Upgrade bug - advice on amp or preamp upgrade from Ayre for Revel speakers?

Hi all, looking to tap in to the collective experience of the forums.  My system has evolved nicely over the years.  Most recently I changed out my Thiel CS2.4s for Revel Ultima Studio2s. I’ve had them in place for about 9 months and am enjoying the heck out of them. The rest of my system is comprised of a Linn Akurate DS into Ayre K-5xe into Ayre V-5xe.  Transparent Audio balanced interconnects and power cords.  My musical preferences are primarily informed by my background as a musician (jazz) - I love live, palbable, feeling sound.  I love the wood of a bass, the way a kick drum can either pop you in the chest (ala Tony Williams) or convey subtle timbre changes (Jack DeJohnette). I love the splat of a great trumpeter (Tom Harrell, Woody Shaw...) and the thrill of colors a tenor sax can provide (Brecker, Trane, Berg...).  As a pianist, I am keenly focused on accurate reproduction that is nuanced enough to let me hear the very different touches of my favorite players (Mulgrew Miller, Kenny Barron, David Kikoski...). And I find music most gratifying when rooted by a firm and true to live conveyance of bass.  

My my current system conveys much of what I love, but of late I’m wondering if a more powerful amp might provide “more”.  I don’t need more volume, but if I had one nagging suspicion it’s that the Ayre combination doesn’t grip the bottom end as much as it could and at times appears a tad bit lean sounding.  Alternatively, could it be a preamp solution?  I demoed BAT about ten years ago while there was still a dealer in my area.  At the time I sort of fell in love with the sound, but ultimately felt Ayre was a better path at the time.  I could probably extend $5 to $7k at this time.  A few thoughts would be:  Amps (Pass 250.8, Levinson 532h, BAT VK-600, Classe CA M600, Bel Canto Ref600, others?).  If Preamp is the right way to go (BAT 32se or 42, ARC, Levinson 326s, others). Or am I crazy and should I stick with what I have and be appropriately grateful?

I really appreciate any thoughts or suggestions from those with relevant experience.
What's up with the website. as soon as you type more than a few words it won't submit.
I have Revel Ultima Studio 1's.
The best Power Amps used with Revel S1


You and I are kindred Jazz spirits. Your description of the instruments is precisely the many facets that I love about jazz music. Additionally, I am looking to capture the drummer's brushes on the skins, cymbals.

It takes a careful selection of gear, augmented w/ cables and power cords to extract every bit of information from the medium (LP/CD/SACD).

Tell me, how did you like the Ayre/Thiel combination?

Happy Listening!

The best Power Amps I've used with my Revel's are Vincent SP-998 Mono Blocks. You want bass grip, these have it in spades, musicality, deep, wide soundstage. 300 W. into 8, 600 W. into 4 ohms, 50 W Class A, fully balanced. Revel Studios love heaps of Power & Current. You'd have to spend more than double there RRP to come close. Hope you can find in your locality.

Best matching Pre's in my collection. Vincent SA-T8, roll out the rubbish supplied tubes. Vincent SA-94 is astonishing for Solid State Pre. @ the price.

Good luck.
Hallelujah! Finally able to post my response after numerous efforts.
Ayre VX 5 Twenty.  A step up from your current amp.  Recently added it to my Thiel 2.4s.  I was considering new speakers, now I’m just listening more to an entirely improved sound.
Yeah, musician here too.  Nothing like when a system can recreate nuance, intent, subtle tonal shadings, etc., especially with jazz.  If I'm you, my first move is to try a class-A biased SS amp (Pass, Plinius, Clayton, etc.).  My experience is that they do very well at conveying subtleties and emotion but can also pack that wallop you're looking for when called for.  Pair that with a good tubed pre like VAC or Sachs SP14 (both reputed to do well with bass) and I'd think you'd be in hog heaven.  Best of luck. 
The Ayre Twenty series seems to have corrected what many thought to be 'bass shy' characteristics of older models.
My second choice would be to change out the Transparent cables for something like Audioquest.

Thanks all for the helpful comments and suggestions!

Jafant - the Thiels were my first investment, and I listened to dozens of amps and preamps before selecting the Ayre line. The combination did a ton really well.  Imaging and PRAT were particularly good.  The system was a bit lean in the lower end, and at times a smidge rough in high frequencies, but those were minor qualms compared to all they did right. 

Init -I am not familiar with the Vincent gear but will definitely check it out.  Thanks for your perseverance!

Good suggestions on upgrading the Ayre line as well.  This is a total aside, but anyone have insight into the future of Ayre post Charles?  I still grimace when I think of what happened to Thiel after Jim passed...

Soix - one of the things I’m toying with is picking up an Arc REF3 as a first step, then replenishing the war chest for an amp purchase next year.  I will try to check out VAC (which I know is very highly regarded) and Sachs (which is new to me!). 

Thanks again!!
If you are looking for wallop, the ARCs pres are not the best at playing bass, especially on a solid state amp IMO/IME.

The Ayre is one of the better solid state amps out there; if you plan to continue with solid state, I'd hang on to it. If it were me, I'd be looking into a speaker that is more efficient and easier to drive, for no other reason than it does not make sense to make any amplifier work hard for a living as they will make more distortion, and that means it will be less musical.
Hi miles,

Don't know what was happening but when I tried to post it kept saying " We're Sorry But Something Went Wrong." Wonder if anyone else had issues.

It appears the Vincent SP-998's are not available in the States. Pity as they have bettered some much more expensive Amps and sound sublime with the Revels.
Much Thanks ! miles_trane
keep us posted on your gear selection.
Happy Listening!

I posted a comment on your Virtual Systems page. Keep posting your listening thoughts/impressions on the Thiel Owners thread as well.

Looking forward in reading more about your system, musical tastes.
Happy Listening!
Soix's Plinius suggestion is spot on.  I drove my Salon 2s with an SB-301 for a year before upgrading to Symphonic Line Kraft 25s, and the SB-301 did a really nice job putting meat on the bones.
Atmasphere - thanks for your suggestion and thoughts.  I did hear a high efficiency / low power system a few years ago that was very impressive (at Deja Vu Audio in DC area). I could definitely see going down that path. At the time I think it was a Manley integrated driving proac speakers. For now, I’m still pretty smitten with the revels.

I’ve got a chance to audition an Arc ref 5se next week at home. Will see how that does.  The good news is that the Ayre k-5xe is still a very nice piece of gear, but this will at least let me get a sense for the different sounds and approaches. 
2 questions for you:
1. What level Transparent cables are you running? The low to mid tier models can muffle a high end system as they are trying to smooth out the sound for lower tier gear.
2. Do you leave your Ayre gear on 24/7? It tends to need this.
Robd2 - I'm using the music wave Ultra line for interconnects from the Linn DS to the preamp and the Ayre (Cardas) interconnect from the pre to the amp.  I'm using MW Ultra speaker cables - which I found to be a meaningful improvement over the analysis plus silvers I was using before.  In your view, do the Ultra's fall in the category you described?  I leave the preamp on all the time, but the Amp gets powered down during night, but is left on all day.
The Ultra line is good, as is a lot of your gear. I have some ideas for you but so I don't give you bad info tell us a little more about your problems and feel free to use instrument descriptions so we can have some fun with this. Is it all instruments that sound leaned out? Maybe the low end of a piano is missing? Any etch in the high frequencies?
Based on my relatively limited experience, preamps in general have a lesser impact than amps if you're trying to fill in the missing lower octave(s). Your amp/preamp combination is considered excellent by most and compared to many others, so if you're happy with your system and just want to add a little more weight at the very bottom, you may want to experiment with placement, room treatment, or adding a sealed box subwoofer.
I look forward in reading about your toughts/impressions fo the Ref5SE pre-amp.
Happy Listening!
Regarding the Transparent cabling, the Ultra MM2 series and up, is very fine indeed. Happy Listening!
This is a total aside, but anyone have insight into the future of Ayre post Charles?  I still grimace when I think of what happened to Thiel after Jim passed...
Unbelievable what happened to Thiel Audio. Jim Thiel never mentored another engineer and the new owners brought in an engineer that completely abandoned all of Thiel's design principles. Why even keep the Thiel name? Really a shame. Jim Thiel's last models are superb, namely the CS3.7 and CS2.4SE.

I think that Ayre is in much better shape following the loss of Charles Hansen. If you watch the QX-5 videos over at Audiostream, you will see an interview with engineer Ariel Brown. I think he's been at Ayre for about 20 years. New products are supposed to be released very soon. See here.
Has any of you guys seen or heard the newest Ayre Integrated amp?
Happy Listening!
Aww, crap, my link is wrong. Here is the text from Ryan Berry's post on AA dated Dec. 2, 2017.
We're planning on being able to start shipping the EX-8 soon, hopefully by end of year depending on when we get some components, such as the chassis, in. We're very excited for it!

As far as features, it will have both USB and Ethernet streaming options as well as S/PDIF and optical inputs. Output is 100 Watts per channel into 8 ohms.
So, maybe these are just now getting to the dealers?
Much Thanks! beetlemania-

it is going to be of interest to learn wether or not the new Integrated is more powerful than previous models. 
Happy Listening!
new Integrated is more powerful than previous models
From Ryan Berry’s post it’s 100 W into 8 ohms, and every Ayre amp to date doubles into 4 ohms. This puts it between the AX-7 (60 W) and AX-5 (125 W). I ran an AX-7 for almost 15 years on my CS1.6s and 2Ces and it had plenty of balls unless I wanted to play The Who at concert levels through the Vandies. With the Thiels, my ears gave out well before the amp clipped. Always best to actually try an amp with your speakers rather than rely on the power rating.

That said, I can testify that the AX-5 is incredible with the CS2.4SE! Still haven't heard the weakness in my system other than bass south of ~30 Hz.

Sorry for the delay between postings but I wanted to have ample time to listen to the ARC Ref 5se before posting initial impressions. This is not going to be in depth or detailed solely because I believe I lack the broader experience of listening to hundreds of systems and ‘reviewer-like’ linguistics.


I have now had the unit installed for roughly 6 days and have around 25 hours on it. Listening impressions have been formed from a variety of music – jazz, classical (mostly symphonic and concerti), Americana / folk, and a bit of pop / rock. In truth, I was somewhat disappointed in the first couple of days. It sounded fine, but to my ears did not constitute an earth shattering difference from the Ayre K-5xe. That is probably a reflection on the quality of the Ayre design – and not necessarily a knock against ARC. It is a broadly similar basis for presentation. Both are accurate and fast, image well, and have the ability to unconsciously realize that your foot has been tapping away for several minutes.


The third night was my first extended listening session. I enjoyed it, but my initial impressions were unchanged. After the house settled down, I put on the excellent recording of Brahm’s violin concerto by Lisa Batiashvili. Then something strange happened. Lost in my thoughts during the Allegro section, something got me and out of nowhere my eyes started watering. Somehow the music started touching my emotionally much more than I can previously recall from a recorded performance. This is the first time that has ever happened to me. I was emotional mush by the end of the Adagio. Night after night I have had similar experiences. Last night it was a very cheesy recording that choked me up – Ron Isley singing Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head. (I am truly embarrassed at having admitted that in a public forum).


There are lots of unaccounted variables at play. Largest is that perhaps having a new component in the system has forced me to listen more carefully, ergo my emotional connection. But this didn’t happen after I upgraded speakers. Maybe its because the weather has been so bleak. Maybe it’s the ARC. I dunno – but I sure like what is happening.


With a bit more listening in my belt there are a few things I have noticed about the presentation that are different. I have also done my best to purge from my mind the reviews and impressions from others that I have read. 1) There is clearly a much larger depth to the soundstage (front to back). This comes across in nearly everything I play (currently listening to Oscar Peterson’s Blues Etude – and the hi hat is absolutely a couple feet behind the snare and higher. 2) There is slightly less glare to the highs. Recordings that before had a couple of piercing or shrill moments no longer convey that. 3) There is more ‘bounce’ to music. I’m more aware of rhythmic pulses (be it listening to a soloist spool up the orchestra on Rach 3 or listening to a good bass player sit right on top of the beat while the drummer is squarely on it). It is more propulsive and exciting.


Lastly, to put context on the above, I would characterize the above differences as being a 15% or so difference from what the Ayre provides, not a 50% or 80% change. The exception being the emotional connections – that is more binary and something I can’t figure out.



Thanks! for the update- miles_trane

I can tell you that listening in the day/evening is quite different from listening after midnight due to the fact that 75% of America is asleep from midnight to 0600.  There will be a more pleasant experience if you can stay awake during the stretch.

Happy Listening!

Couple years back I demoed Revel Ultima Studio 2 with different amps and the best mach by far was a pair Burmester 036 set as monoblocks. Revels love the power and besides great sound Burmester amps have an enormous damping factor so may be it was one cause.
Pass 350.5 was also great with Revels but nowhere near the 036 set.

I had Ayre K-5xe some time ago but sold it rather quickly because I find it kinda dull and mid-fi sounding. Just my experience!