To Doug Schneider,

Thank you for what I think is the first Ayre VX-R review!

I very much relate to what you are saying regarding elevated high-end prices and regarding the R-series sound. I heard the monos on the Wilson Sashas and they were terrific to say the least. I generally have issues with Wilson’s tweeters, including the recent ones like the MAXX 3 (used to own the System 6 until recently), and I heard the Sashas before and thought the tweeter still plays separated from the midrange.

Not so when I heard them again with the Ayre monos; it was the best mid- to upper-range I have heard -- totally integrated, smooth and silky, yet full of detail but never in your face, and for the first time ever on a Wilson I wasn’t able to hear the tweeter as a separate entity. The downside, however, is what you correctly mentioned: the bass was so loose and free of texture and control that I thought something was broken.

Now there you go, the most wonderful upper-range combined with the worst (in my book) in bass reproduction: ported plus feedback free. My music is also far from “audiophile.” I’m happy to hear that you are testing with music YOU like no matter what it is. I hear lots of electronica, even R&B and rap. We spend so much money [on our systems], every type of music should and has to work. For my music style I want and need a silky Ayre-like mid- and upper-range to cope with more-than-average studio recordings, but I also want and need tight-fisted bass unfortunately.

But please let me ask you a question: How do you think it compares to the Devialet D-Premier, which you also liked quite a bit? For me, because with my music I’m still suffering from a too-forward upper-range somewhere, I’m very much interested in upgrading my Levinson amp to a VX-R or changing the whole chain to the Devialet. Because I recently bought the MartinLogan Summit X speakers with active bass, the Ayre’s lack of tight bass might not be an issue in this combination; it could be a win-win situation. I’ve never heard the Devialet, though, and haven’t heard the Ayre in my own system because the brand is not distributed here in New Zealand, but the all-in-one Devialet is, and, as a concept, is very attractive to me also. How does it compare to the lush and expressive sound of the VX-R in your opinion?

The last thing I'm looking for, though, is an amp that gives me all the detail and never touches the heart. I know the Ayre monos did touch me deeply. Is the Devialet a detail-only machine in comparison?

Regards,
Matthias from Wellington, New Zealand

I’m sort of surprised that you heard that Wilson tweeter sound reasonably smooth. To my ears, that old Focal tweeter that Wilson uses in most of their speakers is very hard and unrefined sounding, so much so that tubes don’t often tame it down enough. It’s like something from the Stone Age of speaker design. Now they're touting a silk-dome tweeter in their $195,000 Alexandria XLF. No wonder; anything would sound better. It could also be that I'm more critical than most because I’m spoiled by the speakers I have here from Revel, Paradigm, and Vivid that use far superior-sounding tweeters and have no issues with driver-to-driver integration.

The Devialet D-Premier isn’t a “detail-only machine.” It’s the cleanest, clearest, most refined integrated amplifier that I’ve ever heard, and the way it controls woofers is second to none. The bass performance might actually be a moot point for you, though, since you have the Summit X speakers that have built-in bass amps.

Unfortunately, I didn’t have the D-Premier here when I reviewed the VX-R, but even if I did, any meaningful comparison would have been impossible. As you mentioned, the D-Premier is an “all-in-one” component that not only has a preamplifier and amplifier in one case, but a DAC as well, whereas Ayre’s VX-R is strictly a power amp. I would have had to mix and match preamps and DACs with the VX-R, along with cables, so I would have only been able to compare and contrast in terms of the equipment I used here, which is nothing compared to what’s available on the market and what someone might actually use the VX-R with.

What’s more important is something you alluded to when you mentioned the word “concept” with regards to the D-Premier. My suggestion is to seek out the D-Premier to see if you find their all-in-one approach attractive, not just sonically, but from the point of view that you won’t be able to mix and match other components and cables. Some audiophiles like the idea, others don’t. If you do like it, then I can’t imagine you finding anything better than Devialiet’s D-Premier. If you want to stick with separates, then head straight for the VX-R, which is not only the finest-sounding power amplifier I have ever heard, but also a sound you’re already familiar with if you enjoyed the MX-R monos in the past. . . . Doug Schneider