Extended review: AYON POLARIS II (note – Since been updated to new POLARIS III)
Sometimes I wish I had given up the habit of transmitting each test a separate title. I was forced to do this, because although variety to read, in the long run is not always needed. To a portion of text titles were actually assigned, grew themselves, and parts were not at all needed. Because I wanted to avoid situations such as the letters printed (targets including “Hi-Fi Choice” and “Hi-Fi News” , but it is also familiar and “Stereophile’i” and “Hi-Fi +” ), where the boundary of good taste is often exceeded, resigned from them at all. Sometimes I think that is a mistake, because there is something missing to give the whole clip, something that immediately shows what we’re dealing with. The most important consequence of this, however, so the purity of the case, the names does not and is not going to change. But if I briefly suspended this rule, the text of the Ayon Polaris II nadałbym title: Fulfilled dreams of flying .
Big, consisting of two equally large and equally heavy elements the device whose utility function equally well can “settle” with a small scalaczka size of a fingernail, costing as much as a nice car. And it is, actually, unnecessary. Because preamplifier is an element that can be eliminated in the system, but rather turn to something else, in a very simple manner, thereby simplifying the signal path. You can replace it with a passive attenuator (passive preamp) or integrate with CD player (as in the Ancient Audio Lektor Grand SE ). And each of these methods has its strongest supporters and offers specific, measurable benefit. And yet, at least on my system, the sound system was always better when the track was bloated, active preamp. Improved then almost everything, including the state of a bank account outside of resolution and soundstage. Therefore, taking into account the pros and cons I never had a problem with an indication of active external device. I know, I’ve heard both fantastic pasywki and CD (and SACD dCS and EMM Labs ) connected directly to the power amplifier and some of these systems was simply brilliant. And yet, almost always, they were compiled systems is that angle around this idea. They were so very “compatible”, so to speak, with other devices. In my system, where weekly guests several new devices such exclusivity can not afford. Egalitarianism is a key word in my case – equal opportunities must be any device, regardless of the price and origin.
Therefore, the preamplifier is with me in the spotlight. After a few devices that do not fully meet the expectations placed in them, I finally found the preamp, which amazed me, and he was not at the same time somehow terribly expensive – in truth was less than two times more expensive than a network cable ( 7N-PC7100 Acrolink ), where it later was allocated. I am very attached to him, because not once and not twice proved that he is worth much more money. Even he is not perfect. I know a much better device (about them in the listening part), and one of them is the Ayon Polaris II. This is a new version of the Polaris, with a much better housing and more powerful power supply. Its foundation, however, are the same, ultra-rare, but highly valued lamp – packaged in a metal enclosure Siemens pentode (working here in triode) C3M, one per channel. This is one of the best low-power lamps, which says so (after TubeDepot ):
“It pentode special purpose applications AF and RF, built specifically for the German mail withstand 10 000 operating hours. It truly ultimatum to the preamp tubes. If you are looking for the least rustling, least michrophonic tubes on the planet, this is your chance.
Their main features are:
∙ very high gain
very low noise ∙
∙ very low microphonics
metal screen ∙
∙ pentode, which can also be used as a triode (gain curve looks then exactly as if it were a triode)
∙ individually numbered.
How is it possible that we only have one lamp in each channel? On the one hand, because these lamps have a very high gain (even when, as here, working in triode), on the other hand, because instead of resistive attenuator used in the extremely rare because costly solution called VTC – “Volume Control Transformer “: an adjusting signal level, based on a 24-position switch with gold contacts, changing the output … matching transformer. Yes, Ayon uses the old as the world, which, however, together with the improvement of cores, winding wires, etc. gained a second chance. This is not all. Polaris II is in fact a full-fledged phono preamp. And if he is a closer look, one could say that the RIAA preamp is more than linear, because the correction circuits occupy in the middle of a lot more space and use up the four lamps Siemens. We must add to this the presence of a large power-supply unit, with a separate transformer for the motor moving said switch and the power supply lamp-based, full-wave rectifier operating in four lamp CV135. All this adds up to a preamplifier, which I just had to look at.
Music used in the test (selection):
∙ Bill Evans You Must Believe In Spring , Warner Bros. / Warner Music Japan, WPCR-13176, CD.
∙ Christian Willisohn, Hold On , Stockfisch, SFR 357.4038.2, SACD / CD; review HERE .
∙ Danielsson / Dell / Landgren, Salzau Music On The Water , ACT Music + Vision, ACT 9445-2, CD; review HERE .
∙ Depeche Mode Only When I Lose Myself , Mute CD BONG 29X, SP CD.
∙ Derek And The Dominos, The Layla Sessions. 20th Anniversary Edition , Polydor / Universal Music Japan, UICY-93958/60, 3 x SHM-CD.
∙ GF Handel, Acis & Galatea , Dunedin Consort & Players, Linn Records, CKD 319, 2 x SACD / CD; review HERE .
∙ GF Handel, Oratorios. Saul & Messiah , Harmonia Mundi HMX 2908280.83, 4 x CD; review HERE .
∙ Kenny Burrell Soul Call , Prestige / JVC JVCXR-0210-2, XRCD2.
∙ Lars Danielsson, Mélange Bleu , ACT Music + Vision, ACT 9604 -2, CD; review HERE .
∙ Martin L. Gore, Counterfeit2 , Mute, 582477, CCD.
∙ Patricia Barber Companion , Premonition / Mobile Fidelity, UDSACD 2023, SACD / CD player.
∙ Thom Yorke, The Eraser , XL / Warner Music Japan, WPCB-10001, CD; reviewed the European version HERE .
∙ Wlodek Pawlik, Grand Piano , Arms Records, ZP 140770 06-07, 2 x gold-CD.
∙ Wynton Kelly, Kelly Blue , Riverside / JVC, JVCXR-0050 -2, XRCD.
∙ Depeche Mode, Violator , Mute, STUMM64, Limited Edition, 180 g LP; review HERE .
∙ Frank Sinatra, Cole Porter My Capitol. Pickwick Series, SPC-3463, LP.
∙ Madeleine Peyroux, Careless Love , Rounder / Mobile Fidelity, MSFL 1-284, 180 g LP; review HERE .
∙ Mel Tormé, Oh, You Beautiful Doll , Past Perfect / The Trumpets of Jericho , 904333-980, 180 g LP.
∙ Paul Desmond Summertime , CTI / A & M Records / / Speakers Corner, A & M SP 3015, 180 g LP.
As I wrote, the player Ayon listened to music for over two months – first in order to understand the phenomenon of the sound, and then with pure pleasure, extending to obscenity, the term of his devotion. As I mentioned a long time I use the phenomenal preamp Leben RS-28CX , which is hard to beat. I think that we have to deliver two times more money. Apart from a few details, rather than explicitly opposing worse, Polaris II presented the sound of several classes better, coming out even with deadlines devoted hi-endowi and free swimming of something more akin to playing live than with mechanical restoration. A little bit, of course, I’m exaggerating, but I’m not doing this for the empty effect, whether painted for Ayon splendour, but because the discussion about audio in general is to some extent crippled: you have on hand just copy, reflection, trying to play it and compare to reality . And the way it is recorded and the physical limitations of the media. Therefore, talking about any “reality” is an abuse. Only that it is difficult to judge what comes out of the speakers or headphone choosing some, even unattainable, the reference point. Therefore, in the case of this device make it easier to refer to the sound of live instruments than for other preamplifiers.
Ayon plugging into the plug in it but not in place of “holes” or slice of reality, and instead of another device. Therefore, it must be said that the Polaris II different from what we know.
transition from my Leben was a shock. Both in terms of the quality of what is opened Copper speakers, but also a shock, you say, culturally. It is in fact a completely different vision of the world. The first impression is that the Austrian preamplifier game considerably softer way. For a while I thought it was not quite good that Leben, with his powerful attack, a clearer line of “rising” sound is closer to what it actually is. After a few concerts, and – maybe it was even more important – after returning to my preamp turned out, however, that I was wrong about this, that our experience of reality has nothing to do with any “strong”, “clear”, “visible”, etc . way of presenting the audio system. Everything comes to us very naturally and further this method is what showed Ayon. His sound is extremely balanced. Therefore, it may sometimes seem “soft”. When I listen to it longer, it appears that few common elements here softening or delaying, and it mostly on the inner richness of communication, its maturity, with razor-resolution. This last feature struck me particularly strongly (and painfully) when I returned to Leben. It’s incredibly retail and distribution unit, but costs so much and I know how much that can be done better. Polaris II shows that eating lots can be better.
All vocals, regardless of timbre, the method of recording, colors etc. are incredibly energy therein and just clear. Earlier I thought that clearly presents them Leben. And he does it, at least in comparison with all other devices up to 20 000 – 30 000 zł. Austrian preamplifier showed them not so much that “clearly” – it was just the effect – and simply deeper, fuller, with much better marked microdynamics and better defined “inter-individual” expression of any songbird. I remember first hearing of the new version of the classic board Layla Derek And The Dominos, in a wonderful edition of Universal Music Japan (available at CD Japan ). This disc recorded on a multitrack tape recorder and it is not exactly correct, the rather weak dynamics, clearly flattened in compressors and quite deeply embedded in the mix vocals Clapton. With Ayon everything was clear, explicit and hear the choices, decisions, etc., which make up the final result. And this is, after all, loved it. But it was not “pushing” the vocals, it was not their insulation, the preamp does not. “Heat” here is a derivative of incredible purity, and not the distortion. This phenomenon, which can be heard in a very good system. Suddenly, most of the plates, which we thought was far too difficult to listen to – because of the poor quality of the recording – gives to listen. We know what is wrong with them, but – pardon the expression – I do not care, because the “package” that we get is absolutely satisfactory, mainly because you can hear the music, and only “for” her record.
So it was just out of Layla , but also eg solo album Martin L. Gore Counterfeid2 , recorded with copy protection, and so largely destroyed before it was sold. Do not listen to it often, because this protection can be heard as the incredibly gritty up and the presence of something after a short time leads to a headache (like a sub-harmonic, or something like that). With Ayon also was not fireworks, but it was not so annoying, do not reject the disc. Here, too, the vocals were incredibly good (as in this implementation), which immediately repeated the voice of Patricia Barber on Companion . Songs from this album have played with passion and a rare virtuosity. This is a live recording, and the club was on the doorstep. I’m talking about the energy and dynamics, though, as I wrote, Leben seems to be more lively device. Other devices, moreover, too, that remind even the VK-3iX Preamp BAT or integrated amplifier Belles IA-01 . This, however, is not exactly as I thought. They just “go”, rather “suggest” the dynamics and microdynamics, playing in a more penetrating way. I do not mean lightening, because it is not a fairy tale, but that insight. Ayon seems much calmer, because I never allow such a play. Never. When the volume up Leben, BAT, or other preamps, get stronger, louder sound. Well and good. Only that Polaris II does not increase selectively, but increases the sound, magnifies the virtual sources, their volume, not the volume level. I hope you understand me – playing louder does not increase the irritation, but rather fills the room sounds, expanding “bubble” growing out of the column.
However, the most beautiful, and for many it can be a decisive factor, Ayon treats the piano. It is both sonorous and smooth. When recording, where there is only one of the equivalent elements heard this his feature, but it is not dominant. However, if we take in hand such as a disc Bil Evans, for example, a wonderful album You Must Believe In Spring (recently bought all his discs recorded for Warner Bros.. – are available in an extremely refined reissue on SHM-CD from CD Japan ) and listen even while the first song Fri B Minor Waltz (For Ellaine) first on Ayon, then at Leben, we will just sorry – that it’s all “sit” with a cheaper device. It’s not his fault, without comparing everything is great, but only Ayon brings out deep tones and beautiful bass instrument basis Evans. Similarly, the piano sounded Willisohn from the album Hold On , which, combined with his deep voice gave an amazing effect “exit” from the framework imposed by the column, without attacking us, as do the classic tube amps, and simply by blurring (erase) the border between the stage created by the columns and the stage of recording. Although the Polaris II sound really “out” to us – it was such a beautiful piano Lars Denielssona from the album Mélange Bleu , who in the opening, title track Mangle emerged from oblivion near, very near, was large and vibrate emotions. The same impression I had while listening to a disc Salzau Music On The Water This music, recorded with Christopher Dell, Nils Landgren and live on a wooden platform on the lake, about 5 in the morning. The intensity of these sounds is overwhelming, provided that it will reproduce well. Leben tip Luxman M-800A handled this much better than all integrated amplifiers I know. Ayon moved but this performance to a new level, fill the space between the instruments, “air”, silence, giving them facilities in the form of something “for” them.
Of special note is the bass. I remember clearly how well this respect presented itself already invoked the BAT VK-3iX. Better than him, at least in my experience, there were only two preamps, I know: VK-52SE (I do not know REX-a) of the same company and Reference 3 Audio Research . These are two of the four best devices of this type that I’ve heard in a controlled environment and peace. To them and to the Polaris II must also add the NHB-128NS Swiss company darTZeel . And even CAT-777 Reimyo . Thus we come to the comparisons with the best in the world. I will repeat what at each comparison: I’m talking only about the devices that I know well that I have heard in the circumstances known to me and for which I am absolutely sure that this is how they play. Next are obviously products, which are also great, but I heard that just shows, or at all, and only heard of them or read. These include the KX-R American Ayre and TL-7.5 is also an American company VTL . The rest I do not know, so I can not speak. In any case, only the Audio Research and BAT descend on bass lower than Ayon. At the bottom of the Austrian machine game nicely diverse, well-defined sound, where my Leben sounds a bit as if not quite understand what’s out there, at the bottom (think of a very low bass, like in the song Macro of Mélange Bleu or bass with single Only When I Loose Myself Depeche Mode) is happening. Both American preamplifiers play this range a little harder than Ayon, but I’m not sure that the presentation is more correct – most will depend on the particular system. If I had but something likened the sound of the Polaris II, it would be a different preamp, surprisingly – transistor. It happens once in a thousand, but the company darTZeel of a semiconductor can bring things unique, making it a model NHB-128NS is phenomenal. Playing in a slightly sweeter than Ayon way and can show a deeper soundstage. Perfect reproduction of high frequencies of the latter is not at risk, the Swiss machine game a little smoother in this respect, not so rich internally (remember that both are absolute top!) Sound. The dynamics of AR and BAT also seems a bit better than the Polaris II. The latter was also heard after returning to Leben, which shows better built, maybe not as intense and not so natural, but still – a deeper stage. At first, it seems that the top is in it more, which is probably true, but it is clearly simplified.
Polaris II is a preamplifier, though, when we look to the interior, we see that a larger plate 9a actually two) takes phono section. You see, I just feel that this is one of the “horses” constructor. Built around the same lamp as a linear section, it also has a similar sound signature. The message is the ultra-comfortable, super-nice, or whatever else we came up with. And this is regardless of the music – and Depeche Mode Violator , and Madeleine Peyroux from Careless Love , and above all Paul Demond of Sumertime – all these performers played very good “sets”, an equal, extremely balanced. The mountain is a lot, this is not a case of its withdrawal, but her breakthrough diameter and the bottom is slightly rounded. The bottom is fed in a balanced way rather than with unrestrained dynamics. This causes the recording bit to converge. When the turntable Kuzma Reference was extremely pleasant, just like the earlier of the SME 10 and Avid Volvere (test “Audio” ). Bass is not descended so low as to my preamp RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC , but the tonal balance was not disturbed, because it balances the heat, the full diameter. Actually what presents Ayon is very similar to playing ASR Basis , partly to C-27 Accuphase and card phono preamplifiers (AD-20) of this company. Interestingly, both of which are based on semiconductors, and they play, as a lamp. In turn, Manley Steelhead plays more like RCM … American competition is more resolved and is strongly stretched the edges of the band. Also, the dynamics is in her higher. Section RIAA Polaris II is, however, difficult to obtain for any money flow and coherence. No, it is not the most resolved sound I ever heard, but at the same time is extremely attractive, because he has a “body”, well-differentiated and defined vocals and everything that happens in the middle of the band. Also in the difficult mono recordings, like Oh, You Beautiful Doll Mel Tormé, coping also with no problem with a bit of crafted (“enhanced stereo”) album Cole Porter My Frank Sinatra. With the latter, it was good to hear, too, that the device somewhat masks the noises, not allowing them to “get out” before the music.
repeat: I have not heard all the preamps in the world. So far, however, Ayon is at the very top, in the company of several other sophisticated devices. His sound is incredibly vivid and engaging, making parting with it is painful for me. At least I know that I have a better preamp than now, because the rest of the system to change it clearly shows. So I have to sell my beloved Leben. If you are among your willing – please contact us. But this is just a digression. Clue of this summary is this: Ayon is not a perfect device, such does not exist….. It gives, however, the sound in an extremely satisfying. You have to listen to him longer to appreciate, but it is. Perhaps it would be better if it was balanced device, (newer Polaris III now has: Inputs: 4 x Line RCA, 1 x Line XLR, 1 x Phono MC / Outputs: 2x RCA, 1x XLR ) – it’s hard. It’s big and black 🙂 ....It’s great.