Ayon Audio S-3 Review – HiFi Review

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All the traditional formats – vinyl records, cassettes, CDs, DVD, Blu-ray, etc. – created at the initiative of the electronics industry. The public could only humbly show interest in them, getting the carriers themselves and reproducing apparatus. However, in the 90-ies of the last century a quiet, peaceful revolution – a technically advanced people discovered multimedia files. Initially used to play their natural environment, ie computers, but, over time, specialized devices. Music files went to mass, and manufacturers had to obey the dictates of the market.

Were the first portable player, then playback function appeared at disk player, then any specialized devices that do not even have the drive and the source of information are the USB and HDD-drives and network servers – both local and remote. Parallel changes in the attitude to file sources: first, condescending (toy for teenagers and computer geeks, the innovative element of everyday life), then the pragmatic (H-Fi-components as an alternative to the computer – more comfortable and the sound quality). Parallel machines began to appear higher class, in particular, servers and players Naim, Linn, Sooloos, Olive Audio … However, due to certain reasons, these systems have remained a kind of exotic, they were not able to overcome the barrier in the minds of music lovers, separating private club High End of the rest of the world. However, it seems to me, it’s going to happen. Maybe it will be able to network music player Ayon S-3?

Austrian company Ayon Audio is familiar to our readers. Its developers adhere to the classical canons (lamps, Class A, the shortest signal path, selected components, etc.), but at the same time very confident feel in the latest digital technology. But the most important thing – it’s only an attractive signature sound, which is just what has been achieved mainly through the use of vacuum devices. That is, the lamp is not a fad or a conventional attribute of High End, is just one of the means to achieve the goal.

Design recognizable, workmanship is consistent with high status. Metal for this player spared – weight 12 kg is piety.

Lattice top – the same as in the CD-player Ayon CD-1SC, they are provided for ventilation tubes operating in single-ended output stages. Lamp, by the way, are the same – dual triode 6N30 Russian production. Among other benefits, have high reliability and service life of about 10 thousand hours.

Traditionally Ayon power button is located on the bottom surface of the device in the vicinity of the front panel. Switching – almost exhaustive: there are all kinds of digital inputs, including I2S (on RJ-45 connector), and balanced AES/EBU, coaxial digital output, and three analog stereo inputs. Analog outputs – balanced XLR and asymmetrical RCA. Winner of the S-3 is easy to do without pre – enough to buy power amplifier and gain problem is solved. Although the unit is able to work with integrated amplifier – the mode switches the switch on the switch panel. Next – the same toggle to select Gain (Low/High) and output interface (RCA/XLR). Also located behind the slot for Wi-Fi-antenna phase indicator and power, but it is useful only when connected to the grounding.

Two USB connectors – on the front and rear panels. The second is convenient to connect portable HDD. However, they, like flash drives must be formatted for FAT16/FAT32, NTFS file system is not supported. But because the unit is designed to play music, this restriction does not matter, because the audio files larger than 4 GB – it is something extremely improbable.

Color LCD-display displays information only and is not a touchscreen. That does not have a drawback – hardware controls its task successfully cope. Especially good are the two handles in retro style at opposite ends of the front panel: left – at the output level control, right – switch inputs.

Digital-to-analog converter capable of receiving signals from the bit depth to 24 bit/192 kHz. The manufacturer of this information is limited, but our German colleagues, who happened to test this device before others and do not be lazy to take it off the top cover, found that the DAC is built on a chip PCM1792. From branded “chips”, implemented in the converter S-3, note the ability to control with the remote control forced oversampling of 192 kHz/24-bit. Speaking of uprvlenii: a recently released a firmware update the device has received the control function with portable devices Apple – required for this software is installed on them for free.

Internet radio receiver implemented on the basis of the popular network service vTuner, which enables you to edit the list of stations, supplementing his or shortening. However, immediately after the first turn on the device he was able to accept the Russian Internet broadcast. And surprisingly high sound quality.

The USB interface operates in asynchronous mode and can receive signals from up to 24 bits/192 kHz. Wired network interface – the same, but over Wi-Fi play files up to 24 bit/96 kHz.

To play on the network protocol used by UPnP. Of my two NAS it is supported by only one. To S-3 “saw” the second drive, you can connect via a home computer that is running Twonky. Ideally should also reorganize your music collection – how to do it is explained in the user guide Ayon S-3.

In my home system to play audio files used specialized PC and DAC PS Audio PerfectWave DAC. Their total cost is approximately twice less than that Ayon S-3, but my technique is well warmed up, and the network player worked only a few hours, so that the competition is fair. Musical material – FLAC files of different genres in the local network and USB-drives. Sampling Frequency – 44.1 kHz/16-bit, 96 kHz/24 bit and 192 kHz/24-bit.

First impression: the difference in the sound of the two sources is minimized. However, as the listening it becomes clear that the sound handwriting they still different. Ayon plays cheerfully, energetic, expressive, PS Audio – relaxed, stately, calm, sometimes – with laziness. The first creates a “sculptural” soundscapes, it is expressive and musical, the second neutral and extremely clean, conveys a more nuanced and every detail, especially in the lower range. Honestly, I like both interpretations, and personally I could not give preference to any of them. A technique that combines all these qualities at the same time, there is hardly any. Anyway, I never met such.

Ayon S-3 Network player photo