AYON KT-SX Tube quality (failure rate?)


I bought a new/demo ("was only played at CES this Jan 2016...") AYON TRITON III from the US distributer this January.

Within 3 weeks 2 of the 8 KT88-SX tubes either expired or the amp complained about the tube. The vendor said: "90 days on new tubes..." ...which meant I was out of luck given his logic. New tubes cost around $180 or so.

I have either spoken with other Ayon owners on this or other forums, in private (after posting about Ayon) or when seeking to buy these tubes from them.

Guess what?

They have had the same failure rate.

Please weigh in: I am relatively new (1 year) to tube gear and have no idea if I should expect more monthly replacements. (I bought 3 matched quads of new Gold Lion KT88s, but the Ayons sound quite good to me, I just am appalled at the failure rates I experienced or heard about.)
D6a8d423 2ae8 450a ab99 898b857ba61evicweast
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Just to be clear: I am otherwise delighted with the AYON amp.

Had a local dealer drop the Ayon  line,one because of the same tube problem and the poor support from Ayon.
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I have no reason to believe the issue goes beyond the actual tubes. That's why I posted here to get others to give direct feedback with their Ayon tubes (or if it goes beyond that).
Why not start a separate inquiry about Gold Lion KT88 reliability, specifically?  I'm thinking having AYON in the title might be a little "mis-leading".  Maybe other non-Ayon/GL KT-88 tube users are having similar issues...just a thought.   

If the tubes are branded Ayon they are certainly re-badged OEM tubes.  Seems like Ayon must have bought a bad batch of tubes and did not QC them.  Either that or the circuit runs the tubes so hard that they are prone to premature failure.  As to your general question, no properly designed amp would require monthly output tube replacement. 
I'm a bit confused what tubes failed exactly? Gold Lion KT88's or I'm guessing KT88-SX is some nomenclature for Ayon branded tubes? I will say that Gold Lion KT77's, which I use and think sound great, do have a higher than average failure rate.
@jond  @ghosthouse 
The only tubes I have run in the Ayon so far are Ayon KT88-sx. I have NOT yet run the Gold Lions as they were my "backup plan" in case the rest of the Ayon KT88s fizzed or burped or otherwise committed suicide.
@jond Ayon KT88-sx are called "treasure" tubes by the US distributer. I have a sneaking feeling I know what he means: First my treasure, then his booty as I buy replacements. But that is pure speculation on my part and not really what I intended in my post: I really just want to hear from others if they have had similar failure rates with this brand of tube... hello?
Understood and I don't own nor have I any experience with Ayon amps or tubes, very likely a bad batch of tubes they received as swampwalker suggests above. And by "treasure" it probably actually means they are Shuguang Treasure tubes from China which enjoy a great rep for sound quality, not sure about reliability.
Sorry Vic, I misunderstood what tubes were failing.  Thought the Ayon tubes were re-labelled Gold Lions.  I agree with jond's guess about the identity of the Ayon stock "Treasure" tubes.  Given the stock tubes are something other than Gold Lion, I'd definitely be pulling them and plugging in those Gold Lions.  If they run OK then you will know it's bad tube quality and not the amp.  By the way, looking up the Ayon amp on-line I see bias is listed as both automatic AND manual.  Not sure how that works but if you are able, check the bias.  A check and adjustment of bias is always recommended prior to installing new tubes.  Apologies if this is something you already know.  Good luck getting things sorted out.
Ayon is the Bugatti of audio & best of show for 7 years, but only if you change the tubes or oil once a month @ $500.
Definitely - Not my cup of tea.
I would stay far, far away from these guys & their hype!
@ghosthouse
Indeed, I intend to replace the Ayon tubes with the Gold Lions after another few weeks. This will make for better statistics that might be skewed by "shipping" or "infant mortality", that should be ample time to experience either no or further tube failure.

After that time passes, I will run the Gold Lions for a few months to see if there is continued failure (I do not expect it — but I am wary, hence posting here.
@paladin 
Your take on Ayon strikes me as quite harsh. What experience do you have or know about? I am very curious as to what lies behind your statement.

Be warned "only played at CES". My friend bought one of their CD players "demo from review" when he got it the serial number was different from the reviews sn. Warning regarding bate and switch. 
Vic - what's the story on biasing for the Ayon?  Is it mainly auto but allows some manual tweaking or override?  Proper bias obviously critical to maximizing tube life.  Again, good luck.
@view cast
My only contact with Ayon was a few years ago when I was considering one of their CD players listed on the gon @ a very attractive price.
I called & spoke with someone there & was told that their unit would crush every other unit I was considering.
I am no novice & with over 50 years in audio - I think that I know a few things that some with less experience may not know.
After listening to 10 minutes of the most condescending BS & pitch on their product - I thanked the man & laughed for hours while ordering the other unit that I was considering.
I am not here to bash their products as I have never owned or will ever own anything they sell.
I only wish that they would treat a prospective buyer with more respect & not try to convince someone that there is nothing better than what they are selling.
As far as I am concerned - I can spend my money anywhere I want & cannot in good faith buy anything from someone who does not respect me - my wants, needs & budget.
Is it really possible that every item they sell is the best of show seven years running - power amps, pre; speakers & CD players?
I think not!
On this forum there is always talk about "hype" & after 10 minutes on the phone with Ayon - I knew I had met/spoken with the king!

Lyon does not use the term "automatic biasing, instead they describe an "intelligent auto-fixed-bias (AFB) circuitry that does NOT operate during normal listening. Biasing Ayon Triton III is performed in two distinct and separate phases as follows (my words, shortened from the manual):

1) Upon power up, the user can manually depress a detent on the rear of the unit. This initiates a process that tests each tube in turn and sets a bias for all tubes.That bias is then used for subsequent power ups.

2) In addition, each time the amp powered down and if the current operation time exceeds 45 minutes, the tubes are automatically rechecked and if necessary, a new bias is set for each tube. This is referred to as "bias reference control".

The operation of this circuit can be observed on the back of the unit via 8 LEDs that blink in sequence from V1 through V8. If the process passes without tube problems then the LED is left dark and the next tube in the sequence is tested. This process also means that the power button does not kill power to the unit, rather it initiates power up and power down, and under circumstances (a tube failure during the last power on, or a user initiated detent press).
Vic - I was going with what they had written under Features for the Ayon Triton III (see below).

If it's working right, what you describe sounds like a pretty slick biasing system.


Signal Path
We believe that the simplest circuits work best together with the shortest signal path. The shorter the signal path is, the less possibility of sonic degradation from various sources, including the wire itself. Even on the circuit boards, the copper traces are kept to a very minimum length. The completely redesigned circuit board provides a more straightforward and direct approach to the signal paths.
  • Logical sequenced soft-start power up for extended tube life
  • Power tube and electronic protection circuit system
  • 0dB negative feedback (of any kind )
  • Ultra short signal path
  • Simplest direct circuit path for purest musical sound and high reliability
  • No solid state devices in the signal path
  • High current and low impedance design that operates tubes in the best areas their curves
  • Minimal discrete wiring for optimum signal propagation
  • Automatic and manual bias adjustment
  • No followers or buffers in the signal path
  • High quality parts throughout
  • Selector switch engages relays located near RCA jacks to switch all inputs

@ghosthouse Thanks, yes indeed... I’ll let you know what more I find out. I am extremely pleased with the sound of this amplifier. If I could get my hands on some technical info regarding the circuit, I would not be so tempted to look inside... It is extremely heavy at over 120 lbs ...It’s weight is it’s first line of defense against the curious engineer who can lift 120 but who also seems to regret doing so afterward. :-)

Vic,

I ran without any failures Gold Lion KT88s in my Rogue M180 mono blocks for the 3-4 years that I had that system.  After several years one tube was starting to weaken as evidenced by a thinning of the silver coating in the top of the tube after about three years of use.  I have also used Gold Lion KT88 tubes in my Ayon Triton 1 without any issues for the 2-3 years that I have owned that piece - an amplifier that I truly like a lot and that unless I ever have an opportunity to move up in the Ayon line is an amp that I intend to keep from here on out.  Finally, it's unfortunate that some have had bad experiences with USATubeAudio.  My experience with them was quite to my satisfaction, as has been the two Ayon pieces (Triton 1 integrated and S-5 media player) that are the heart of my system.

I do not have any experience with the tubes you mentioned in your original post but would certainly agree with jond's and ghosthouse's previous comments.

Hope all works out well,
Cheers,

John
@reynolds853 
I hear you! I thought I would sell my Rogue Cronus Magnum when I got the Ayon Triton III, but so far I can't seem to let go. They are both excellent but very different amps with different design philosophies. I love buying American (Rogue) when I can, but the thing is: I was born in Austria, I am an software/systems engineer and the Ayon definitely speaks to that!
Vic,

The Cronus Magnum is a nice amp.  Our local shop is a Rogue dealer so I've had lots of opportunities to hear them.  If it would fit I would consider one for my office system.

John

Rogue definitely brings goods. Bang for the buck, but a well defined bang with all the emotion and detail... ;-)

What about replacing the Ayon's 6SJ7 tubes with Sylvania 6SJ7GT for a much more musical sound?
I have an Ayon Triton II with very low use.  I noticed recently that I am pushing the volume dial higher and higher to achieve the same volume I am accustomed too.  Furthermore, I have gone full volume on some selections and while the room was filled it was no where near the volume of lower setting when the amp was newer.

I have been in contact with AyonUSA and they are working with me on this, but I suspect the bottom line will be to replace the driver tubes.  I have already replaced the Tungsram 12AU7 ecc82 audio tubes with NOS RCA cleartop 12AU7 ecc82.  The replacement was recommended by  AyonUSA based on a description of the problem.  This change has made a difference in the sound, tight base and a brighter high end which I like, but the volume issues persists.

Next I am about to try a diagnostic reset per AyonUSA, they are still working with me.  I would like to find the root cause before changing the driver tubes (KT88sx), but maybe it is not possible.

I'm wondering what symptoms other Ayon amp owners have had and how have they been resolved.
podsds I have been running my Ayon at least for a few hours several times a week with no issues whatsoever ...after I replaced the stock KT88s. 

Before I replaced the KT88s, I was considering KT150s (I still am). I called AyonUSA and even after a month, I had no conclusive answer from them. I am not impressed with that group in AZ, they retail lots of other brands and appear to be one of only two US Ayon dealers.

I got frustrated with the lack of information from AZ and subsequently I emailed the owner of Ayon in Austria. He checked the serial numbers and got back to me with good news within a day. He also provided me with other illuminating insight, and I resolved to contact them directly and am happy throwing the AZ gang under the proverbial bus when doing so.
vicweast, yeah that's the same group I have been trying to work with as well.  I too asked about the swapping the KT-88 with KT150, but never got a clear answer.

At this point my fear is damage to the amp because of a bad/weak tube.  I have no way of testing that and on this unit I must trust the auto BIAS as I have no way to measure it manually.

Out of curiosity, what set of tubes did you go with and fill me in on the illuminating insight (PM me if necessary)?
I understand your fear, but I think the amp is likely fine. The biasing circuit will complain (rear panel LEDs) and not operate if one of the signal paths is sufficiently out. I would seriously contemplate emailing Ayon in Austria rather than wait on "Paul" in AZ.

I am currently running Genalex Gold Lions and am happy with them in Triode mode — my friend and my wife have better ears, and slightly prefer the Ayon-branded KT88s. I purchased 10 matched tubes 2 years ago in March and for the next month I ran the amp w/music for at least 6 hours a day. It took about 6 weeks before everything seemed to settle down. During that time, I swapped the 2 extra Gold Lions in, and two other tubes out 5 times, the theory being getting all 10 past the initial burn-in. Since then, I have swapped the shelf pair a few times, and now I really can not tell the difference. Each time I swapped tubes, I initiated the Ayon process for automatic tube testing/bias.

Ayon can easily look up your serial number and explain if your amp is able to run KT150s. (Mine was, and I intend to at some point after other projects.) Output power with KT88s is 2 x 100W (pentode), with KT150s 2 x 120W; KT88 2 x 60w (triode), with KT150s 2 x 70w.

I am a computer guy (life-long developer, but I’ve been around the "technology block" a few times, and have had many different roles), hence my interest in how this amplifier cleanly separates the digital power and digital circuit from it’s primary amplification power and circuit. I asked Ayon about this after a personal visual inspection of the inside of the amp (all tubes out and upside down) and got a good perspective of how they achieve this. (I am always impressed by the sheer beauty of 1st class wiring and sophisticated yet elegant circuits.)

Honestly, what I really learned from speaking with the real Ayon folks in Austria was that (this is MY take) Ayon would be better served by a better US distributer. I think it was "Paul" ay USATubeaudio who spins a good tale but offers little information other than "I don’t know yet". I believe that The cable company also is an Ayon rep, but their prices were not as heavily discounted. IWIth a discount, this is a great system. I also got the Ayon CD-07, and yes it is a wonderful sounding piece of gear. I dread the day THAT one develops the inevitable mechanical problems that all cd playbacks do if you use them heavily. This is expensive gear that is very well built, is unbelievably hefty (the amp is a beast to move), and looks great as well! I love it, especially in Triode mode. I am elbows deep into a 1-person sw startup, but after I get my first release out I will see what those KT150s sound like...
Thanks for the information; it sounds as if we have had similar experience with the AZ Ayon rep.  I think I will contact Ayon directly with the serial number to get a definitive answer.  At the moment I have ripped my CDs to lossless FLAC files and am using a DAC to feed the amp.  I am also slowly rebuilding a vinyl collection and feeding the amp with a vintage turntable and a Sony E2000ESD preamp.

BTW I'm in IT as well; started as a programmer, COBOL for health Insurance and moved my way to System Admin (mostly Unix/Linux these days and a good deal of data processing through native shell script)
The first "professional" program I wrote was in Cobol. I hated the language, years later I loved C. Loved Unix, worked at Sun for over 10 years - the best group of engineers I've ever known. Alas. Retired a few years ago, but got mentally bored. Last July decided to invest 100% in Swift/iOS and the emerging frameworks around AR, AI, health, etc. It is a phenomenal time to be starting a 1-person software company for iOS platforms. And I am still enjoying learning and producing, each and every day (what the heck is a weekend?)

I also recently (3 years ago) went into both the hires digital (I had/have over 30k tracks I ripped ACC 320) and vinyl. They are both a pleasure, depending on the music... recently I have started a real treasure hunt in archive.org in recent Steve Kimock and also KIMOCK concert recordings. I heard "Satellite City" and freaked out on Kimock, Leslie Mendelson and the rest of the fluid members.


Love tubes have a TW Acustic phono stage (18k) but it has 6dj8 (2) and 12ax7 (2).as they are not power tubes there is no problem with reliability.I gave up on tube amps over 20 years ago because of output tube failure however  that is only me there are great tube amps out there that are very reliable. Enjoy!!
Agreed. This is why I am so enamored by the ideas that http://www.atma-sphere.com has implemented with their OTL amps. Tube reliability seems remarkably high with their gear. (I almost bought a previously-owned unit, but it didn't work out.)