Move to tubes: Ayon Crossfire or Triton, various


I am contemplating a move to tubes from a solid state platform that I've loved for years with an Esoteric C-03 pre-amp and Edge NL 12.1 Stereo Amp driving Legacy AERIS speakers. See my system thread for details on the rest of the rig including interconnects, speaker cables and power conditioning/cords. Through a lot of conversations and admittedly, after reading alot of "Bugatti of Audio,..." type reviews on Ayon tube integrated and stereo tube amps, it seems that if I was aiming high (but within realm of possibility of me), my choices would be down to the Crossfire III or III PA and Triton III or III PA running in triode mode most of the time.

The C-03 and NL12.1 deliver performance, impact, dynamics, subtlety, musicality and imaging across the entire listening spectrum and frequency range based upon multiple years of owning them. They do many things that fit my personal prefs but I have heard many desirable things from moderate->expensive tube gear that I would like that much more of.

I'd be interested in feedback from people who have heard both the integrated and pure stereo versions of these products; given I love what the C-03 does for me as a pre-amp and MAY keep it in the chain, would you suggest;

- Crossfire or Triton as a baseline choice (and then III or III PA version each)?
- keep the Esoteric C-03 pre-amp and use the Ayon as pure stereo
- abandon the C-03 pre-amp as well as NL12.1 stereo SS Amp and go with an integrated amp version of the Crossfire III or Triton III?
- other Ayon offerings (Titan not reachable); see note on power reserves below....
- move up to the C-02 Master Soundworks new pre-amp from Esoteric and look at these or other pure stereo tube amps?

***I need XLR inputs....that culls out many tube amp offerings from what I have found....

Any other choices out there in the Ayon line or others I should be considering? The Legacy AERIS are incredibly efficient (96db or better) and are optimal 4-ohm loads, BUT I want power in reserve to serve dynamically challenging passages. I note that one of these Ayon models go to 35Khz, the other to 60Khz; which would you recommend based upon performance over the entire listening spectrum?

Thanks in advance, I know this will require some time to respond to; definitely appreciate the help and guidance!!!
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I would think long and hard before buying an Ayon product. I have read a good number of complaints about product failure as well as unresponsive service.
I'm using Manley 250 with the XLR input. Plenty of power for my 93db Tannoy. This is my second Manley gear. Sweet midrange magic in triode mode plus they have excellent customer service. Perhaps consider Manley Labs?
"01-25-15: Roxy54
I would think long and hard before buying an Ayon product. I have read a good number of complaints about product failure as well as unresponsive service."

I agree.
+1 Roxy54. Past threads concerning Ayon products and service don't
inspire confidence. I do encourage your desire to try a high quality tube
amplifier. With good research you'll find what you want.
Thank you all...you'd never glean the quality issues mention from any of the reviews of their products. I wonder if they've made strides toward improvement as they certainly seem to garner alot of praise when their amps are functioning from what I've read, which is by no means exhaustive.

Charles: You have quite the collection of tube gear; of all your amps present and recent, which are your favorites and how frequently do you swap in/out and for what reasons? Thank you!

All: I was looking at the Ayon's beyond the review in part due to their power ratings as I need reserves for dynamic passages in many styles of music I listen to and if moving from SS to tubes, I don't want to sacrifice that capability. I've heard some good sounding tube gear at friends' houses and at shows. Some of the best sounding tube gear I have heard has lower power ratings and has 'a wall...' when it comes to handling some of the big material at reasonable, but normal listening levels.

Beyond power though, everything else is still important to me to maintain with the added benefit of tube-related sound attributes....

Apologies for the "tube newbee" questions but we all have to start new sometime! Thank you all!
Check out Octave. Very musical and built like a tank.
I just remembered something about Ayon. I heard negative comments, as well, but I think it was in reference to one of their dealers, not so much Ayon. The Cable Company sells Ayon. They're extremely reputable. I've been doing business with them since the early 90's, so I know them very well. If you call them, they should have demo units of Ayon products to send you for an in home demo. And if you don't like Ayon, they probably have other options for you to try as well.
I am quite experienced with Ayon products and can add this --- they sound very, very good. Yes, like most all tube products (especially the power amps) there are reliability issues. The main issue is the service at the one dealer (not The Cable Company) which is beyond horrible. But the products themselves are rather amazing.
I recommend the Exemplar Audio Exception integrated. Simply beautiful sounding. Very MUSICAL. I would give this a look.

I owned Ayon gear and did have issues with the Triton. When you say something they lash back like you were exaggerating the issue. The Ayon gear did sound good but not as good as they market it to be.

In addition, Ayon has raised their prices tremendously and will bring out another version in little or no time which devalues your investment.
The Cable Company does have a very solid reputation. An Ayon amplifier loaner from them is likely the best route to take.
I'm very late coming to this post, but decided that I had to respond to some of the issues raised here.  I have owned both the Ayon Triton (KT88s, then 120s) and the Crossfire III - the latter for nearly 4 years and the Triton before that. I have had absolutely no issues with either amp. The Crossfire is everything the reviewers say it is: musical, natural, three dimensional, with beautiful imaging and timbre. And my partner quite likes it too - well, actually, I suspect she things its much better looking than me! 

Consequently, I have no idea where this ellergy to Ayon comes from, although I suspect its derived from a mixture of jealousy, competitors who can't figure out how to offer the same quality and looks, poor distributors (through not where I come from in little old NZ; quite the reverse) and just plain ignorance. After all, who else is offering a very high quality 300B SE amp with 30watts on tap? 

One thing that you need to do with all Ayon amps, however, is throw away the standard tubes and buy some slightly more upmarket versions. Oh, and you just might have to replace the batteries in the remote after a while. I switched to Ayon from the Audio Research Ref 110, and have also owned a Music Reference RM 200 and Gryphon Diablo, so I don't have anything against American or other European gear.  

I also ended up matching an Ayon CD-T with a Hegel DAC after exhaustive testing of everything from Accustic Arts to MSB. So I guess you could say that I appreciate what Ayon actually has to offer.

For what its worth .........  



I would not call the speaker 'incredibly efficient', its sensitivity is 94 db but because it is also 4 ohms the actual efficiency is 91 db.

But that is not so hard to drive and since the deep bass is handled by a separate amp, I think our MA-1 could do the job (it also is a fully differential balanced amp with a balanced input).

FWIW, the Manley mentioned earlier in this thread, while an excellent amp, only has the XLR connection for convenience- despite the connector, its input is single-ended. If your source is conforms to the balanced standard (AES file 48), you may encounter a buzz with this amp.
Thank you both for your suggestions.  I've actually moved past this question for my setup for now and decided to stay solid-state for the foreseeable future.  I find that S/N ratio, THD and Damping Factor (the higher the better, my current amp is a champ here; it also has separate input and output transformers and only 2 gain stages) and the ability to run true balanced to be as important to the sound I wish to achieve as power rating for amps, speaker efficiency,etc...

BTW...the Legacy AERIS are not rated 94 db, the actual metric is a bit higher. My current speakers are actually 91 db if memory serves so if I ever go with tubes, I'll make sure to remember the recommendations here.  Thanks!
@zephyr24069 

I find that S/N ratio, THD and Damping Factor (the higher the better, my current amp is a champ here; it also has separate input and output transformers and only 2 gain stages)
There is no speaker made that needs more than about 20:1 in damping factor, FWIW. It is possible to overdamp a speaker. Also just FWIW, our amps are direct-coupled input and output and have only one gain stage  :)

The reason for going to tubes is to reduce harshness and increase detail, generally speaking. This is possible because even though tubes often do have more distortion, it is of a type that is not as audible as the 'minimal' distortion made by most solid state amps. The latter tends to be higher ordered harmonics, to which the ear is far more sensitive than the lower ordered harmonics that tubes often make (which depends mostly on the application, not the tubes themselves; our amps for example tend to lack the 2nd harmonic common with many tube amps). So as far as the ear is concerned, tubes make less distortion.

Its important to understand that the ear converts all forms of distortion into tonality. That is why the trace amounts of distortion that solid state amps make is perceived as brightness and hardness.

FWIW though the older Edge amps when Steven was with the company are some of the more musical solid state amps I've heard.
@atmasphere : Great feedback, thank you very much.  I agree the NL 12.1, NL Ref, etc...were amazingly musical and did not have the typical solid state side effects; they were also (at least to my ears) dead neutral and injected no color or warmth of their own.  Tom and Steve were champs in their day designing and building cutting edge, great sounding gear.  I also am a fan of the big Karans although I never pulled that trigger given their lack of US distribution and service network.  The 2 times I was able to hear them were extremely impressive.  Today, my system is centered around an Esoteric A-02 stereo am; very "un-solid state" in how it sounds in my system but with the power, control/grip and dynamics (both micro and macro) that I love to hear.  I'm not saying tubes are out of the question ever, but for now, I'm focused on other things.  The MA-1 (MkIII) certainly looks like it would get the job done very well with numerous reviews spouting its praises, thank you for the recommendation. Can I assume you would also recommend the MA-2 MkIII and MA-3 (what a monster!)? Would these recommendations all hold for TAD R1 Mk2 speakers? (see my current virtual system). It might be good to grab the phone and give you a call :-)

@pepper1999 : Thank you again for your feedback; there are various Ayon models above Crossfire and Triton that also had/have my attention.  

Any opinions on Raven Shaman, Spirit or Silhouette monos?

@zephyr24069

The TAD seems like it should not be a problem by all the information I’ve been able to find. It does not look particularly difficult to drive by a tube amp.