a methodolody

less is more..practice subtraction till it gets worse

value engineering is fun and challenging

single minded dedication

broken in component vetting and comparison to wire

God is in the details

you have to listen

Pistonic motion is one ordinate goal

one wood block can attaining what is your normal reference...( regaining)

no secret measurement techniques ( yet ) for electronics....but can you modify what you did w transducers in reflective/ absorbtive space with an amplifier ?..

I appreciate you CH

every step is pain for me, I can relate...leave the world a better place...