Home  |  Audio Reviews  Audiophile Shows Partner Mags  News     

 

March 2022

Enjoy the Music.com Review Magazine

Ayon Audio CD-35 II CD Player And USA Labs RS9 Music Server Review
Two very versatile, and impressive, performers.
Review By Bob Grossman

 

Ayon Audio CD-35 II CD Player And USA Labs RS9 Music Server Review

 

  The Ayon Audio CD-35 II, as reviewed here, is the latest introduction to a long lineage of CD players that have been well regarded going back to the various models in the 3 and 5 series, along with ideas derived from their special edition CD35HF. But the CD-35 II is more than a CD player – it is also a fully functioning preamplifier and DAC. It is a single-ended triode pure Class A design using a 6H30 and a 5687 tube for each channel, and a GZ30 tube as a rectifier for the power supply. It is also a zero-feedback design.

Ayon's CD-35 II's built-in DAC can be used to play music files from your computer via the USB connection. The DAC also has a coaxial RCA input for S/PDIF, I2S, BNC, AES/EBU, and three other BNC inputs for DSD. For this review I also evaluated the RS9 music server to coordinate streaming of music from Qobuz. The USA Labs RS9 can be obtained at USA Tube Audio in Arizona, which is associated with Ayon Audio USA. I installed a CAT 6 line running from my router to the RS9 server, which was connected to the Ayon CD-35 II via an excellent sounding USB cable supplied by Synergistic Research.

The Ayon products are designed and made in Austria. I like their beautiful and massively built chassis forms, which share black rounded corner designs that seamlessly connect the thick faceplate with the sides, back, and base panels. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and I love how this Bauhaus-influenced style made an elegant and profound statement on my music rack. The heft and weight, along with the fit and finish, provide a strong suggestion that this is likely to be an extraordinary piece of high-end kit. The Ayon RS9 server is made from a different cloth, compact and attractive, but purely functional and not intended for display at center stage.

I have a history of using tube-based CD players since the 1990s starting with a two-box DAC and matching transport from California Audio Labs followed by a Cary tube CD player. Currently, my system uses the special edition of the PrimaLuna CD player with a rectifier using two 5AR4 tubes. While such rectifiers are a more expensive implementation, a meticulously designed tube rectifier (also found in the Ayon) can assist in allowing the musical presentation to be natural sounding with a low noise floor. In past years I also had an integrated preamplifier and CD player, the Krell KPS 25s, as well as a Burmeister 089 CD player which had balanced analog inputs and a variable output so that it could work directly with a power amplifier. The Krell and Burmester sold for significantly higher prices a decade ago compared to the CD-35 II today.

 

The Sound Of Ayon
I set the Ayon CD-35 II switches as a CD player which would simply send a signal over to my preamp when using a disc in the top-loading transport. I decided this would be the starting place for burning in and beginning the evaluation of the sound. Indeed, the owner's manual embraces the concept and need for burning in the unit to reach the music's full potential. I was impressed right away yet heard musical improvements as it settled into place. I found the sound to be engaging and musically involving. My thought was that this kind of sound does not get produced by accident. It came from years of design ideas and refinements along with the musical vision of Ayon's Gerhard Hirt wanting a digital source to be comparable and as musically engaging and listenable as analog.

Two of my audiophile friends have Ayon equipment. Dan played French Horn in the Philadelphia Orchestra for 45 seasons and our friend Louis is an arts patron who attends many concerts in Philadelphia and New York. They both understood what I meant when I shared how realistically the Ayon was able to bring to life the breadth and depth of my favorite recordings.

A month passed by quickly while I was enjoying the presentations of CDs in new ways. The details, control, space, frequency ranges, dynamics, and speed all created a realistic sense of resolution and natural, musical sound. I decided it was time to adjust the settings on the back panel to allow the preamplifier circuits to be used. I proceeded to connect the Ayon CD-35 II to my Rogue Apollo Dark amplifiers with balanced cables provided by Furutech.

 

Ayon CD-35 II CD Player And Ayon RS9 Music Server Review

 

The USA LAbs RS9 Music Server
It was also time to connect the USA Labs RS9 Music Server to allow that assessment to proceed. I installed a new dedicated CAT 6 line from my router to allow the direct information from Qobuz to bypass my computer and Wi-Fi. I am a novice when it comes to using a music server and computer files. I have resisted the introduction of a music server and computer source connection into my system. Charles Harrison of Ayon Audio USA, who is also with USA Tube Audio, provided the units for review and assured me that their tech support would have me connected with minimal fuss.

He also predicted that the USA Labs RS9 Server would introduce absolutely no computer-related artifacts into my stereo's sound. He was right. I had the server operating in less than an hour and must add that if a novice like me could get this to work then anybody can. This is the kind of design that will work to get hard-core media collectors of CD and vinyl such as myself to embrace using a music server.

I subscribed to Qobuz a couple of years ago when I reviewed the Bowers & Wilkins Formation self-powered speakers. I was aware of the incredibly large repertoire that is available to search and enjoy with a streamer. However, I did not want the complications of adding a typical server and external DAC to the components that occupy space on my racks. The combination of the almost-all-purpose Ayon and the RS9 server addressed this need nicely.

Now I felt that I had excellent options to hear music from three different music sources. I could enjoy the substantial collection of CDs and LPs that I own, and I could search and hear the vast collection of music available on Qobuz.

 

Power Amps A-Plenty
Sometimes serendipity strikes and an unplanned opportunity comes along during a review. An experienced audiophile friend happened to call one day and mentioned he was selling a pair of factory serviced with new power supply CJ Premier 8A amplifiers. I asked Dr. Dejan Vuckovic to bring them over for an audition so I would have an alternative to my Rogue Apollo Dark monoblocks as I evaluated the Ayon CD-35 II. By this time, I was using the Ayon as a preamplifier instead of my customary Rogue RP9 preamplifier.

The Ayon preamp stage sounded quite good with the Rogue Apollo Amps. The sound of the Ayon preamplifier was clear and precise. The Ayon brought out the Rogue amp attributes of strength, power, and dynamics with their KT120 tubes and 175 Watts of power. The music was effortless and clear as I listened with my Magnepan 20.7 speakers. The Ayon and Rogue preamplifiers use the same 6H30 tube and seemed a bit similar in sound when connected to the Rogue Apollo amplifiers. However, that changed when I evaluated the Ayon with the CJ monoblocks.

I did extensive listening evaluations comparing the Rogue preamp against the Ayon CD-35 II preamplifier section, while also comparing the Rogue Apollo and the CJ Premier 8A power amps. The Rogue preamplifier had excellent resolution, polish, and clarity. It had a great deal of speed in a linear and straightforward way, with a very good level of detail. The Ayon also provided this level of technical prowess and details in the music, but in a more voluptuous way. The Ayon in combination with the CJ Premier 8A amps was highly engaging, with an alluring sense of depth and a sense of more acoustical ambiance. The soundscape of the performers and the space of the venue were more saturated.

So, I found musical improvements when using the Ayon CD-35 II as an integrated CD player and preamp compared to using it only as a CD player with the Rogue RP9 preamp. There also is the advantage with the elimination of another interconnect between the CD player and separate preamplifier. My conclusion is that even if a person has a great preamplifier in their system as I did, the Ayon CD-35 II is an amazingly good sounding and fully functioning preamp that also serves as a CD player and DAC. This enables a person to have one piece of equipment on a single shelf instead of occupying more space with a CD player, DAC, and preamp (along with their associated interconnects and power cords).

 

 

The Music
My listening included several Harmonia Mundi CDs and LPs that are favorite Renaissance performances. I have a great admiration for performances by Jordi Savall, Rene Clemencic, and Gregorio Panagua. As a modern era musician playing on a 1932 Heckel bassoon and the owner of several Renaissance-era dulcians, kortholts, sordunes, and racketts that are the types of instruments used with early period performances, I feel that I know how these players should sound. La Folia De La Spagna is a favorite trickster performance of the Spanish Folia dance melody in the Harmonia Mundi recording by Gregorio Panagua. A large array of period Renaissance instruments is supplemented with modern era saws, automobiles, squeaking balloons, and gunshots.

It is a highly creative razzle-dazzle combination that can be an endurance test for a stereo's dynamics and transients, yet quite charming musically to follow the variations of the theme. I have this recording on both vinyl LP HM 1050 and CD HM 90.1050. It is also available to stream on Qobuz. Through the CD-35 II, the three formats sounded a bit different, yet each format offered compelling and realistic presentations filled with details that enabled musical fulfillment in abundance.

Another favorite Harmonia Mundi CD I have enjoyed since the 1980s is Rene Clemencic's performance of La Fete De L'ane. I have played this CD [HM 901036] as an irreverent celebration and satire for celebrating Christmas and New Year's. Through the Ayon CD-35 II, all the instrumental textures and distinctive vocalizations on this CD sounded the best I had ever heard. The performers were rendered in a three-dimensional manner. I could follow their musical presentations from side to side, along with the front to the rear of the church acoustics.

The CD sounded so good that I decided to buy the LP [HM 1036], as a comparison to evaluate and compare. Upon ultrasonically cleaning the mint condition vintage LP, I heard differences due to the format. Yet the sound quality of the CD was so good through the Ayon that I do not feel compelled to say a person must have this recording on vinyl to hear everything in this fantastic performance.

 

 

In the past few years, the Philadelphia Orchestra and Yannick have been recording a cycle of Rachmaninoff symphonic works. Daniil Trifonov has performed all four Piano Concertos. They are on Destination Rachmaninov - Arrival Piano Concertos 1 & 3 [Deutsche Grammophon 483 6617] and Destination Rachmaninov – Departure Piano Concertos 2 & 4 [Deutsche Grammophon B0028799-02]. Both recordings were released by DG on CD format and 180-gram vinyl gatefold double-LP albums. It was a perfect demo of the Ayon to hear how well it played these new DG CDs and records. The Ayon accurately recreated the sound and details from the recording sessions I attended at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts in Philadelphia. It was a realistic portrayal of the performances with the sound of musicians that I personally know, and have heard, for many years.

If you happen to have a great vinyl analog setup, then the sound of the Ayon preamplifier is going to portray and reach musical levels that are revealing and musically satisfying. If using the Ayon CD player with your own preamplifier, then once again the Ayon will achieve and deliver deeply rewarding and satisfying music. I enjoyed both as I compared many overlapping recordings in which I own both formats. The Ayon CD-35 II allowed me to enjoy CDs just as much as I enjoy LPs. And for me, that is saying a lot.

 

USA Labs RS9 Set Up
USA Labs' RS9 Streamer produced a musically involving and engaging sound. This was a relief because I have heard less capable streaming sources many times in other systems. Of course, a streamer provides convenience and access to nearly unlimited recordings, but I sometimes feel a less emotional response to music if I can perceive that the source is digital. Luckily, with the RS9 this was not the case.

Charlie from Ayon USA / USA Labs recommended that I try a USB cable from Synergistic Research, and it turned out to be good advice. In fact, the USB cord played a vital role in the sound quality of the streamer. Andy Wierderspahn and Ted Denney from Synergistic Research provided a loan of their Galileo SX digital interconnect with the optional ground plug, silver, and gold tuning module bullets. I compared this SR cable to another excellent quality borrowed cable from an audiophile friend. The SR cable added finesse and level of musicality that gave the Ayon an analog-like sound, in the best sense of that word. The SR ground and tuning module added more refinements to the extremely sweet and beautiful sound while using the SR cable.

I find using an app on my phone to be an uncomplicated way of searching and using Qobuz while Roon is the core control set up on the computer. It would be just as easy to set up a notebook or laptop, however I personally prefer to not have those devices in my music room. USA Labs' RS9 can store from 2 TB on up depending on configuration, but I own so many CDs and records that I have not pursued the use of music files. It is simply a personal quirk from having served as the Principal Librarian for The Philadelphia Orchestra for many years and wanting to take a break from the computer when I am home. I admit I am a collector, and I love handling records and CDs. But streaming music through a service such as Qobuz is easy for me because it brings easy access to so many recordings that I do not own.

 

 

The Format War
My analog friends wonder how I can be pleased with a digital music server. And my friends with streamers wonder why I bother to keep CDs and records. I found a new perspective while using the Ayon CD-35 II CD player and RS9 music streamer. The sound of each format was equally compelling and musically fulfilling. Well-mastered and recorded CDs such as those from Mosaic sounded incredibly good with the Ayon, so I would not want to part with my collection of silver discs (which also hold sentimental value) when the Ayon CD-35 II can make them sound so good. In fact, I found the Ayon to have the best sound out of all the CD players I have used in the past 25 years. However, I also love vinyl and have around 20,000 LPs comprising over half a century of recorded music artistry to pick from.

While I have countless CDs and LPs, I found that listening to music with Qobuz provided some key advantages. It was an easier way to hear and enjoy music that I have on older original records that are not in good condition. And I found that older CDs from an era filled with limited mastering expertise and digital artifacts did not sound as good as streaming newer formatted and hi-rez masters.

 

 

Summary
The Ayon CD-35 II is an amazing, multi-talented performer. It is a state-of-the-art CD player, and an excellent preamplifier. And the internal DAC coordinated easily with the RS9 music server. Overall, the Ayon provided lovely, musical sound during its stay in my home.

I have not had the pleasure to meet Ayon's Gerhard Hirt, but I hope to one day. The Ayon website has extensive information about the company philosophy, designs, and approach to reproducing music. It seems obvious to me that Gerhard is a genuine music lover and patron of the arts. There is a keen sense of artistry and beauty in the sound of this Ayon. This elegant component accurately reflects the company's philosophy.

I have been a musician for over 50 years, while my dad was an electronics repair technician and salesperson. I wish he could be here to experience the fine design of the Ayon (and to explain all the circuits and tubes to me). He would be impressed with the build, fit and finish. He would question the expense yet would appreciate the added value of being a multitalented state-of-the-art performer as a preamplifier, CD player, and DAC in a beautiful chassis. I give the Ayon CD-35 II the highest of recommendations and would not want to be without the ability to hear music presented at this level now that I have experienced it.

At the conclusion of this review, it was an easy decision to buy the Ayon CD-35 II CD player and the USA Labs RS9 Music Server for my system. This is the highest compliment a reviewer can bestow upon a product for review.

 

 

 

CD 35 II RS9 Server

Tonality

Sub–bass (10Hz – 60Hz)

Mid–bass (80Hz – 200Hz)

Midrange (200Hz – 3,000Hz)

High Frequencies (3,000Hz On Up)

Attack

Decay

Inner Resolution

Soundscape Width Front

Soundscape Width Rear
Soundscape Depth

Soundscape Extension Into Room

Imaging

Fit And Finish

Self Noise
Emotionally Engaging

Value For The Money

 

 

 

Specifications
Ayon CD-35 II CD Player
Conversion Rate: 768kHz / 32 bit & DSD 256
DAC Configuration: Fully symmetrical / AKM-Japan
DSP Module: PCM–>DSD (optional)
Tube Complement: GZ30, 6H30, and 5687
Dynamic Range: > 120dB
Output Level: 0.775V -0dB Low 2.5V fixed or 0 – 2.5 V rms variable
Output Level:0.775V -0dB High 5V fixed or 0 – 5V rms variable
Output Impedance: Unbalanced RCA ~300 Ohm
Output Impedance: Balanced XLR ~300 Ohm
Digital Output: 75 Ohm S/PDIF (RCA)
Digital Input: 75 Ohm S/PDIF (RCA)
USB: 24-bit/192 kHz & DSD128
I2S, BNC, AES/EBU
Three BNC for DSD
SNR:: > 119 dB
Frequency Response: 20Hz to 50kHz (+/- 0.3dB)
THD: <0.001%
Remote Control: Yes
Output Complement: Unbalanced RCA and balanced XLR
Dimensions: 48cm x 39cm x 12cm (WxDxH)
Weight 17 kgs.
Price: $11,500

 

 

USA Labs RS9 Music Server
8th Generation Intel Core i7
Fanless aluminum chassis
Chassis is the heatsink
All solid-state
8GB RAM
256 GB SSD system and database drive
2TB to 8TB SSD music storage drive
ROON license must be purchased separately.
Price: 2TB $2895 – 4TB $3395 – 8TB $3795

 

 

 

Company Information
Ayon Audio USA
8355 E Butherus Drive
Suite 1
Scottsdale, AZ 85260

Voice: (800) 676-1085
Website: AyonAudioUSA.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

     
 

Quick Links


Audiophile Review Magazine
High-End Audio Equipment Reviews

 

Equipment Review Archives
Turntables, Cartridges, Etc
Digital Source
Do It Yourself (DIY)
Preamplifiers
Amplifiers
Cables, Wires, Etc
Loudspeakers/ Monitors
Headphones, IEMs, Tweaks, Etc
Ultra High-End Audio Reviews

 

Videos
Enjoy the Music.TV

 

Columns
Editorials By Tom Lyle
Viewpoint By Roger Skoff
Viewpoint By Steven R. Rochlin
Various Think Pieces
Manufacturer Articles


Show Reports
HIGH END Munich 2022
AXPONA 2022 Show Report
CanJam Singapore 2022 Report
Salon Audio Montréal / Audio Fest 2022
Florida Audio Expo 2022
AudioCon Los Angeles 2022
Capital Audiofest 2021 Show
The HiFi Summit Q2 2021
T.H.E. Show 2021 Report
The HiFi Summit Q4 2020
The HiFi Summit Q2 2020
Bristol Hi-Fi Show Report 2020
Florida Audio Expo 2020 Show Report
Click here for previous shows.

 

Other
Audiophile Contests
Cool Free Stuff For You
Tweaks For Your System
Vinyl Logos For LP Lovers
Lust Pages Visual Beauty

 

Resources & Information
Music Definitions
Hi-Fi Definitions

 


Daily Industry News

High-End Audio News & Information

 

Partner Print Magazines
audioXpress
Australian Hi-Fi Magazine
hi-fi+ Magazine
HIFICRITIC
HiFi Media
Hi-Fi World
Sound Practices
The Absolute Sound
VALVE Magazine

 

For The Press & Industry
About Us
Press Releases
Official Site Graphics

 

Contests & Our Mailing List

Our free newsletter for monthly updates & enter our contests!

 

 

    

Home   |   Industry News   |   Equipment Reviews   |   Press Releases   |   About Us   |   Contact Us

 

All contents copyright©  1995 - 2022  HighEndAudio.com and Enjoy the Music.com®
May not be copied or reproduced without permission.  All rights reserved.