Ayre Acoustics V-3 power amplifier Page 4

"When we were building different prototypes, we measured this design and it didn't measure great—it measured okay, but nothing spectacular. So we tried putting a source-follower driver stage on the cascode's output and it measured fantastic! The bandwidth went up and HF distortion dropped, but it didn't sound as good. So we scrapped it and came back to this design. How different did they sound? It was like the difference between a mass-market receiver and Jadis separates!

"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.

Summing up
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?

Ayre Acoustics
2300-B Central Avenue
Boulder, CO 80301
(303) 442-7300