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Ayon Audio CD-10 Hi-Fi Choice Test and Review

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Ayon CD-10  CD/SACD              TEST

The new Ayon CD-10 CD / SACD player replaces the previously produced CD-1x and CD-07s constructions in the catalog, becoming the most powerful middle-class model that the Austrian manufacturer has released to date

  • Date: 2017-10-05
  • Author: Arkadiusz Ogrodnik

The Austrian Ayon regularly visits our pages, so we can observe the systematic development of the brand’s devices, and we have to admit that the last years were full of very successful models. The owner of the company, Gerhard Hirt, also visits Poland very often, at the occasion of the annual Audio Video Show.Ayon has already become a brand with an established position, and the catalog of this manufacturer is so extensive that basically everyone can find something for themselves. Of course, all devices are based on tube technology, which Austrian brand has been keeping from the beginning of its operation. Pragmatism and consistency in striving to improve the application of lamps, regardless of whether it is a CD player, amplifier or preamplifier, has caused that Ayon is now perceived as a specialist in the production of all tube audio components.In the last year of the company’s operation, the catalog was thoroughly cleaned up, which resulted in the fact that several devices disappeared from the offer, and others appeared in it. However, it is not difficult to notice that Gerhard Hirt decided to organize the whole catalog even better and he did it very skillfully. Now the offer is slightly more modest, but it is based only on the best devices that the Ayon brand has recently released on the market.Initially, this Austrian producer actually launched new models on the market – in fact, there was no year for the new amplifier, player or other component to appear. But this is somewhat normal for relatively young companies that are still experimenting and probing the market. A good understanding of the market and listening to the opinions coming from the buyers have a very big impact on what devices the catalog will leave and what will remain in it. Just look at the current range of CD players.The latest catalog is based on three constructions: top CD-35 and medium-class models CD-1sx and CD-10, while not long ago you could find them almost twice as many. So what contributed to the thinning of the catalog?First of all, the higher quality of players produced by Ayon, but also the fact that they have become very flexible in terms of functionality and equipment. Now every player is equipped with the facilities that only a few years ago the owner of Ayon could have dreamed of. But it was the market that forced some positive changes. As is known, the current prevailing standard is the USB input, through which the user can send a signal from the computer with music played from formats such as FLAC, AIFF or WAV, and currently also DSD 2.8MHz and 5.6MHz.All Ayon players are also able to read SACDs still immortal among audiophiles (many music lovers have huge SACD collections and no one in their right mind, despite the possibility of playing music from DSD files, will not get rid of harvested years). So we have to deal with extremely versatile players, you could even call them multi-players, able to read any audio format. And each of them is equipped with tube output stages, which is after all the essence of every Ayon Audio construction. The tested player at first glance does not differ from the earlier models of Ayon, but it is of course an illusive impression, because already during commissioning and with a closer inspection, it turns out that it is a thoroughly modern unit, offering all the facilities and functions that it should be equipped with a modern CD / SACD player.

Ayon CD-10 SACD DAC Right

Near ideal!

The distributor provided the Signature version for the test, ie the “burned-out” CD-10 model, which must be paid for just over four thousand zlotys. It is equipped with higher-class coupling capacitors and an additional DSP / PCM converter. Generally, the Ayon design has not changed, because the housing is almost identical (except for small details) to previously produced players, which the new model has just replaced in the catalog. The CD-10 is therefore based on a precisely made aluminum, black anodised casing and, obviously for all Ayon players, on CD / SACD transported from above – now the cover is separated from the puck. In the past several models used a lid integrated with a pressure disc, but Gerhard Hirt finally abandoned this idea, because a separate pressure disc can be designed in such a way (provided that it is an element independent of the top-loader cover) that thanks to greater inertia and desired structure it is able to absorb microvibrations, in a way contributing to the precision of reading the plates. The display has been enriched with several information related to the operation of DSP filters or an additional DSP / PCM converter. Also on the carefully made aluminum remote control there are additional buttons that activate individual filters or operating modes, which makes it easier to control the device and increase the comfort of use. Two filters are interesting, the first of which is supposed to offer, according to the producer, a smoother, more subtle sound, and the other – more analytical and neutral. The CD-10 is of course a fully symmetrical construction, and inside it we can only find only the highest quality elements. The power supply system was realized on a high quality low noise R-Core transformer. Earlier, however, electricity comes from the IEC input to the PCB with a simple passive network filter, based on the anti-interference coil and two capacitors and protection in the form of a varistor. Several taps have been derived from the transformer, both for the section feeding the tube signal path, as well as for the analog and digital sections.In the power supply system for double 6H30 triodes operating in the output stage (supplied by Sovtek, Russian production) there was also a 6Z4 tube rectifier. In the current buffer and the smoothing filter, very good Rubycon and Nichicon units operate among the electrolytic capacitors. The tube signal path is actually simple but also purist, based on high-end components.The entire power supply for the output lamps was on one larger printed circuit board in the output section for the left channel. In the Signature version, standard coupling capacitors were also replaced with high-quality Mundorf brand units from the Supreme series. In the digital-analogue section there was an excellent AKM AK4490EQ 768kHz / 32-bit D / A converter in the company of capacitors with small capacities from the Nichicon Gold series. Furthermore, integrated circuits as Burr-Brown operational amplifiers OPA134UA (four units) supported by reused high quality Mundorf capacitors from the Supreme series. The optional module with PCM / DSD converter was almost in the center of the device. The whole makes a very good impression, only increasing the user’s awareness that he is dealing with a perfectly refined device.

Lamp and varied

It is not a coincidence that all Ayon devices, including CD / SACD players, are equipped with tube output stages, or at all puristic audio tracks bristling with glowing bubbles.This has a big impact on the sound of individual devices, which I have noticed many times. Ayon decided to breathe a note of tube sound in his company sound, but this Austrian brand remained faithful to other ideals in striving to achieve the best possible fidelity, naturalness and analytical sound. Ayon proved that tube amplifiers do not necessarily have to suffer from the ills that lamps most often suffer from, so deficiencies associated with current efficiency or power, which forces users to more skillfully choose speakers. The situation is somewhat different in the case of players, because they work with a small amplification and here the tube track leaves more room for maneuver, which Gerhard Hirt carefully used.Each subsequent generation of Ayon brand players presented better and better sound, and the latest ones turn out to be designs refined in every detail, which I could see during the test of the CD-10 model. This player has come even closer to the tube sound ideal, but thanks to some interesting solutions also offers the full potential in the use of the character of the sound, which corresponds to the individual preferences of the listener.

The CD-10 sounds like a racial lamp, and its sound is based not only on the florally presented color of the unblemished sweetness and this insane smoothness, but above all the extremely precise reading of any information contained on the CD or SACD. Ayon also gave the client several options regarding the choice of the character of the sound thanks to the DSP processor used and the PCM / DSD converter. You can choose between two filters – the first of which allows you to achieve a smoother and more saturated sound, while the second increases precision and offers more analytical characteristics. This was especially evident when I played jazz and rock, while in the classics these changes were slightly blurred, because the string instruments, due to their sound nature based mainly on the use of the middle frequency range, are not so sensitive to increased listening precision, especially in the upper range acoustic.Using the filter, the number two gained not only the harpsichord, but also other stringed instruments, above all reflected on the resolution and slightly on the dynamics, especially on the micro scale. The latest album by Mike Oldfield “Return To Ommadawn” sounded phenomenally just using the second filter, emphasizing the precision and analytical sound. Fans of tube, sweet sound should not be afraid of what Ayon presents using the second filter, because the CD-10 still offers immersive and warm tube sound, but in this case enriched with a much better presented resolution and precision in handling the finest nuances . However, the sound offered by Ayon using the first filter should particularly appeal to people who want to achieve in their stereo set-up sound as close as possible to purist tube devices, based primarily on the widely sounding color and a slightly veiled top of the band, though still not devoid of detail. An even more interesting solution offered by the tested player is the PCM / DSD converter, with the help of which they can gain a lot of CD sound. The changes introduced by the converter do not have a subtle character, which surprised me a lot. For example, when I used the DSD conversion mode to PCM and chose the DSD128 option (interestingly, the DSD256 mode offered a slightly muffled note in the treble range), the music played from the album “Merry Go Round” with Freddy Cole’s vocals gained a lot of quality – to my surprise, the sound has significantly smoothed out and gained consistency, but not at the expense of flattening the contour or losing the most subtle data, on the contrary – the details have arrived! Admittedly, it was not such a leap of quality that we can hear while playing the same albums in the CD and SACD versions, where the SACD version sounds best, but still the jump in the sound quality was so big that buying the player in the Signature version at extra charge I think it is the most reasonable step, especially for people who like experiments, but also looking for additional reserves in the sound of stereo systems that they own. Of course, the high quality of sound from SACD discs is undisputed, but the CD albums I know about gained a lot thanks to the optional PCM / DSD converter available in the Signature version. A quality leap may also be associated with much better Mundorf capacitors, but it is also a kind of complement or increase of the player’s potential with the parallel use of the built-in converter. Either way, the sound especially from CDs indisputably gains in quality, not only in the area of ​​detail, color and its art, but also in the low tones – the bass sounds more powerful, more fleshy, but at the same time gains on diversity, elasticity, rhythm and range and attack. Ayon is not an ordinary CD player because it offers all the benefits of modern technologies and combines them into a perfectly harmonizing whole.

Ayon CD-10

Summary

On the example of this player, Ayon showed the enormous potential of combining modern technology with the elaborate circuitry working in the output stages of the player in the smallest details. The CD-10 Signature model belongs to the absolute top among players in its price category. This player is a breakthrough for the Ayon, probably even more so than the hi-end model CD-35, which is mainly related to the price.

Verdict: Ayon CD-10

★★★ The CD-10 version of the Signature is a full-fledged tube player, equipped with a range of options to improve functionality. It is a modern and extended unit enabling the creation of an advanced two-channel system regardless of whether the next link will be a tube or transistor amplifier.

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