August 21, 2012
About 2 years ago, Big E borrowed a pair of Ayre MX-R monoblocks from Hi-Way Laser and we had a whale of a time listening to them in our systems for a couple of weeks. Having been so impressed with them, I could not resist, when I came across Ayre’s new VX-R stereo power amp at Hi-Way Laser’s showroom, to ask Kenny’s permission to bring the new amp home for a short listen.
The Ayre VX-R is a follow-up to their flagship monoblocks. The VX-R is like a conjoint twins version of the MX-R, it is basically 2 mono amplifiers built into 1 chassis. The chassis is similarly carved out from a solid billet of aluminium. The demo unit came with a transparent plastic bottom, so I could take photos of the circuits and compare to those I took of the MX-R. The circuits from both models to my non-technical eyes look identical. The one big difference was that each MX-R uses 2 transformers per side, while the VX-R uses just 1 per channel. The VX-R has a power rating of 200w/8ohm and 400w/4ohm (MX-R gives out 300w/600w) and weighs 35kg. The list price for the VX-R is RM60,000.
One interesting nugget I dug up about the VX-R was a posting from Charles Hansen on Stereophile’s website, in which he said, “This is literally a 200 wpc version of the MX-R built into one chassis. There were a lot of requests for a smaller amplifier that would fit on a rack shelf. Within its power rating, the sound is exactly identical to the MX-R. We took special care to ensure that everything was exactly the same.” (see here)
The Ayre VX-R operates in the same way as the MX-R. It has no on-off button, it goes straight into standby when it is plugged in with the indicator light glowing green. The indicator light also serves as a power button where a push will change its colour to blue and turn the amplifier on. At the back, there is but just one pair of XLR input, so you'd need to connect the VX-R to a pre-amp with a balanced output. I like the Cardas loudspeaker binding posts, they are easy to use and to tighten down, but they accept only spade termination.
I first mated the VX-R to my resident preamp, the Pass Labs XP-20. The XP-20 has proven to be an excellent and exceptional pre-amp, but on this particular occasion I was not happy. The sound from this pairing had an aggression, edginess and a general lack of refinement that I did not recognize as either Pass Labs or Ayre, and it definitely could not be attributed to the TAD CR-1 loudspeakers too. It was a sound I did not enjoy listening to for longer hours. Even after I let the whole thing ran overnight, thinking that the VX-R needed more run-in or warm-up, the situation did not improve. Alas, I put this down as a matching issue, a situation not unheard of in our hobby, though this is one I would not have suspected for this pairing.
As luck would have it, when I asked to loan the VX-R I also asked Kenny to loan me the Ayre KX-R pre-amp too. So, in went the KX-R. The KX-R pre-amp and VX-R clicked immediately, as they should be.
The VX-R definitely shared the MX-R’s DNA. The sonic picture it conjured had a vividness that I would describe as an ‘oil painting’ rather than ‘water colour’. The tonal colour was rich and vibrant. The sound was liquid, organic, and had an analogue warmth close to the best of tube gear, yet the VX-R also exhibited control and definition from the best of solid state.
In terms of dynamics and impact, the sound from the VX-R might lose out a little some other solid state designs, however I found that the VX-R generally sounded more natural. It exhibited a musical quality that few could match. There was tremendous amount of details presented by this Ayre duo, and they successfully weaved them together to serve the musical message, instead of just highlighting certain aspects of the sound.
I enjoyed my time with the Ayre VX-R. I hope they will make your acquaintance too. For audition, please contact Hi-Way Laser 03-7873.8325 or Kenny 019-281.3399.