At least get the name right, it's MX-R. In any case, it's as good as Charles says it is.
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Looking at your system, I think your can look at other areas to improve the sound first. Phono stage first, rack second, amp third. I really like Einstein phono, rumor has it ARC PH7 is also very good. I like GP Monaco stand, but I am sure there are other good stands for less. If you don't mind owning tube amps again, I find BAT 150SE hard to beat.
I was also looking at Ayre MX-R, and KX-R in fact. I just listened to them again yesterday driving Avalon Isis. Again, I was not impressed like my last audition when MX-R was paird with Spectral top pre amp. It was cold and sterile, very hi-fi soudning. I will arrange to listen to both in my own system to better assess the sound, but my reference is BAT 150SE and SF Line 3SE+, both are highly musical, detail, and throw a big, wide, deep soundstage.
As good as solid state is, I am afraid tube still rules.
I'm not quite sure how comparing the Ayre combo at a dealer versus your home system with completely different components qualifies you to make any determination one way or another. It would have been much more useful if you waited for an in-home audition to at least feign fairness before making proclamations.
>>As good as solid state is, I am afraid tube still rules<<
There are dozens of low sensitivity and/or low impedance speakers that cannot be driven by tube amplifiers. Some will suck the life out of even the most powerful tube amp.
Good luck with those Apogee Scintillas and your tube amplifier. Listen to the amp gasp for breath, sputter, spit, and wheeze trying to drive them.
An amplifier's performance is largely dependent on the load to which it is connected.
Tubes rule with certain speakers but so does solid state.
To believe otherwise is simply disingenuous.
Just this past Thursday I listened to a dealers set up with the Ayre MX-R monos paired with the Ayre K-1x preamplifier.
The Ayre equipment were driving the Reference Grand Veena 3As which are, according to Harry Pearson of TAS, "extremely revealing" of upstream components.
The dealer is well aware of this fact also, he knows the speaker and designers well.
I brought my own Lps, none of which are so labeled or called audiophile, just some exceptionally well recorded vintage Jazz and some great Rock.
Vocals were exceptional,nothing riding on top of them,human sounding and unprocessed. There was a very nice sense of natural sounding timbre with delicate microdynamics in acouple of tracks that I noticed.
Lots of air within the sound stage. And yes, the musicians and singers had a pulse.
This equipment can also play Rock exceptionally well also.
Over all what I heard that afternoon was impressive.
Though I'm shopping for speakers not electronics.
The Ayre equipment was no doubt a very good match for these speakers.
Also I felt they out classed many other solid state equipment I have heard over the last few months.
I have to throw this one in.
The Reference Grand Veena are a STUPID GOOD DEAL...my goodness.
I have to listen again, with a dealer recommended 845 base vacuum tube monos.
Of course when I said tube rules, I am referring to within tube's capability. If anyone tries to drive ATC or MBL with SET, he is hopeless.
But for a medium load with a good tube amp, I don't think there is a solid state amp regardless of the price that can go head to head in lower mid and up. Yes, we all know SS will have better dynamic, better bass extension, maybe even better top end extension. But, the big BUT, will you enjoy listening to that super extended, hyper detail, 2D soundstage, and hi-fi sounding SS amp all day long?
I know everyone has his preference and YMMV. For me, I want a easy to drive speaker coupled with a good tube amp. I will hear all the micro dynamic, more important than macro dynamic to me. I have owned world class speakers that are inefficient in the past. No matter what solid state amps I used, I always prefer tube amps at the end of the day except those speakers demanded monster tube amps. So the clear alternative is to find easier to drive speakers.
I heard the Ayre combo more than 1 occasion on different speakers. Not trying to say Ayre is bad, just saying I wasn't impressed and I already stated the fact Avalon ISIS which was not known to be musical could be the culprit. I also stated I wasn't familiar with the rest of the chain and room, so it was just my opinion and take it with a grain of salt. However, I did hear Lamm 2.2 in my home before and many consider Lamm to be more musical than Ayre. Even with Lamm, I prefer my tube setup by a mile, so did everyone who heard the comparision.
Bianci, I heard them in Singapore dealer.
Grand prix stand might be OK, however I am not a fan of their racks. They sway like the breeze and add a bit of upper energy which can be tiresome over time.
The Pass XONO is no chopped liver and can easily hold its own to the Einstein, PH7, Steelhead or evern the Aesthetix IO if you look at the strenghts and weaknesses of each.
The Einstein is a great phono stage extremely dynamic - however it is very revealing, so not very kind or musical on normal recordings. I may have a nother listen to the Einstein soon if I can.
PH7 - great phono stage - however does not have enough gain for my LOMC's.
Steelhead - in my system has never sounded musical, just SS with little hint it has tubes.
Aesthestix IO sig - great sounding unit - overall better that the Xono in most respects - except NOISE. I have always got residual tube noise and I am not paying that much money for noise.
My dealer says the MX-R don't sound goood whatsoever. They have not put any hours on them thou, hence asking the question.
I would agree with you that a good tube amp just has something in the upper mids and treble that SS can't seem to tonally grab, however everything is a compromise.
Sorry to take this thread somewhat off course but I did briefly want to address two comments: 1)"the Isis is not known to be musical." I am not really sure what exactly that means or whether it is intended to be negative in nature; however, based on my listening, the Isis are accurate, "garbage in, garbage out". They can be very musically natural when driven with the proper amp. By the way, I do not own the Isis nor am I in the market for new speakers. 2) "the Einstein is not very kind or musical on normal recordings." Again, I am unsure what "normal recordings" means and whether this is intended as criticism. In this particular instance, I do own the Einstein phono stage and while it does have weaknesses, it is accurate and does not sugar coat what is played through it. Normal recordings can sound spectacular with warmth and body, but again "garbage in, garbage out". My only point is that someone developing a system must make certain choices based on their perceptions and what they want to achieve. Accurate seems like a good starting point. Whether it is the final destination is another question. Note that I have no qualms with someone who chooses one of the other phono stages which are mentioned as each does have its strengths and weaknesses.
My only point was that the Einstein sounded wonderful, however not with all recordings and was a little unforgiving to poorer recordings.
The unit is good enough for me to have another listen if I can, as i have removed one source of irritation in my system that may enable me to better appreciate the Einstein.
Are you using the balanced or SE Einstein?. BTW, great system
As you know at this price point, a lot has to do with synergies and compromises as there is no BEST, only best for your musical tastes.
I agree Avalon Isis is quite neutral and resovling, but to call Avalon sweet and musical is something I would not do, at least based on what I heard in several systems. Maybe it was the cable choice, but I certainly did not feel any enjoyment listening to Isis.
as for GP Monaco, my impression is it removes so much of external vibration from your components that you are hearing your components at the cleanest state. using maple block under component adds a certain warmth, using GP is like lifting everything away and in fact lift the frequency spectrum up a little. but the most important thing is there is less grain and glare despite sounding more extended and "higher" with even more details.
Fcrowder, I am debating on the Einstein pre amp. it's a sizable investment, not to mention the operating cost from 18 tubes and power it consumes. I started out looking for a new pre to displace my still very good Sonic Frontiers Line 3SE+, I was considering Ayre KX-R (and thought I would get the Ayre combo if I like them enough but didn't like them enough in dealer show room), Dartzeel (would go for the combo again if I like the sound enough, but even used price is slightly out of my reach now), EAR 912 (didn't think the phono stage built-in is as good as Einstein XLR phono), and Atma Sphere MA-1 (no remote). I am surprised to see you mating Einstein pre with JC-1 for such an efficient speaker, I would think Einstein OTL would be a nice amp to go into your system.
Point taken, I think that what I really should have said is musically enjoyable. Again, the associated amp and cabling can make quite a difference in the final sound.
I am using the single ended Einstein and understand that the balanced version is even better.
With respect to the Einstein preamp, it is in my opinion a real sleeper. Although it has 18 tubes, 8 of those (6922's) are not really critical to the final sound which means that no tube rolling is required for those 8. Likewise only 11 tubes are "on" at any given time, the 8 previously mentioned, a 12AU7 and two 6922's associated with the particular input to which you are listening. The two 6922's which are used as inputs for each source and the ubiquitous 12AU7 which is always on have a major impact on the sound and tube rolling is highly recommended. To me this allows a certain tailoring of the sound of each input to get the tonal mix which you desire. In general, NOS tubes sound the best, particularly the more expensive Siemens and Telefunkens fron the 1960's. Mullards of the same vintage can also be nice. The unit is sensitive to power cords, AC filtering and to mechanical isolation. The aftermarket footer sold by Acapella works well. With respect to the JC-1's and the Acapella's, what can I say that you have not already heard? The Acapella's are a more difficult load that the sensitivity would suggest, likewise the JC-1's are a much better amp than people generally give them credit for but are not perfect. I have ordered a pair of Audio Note Kegons (balanced) and think that they will be my choice for a long while but only time will tell. The combination of the Einstein phonostage and preamp are synergistic and sound very good, certainly worth an audition.
I've heard the MX and KX-R combination at a very good retail location but I don't think I listened to any "crap modern recordings". Still, I simply can't give a meaningful impression of any gear until I can put into the context of my own system and room. I would highly recommend going through the difficulties it would take to do a home audition though.
Since their introduction I refused to be impressed by Avalon speaker systems because in a casual retail store comparisons they seemed to lack many of the qualities I was striving for. Five years ago I purchased a pair of Eidolons to resell but after a few weeks of listening to them at home I realized they possessed every quality I had been searching for, and then some, all these years.
The point is, I don't even trust my own ears in a store and I would certainly take any conclusion made by strangers on the internet as a simple suggestion and nothing more. There are three people in my audio world whose assessments of sound I trust. One is a musician, another is a sound engineer in the film industry. The other, who I've never meet, started a speaker company in Colorado but now produces audio electronics. I'm obviously very biased.
Your room, your music, your decision.
Pinkus , It's really quite simple....
Usually what I do is bring along recorded music that I enjoy the most and music that I am most familiar with.
Knowing what this recorded music sounds like in my home, I use my memory of it as a bench mark.
Currently I am shopping for a new pair of speakers, so far in the past three weeks I have listened to nine contenders, most at the top end of my budget.
Two of the nine pairs that I have listened to will be crated up and delivered to my home for further listening.
The pair of speakers I mentioned above is one of them, and they sell for less then half of what my budget is.
This could very well be a classic case of ,you get what you pay for , but not always.
As for the Ayre equipment in that system,I give it high marks for musicality.
Well Downunder,my friend is having his "superb" Art II pre updated to the latest series,which is SO costly due to the use of expensive teflon caps....
He has a good friend who had it done,and was very happy.I am very familiar with my friend's set-up so I will know if the mod is an improvement...
Yet,yes the ART II is a stunning pre,for sure!!Love it!!
I've now lived with the MX-Rs for just about 18 months. I will tell you that they are superb, even driving my very difficult SoundLabs. I've never had even the remote notion of parting with them.
As for the "nice to poor recordings" bit, it is true - to a degree. Nothing will make certain massively compressed, heavily equalized recordings sound either listenable or enjoyable. However, by means that are not obvious to me, they WILL make a number of previously intolerable recordings listenable. Shining examples are most of the Deutsche Grammophon recordings from the late 70s and early 80s. Yes, the orchestras are more than noticeably multi-miked, but the nails-on-the-chalkboard characteristics that I've always hated about these particular recordings are largely absent. In other words, some of those excellent performances are now accessible, whereas previously I simply could not stand to listen to them.
The MX-Rs are only the second solid state amp that I've owned during the past 20 years (the others being the Parasound JC-1s). I fully understand the appeal of good tube designs. On balance, the strengths of the MX-Rs are so glaringly obvious, and their weaknesses relative to any tube amp that I've yet heard have been so minimized, that I simply have no reason to look elsewhere.
I have been living with the MX-R mono blocks for almost two years. During that time period I have had some friends drop by to listen to them...bringing along their amps...I remain very happy with them...I am not sure how they make "poor CDs" sound better...not sure that they do...but I would describe one of their strengths as being very musical...and one of the most endearing qualities...is their ability to provide extremely low noise floor...which enhances their ability to handle low level detail...which is one trait that most amps fail at...but is important to me when listening to music...mostly classical and jazz...small groups...I think in setting them it is very beneficial to use short speaker cables...mine are 18" from amp to the Rockport speakers...
I have been making a point for the last 2 years when traveling to different conferences across the country, to find local audio dealers and stop in for a listen to equipment I might be interested in. I tell them up front I am from out of town, but when stopping in during the weekday, most places are empty and they welcome my listening.
I am usually very disappointed in their best systems, not having much of a sound-stage and presence, and realism like I have at home. They often dont carry bigger top end amps and few have maggies, let alone 20 series, so its difficult to tell.
I finally had a trip where the store, Audio Perfection in Minneaplolis, actually carried the brands & most of the high end demo units and had decent setup - Mangnepan, Wilson, Vandersteen, Martin Logan, Ayre, Audio Research, McIntosh, Bryston, Esoteric. They had biggest Wilsons, Vandy 5, Sonus Farbers.
Anyway, I have 20.1s and have been wanting to hear reference monos with them.
I started with Ayre MX-R monos, new Ayre KX-R Pre, Ayre C5-XE. WOW WOW & WOW !!! We listened to this for 1.5 hrs with a lot of bright aggressive trumpet music (small group and bigband), and for the first time in high end audio listening, I did not notice any fatigue. The soundstage was very deep and wide, realistic and the trumpets had real punch. This was way above the best realistic sound I have heard from 20s.
QUESTION: The Ayres ran the big Maggies effortlessly and I worked them hard. The preamp only would go up to 60, and we often listened at a loud, but not uncomfortable level which was at 56-58 on pre-amp. When listening to SACD, (C5xe -which is known to have a lower signal output in this format), we listened at 60. NEVER any distortion, fatigue. Could this be good for the amp in the long run ??
So in order to see if some monos with more juice would support the 20.1s better, we tried McIntosh 501s with the rest of the setup the same. Albeit they are around $10,000 new, but they could not hold there own. The soundstage depth shriveled, and the music became lifeless in comparison. The trumpets lacked punch and the realism was gone. My partner, a physician-musician, who is not into high end, looked at me after 20 secs and said what I was thinking - these are not even in same league as Ayres, not close.
So then we tried Audio Research Reference 210 Monos. While the MX-Rs where very tube like, the 210s clearly had that tube warmth and drove the 20.1s nicely, though we still had the pre-amp running around 54-58.
The Ayre was like being in first 3 rows of a live jazz event, easily picking up the location and power of each instrument, while the ARs where more like being in row 50, everything was a little more blended in comparison. Both were realistic beyond what I have heard before and not fatiguing. The AR actually made me realize the Ayre bass, though pitch and timbre perfect, was slightly light in presence in comparison. This would be the only flaw in MX-Rs.
In my dreams, I have been thinking of my next quest, actively biamped with 2 sets MX-Rs !! Audio Perfection was out of the Bryston crossover they sometimes have in stock. Maybe next time.
I owned for many years the Ayre K-1x/V-1x combination and had a lot of fun with it. In this price category I still think there is no competition here. Last year it went to a good friend who is now very happy with it. Togheter with his Marten Bird speakers there is only one thing comes to you mind: Performance!! A rare combination of ultra dynamics and smooth sound.
While searching for other amps , for me, it would be logical to go for the MXR (KXR was not available yet) but was a bit confused about their appearance and relatively small amount of parts inside regarding the price. Call me stubborn but my interest stopped before auditioning.
Then I came in touch with the relaxed and natural sound from Hovland which introduced a new audio era for me. Finally ended up with the HP200/Stratos combination which I love. Its strenghts are smooth power, inner detail and overall musicality with all recordings. Of course this is another price level, but unexpectably I do not miss the Ayre anymore.
A small tip about racks. If you need something which has it all (performance, stability and looks): The new Stillpoints ESS. It's reviewed in the latest Hifi+
I hope you finally will find the right amps and trust only your own ears.
Akozar -- The gain on the KX-R is adjustable simply by changing one resistor per channel. There is no soldering required. Simply call Michael at x223 and he can help. However, in most cases, there is is no need to change the gaing. It may be that one of the cables in the system was single ended. Increasing the gain can make it difficult to select the right volume level at low listening levels. There is no problem running the gaing at "60". It's not like a car where it is being run at 10,000 rpm and you are in danger of blowing the engine.
"was a bit confused about their appearance and relatively small amount of parts inside regarding the price"
Many people prefer a larger amplifier. The MX-R's do not sell well in China because of this. As far as the price goes, Ayre has always built very high value performance products. We are happy to compare our products against competing products that cost 2x to 3x the cost of our products.
Do not be fooled by a small photo in a magazine. There are a lot of *very* expensive parts in those amplifiers. It is similar to the CJ preamps with the Teflon caps. For example, our PCB material in the MX-R and KX-R costs us over 30x as much as standard audio-grade fiberglass. That is just one example.
They are not for everybody -- no product is. But they are also not overpriced.
After visiting Taiwan audio show twice and living in Singapore for 2 years on expat assignment, I will present a different perspective.
In Asia, European brands are far more accessible than in US and just one visit in Adelphi in Singapore will give you an idea. And contrary to the popular belief of Asian like American imports, people in Asia have much smaller houses than in US and space is always a premium. Therefore, smaller gears are actually preferred in most cases.
Have you been in China lately? last time I was there, I saw mostly VW, Audi, and their own brands. No American, sorry. Not in Singapore or Taiwan either.
Just an idea, you might consider to develop a power amp for the chinese market (MXR-XL) :) In time you have to do this anyway, because there will start a demand from a part of MXR owners.
Don't get me wrong, my heart is still beating for your products. And regarding the competition I don't think the MXR is overpriced. I agree Ayre is always very competitive regarding the price. But for me this is not always the only criterium for buying a product.
IMO amps and cell phones are not the same, otherwise the 80's cell phone would be very popular in China now;) BTW last week my wife bought an iPhone; quite big and heavy stuff. Are we going back to the 80's? The next day it fel on the floor and the glass (glass in a cell phone??) broke, no warranty here. Cool stuff!
But serious, I don't like bulky things either. Size and shape should be just right and fit the purpose. The Hovland Stratos is not bulky at all and is made off very fine and expensive parts, I like its shape.
How many MX-R owners out there are pairing your amps with a tube preamp? I'm using a First Sound tube-pre and wonder if they will be a good match for the Ayre. My speakers are Sonus Faber Cremonas.
I am considering getting a used MX-R monobloc pair and unfortunately won't have a chance to audition them in my set up. Appreciate any input.
I am using a Messenger preamp with my MX-Rs. The combination is spectacular.
It's been some years since I've auditioned a First Sound preamp, but I would be willing to bet that it would make a great match.
You might want to check with Emmanuel Go to see how the preamp handles near DC frequencies. Unlike the vast majority of preamps, the Messenger was designed to pass those frequencies at comparatively high levels. As a result, the Ayre's protection circuitry occasionally tripped on very high level bass passages. Elliott Midwood of Messenger solved the problem with no discernable effect in bass reproduction (and at no cost to me...great guy!). He also noted that my SoundLabs probably exacerbated the original situation, by the way. After Elliott's modification - audio nirvana. Just a heads up.