Ayre V-5xe Review

About a month ago I decided to upgrade my aging NAD S200 amp.  Since I adore my Ayre CODEX and P-5xe, I decided to try a V-5xe.  Johnny Rutan at Audio Connection lent me a brand new V-5xe to put in my system and told me to take as long as I needed to decide.  He also spent about an hour hooking it up, changing the termination on my speaker wires (gratis) because he thought he could make better connections, and making sure everything sounded right.  My speakers are Vandersteen 3a Sigs.  I run all-balanced interconnects.

The difference between the NAD S200 and Ayre was more dramatic than I expected.  The biggest overarching difference was that the Ayre has a certain sense of speed and attack that the NAD lacks.  In order words, it seems as though the Ayre has much better transient response and resolution of detail.  This came across obviously in bass heavy recordings, like the 96kHz release of Side Pony by Lake Street Dive.  What sounded like thumpy bass on the NAD now had texture and detail.  Similarly, the ride cymbal in "So What" on the 192kHz release of Kind of Blue didn't just sound like pings, but the actual impact of the stick on the cymbal could be perceived.  One of my favorite vinyl recordings is (don't laugh) Frampton Comes Alive.  I think it's a great recording, though I grant that people can be of different minds as to the music.  Regardless, the wall of sound that album projects never sounded so alive. My neighbor came over for a listen--who's old enough to have been a teenager when that album was released--was in absolute rapture.  It only took a day of playing for me to decide to buy the Ayre.  It works wonderfully in my system.  

The only downside I can identify with the amp is that the layout on the back is kind of confusing because it is mirror-imaged.  Be careful or you'll wire your speakers out of phase.  No sonic shortfalls that I can identify; I know some have pointed out that the last bit of the last octave of bass is missing.  I tell those people to c'mon over and listen to the Chesky recording of Sara K. doing Brick House.  

Thanks to Ayre for the great product, and to Johnny Rutan at Audio Connection for best in class customer service.

That Johnny R is on in a million.
I, too, think the Ayre/Vandersteen combo is a killer.
Thanks! for sharing- cedargrover-

it is imperative to post both positive/negative experiences regarding dealers/retailers.  Good of you to give a shout-out to Johnny Rutan.

I concur, "Frampton Comes Alive" is an excellent source for testing one's system. Fantastic recording/producing and of course, outstanding music.

Happy Listening!
What makes this interesting, is that I've never heard 1 complaint about AC. Never. Personally, I think that's incredible.
Thanks all; I agree that the combo of Vandersteen and Ayre is really wonderful.  And Johnny R makes it a very enjoyable, low stress experience to demo and purchase.  I am very fortunate to live only 3 miles from his shop.  :)

Which state are you in? Audio Connection seems to have a presence in many states. Glad to hear about your good fortune.
Congrats! I also have to agree. Johnny Rutan + Vandersteen + Ayre is one heck of a combo. The best. Very satisfied! 

It's not obvious what OP has connected to the V-5xe, but a matching K-5exMP preamp would be a fine addition, with balanced inputs for the P-5xe and whatever disc player he might use.  They can be had on the used market fairly reasonably.

Yup, definitely in the market for that pre.  For now, I run the CODEX (which has a preamp function) straight into the amp, and use a passive volume control with the P-5xe.  It's kind of a pain to switch cables when I want to play vinyl, but this is a first world problem.  :)
For a couple of months, I had the opportunity to use a Ayre V-5xe Evo. in my home system. I have to agree with your assessment, it truly is a class piece of equipment. Have always loved the Vandi 3s - that's got to be a great combo.
All Aire products have the gain set higher than most or all other stereo equipment  hoping that people will think it sounds better. I had this confirmed by a real technician on three aire products over the past seven years. The tech said to me, Wow is this gain set high, he said you wouldn't have to turn your volume up for this unit to make it play loud.  Yes, I spelled their name wrong, I did that deliberately as I do not have any respect for that company. Mostly empty boxes, hardly anything inside all of their stuff, They are set to loud so there is very little play on ones preamp when using this company. Their dependability and reliability is terrible and in my opinion they make junk.  This is just my opinion and I would try very hard to steer anybody from buying from that company.
  Please all you aire fans, I am not here to fight with anyone and I will not respond to nasty emails as I'm entitled to give my thoughts just like everyone else and yes, I did at one time have a problem with that company and they were extremely bad and very unprofessional about it. I don't feel like getting into it right now, but in over 30 years of buying, it was the absolute worst experience I ever had with a company and when I ever see this company at a show or a dealer I don't walk away, I run, I run fast.
Hi Exron.   You're certainly entitled to your opinions. I will just note that the gain on the Ayre amp is certainly lower than the NAD S200 it replaced.  

If you're ever in northern NJ, I would welcome the chance to change your mind with a listening session!