Ayon Vs. Audio Research Preamps

I am on the verge of acquiring an Ayon Orbis linestage preamp (very new, w/little available review data). However, I am also very curious about Audio Research's LS27 preamp.
Has anyone had experience with either of these (possibly from a comparison persepctive) and might offer some thoughts?

Thanks much.

The Ayon room at the T.H.E. Show in Orange County was incredible and I bet you won't be disappointed with the Ayon. I am a Ref 5 owner and could be very happy with the Ayon stuff. The 5s CD player is a very musical sounding player too. I think they offer a 15 day money back guarantee; you might check on that.

Thanks very much for your response. I am 70+ percent leaning towards the Ayon. I grew up w/ solid state and have an inkling to keep some solid state aspects in the preamp, which is what intrigued me about the Audio Research and their use of solid state power supplies (in their preamps). I have this possibly unfounded presumption that ss power supply offers better attack/impact.
As the Audiogon Webmaster is asking/requesting, the current amp setup consists of a highly modified Hafler 500 that's been modifed twice with the second go-around separating the twin 500VA transformers into a separate housing. Output caps are VH VfTf's & internal wiring is 14 ga solid core silver. I also use a Cary Audio CAD120s MkII w/the optional Jensen oil caps which is used in winter to help supplement heating of the house. All interconnects are Dynamic Design Nebula. For the record, this system is far from complete and the Ayon (or something else) is to be the end-all point of the system. I also agree with your comments on the Ayon CD player. I will eventually replace my current XA777 Sony ES with something - possibly the 5s. Time and cash....

Thank you again.

I don't know why Ayon is'nt more popular. Everything seems right with them, price build quality and of course, the sound. There CD players in particular , seem unbeatablle at the price.
I have recently bought an ex dem Spark integrated and it is very hard to criticise it. It's very detailed but not harsh and fatiguing, wonderful tonal richness. I prefer it to the Viva Soloista I used before at twice the price, excellent though that was. About the only points I would make, it would be nice to have a true balanced input and if the power switch was'nt at the back.
You may not know this, but the 623C output valve was used in the Mig23 Foxbat. You've got to love the Russians, that's class.
I don't know why you don't hear more about Ayon, probably to do with distribution. The fact you rarely see any for sale second hand, tells you something.

Thanks again - you've raised excellent points. I beleive I have my answer. In fact, I've told my vendor to proceed with placing the order. They're not going to be available until mid-Sept. I feel like such a junkie due to the wait...

On the CD commentary, have you heard anything about this new company called Playback? It is being founded by a 'seasoned' veteran at the helm - some guy by the name of Andreas Koch-sp-?? He was apparently involved at the initial spark (pardon the pun) of the CD revolution with Sony. Another local vendor said that in six months, we'll be hearing about nothing but this lineup. They're billed as being incredible value for the douhg - so they all say. Piqued my curiousity nonetheless. I am inclined to still run with the Ayon when the time comes, though.

Thanks again for your input.


Hi Scott, you're not alone. I currently own an Ayon CD-5s & am planning on upgrading my current pre-amp (CD-5s) to an Ayon Orbis. I've had a few discussions about the Orbis with Gerhard Hirt, and it's obvious to me (and clearly to you) the Orbis is superior to the Ref 5. It should be a killer pre & sound warm and very musical with my Boulder amp.

The PBD deck is a great SACD player & is a very different player to the CD-5s. One is a solid state SACD player & the other is a class a valve cd player. My opinion on RB vs SACD hasn't changed; a well recorded K2HD, XRCD or DXD disc should sound as good as an SACD on a 'garden' variety Ayon spinner. They're both mighty players though.


Thanks very much for the comments. Here's what's transpired since my last 'blog'. I told my vendor to proceed with the order, but it turns out he never did. Great guy, but a little over-worked (aren't we all).

I called the US main office for Ayon in Arizona and spoke at length to their main tech Jerry. He explained to me in no uncertain terms (as my vendor also confirmed through conversations with his rep) that the CD-5s' pre-section challenges and most likely exceeds the performance of the Orbis. The CD-5s is also the pinnacle of Ayon's CD player offering. I said to go ahead and place the order for the CD-5s - which my vendor finally did. The comments of my vendor's rep and the US tech rep in AZ along with the fact that this will help eliminate having purchase another Dynamic Design Nebula power cord and interconnect - ultimately helped me make the decision. I realize the bottom line of any decision is how that choice sounds to an individual. I also planned on replacing my CD player, so this takes care of another step for my system's re-build. From a signal flow perspective, this also would seem to make better, more efficient sense.

I'd be curious to know of your contacts' comments on the differences or similarities of the CD-5s and the Orbis' pre sections.

Thank you again.

Please do a follow comment on the 5s in your system. That is is player I heard in the AudioPax room at T.H.E. In Las Vegas in January 2011. They used an AudioPax pre, but the Ayon CDP was killer. I am sure the pre in it will be too. I can't wait to hear your comments.
Hi Scott, firstly congratulations on your decision to buy the CD-5s. You certainly wont regret that as you're getting a great dac, transport & pre-amp in one package. In regards to my contact, I have spoken directly to Gerhard Hirt at Ayon regarding the Ayon Orbis on several occasions and compiled these responses regarding the Orbis and CD-5s. You can draw your own conclusions..

"The new Orbis will be the next milestone of our preamp history. It is always difficult to give you 100% correct sound description because it depends from so many factors.

Fact is that the Orbis is an ultra new Linestage concept, with an amazing 6H30 circuit ( parallel single-ended design with high current bias point – yes we are talking about a preamp)

Also there is a Re-Generator power supply built in and we are using a special 4 channel volume potentiometer from Japan, custom modified and motorized. As an ayon standard we included special chokes for the power supply.

I dare to say that this preamp doesn’t have any competitor in its class."

"Orbis: it is an analog preamp and not need to bring any update, there will be no any MK II version in the future, the design is done. BTW the Orbis is not yet released.

Actually when you have a CD-5s not need to include an preamp, the CD-5s preamp section is extremely well sounding."

"As you know the preamp section of the CD-5s is very close to any top preamplifier."

"I can tell you that the new coming Orbis will be a new milestone in its preamp class, the design what we using is a bit different from others and we designed without any compromise to get out a new performance standard.

Please know on the preamps side there is since a longer time not really any step ahead , all preamp manufacture in real moved back our using their old concept ( 10 or 20 years old design – just around a new chassis) because the preamp business is not a real business for the bigger manufactures.

But we set up a new reference standard with the Spheris II – it is a design which no others could do it or let’s say nobody would be crazy enough to invest a big amount and research and time to realize a preamp like the Spheris II nowadays.

Even the Orbis is using a bit different technology as the big Spheris, but the Orbis is truly outstanding and we invest a lot of brain to make it happen, and we were crazy enough to invest a lot of time in the Orbis again and even preamp business is not so attractive, for us is more important the result and that we set up a new standard and besides them still a very good price value."

"of course the Orbis is not very dark and very warm sounding but also not too neutral, the Orbis has all magic from a SE tube preamp with a bit warm in the midrange and its huge and holographic sound stage."

"You can be sure that the Orbis will be an improvement against the CD-5s."


Hi Scott, i've done some more research on the Orbis vs CD-5s and have to say i've come to the same conclusion as you. The CD-5s is an amazing preamp. I also found out it's preamp section has similar bandwidth to a CJ Act 2.2 (ie: over 100kHz!). Like you, when I looked at the the significant investment (preamp, high end cable & pc), it just didn't add up. The CD-5s is good enough & is pretty killer. I plan to upgrade my tonearm instead & invest in a high end iso platform...happy days!
The Orbis is a little better % ? perhaps 5%
This pre has an even bigger power supply and the AC regererator built in gives it a clear sonic edge at $13k
it should be better But in the same respect the preamp in the Skylla 2 , or cd5s the dac is world class without any exceptions, the preamp will compete with any $10K
units out there with certaintly. I have freinds in Europe that have throw the book at this gear and the Ayon Never falters.A solid value without any reservation.
My setup BTW Is the Skylla2 using a external Harddrive
to Brystons excellent digital player which has several advantages ,for one it has no moving parts ,all flac files sound better through this player ,also the 3 Big Rcore transformers are not being shared by the player which does give a bit more headroom , and seperation only a few
% points thoughin absolute terms.They are both excellent
I did have the hassle of spending 100 hours over a month to put 500 cds on the External usb drive.I can say though the new HD downloads really add to proof that this is the wave of the future and with a Ipad or Droid you have all album art and your collection at the touch of a button
as well as files with all your favorites done in amoments notice I did have to spend $1500 for a Wreworld Platinum USB, and Digital xlr cable to make the system shine.
The cd5s is a superb machine and is excellent .I was just
making a statement if you are willing to restructure your whole music setup this is an option.
Thanks for your feedback Audioman. Gerhard assured me the Orbis is an excellent design, much different and a superior circuit design from the CD-5s. Have you compared the CD-5s & Orbis side by side? From Gerhard's comments, I would have expected the Orbis to provide a bigger improvement than that. Btw I haven't found a better tube pre under $20k than the Orbis & plan to upgrade to an Orbis later this year. As for HDD based music, yes I see the convenience and agree it's the future of digital audio, but I think if you compared a CD-5s running pre-amp out to an Ayon Orbis vs a server or HDD-based system, there would be no clear advantage to the latter (other than convenience).

I am way late in offering some commentary - my apologies.
At this point, there's about 100 hours on it. The 1st 50 hours were quite low on the wow factor (quoting Darell Sheets...). Had me wondering what I just spent all this dough on. Safe to say shortly thereafter a noticeable front-to-back depth started to reveal itself. What really came out was (is) this extreme attention to the minutia, the little stuff that had me going to the front door to see who was knocking kinda stuff. When the source material hits all the marks - e.g. The Blind Boys of Alabama "Spirit of the Century", the CD5s brings out the kind of emotion that raises the proverbial hair on the back of one's neck. For a 100% tube compliment, bass is certainly not in any short supply. This report must also state that the speaker cables and and interconnects are a large part and parallel the performance attributes of the CD-5s. They are the 10th Anniversary Series Nebula cables from Dynamic Design. Unbelievable. But that's another report. The only and I mean only thing sonically that I'd have me ntion is that the reproduction of those sharp, 90 degree/square-edged reproduction of base drum or more specifically electronic bass beats. I'd describe them as being akin to a 1/2 inch radius. I've been a life-long solid state user and this is my first, real foray into the tube lide. Good examples are found on the first two Moby CD's. It is safe to say this will never leave my possession. It's that good.
Physical Cons:
The remote runs eats batteries once every 3 months. Wayyyy too many buttons for a devoted two-channel prodigy. It also has to re-calibrate almost every time I use it. The remote has to be "read" by the main unit. A little more rare is when taking out a CD that had 4 tracks, for example, when putting a new one in with 8-10 tracks, it still reads only 4 tracks. I am going to write Jerry at Ayon and find out what the Pilot is doing wrong that's likely corrupting the read. One other item is that there's a "Fixed" volume button on the remote. If you're not careful and hit it - volume is set at 0dB. Shocks the hell out of you. Thankfully, my system is robust enough to handle it.
Hope that helps.
Thanks for your post Scott. Fyi, the CD-5s needs a full 250hrs+ to fully open up and bloom, but I would say at 150hrs the players is 80% played in. Re: the remote, once you read the instruction manual & understand all the functions of the remote, you learn to recognize only the buttons you use every day. I haven't had the same problems with misreads of cd's as you have, so it might be a fault in your player? I also haven't had the same issues with batteries dying, but then again i'm using premium long life alkalines. As for the issue of inadvertently hitting the "Fixed" volume control, I don't have that problem as i'm also using my CD-5s as preamp, so I have the rear toggle set to "Direct amp" which automatically disables the "fixed" output button to protect your amp & speakers. Selecting "Direct amp" also automatically drops the volume to -40 on every power up for safety.
Scott, congratulation on a great player. After noise issues with esoteric k-03 I sold it and bought Ayon cd-5s. All I can say that finally I have my dream machine and pre-amp in this player is excellent. I sold my arc ref-3 several days after. Also thank you to advise form Melbguy1, I upgraded 6h30 tubes to nos 6h30p-dr 1986 reflector plant form parts connections (about $80-90 for a tube). Paul from Ayon USA also strongly recommends upgrading to Russian NOS tubes, and he is selling nos 1980 that according to him are the best, but they are very pricey. Please don’t hesitate to do this upgrade. As for remote, this is strange, I have had mine for 5 months and never had any issues.

I agree with you that this machine is truly the best. It is the perfect match for my "highly hybridized" (crazy good-I can explain in another email if interested) Van L Speakerworks Quartet speakers. Cables are Dynamic Design 10th Anniversary Nebula. The level of micro detail and staging is, in my opinion, none better. Makes me that much more of a Howard Hughes (never want to leave the bunker).
Incidentally, I did originally order the CD-5s with the 1980 Russian-made "super tubes". Pricey - yes, but as long as I've gone this far, it seemed foolish not top it off with the best possible tubes. I just ordered a spare backup set for down the road. They ran $800 for the set. Not sure if it's just a ploy to sell more product, but Jerry & Paul at Ayon suggest that these may not be available forever. Seems like a good insurance policy likely needed only in retirement.

The remote thing is quite likely the nut behind the wheel syndrome. Certainly does not affect the quality of the output.

Thanks for chiming in.

Best regards,


Thank you again for providing the feedback from Girhard comparing the Orbis linestage to the onboard pre of the CD-5s. I imagine the Orbis' father would have a stronger opinion of his offspring. The guys running the US operations in Phoenix Arizona (Jerry & Paul) are whom I have to blame for abandoning the idea of having a separate preamp and selecting the onboard pre feature of the 5s. Jerry in particular was less than subtle on his assertion the linestage section on the 5s challenged in many respects the character of the Orbis. That's frankly what pushed me over the edge to purchase it. I guess I look at it this way - a preamp can always appear in my future and be coupled with the 5s. It certainly cannot ruin anything - possibly make things that much better. Not sure if you caught the previous comments to Denon1, (can't even remember if I told you either) but I opted for the Russian made 1980's "super tubes" . Just ordered a spare backup set to put in my doomsday storage....

Thanks again.

Hi Scott, yes I think the Orbis will be a great pre at it's price point. It's a good thing you bought spare DR tubes...they'll probably be sold out soon.
Not to hijack this thread but, I also have an AYON CD-5s (and agree it’s one Bitchin’ sounding unit). My question is to anyone out there who has managed to score both the 1980 and 1986 DH30P-DR Russian NOS tubes, and compared them in their CD-5/CD-5s/Skylla unit.

I love the guys in Arizona too but felt the cost increase between what they were asking for the 1st batch of super tubes and, all batches since - was WAY too much.

I've heard - from Paul (really don't know that he's a tube expect or parroting what his tech guys told him) that any of these Russian NOS 6H30P-DR tubes made prior to 1986 were the best so, why is 1980 superior to 86 and, if so - is it that noticeably !?

I ask because I picked the PCX batch (1986) and while they sound very nice, for my listening taste, I wouldn't say they knocked me out - which is what I'm told the 1980 batch most certainly will do. Having said that, I just recently tested my CD-5s (running the 86 NOS) with Valhalla SC's and CC Dreamline IC's and, with superior source material - a very magical combination. Exemplary detail, depth, nuance, tonality and firm, no nonsense bass (which really surprised me - I expected a much thinner sound).
Thanks to all who've responded. I apologize - I'm not the most timely in responding. And, yes, I've acquired a spare backup set of the 1980 Russian Super Tubes. Ya, expensive but considering I’m not likely to ever need another set of tubes is kinda reassuring. This unit will join me in the casket.
FYI - the remote issues and "other maladies" experienced are clearly the result of the ‘nut behind the wheel’ syndrome. I have got to listen to my compadres (you guys) and figure out where I put the manual….

Thanks again guys.