The upgrade is somewhat subtle, but definitely audible, (and well worth it, IMHO).
The primary reason for me upgrading to the evolution version was that it increases the output of the phono stage by 10 db (according to Charles Hansen). I can now use fairly low output cartridges with absolutely no background noise at all. (I use a Dynavector XV-1S - 0.3 mv output).
The secondary reason is that it slightly reduces the noise floor of the line stage itself. (It was already very, very low, and now it is virutally nonexistent, thus making this an incredibly transparent preamp).
I agree with you that the Ayre K-1x is an incredible preamp. Since I liked it so much, and figured I would live with this preamp for many years, (and I have!), it was inevitable that I would upgrade it to the K-1xe. I am glad that I did. (I have used the Ayre for close to 5 years now, and I am still happy with it, and see no reason to upgrade.) If I did upgrade, I know I'd have to spend a lot of money to get what I would consider to be an upgrade in sonics.)
I too have changed from an Ayre K1 to the xe. You really HAVE to do it.
There is only one reason not to update your K-1x to "e" status ==> buy the new KXR and sell the K-1x. Unless you want to do that [[I have the KXR, and believe it to be the most complete product Ayre has ever made, although at its not insignificant cost]], the best "deal" in preamplifiers is, IMHO, the K-1xe. I simply can't imagine you not believing the upgrade to be an across the board improvement. If you have any questions about it though, you really should call Michael Wiedmeier of Ayre (303.442.7300 x223), as he can tell you all you want to know -- he's been responsible for coordinating all upgrades there for many moons. Cheers. - Pete -
Yes, the KX-R is Mr. Hansen's signature piece. Brilliant.
My K-1x is being upgraded as we speak. I also think it's addition was the single biggest difference in my system any component (except speakers of course) has ever made. I'll report back in a week or so of the sonic changes.
Kurt_Tank- Can you elaborate on the phono gain of the V-1xe. I just bought a Clearaudio turntable w/ modded RB300 arm and shelter 501 MkII cartridge (0.4mv). I'm considering upgrading the arm and cartridge in the future. What were your discoveries in gain to mv rating and did you mess with the resistance too? Is it just trial and error or are there guidlines you could share?
Yes please do let me know what you think after the upgrade.
Glad to see you're upgrading the K-1x to a K-1xe!
You won't regret it, IMHO.
Regarding the 1o db additional gain that I mentioned:
Here is a link to a similiar thread on AudioAsylum from a couple years ago.Similiar AudioAsylum Thread
As you can see, Charles Hansen states that the gain to the phono stage has been increased by 10db. This means that you can use lower output MC cartridges without having noise issues. I believe that means that since the maximium gain (in db) for the phono stage is now in the mid 70's, you could probably use any cartridge without worries about background noise issues.
As an example, a phono stages that only has a gain in the 55 db range, (for example the ARC PH-3, a good phono stage actually, as it preceeded my Ayre), can realistically only handle cartridges with a minimum output of 0.5 mv, give or take, or else the background noise can become objectionable. In fact, I used a Koetsu Rosewood Signature, and there was a bit of background noise, which ultimately lead me to upgrade my preamps. Whereas the Ayre can easily use lower output cartridges like the Dynavector XV-1S I currently use (0.3mv), or the Platinum Koetsus (0.2 mv) or even the Allaerts which only have an output of 0.1 mv (although my guess is that would tax virtually any phono stage!).
Feel free to ask me more questions if you have more.
I do have a few other questions if you don't mind. Ejlif I don't mean to hijack the thread so tell me to take a hike if you'd like to.
Kurt_tank- The K-1x has output gain set at 50db with the gain resister at 75ohms. The e upgrade changes the factory set gain to 60db (I assume gain resister stays the same at 75 ohms) with a potential range of 50db to 70db. It sounds like you run your 0.3mv cartridge with a gain of 70db. Is that correct? As a basic rule of thumb would you run a 0.4mv cartridge at 60db and a 0.5mv at 50?
The other option listed in the Ayre manual is gain resister. I'm a vinyl newbie and I'm having trouble figuring out what to do here. Did you change the factory set resister which I assumed above stayed 75ohms? How would one create a basic rule of thumb here?
Yes, I run my 0.3 mv output cart with 70 db of gain, although, if I could, I'd rather use about 65 db of gain.
60 db of gain would probably work, but just barely, IMHO.
With a cart with 0.5mv output, I would use about 60 db of gain, and with a 0.4 mv output, I'd use about 62 db. (But of course the Ayre does not allow that level of refinement to the gain stage, so I'd probably just go with 60 db.)
Okay, here is a link, which shows the bare minimum gain needed.
Personally, I agree with garth (see his subsequent response), that these figures are the bare minimum, and really it should increased by about another 3-6 db or so, depending upon the phono stage, or else the signal is either pushed to its limit, which limits dynamics, or it starts to increase the noise floor.
Plus the added benefit of having increased gain, is that you'll have less volume control difference between your sources. (And with the Ayre's rather complex volume control, I prefer to limit its use.)
As far as which resistor I used, I'll be honest and state it has been too long for me to remember which one I inserted. If you have any questions, I recommend that you call Michael at Ayre, 303-442-7300 x 233, as he is really helpful. (If you dislike talking on the phone, you can post a question to Charles Hansen over at Audio Asylum, (in the amp/preamp section), and he'll usually respond.)
Well, I hope I helped.
PS If you're using a MC cartridge, make sure that your loading is set to about 100 ohms (versus the 50K ohms that a MM cartridge usually uses, and which the Ayre's default loading is set at, as I recall). Some MC cartridges like 1000 ohms, or something between the two, but I find 100 ohms to be a good place to start.
It's totally worth it.
Glad to see you went for it, and that you can appreciate the benefits of the "e" (evolution) upgrade.
I consider my K-1xe to be one of the cornerstones of my system, which means I doubt I will be upgrading beyond it for a long time, if ever!
That being said though.....
Don't you just long to hear the new Ayre KX-R preamp in your own system?!
I know I do!
But man, the $18,500 price tag is surely going to slow me down from getting it, as even used you can bet it will run around $14K for the next year or two.
And, since it does not have a phono stage, (I listen primarily to vinyl), that means that I'd end up having to spend money on a separate phono stage, and a cable to connect the two. (And since the phono stages I know I'd want to upgrade to, from the excellent Ayre phono boards, are both very expensive (Manley Steelhead or the ASR Basis Exclusive - both around $4K used), I doubt I will be upgrading anytime soon).
That would mean spending close to $20K on the new preamps. Ouch! (I spent $4K for my Ayre K-1x, and $500 to upgrade it to the 'e' version. Quite a bargain, IMHO!)
Oh well, I can dream!
I am in 100% agreement with you. I personally think the K-1xe is one of the biggest bargain in audio. Other than speakers the addition of the K-1x was the single biggest improvement in my system I have ever heard by a long shot. Charlie seems to do everything he tries better than everyone else (Avalon speakers, MX-R, KX-R, etc.).
So I was at Ayre two times for the upgrade(1 drop off and one p/u). The first time they invited me in to hear their in house set up. The room was pitch dark but I knew by the small blue lights what was hooked up. They guided me to a seat and the sound was pretty magical. Without giving away anything in case anyone ever makes it there in person, the set up clearly makes a compelling argument that Amp and Pre-amp make a profound impact in the final sound.
The second time Michael gave me a tour of the building facility. He walked me through the KX-R from the inside out.
Yeah I want one. And I want the MX-R too. And I want them badly. I know they're worth the price but at some point I've got to send my kids to college. I'll keep looking for them used.
I did not realize the KX-R did not have a phono option. I wonder if they might be working on a phono stage. Charlie clearly is in to analog. In fact he just chimed in on a recent thread I started about the new Ayre/DPS turntable which is due out any day now.
If you ever make it out to Denver look me up.