Dartzeel 108 vs Ayre Mr-X


What would comments & observations be on these two amps.
Pros & cons with Nagra preamp (PL-L).

Any suggestions on amps in same "league" ?

I was considering them a few months back, along with the matching pre amp. I wasn't impressed by the Ayre in dealer show room, Bar81 will jump in soon I am sure and start accusing my hearing inability since he owns Ayre MXR and that should be the best. I heard the Ayre in many systems, in all cases they were "cold" sounding, for lack of a better word.

I only got to listen to Dartzeel in a short time, but the sound was quite good. I could not afford Dartzeel combo at the moment even in used market, so I decided to stick with my power amp (BAT 150SE) and change pre amp (SF L3SE to Einstein).
Get over yourself; you're unqualified to speak with regard to either product.
A PLL for the most part works the best with a Nagra amp so approach with caution if you want to mix and match.

Why not consider a Nagra amp? ( MPA )
You'll get more out of your current preamp that way.
Without knowing the other components involved, most importantly the speakers, Semi's comments are irrelevant. The speaker/amplifier match is critical in opimizing and evaluating either.

Second, the dealer's room is undoubtedly different than Semi's so that must be considered as well. The room is a component.

Ayre is outstanding gear folks; don't let these comments dissuade you from auditioning their amps and preamps. The cd players aren't on the same level however.
I heard the MX-R's at my dealer with the not top of the line Ayre Pre-Amp and the Dynaudio Saphires, and the Ayre C-5Xe CD Player (I was auditioning for a new CD Player, comparing the Ayre to the Esoteric X03SE-I ended up buying the Esoteric) BUT what really caught my eye (actually ear) was the awesome sound of the Ayre Monoblock amps - S W E E T. Great soundstage, inner detail and over all a gorgeous, gorgeous sound. I'm not ready to upgrade my amps (yet) but that audition made me force myself to not buy them. They just sounded soooo good. One of the best (maybe the best) solid state amps I have heard. I was superimpressed by them. I can only imagine how they would sound with their beter preamp.
unless you're commited to the pre, you may want to just go ayre. the nagra is a conversation piece(which is cool), but don't build a team around what could possibly happen in deep right field.
The two amps would have to be compared in the same system for a comparison to be fair, and even at that, one amp would be penalized due to synergy issues -- arguably, the best comparison would be one amp in that amp designer's system of choice versus the other amp in the system of choice of its designer - in other words, "you made it, so show me what you think it can do".

It is fair to say that both amps are outstanding and show their respective designers' disdain for global feedback. Only having heard the darT (I own one), I might expect it to be somewhat more pure sounding on a highly resolving system because it features an unusually simple circuit (it is single-ended and uses only three stages) and each channel uses only one pair of output transistors, whereas the Ayre uses many more output devices, being higher powered and differential balanced. Being roughly twice as powerful, the Ayre may be better on unusually inefficient speakers. The darT punches above its weight class, however, and can do big orchestral on inefficient speakers known to be current-hungry (e.g., the original Salons). I have only spent an hour with an Ayre system, at a dealer six or seven years ago, but I thought it sounded outstanding.
I wish to disagree with something that Raquel stated.

She stated "Being roughly twice as powerful, the Ayre may be better on unusually inefficient speakers. The darTZeel punches above its weight class, however, and can do big orchestral on inefficient speakers known to be current-hungry (e.g., the original Salons)."

I disagree because of an A/B test that my friend and I did at his house. We compared the DarTZeel against the Lamm M2.2 monoblocks (a 220 wpc hybrid design). He is using the Rockport Antares speakers, which has specifications that are rather average, (89.3 sensitivity and an impedance of 4 ohms), although granted, it does have a 13" woofer to drive. Therefore, I do not consider this speaker to be "unusually inefficient".

The Lamm M2.2 drove the speaker, and particularly, the bass driver admirably. The DarTZeel did not come close to matching the bass response of the Lamms. It clearly had run out of power during loud orchestral passages, and particularly using a taiko drum test my friend has (on the Burmeister Sampler No. 3, as I recall). If I were to choose the DarTZeel, I would make sure that I had either a relatively easy speaker to drive (i.e. with a sensitivity of 92 or greater), or a true 8 ohm impedance, (or better yet, both.) Or, if your speakers are not true full range speakers, (i.e. go down flat to 20 hz), the DarTZeel might be a very good choice.

That being said, I really, really liked the sound of the DarTZeel, to the point that I can, and have, stated that it is my favorite solid state amplifier. I thought that the soundstaging, imaging and the mid-range was about as good as any amplifier I have ever heard, including the Lamm M2.2s. (My friend felt the same way, in case you are wondering.)
(FYI, I felt that the Lamm's treble response was slightly better too, (mostly because I felt it had better decay), but only just slightly, and that might be because I am more used to the Lamm's. So that is probably more a matter of taste.)

Those are my two cents worth anyway. YMMV.

FYI, I have not had a chance to audition the Ayre amplifiers as yet, but I do hope to do so, as my local dealer has them.

if you really wanna hear the dart shine at its best listen to it with an speakers that have a powered woofer. As good as the wp7 are, once I got the evolution acoustic mm2 speakers with the dart it became capable of providing all the bass response you would want. I also used to own the lamm 2.2 and am telling ya that the dart combination with the right speakers is magical. I just listened to art pepper sacd and it felt like you were hearing it in a wonderful small club. Props for the playback design cd player for also bringing all the yumminess of the recording alive. For something different, I played the Who Quadrophenia lp, not the better mastered versions either, on a inexpensive technics turntable and it truly rocked.

I have also not heard the ayre so given its reputation it may well be pretty special too but nothing I have ever heard in solid state for jazz or rock listening compares to the dartzeel in the midrange (where most of the recording is) when properly setup. Unfortunately, the dartzeel is expensive and fussy about setup so those are drawbacks. But, if you are patient and can drop some serious coin on the dart combo and the right speakers, I doubt anyone listening to jazz or rock would be anything less than positively thrilled.
While you may churn up some interesting experiences such as Kurt's direct comparison, I would require a personal home audition for products at this level. Personally, I trust most of Kurt's information and a first hand A/B on a familiar system can be valuable information.

Same with preamplification. Another brand would have to add something desirable to the system that either the dartZeel or the Ayre pres don't. For now, more importantly than which amp or pre is what speaker system?
As everyone can see, I have created some enemies here.

Audiofool is well known here, he especially hates Usher speakers which are praised worldwide by both owners and professional reviewers. I loved my Usher BE-718, therefore he hates me.

For those who are interested, the 3 different systems I heard are:

Sooloo to Ayre KX-R to Ayre MX-R to Avalon ISIS
Ayre CDP to Spectral/Ayre KX-R to Ayre MX-R to Avalon ISIS
Ayre CPD to Ayre KX-R to Ayre MX-R to an Italian speaker which I can't remember the name, but cost $10k+

In 2 different rooms, 3 different days, and many different software.

I am not saying Ayre MX-R is bad, I am sure it's not since it's loved by so many. I am saying before you put your hard earned cash on it, be sure it's what you want. It could be system synergy, it could be the room, it could be anything, but what I heard in all 3 occasions were lifeless and boring to the nth degree. Even my not so critical non-audiophile wife said she prefered the simple system (Usher Be-718) I had at home.

Unlike Bar81 and Audiofool, I am quite neutral and don't insult others just because someone doesn't like the gears I own. If I like what I have, great, I don't need the whole world to agree with me.

You might like them, but you might not.
Grow up.
Just to add a note of balance here, I'm sure that everyone is accurately describing their listening experiences. However, please be aware that the Ayre MX-R's have a very expensive ultra-high speed, ultra-low loss PCB material. It cost over 20x what the standard audio grade fiberglass PCB material costs.

The only problem with it is that it takes about 2 or 3 weeks of continuous play to fully break in.

So if you have listened to them at a dealer that has had them on constant display for many weeks or months, you will probably think they sound pretty good. Same story if you buy them and live with them for a while.

But if the dealer has just gotten them, or switches them in and out of the system constantly, they won't be at their best and you will probably leave the showroom scratching your head wondering what all the fuss is about.

The bottom line is that an in-home demo with well broken-in equipment is always the best route with any brand. Then you can hear it with your equipment, in your room, with your music. Even then you won't be hearing the equipment at its best. You'll want to tweak it, playing with "footers", power cords, et cetera. Most of this can only happen after you've made the purchase. So things can only get better from what you hear at the in-home demo. Hope this helps.
Thank you Mr. Hansen, you made my point but much more eloquently.
I think we all know who needs to grow up here :)

Charles, you have a good point. However, fewer and fewer dealers on earth are willing to loan their equipments out for days. It's a fact, many dealers told me they stopped doing so because loaning equipments out did not generate more sales. Some manufactures offer loaner to potential buyers for extended home trial just for the cost of shipping, you might consider offering that in US or you risk putting your equipments at a disadvantage in dealer show room which is what 99% of population will gauge their impression on. Imagine you are shopping for a Ferrari which is what your MX-R is in automobile's world, after test driving for 10 minutes you were not impressed, would you still want to go thru the hassle of taking it home for a long test drive or simply go to your nearby Aston Martin dealer and put down the deposit?

When is Audiogon going to ban the immature posts?
I don't hate you Semi.

I simply think you have no clue.

And name calling?

Isn't that the purest form of immaturity?

Go figure.
Hello gents

Why is it that you have narrowed down to the ayre and the dartzeel?

If you like dartzeel - try out DNM as well - they use those same rhedeko speakers for product develoment.

Also check out Lavardin - The former UK importer of Dartzeel used to and still does sell Lavardin amps - to which I am partial. I thought the dartzeel had a bit more bloom than the lavardin in that it had a bit more warmth - that was the power amp I might add - though I anticipate that the pre-amp will be cut from the same cloth.

As to equipment borrowing - in the UK i find most dealers take it for granted that they have to lend equipment out if they are to make a sale.

you must be able to isolate a component in your system.

In fact e-mail both Ayre and Dartzeel - you may find that most manufacturers would encourage dealers to lend out equipment, and they may help facilitate it.

You've asked about using these amps with a Nagra PLL.

I had the combination of the Ayre MX-R for about a year until I replaced the Nagra with the KX-R. The combination worked fine, and I was able to hear the advantages of Ayres over my previous Audio Research VTM 200's. I had learned to live with what I thought we congested tweeters on my WP 7's, but once the MX-R's were broken in there was a substantial improvement on the top end, particularly with female voices and solo piano. I had thought that the talk about "making poor recordings sound good" was probably marketing hype, but I do find that it's much easier to listen to recordings that used to be tough on the ears, without giving anything away in terms of detail. Maybe it's the higher power rating, or the zero feedback, but somethings different and it's better.

Replacing the Nagra with the KX-R was initially disappointing, but once broken in the soundstage really opened up, and became effortless in terms of
placing the instruments in space. The combination of the two is amazing.

My experience with the Ayre units has been extremely positive. I have not heard the Dartzeels, but given the value of the US dollar and the fact that Ayre provides excellent customer support and is a stable US company, I had no trouble deciding on the MX-Rs


Thank you for confirming that there is a substantial break-in time on the Ayre "R" series components. I wish that this weren't so, as it would greatly simplify the purchase decision making process. Unfortunately, this is one of the drawbacks to using that particular PCB material.

As a manufacturer, there is always the choice either to build products that make a great impression in the short- term or to make products that provide great satisfaction in the long term. We at Ayre have always chosen the latter.

Best regards,
Charles Hansen
In reflecting back on the comments by the Rockport Antares owner with Dart....I have Rockport Merak/Sheritan II combo with Ayre MX-R...works very nicely...while I have not heard Dart in my home I suspect that the Rockport speakers would do well on the deeper power reserves of the Ayre/MX-R...at least from what I can hear...I suspect the amp's head room contributes to the particularly musical/relaxed/natural sound with the Ayre/Rockport combo...I found no objectionable elements to the sound...wonderful low level detail...great image stability...able to handle shifts from quiet passages to loud passages without any sense that the power bandwidth of the system was changing...which to me is a common issue with many combo of tube amps and relatively inefficient speakers....
Charles, regarding the issue of break-in; the darts have the same issue as the MR-X. i have had 5 different darTZeel NHB-108 stereo amps in my system; three of which i had when brand new.

when i was first loaned a brand new dart amp to try i still had my Tenor 300 watt Hybrid monos. i put the dart in my system for a week......it was very good but not super....so i took it out and went back to my Tenors. a few weeks later one Tenor amp had a problem....so i went back to the dart amp. at about 400 hours the dart came alive almost overnight. it openned up, refinement improved, and the dynamics dramatically increased. a huge difference. the two already broken in darts needed about 12 hours to warm up and they were good to go. then i purchased a brand new set for myself and went thru the 400+ hour break-in again.

if i would not have ever spent the time with break-in i would never had heard what the dart was capable of.

btw; most times the dart dealer offers home demos....i agree that is ideal if possible.

You make a good point. I don't think that anybody can get the full measure of any component unless they live with it for several months. First it needs to break in fully. Then you need to try different racks/shelves, footers, power cords, interconnects, et cetera to make sure you're getting the most out of it.

Obviously this is impossible for most people before they make a purchasing decision. So you have to do the best you can, visiting dealers, reading reviews, et cetera. But no matter what you still have to make a leap of faith at some point and choose. It's kind of like getting married. You can't date all the women in the world, let alone live with them for a year or two. So at some point you just have to make that leap of faith and make a commitment.

Luckily, some of the other important factors can be found out more quickly than the sound quality. Like the looks. It doesn't take a four month in-home trial to figure out if you like the way it looks. Or features. If you need 8 inputs on a preamp, you can rule out a lot of products right away.

Some stuff takes a bit more work, but still less than an exhaustive in-home audition. For example, you can search the on-line forums and get a pretty good idea about customer support or resale value or reliability, or the ability to drive difficult loads.

There's no "right" or "wrong" choices in this hobby. If you come home from work, put some music on and it sounds good to you, then you're ahead of the game. If you find yourself listening to more music (and more kinds of music) than you used to, then you're pretty much done.

Charles Hansen
Ayre Acoustics, Inc.
Charles. Just two short questions:

1st: do you plan to release in the near future a "R" series stereo power amp for those who do not need the power of the monos and do not like the looks of the 1-series ?

2nd: I´ve heard roumors at the Munich high-end show that Ayre is going to release an integrated amp that ranks between the current 5-series and the current 1-series ?

Thanks for your comments.

the avalon indras and ayre are made in heaven..