Preamp - Ayre vs. Audio Research


If anyone has heard both the Audio Research Reference 6 and the Ayre KX-R Twenty preamp, please describe the differences in their sound.

I recently settled on a D'Agostino Momentum S-250 amplifier. I compared it to a pair of Ayre MX-R Twenties, and my report can be found on a thread called D'Agostino vs Ayre. 

Unfortunately, the Momentum preamp does not offer a line out option, and I want that for headphone amp operation. So, I am considering the AR or Ayre preamp options. Thoughts?
imgoodwithtools
Since I don't use a preamp or headphones I am especially unqualified to offer any advice other than that you seem to have to confront nothing but "quality" dilemmas from which we all can learn. 
I look forward to your journey and eventual selection. 
As alway, good listening to you sir,

khrys
i compared a Ref5se to the Ayre which at that time was pre twenty config.
the Ayre was drop dead quiet, accurate and had fantastic low bass.
the ARC bettered it IMO in air, image depth and midrange sweetness.
it was very close.
Ayre got my business with the power amp.
my dealer has both so i would push him to borrow both .... but i would also give tge Brinkman which he carries a shot and maybe the Aesthetix
a great dealer with real depth is a wonderful thing !!!!

Whom is your dealer/retailer- tomic601 ?
I spoke with a big, Eastern dealer this week who carries Audio Research, Ayre, and D'Agostino. They think the Dag is the best match with a Momentum amp. Obviously, that won't work for me. They also thought the AR might offer some positive virtues, even over the Ayre. But couldn't really describe, over the phone, what they might be. Still looking for answers.
My dealer has had success with the Ref 6 and Dags - loves the combo.
The only answer is that you have to listen for yourself to hear if that particular sound works for you.  Ayre and AR are my two favorites.  I chose Ayre (all my electronics are Ayre), but that's me....  I like the Guarneri over the Strad.....would be happy with either.
True. But sometimes its not easy to compare two specific components at a dealership without buying an airplane ticket. And sometimes you don't hear at a dealer what you hear at home. My strategy, of late, is to research and read reviews, then purchase attractive used or demo equipment I think I might love. Then give them a lengthy run in my home system. Then, if I don't love them, I can sell them and not get burned too badly.

I purchased an Audio Research Reference 6 this morning, slightly used with 330 hours. I will compare it to my Ayre KX-R Twenty preamp and report back, likely in about a month.
I look forward in reading about your review- imgoodwithtools-

you certainly own an interesting combo.  What other gear is in your system?

Happy Listening!
keithr-

whom is your dealer/retailer?
I bought the AR Ref 6 on Audiogon just this morning from an individual. I've dealt with about six dealers just this past 18 months. JS Audio, Crescendo, Audio Alternative, Galen Carol Audio, Scott Walker Audio, and the Cable Company.
My current system is a PS Audio Perfectwave transport feeding a Berkeley Alpha Reference 2 processor thru Synergistic Research Galileo LE AES/XLR digital interconnect, or an Esoteric SACD player. Balanced interconnects are Audioquest WEL Signature. Present preamp is an Ayre KX-R Twenty that I plan to compare to the Audio Research Reference 6. Quite often I run the Berkeley direct, with no preamp. Its Amazing. Amp is a D'Agostino Momentum S-250 powering Wilson Alexia loudspeakers. Cables are Synergistic Research Galileo LE.
Personally, I like to buy the amp and preamp from the same manufacturer....the attributes are present/flaws are diminished.  Getting different designers' take on their units  is a crap shoot putting them together.
I see your point stringreen. But some considerations I have might make my system a little unique. I have settled on the D'Agostino Momentum amplifier. It sounds Wonderful powering the Alexias. Unfortunately, the Momentum preamp does not offer a Line Out option. And I want to run a headphone amp and be able to swap to multiple sources. I also plan to feed the D'Agostino amp directly from the Berkeley quite often. Those two considerations make the AR Ref 6 ideal, on paper. It has balanced line out. And it also has the ability to switch one input into bypass mode, eliminating any gain circuitry. I could hook my Berkeley into one input and drive the amp directly. I could use the other active inputs for my other sources. Then use the line outs for my headphone amp. No cable swapping required, ever. But what ultimately matters is the sound.
Very nice! imgoodwithtools.

I will second ,Galen Carol. He is a fine audiophile.

Happy Listening!
Jafant- Alma Audio in San Diego
The AR Ref 6 is here. Anxious to fire it up and have a listen.
Curious to hear what you think of the REF6! 
We've paired both the REF6 and REF 10 with D'Agostino Progressions, and it feels like a perfect match. It's definitely not for the folks who think a preamp should add nothing, as the ARC is definitely in the "additive" category. 
But what it adds, it's impressive indeed. The air, soundstage depth/width, presence, I don't know many preamps that are able to do that.
And I did have the non-Twenty Ayre in the store for a bit, and I thought it was simply too dry, even with the matching Ayre amps.
Anyway, we're going to show the D'Agostino + ARC REF 10 combo at the LA Audio Show next weekend, if anybody's curious...


cheers,
Alex

Alex- almaaudio


I have heard the ARC Ref5SE on many occasions. I have not had an opportunity to demo the new Ref6.  How much, if any, improvement(s) between these (2) pre-amps?


The rest of the system in question was;

Wilson -Sasha & Sophia speakers

ARC Ref 150 power amp and Bryston 4B-SST power amp.

ARC CD player

Transparent OPUS cabling all around.


Happy Listening!

TY- keithr
You can't extrapolate anything about the KX-R Twenty from the regular KX-R - they're completely different units with performance that is miles apart.
I've listened to the preamps for about a week now, and what I hear closely mirrors what both tomic601 and almaaudio have already offered. The difference between the two are not subtle.

The Ayre KX-R Twenty is as close to the seemingly ideal "straight wire with gain" as I've heard. But the Ayre in stock configuration is basically an active attenuator. It only offers about 1-2 dB of gain, wide open.  Different resistors can be swapped in if more gain is needed. Its presentation is clear, nearly transparent, with drive and focus. I'm not sure I could pass a blind comparison between having the Ayre in circuit vs without. The biggest differences, and the differences are slight, are more highly focused images thru the Ayre with a very slight loss of richness. Someone looking for a Very transparent preamp should hear the Ayre. The chassis is a metallic jewel. Beautiful.

My first impression of the Audio Research Reference 6 was Wow, its Big. It physically will only fit on the top shelf of my equipment rack. And it needs room to vent heat. Its presentation tends to highlight the midrange, not because the bass is reduced, and not because the highs are rolled off. They are not. The three dimensional richness, especially heard in the midrange that is conveyed is undeniable. The bass is solid and strong. If the Ref 6 has a defect, its in the treble. Most easily heard with piano, it lacks a bit of realistic sparkle in the upper registers. This can also be a blessing with some hotly mixed digital recordings. Almaaudio said "air, soundstage depth/width, presence". Yep, that pretty much nails it. 

It comes down to do you want a preamp that very nearly succeeds at being completely transparent, the Ayre. Or do you want a preamp that adds to the presentation some really musical things, the Audio Research.

In my system, the decision is easy. If I want total transparency, I will drive the amp directly with my Berkeley. If I want the merits the Audio Research adds to the soundstage, I'll run it active. 

And I think I might be able to improve the high frequency performance of the Ref 6, not that it needs much. I owned a Reference 75 SE amp about 6 months ago, and I was able to improve its treble some with a Nordost power cord and a Synergistic Research Quantum Black fuse.
Follow up. Tried a Synergistc Research Black Quantum fuse in the Ref 6. Not a subtle, but quite a significant difference, especially in the high frequencies. For the cost, I highly suggest anyone try one.