Ayre Acoustics EX-8 Integrated Hub integrated amplifier

It's a high-end audio truism: Successful companies are founded by a creative engineer or entrepreneur with a vision. So what happens when the founder is no longer around? While Mark Levinson is an example of a brand that not only survived the exit of its leader but thrived, speaker manufacturer Thiel dwindled after co-founder Jim Thiel died in 2009, and eventually closed up shop. Colorado company Ayre Acoustics was faced with this problem when founder Charley Hansen passed away in November 2017.

What Thiel didn't have and what Ayre does have is institutional memory. As is often the case, Thiel's new owners wanted to start with a clean slate. However, that means that it is too easy to lose sight of what made the brand they purchased successful. In the case of Ayre that essential institutional memory is present in the person of Ariel Brown, who has been with the company since leaving engineering school more than 22 years ago. For many years Ayre's Principal Development Engineer, Brown is now Ayre's vice president and CTO, assisted by software engineer Brendan Boyle, who joined the company three years ago, also straight from college. Brown says that for better or worse he was indoctrinated in Hansen's way of thinking and design—"I only know the Charley way! Charley never wanted to introduce a product unless we had something new to offer with that product—'New–Better–Different' was his philosophy, every product had to be a step up from before."

The EX-8 is the first in a line of five products, all continuing Hansen's "New–Better–Different" philosophy, all sharing the same aluminum chassis, and all intended to replace Ayre's aging 7-Series products. The base EX-8 has analog inputs only and costs $5950; the Digital Base module, with Toslink and coaxial S/PDIF and AES/EBU inputs, adds $1000; a Roon Ready Digital Base with a USB port adds another $700; and a fully loaded EX-8 Integrated Hub, with all the analog and digital inputs and an Ethernet port, which is what I received for review, brings the price to $7850. Functionally, the EX-8 appears to be a combination of Ayre's QX-5 Twenty Digital Hub ($9950), which I reviewed in September 2017, and their AX-5 Twenty integrated amplifier ($12,950), which Art Dudley reviewed in August 2015. So other than having one chassis instead of two, I asked Ariel Brown how had they produced something that costs $7850 instead of $22,900.

Brown replied that development of the EX-8 started in the summer of of 2016. The circuitry is still balanced throughout, the input and volume stages still use Ayre's complementary J-FET circuit, and the output stage is still Ayre's Double Diamond topology, with its wide open-loop bandwidth allowing zero global feedback. The maximum output power into 8 ohms is 100Wpc instead of 125Wpc, but there are no separate, costly heatsinks. Instead, the bipolar output devices—the same used in every Ayre amplifier since the original V-5 from 18 years ago—are bolted to the chassis' base. Further reducing manufacturing cost, hence price, most of the 8-Series products share the same six-layer circuit board, with large, low-impedance copper planes for the power supply. This can be stuffed differently for each product. Instead of the costly, no-holds-barred Variable-Gain Transconductance (VGT) volume system, with its stepper motor-switched resistors, the EX-8 uses a semi-custom motorized, triple-gang, carbon-film potentiometer from Alps, which had been picked out by Hansen a couple of years ago. Two of the gangs allow fully balanced control of volume—the EX-8 has a balanced input as well as two single-ended inputs—while the third gang acts as a position sensor, to allow the volume to be controlled by Roon over a network.


As well as the volume control, two front-panel buttons control input switching and navigation of the set-up menu. The buttons are duplicated on a plastic remote, which also allows the output to be switched between headphones and speakers. Like the displays in Ayre's top-of-the-line models, the OLED front-panel display times-out after 15 seconds to maximize the life of the module and reduce RF noise. There are four sets of analog outputs: one pair of speaker terminals, using the single-screw Cardas clamp and with no fuses in series with the output; balanced and unbalanced preamplifier/subwoofer outputs; a conventional single-ended ¼" headphone jack; and Ayre's innovative twinned 3.5mm headphone jacks for balanced headphones. Unusually, there is also a digital word clock output.

Continuing Hansen's policy of using US-made parts as much as possible, the circuit board, power transformer, and chassis are sourced from North American suppliers and the EX-8 is manufactured in the US.

Ayre recommends 100–500 hours of break-in for the EX-8. When first turned on, its balance was upfront. While the presentation warmed up over the next few days, the balance remained on the rather light side. Joey DeFrancesco's Hammond organ bass pedals in "The Way Young Lovers Do" from You're Driving Me Crazy (16/44.1 WAV file ripped from CD, Exile/Legacy 19075820041) had just enough weight to propel the song along, though the high-pitched saxophone duet that punctuates Van Morrison's vocal was projected a little forward of the speaker plane.

The EX-8 loved vocals. Whether it was Tierney Sutton's hauntingly beautiful reading of "Cry Me a River" (16/44.1 ALAC, from Desire, Telarc CD 83685) or Ella Fitzgerald's spirited romp through "A Night in Tunisia" (24/192 ALAC, from Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie!, Verve/HDtracks 8356462), the women were in the room. And the men were well-served also. Triggered by reruns of the TV show House, I played Hugh Laurie's "Junkers Blues" (16/44.1 ALAC, from Didn't It Rain, Warner Bros. 0825646453764). The dyspeptic actor was in the room with me, though not so welcome a presence as the ladies. Palpable, yes, but the way in which the Ayre projected voices somewhat forward in the soundstage was a consistent aspect of its sound. With an overcooked recording, like Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett's "Anything Goes" (24/96 FLAC, from Cheek to Cheek, Interscope Columbia), it was too much of a good thing.

The amplifier proved to be a more synergistic companion to the KEF LS50s than to the brighter-sounding Wharfedale Diamond 11.2s that I reviewed last month. Nevertheless, the amplifier's treble was in good balance with its midrange. Anne Akiko Meyers's violin in Arvo Pärt's Passacaglia from her The Four Seasons: the Vivaldi album (16/44.1 FLAC, eOne Music EOMCD 7790) didn't sound too bright or brittle, and with the healthy recorded ambience on this track the Ayre threw a large, well-defined soundstage.


To get a handle on the Ayre's digital performance, I compared it with Chord's Qutest DAC ($1895), which I reviewed in the January issue. The Chord doesn't have an Ethernet connection but does have a USB port, so I could feed the same audio data from Roon Nucleus+ to the EX-8 over my network and to the Qutest via USB. Levels were matched at 1kHz and I used the Chord's Warm reconstruction filter, which I felt to sound best.

The Chord's presentation was more delicate, allied with a feeling that a little more recorded detail was being retrieved. The hall on the Pärt Passacaglia was a little better-defined, for example. However, while its upper bass was a touch warmer-sounding, the Qutest fell behind the EX-8's digital section when came to conveying the sense of musical drive with the Van Morrison track.

I've run out of space to discuss the EX-8's performance as a headphone amplifier. I will do so in a Follow-Up in the April issue, along with a comparison of the Ayre with the Cambridge Edge A integrated amplifier that Ken Micallef liked so much in our January issue.

Summing Up
I encountered two operational idiosyncrasies: First the EX-8 has less gain than a typical integrated; I tended to use the volume control between 70% and 80% most of the time with the analog inputs. Second, you need to aim the remote right at the front panel for the amplifier to respond. My usual lazy waving didn't work!

I used Ayre's EX-8 for almost all my serious listening from the summer through the early winter of 2018, and in all that time I only rarely felt I was missing something sound-quality-wise. For example, when I switched from the EX-8 to the combination of PS Audio DirectStream DAC driving a pair of Lamm M1.2 Reference monoblocks, the soundstage expanded and the low frequencies both extended a half-octave lower and sounded more authoritative. But that switch represented a system investment of $7850 increasing to one of $39,389. There should indeed have been an improvement in sound quality!

The EX-8 Integrated Hub is a high-end contender at a competitive price.

Ayre Acoustics
6268 Monarch Park Place, Suite B
Niwot, CO 80503
(303) 442-7300

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Integrated amps are becoming more and more like 'Swiss army knives', all-in-one box solutions :-) ..........

spacehound's picture

Jack of all trades, master of none.

And the digital part becomes obsolete long before the amplifier does. So why pay for it?

Incidentally it's even worse for so-called 'wireless' speakers. If you want to upgrade you have to replace EVERYTHING except the actual sources.

unitygain's picture

I think Ayre intends for the digital board to be configurable and upgradeable on a modular basis, so I suppose obsolescence is decreasingly at issue, so definitely better than the "wireless speaker" paradigm.

Of course, having all components wired off windings of the same transformer is going to be a (probably slight) compromise in most units, so there's generally a theoretical disadvantage to these super-integrateds, but I've heard the Ayre and it sounds better (in my system; ymmv) than any other I've tried, and I think this is going to be an expanding field as young music lovers urbanize, space becomes a limit, and fussing with interconnect voicing and complex external digital signal routing becomes avoidable.

Ryan Berry's picture

You're spot on, unitygain. We've been in the digital game for a long time, so we're very aware of the need to be able to keep up. Over a decade ago, we released the QB-9 as a 16 bit, 96kHz-capable player. Even back then, we knew we would need to design products that can keep up with the changes in technology. We designed that product to have modules so that we could upgrade individual parts of the product as technology shifted without forcing those that own Ayre products to have to replace the entire unit. That's always been one of the core principles at Ayre; we're not about forcing people to throw away their system and replace it every few years. Since its inception, the QB-9 saw a 24 bit 192kHz upgrade, DSD-playback added (along with a very large analog upgrade), and a 384 kHz/2x DSD upgrade. And we're still not done.

The 8 series is no different. With separate modules for the digital section, the Ethernet section, the USB section, the audio sections, and even the volume control and head phones sections of the circuit, we can keep up with formats or introduce new technologies we discover with a simple board swap. That will help ensure the product is relevant years down the road. Those that own Ayre know what lengths we go to in order to keep anything we've made sounding its best. I can assure you that has not changed for us.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Check out KEF EGG and Elac Discovery Z3 wired/wireless speakers ........ They both are selling for less than $500 on Amazon :-) ..........

Discovery Z3 looks like a (21st century) table-top radio ...... Talk about single box (stereo) solution ....... No alarm clock .......at least not yet :-) ........

Ryan Berry's picture

You're not wrong, Bogulu. There's definitely been more of a draw to "all-in-one" boxes lately. We both like the idea and don't like it for obvious reasons, which is why we decided to offer the EX-8 from an all-in-one box to a dedicated analog integrated, depending on how it is ordered. That lets you choose what you want the unit to be. The rest of the 8 series is coming very soon, which will all feature dedicated components (DAC, pre-amp, amp, phono, CD), so the person building the system can completely customize it to suit their needs best.

georgehifi's picture

John Atkinson:
"I was somewhat concerned by its harmonic distortion signature. I do wonder if using the chassis as the heatsink means that the output stage can't be biased too strongly into class-A"
"the balance remained on the rather light side"

At over $6K usd, that's not the only thing that concerned me, these 8ohm, 4ohm wattage figures show why it's a bit of a tone control into Ken Kantor's easy simulated speaker load even though it has a low .45ohm output impedance, suggesting it's quite hamstrung current wise.

105Wpc into 8 ohms
125W into 4 ohms

Looks to me like the companies number crunchers got hold of this one for maximum monetary gain. $10k loaded, I don't think this would have been born for that price, if Charles (rip) was still around.

It's an empty box.

Cheers George

Ryan Berry's picture

Hi George,

I'm sorry you feel that way. Actually, the EX-8 was designed by Charles Hansen and Ariel Brown, as most of our previous products were, so I can assure you he was very much a part of the design. As we design everything with linear power supplies (even our digital section) to maintain the best sound quality, there's limits to how much heat the unit can dissipate, how large the transformer has to be, etc. before solutions become very expensive to get to the next step up. It would have been easy for us to make something bigger and more expensive, but we wanted to offer something at a lower price than our more recent products.

That said, we had the AX-7 out for many years with a "mere" 60 watts per channel, and the feedback we've always had was how surprised people were at how powerful it sounds despite the rating, and never had a complaint that the unit felt under powered to them. I'm very confident that anyone who listens to the EX-8 will be as pleasantly surprised.

CG's picture

Out of curiosity, one time I carefully measured the maximum power that we ever listened to on our loudspeakers. It turned out to be around 12 watts. This was really, really loud, too. Way too loud for most listening.

At the time, we were using Vandersteen 2Ci's. Hardly sensitive loudspeakers.

The current thing is truly what Georg Ohm described a long time ago. Audio amplifiers are primarily Voltage controlled Voltage sources - the current is the voltage divided by the load impedance. Perhaps Ayre might've done better by advertising that the EX-8 could produce 60 Watts into 8 Ohms and 120 Watts into 4 Ohms.

There's just so many things that affect the sound characteristics that it's pretty hard to discern the details by such a limited set of measurements.

Ortofan's picture

... what procedure did you use to "carefully" measure the maximum power delivered to your loudspeakers? What was the peak level and duration of the test signal? What measuring device did you use? Which (power) amplifier did you use and did you confirm that it was not being driven into clipping?

CG's picture

I'll refer you here:


At first, I used a 50 MHz bandwidth oscilloscope - Tektronix, if it matters - in "peak hold" mode to see what the peak Voltages were. Of course, with music this is hard to translate directly to average power since the peak to average ratio isn't well defined as it is with a sine wave. But, the peaks really were not that high. I sampled over a five minute period or thereabouts.

Since the amplifier is capable of at least 200 watts average power, with 80 VDC complementary supply rails, I really don't think that there was much chance of clipping. The oscilloscope test confirmed that.

Beyond that, the DAC I was using at the time (Wavelength Audio Proton) was capable of about 1.1 Vrms maximum output:


If you want to take it further, with a sine wave that translates to about 3.1 Vp-p. Since the DAC chip in the Proton uses a 3.3 VDC supply Voltage, that's consistent. Much above that level and the DAC chip itself clips, as Mr. Atkinson found.

With a unity gain buffer "preamp" and the measured and calculated gain of the amplifier (18.3), that meant that the maximum output Voltage available from the amplifier was just about 20 Vrms. Or, if you want to use the peak value, that's about 56 Vp-p. I'm not sure that an amplifier with 80 VDC supply rails is clipping at 28 V peak levels. Possible but not likely.

That's with source material that is 0 dBfs. Lower is, well, lower.

In addition, in actual use, we never have the volume control to maximum. You'll just have to take me at my word about that.

So, that's a form of sanity check on the measurements. From the numbers, we'd be hitting 67 Watts into the 2Ci's (nominal 6 Ohm load impedance) if the source material was recorded/mastered at 0 dBfs and the volume control is at maximum. Which it never is.

In the end, I found the method linked to above was way easier to deal with. At a couple hundred Hertz, my Fluke 87-iii can pretty accurately read the RMS Voltage. Close enough, anyway.

That "careful" enough for you?

(Edited because the links weren't showing up as links.)

Ortofan's picture

... what was the dynamic range of the music used for the test?

CG's picture

Here's what I did...

I went over to this site: http://dr.loudness-war.info/

where I searched for recordings we have. Then, I selected a few with the highest dynamic range they report. (I really don't know if their DR measurements are completely accurate, but it's a reasonable start.)

Now, I don't recall the entire list of tracks I used, but I'm certain it included:

Friday Night in San Francisco by De Lucia, McLaughlin, and Di Meola

Live At The Village Gate by Clark Terry

Alive by Chick Corea Akoustic Band

Plus some others that were on the upper end of the DR ratings that escape me.

All of these recordings are said to have DR of 14 dB or better.

On top of that, I set the listening level to be beyond what we'd consider comfortable to listen to. Not comfortable for background music, but for focused listening.

Obviously, everybody has different requirements. But, I note from the poll at the link to the test, at least 70% of those polled had similar results to mine.

Another data point is discussed here:


I'd encourage anyone interested in the subject to read through the entire thread generated over at DIYAudio. Lots of questions (and squabbling) that get addressed. Also, there's a link there to further discussion at Archimago's Blog.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Did you measure the SPL during the playback between the soft and loud passages and, what was the distance between the speakers and the listening position (SPL meter position)? ........ If you already mentioned that, sorry I missed that :-) ........

CG's picture

Short answer: No. I set the volume to the maximum sound level we ever listen to, plus some to give some margin.

The loudspeakers are in a 16 by 20 by 8 foot room, with the back 40% open to the dining room on one side. Speakers are about 9 feet from the listening couch.

I'm not sure what the importance of the loudness of the soft passages might be, since lower levels require fewer watts.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

The difference in SPL between the soft and loud passages would approximate the dynamic range of the music ........ If you are interested, check the Crown Audio website for amplifier power requirements for given loudness and listening distance ..... They have a calculator ....... You may need to know the loudspeaker sensitivity number ........You can guess the sensitivity number :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

According to Stereophile measurements the Vandersteen 2Ce sensitivity is 84 db ..........

Ortofan's picture

... a greater dynamic range, you might have set the volume control to a higher (average) setting which, in turn, would have required a greater peak power.
There was an example posted on the Harbeth forum of a recording with a dynamic range of about 22dB. Some calculations showed that even if the average listening level used, for example, just one watt of power, then the amp would have to be able to produce about 160 watts to pass the peaks without clipping.

CG's picture

That's the math alright.

Indeed, Tom Danley pointed out in the linked thread that he has recordings of fireworks with a 40 dB dynamic range. I suspect that if a recording like that was played in a typical home at an average power power of 1 watt that the peaks would not only clip the amp as the math shows (40 dB DR would require at least a 10 kW amplifier), but the bass levels would overload the room acoustically as well. And, blow out the drivers in the loudspeakers.

My point, which you are certainly welcome to not share, is that really high dynamic range recordings are few and far between and many people don't listen that loudly. At least 70% of the technically oriented guys over DIYAudio indicated that in their poll entries. We - my wife and I - most certainly don't. (We wear earplugs when we go to concerts) We also don't sit around listening to recordings of dump trucks driving through nitroglycerine plants for entertainment, although some people might.

I don't think I have anything more to offer to this discussion at this point.

spacehound's picture

But no matter how little or how much it costs it all tends to be mid-range "me too" stuff, neither bad nor notably outstanding. So no special reason to buy any of it over all the other equipment on sale.

As for the 'fully loaded' version, no chance. Analog amplifiers are well established, well understood, and their designs are relatively static.
Whereas the 'digital' input side is constantly changing and thus becomes obsolete and non-optimum much faster. So if you feel the need to upgrade you will be replacing the perfectly adequate amplifier part too.
(Of course the same applies to many McIntosh products.)

Ryan Berry's picture

Hi Spacehound,

Actually, that's incorrect. Each section of the 8 series products are modular, as we have done with many products in the past. As new technology becomes available, we will be able to offer upgrades to replace ONLY that module, keeping the cost minimized for those that own an Ayre product. It's the way we've operated since Charley founded Ayre, and we have no intention of changing that. I mentioned it in an earlier reply, but in the EX-8, we have separate boards for the digital, Ethernet, and USB sections of the circuit, so any one of them can be changed out independently as we continue to design better versions with ever-changing digital technology.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be you could add Bluetooth and wi-fi capabilities in the future products ........ May be it is already in the works? :-) ..........

Ryan Berry's picture

All of our products that have Ethernet already support Wi-Fi, so you're good to go on that front. We've tossed the idea of Bluetooth around a bit. Charley hated it, but he also hated Wi-Fi and conceded we needed a way to support it. We're looking at ways to implement Bluetooth that will not impact the rest of the unit negatively and makes it stand out from other Bluetooth offerings out there. Once we're happy with a solution, there's little reason for us not to begin implementing it.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

One more ..... If you can work out Class-D amp section, you can increase the power and won't have heat issues ..... May be even less expensive :-) .......

georgehifi's picture

"Perhaps Ayre might've done better by advertising that the EX-8 could produce 60 Watts into 8 Ohms and 120 Watts into 4 Ohms."

That CG, as I bitched about a while back, this is flat out cheating, to purposely understate the 8ohm wattage, to make the 4ohm wattage "appear" to be doubling. That's just being deceitful.
As we all know an amp that can "almost" double it's true 8ohm wattage into 4ohms and then again into 2ohms, is great amp that can deliver good current into low impedance's, and not behave like a tone control.

Cheers George

CG's picture

Y'know George, I'd prepared a very detailed technical response to your comments.

Instead of presenting am argument, I'll just say that you are entitled to your opinions. And, I am happy for that.

georgehifi's picture

"I'll just say that you are entitled to your opinions."

Thank you.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Next super-integrated, all-in-one 'Swiss army knife' for review is, Mark Levinson No.5805 ........ Rated 125 WPC/8 Ohms, $8,500 ........ The box is filled up to the rim ........ BTW, it is full MQA and Bluetooth capable, meaning, 'fully loaded' :-) .............

Bogolu Haranath's picture

ML No. 5805 would be a good match for Revel Ultima Gem2 ($10,000/pair) or KEF Reference R1 ($8,000/pair) bookshelf speakers :-) ..........

unitygain's picture

I don't think the ML 5805 streams, so you'd still need a network streamer for that. Not quite as much of a Swiss army knife as the Ayre EX-8 in the end.

Granted the Ayre doesn't have a phono stage, so is more like the 5802 (plus the very important addition balanced and unbalanced analog inputs), it makes more sense to me than either Levinson as most people like to have an outboard phono preamp to tailor analog sound and match unusual or multiple cartridges rather than an outboard network streamer (which seldom gains much by being outboard).

I consider the Roon-ready streaming integrated units from Devialet (Expert line), Gold Note (Is-1000), Naim (Nova, Star, etc), and – yes – this Ayre, all among this breed of super integrateds, and all of them sound pretty great, if quite different (I'm partial to the Ayre from the bunch).

I'm sure the Levinson units will sound good too but under this rubric (and one that is important to me and a few friends with these brands), the MLs don't qualify as true digital all-in-ones in quite the same way (being closer to the functionality of the Cambridge Edge A instead). As a NYC-sized-apartment-based listener in his mid-30s, I think Ayre is hitting the right notes for a changing market.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Check out Auralic Polaris ....... Another 'Swiss army knife' for $3,000 ...... It can be ordered with 1TB SSD internal storage for a total price of $3,400 ......... There are several very favorable reviews available on-line, including Darko Audio ........ AudioStream has a unit for a future review :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

About streaming/wi-fi .... We can use a smart-phone/tablet/lap-top/portable DAP and connect that device with a single wire to the 'Swiss army knife' and make it a 'Swiss army knife on steroids' ......... Of course we can also connect a 'network bridge' device :-) ..........

There are some servers available now with built-in storage and can connect to streaming/wifi ....... One example is Aurender :-) ...........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

You may already know this ....... 5805 has a built-in phono-stage with adjustable switches on the rear panel .......... Phono-stage can also be controlled via front panel for gain :-) .........

unitygain's picture

True, yet similar feature-set to the Gold Note IS-1000 and Devialet Expert lines, which – however – also include network connections. Still, there are a lot of good reasons to have off board phono stages instead (lower noise, the ability to run and tube-roll a tube-based unit, the capacity to have balanced inputs for balanced tables, the capacity to run multiple arms, among others), and I've frankly never heard a built-in phono stage sound as good as a well-selected off board stage matched thoughtfully to one's table and cartridge.

I used off board stages with both of the above devices, for instance, and this was always a pleasurable improvement functionally and sonically. Ayre seems to account for this, and I look forward to hearing their upcoming standalone phono stage. This isn't to say the ML 5805 won't also be great, but it suits a different set of compromises and priorities. I hope someone like Hi-Fi Choice or Hi-Fi News runs a comparison feature including the Ayre, Levinson, Naim, Auralic, Cambridge, Gold Note, and other recent DAC-equipped integrateds, but – clearly – the best way is to try them and also closely consider the excellent measurements and reviews that Stereophile puts out.

Frankly, I wish John Atkinson wrote more about the ways that voices sound so good through the Ayre (smooth, sweet, fine-grained, silky?), discussed the actual quality rather than quantity of bass (leading edge dynamics, wetness, texture, decay, etc.), and compared it to equipment less vastly different in terms of configurability, space consumption, and pricing. II'll look forward to KM's assessment next month, though I wish the Ayre were reviewed with a view of other units that also stream and are in this price range to help listeners make informed decisions. (A recent Lavorgna shoot-out between all-in-one integrateds in Audiostream had few, if any, real comparables to the Ayre; Lyd & Bild compared it to the Gryphon Diablo 120 and McIntosh MA9000.)

Bogolu Haranath's picture

As you may already know, the associated loudspeakers play a major role in the sound qualities you are describing :-) ..........

unitygain's picture

KM's recently used loudspeakers include: DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93, Elac Debut B6, Klipsch Heresy III, Quad S-2. Their broad scope of engineering and sonic differences should provide a good set of benchmarks from which listeners can extrapolate how an integrated amplifier/source will perform in their systems. Of course, any reviewer's perspectives are also subjective and room-dependent, but I trust KM's experience and understanding of the needs of his readership enough to know his opinion is often helpful.

In my case, I use the excellent Studio Electric M4 and Ryan S610 speakers at present and can make inferences adequate to my needs as to how each will sound with an amp on the basis of Ken's comments respective to his own system.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

If you know KM, you could ask him to review ML5805, also ........ KM would be one of the perfect people for reviewing both analog and digital sections including the phono-stage ....... Another perfect reviewer would be HR :-) ........

unitygain's picture

As per JA's article, KM will be doing a followup of the Ayre for next month's issue of Stereophile (where he compares it with the Cambridge Edge A). I look forward to reading this alongside JA's notes on the Ayre's headphone section (which is reported to be great).

I'm sure Stereophile has policies and informed outlooks in place regarding whether and/or how to assign reviews of the ML 5802/5. With some luck, someone will compare it to other amplifiers (like this Ayre) that are similarly versatile.

As for HR and KM, I don't know them personally – I'm just an avid listener and reader. Anyhow, sorry we've hogged this thread!

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Hogging may do some good ........ Somebody from Stereophile may read our comments :-) ........

unitygain's picture


Indydan's picture

I'm interested in the Ryan S610. Are you happy with them? I have heard the "lower" down R610 and loved it.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Ryan Tempus III was very favorably reviewed by TAS :-) .........

Indydan's picture

Yes it was. I have seen it in person (but not heard). Unfortunately, too big for my room and budget.

unitygain's picture

Indydan, in a word: very.

Incidentally, but also appropriately, given this thread, they pair wonderfully with the Ayre EX-8.

Indydan's picture

Thanks for the information. I plan to hear them soon at my dealer.

georgehifi's picture

Next super-integrated, Mark Levinson No.5805

For less, at least $8.5k you get an a/b amp that's something with a decent power amp section that can give current!! And it's not an empty box

"Easily provide enough current for a conservative 125W/channel at 8 ohms, 250W/channel at 4 ohms, and stable operation down to 2 ohms."

Cheers George

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Stereophile has scheduled a review of ML 5805 in 2049 when the Blade-Runner returns :-) .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

"Empty Spaces" .......... Pink Floyd :-) ..........

Anton's picture

Count me in the group in favor of these wonderful things. Including phono preamps in 'em.

I feel like John Lennon imagining, but a perfect integrated would take my analog LP front end and keep it analog, and it could accept analog from my favorite CD/SACD player, allow me to use the CD source as my DAC or streamer, or could talk to the interwebs without a CD player and be the DAC for that.


One box, potentially 100 grand saved in cables and AC cords, and no wasted space!

I have heard their gear and Ayre is top of the heap.

The perfect integrated for me would be the AX-5 Twenty with a built in easily adjustable phono preamp for cartridge loading and gain with MC and MM inputs...and then boom boom boom connected to a turntable and digital front end, off to the speakers, done! I'd skip the power conditioner with Ayre products, too.

Ayre is for when I hit the Lotto, but I would never quibble with their quality.