Ayon US Head Honcho, North American Union Man
To learn a little more about this outstanding product and what I imagine to be many more like it from this unknown (to me) company, I spoke with Ayon Audio's North American distributor Charlie Harrison.

When and where was the company founded?
The audio firm began with Vaic in 1995. Founder Mr. Gerhard Hirt still owns the Vaic trademark. In 2001, Vaic merged to Ayon Audio and was founded in Austria.

Striving to become the top manufacturer for single-ended triode amplifiers; offer the best sound performance in their price classes; [create] products of unique cosmetic and technical design; [push] the performance envelope, [offer] superb reliability and soundstaging at a competitive price.
How many workers are employed and where is factory located?
We have 20 employees and are growing exponentially. We are located in Austria.

First piece manufactured?
The first Vaic model were the Reference 52B mono amps and the first Ayon Audio product was the Ayon Audio 300B stereo integrated amplifier.

Your products are now distributed to how many countries?
26 and growing quickly.

What is your most successful product?
The Ayon Audio Sunfire stereo integrated amplifier, the Ayon Audio Spark stereo integrated amplifier and our high performance tube CD players.

What awards has the company received?
Reference Monoblock: 2002 Golden Ear Award-The Absolute Sound USA
Spheris: Product of the year 2006 in Hong Kong
Product of the year 2008 in Germany (will be announced in June 2008)
Product of the year 2008 in Italy (will be announced during the Milan Hi-End Audio Show September 2008)
Seagull-C: Speaker Product of the year 2006 in Germany

What is company founder Gerhard Hirt's background?
Mr. Gerhard Hirt earned a Masters degree in electronics and mechanics. He started his career in the automobile industry. Mr. Hirt was employed by BMW and Ferrari in Vienna to improve, design and diagnose their electronic supply, control units and improve diagnostic programs and devices.

Then Mr. Hirt worked for the Austrian B&W and Accuphase distributor after which he founded his own company, Austrian distribution company Living Sound GmbH, the main company and satellite organization of Ayon Audio and Lumen White. Living Sound GmbH also distributes many well-known brand names such as Cello, Convergent, dCS, Audion, Wilson Audio, Avalon, Nagra, Synergistic, Shunyata and Accuphase.

In 1995, Mr. Hirt started producing a single-ended tube amp in Italy. By 1997, loudspeaker design was added and production commenced in Austria. In 2002, Mr. Hirt introduced the Ayon Audio speaker and SE amplifier lineup.

Re: "our engineers are established leaders in their respective fields of high-end audio expertise"?, what other designers are involved and what are their audio backgrounds?
One of our designers is a recording studio engineer and professor at the Music University in Graz. He teaches young recording engineering students from Slovenia, Austria and Hungary. For over 30 years, he has also been engaged in the design and engineering of studio monitor speakers. He is a true audiophile as well, a rare combination in the audio industry who truly understands what's going on in music -- all types of music -- acoustic instruments and studio recordings. Our second engineer works part time at Siemens Austria, a global electronics company. He has been involved in designing audio equipment for over 15 years.

Please elaborate on the "new construction principles, advanced technologies" as stated in the company profile.
We are using a power regenerator for our preamp power supply as well as the new Vulcan power amp. We use our own power triodes to maintain strict quality control, resulting in extraordinary soundstaging. Also, our gold PCBs are standard in many of our amps. We also use Teflon-coated internal wiring. We match different materials to create synergy, paying very close attention to differences in solder materials. Equally as important is the aluminum chassis construction, insuring that thickness and resonance characteristics are within Ayon Audio's tolerances and specifications. Our transformers are very well sealed by a special potting compound which is very important for vibration and resonance control. The results are remarkable, with a huge effect on sonics. We also produce our own audio transformers at our facility.

How does the Austrian high-end buyer differ from its US counterpart?
Austria has a long lineage, a very old history when it comes to music. Austrians love their music and see it as a way of life. They invest a lot of time and money attending concerts and operas. Austria's educational institutions take music very seriously. Austrian students are taught early on to play a musical instrument and the basic of music and composition. Hence the typical Austrian high-end audio buyer has been surrounded by music since elementary school. Austrians invest large amounts of money in audio gear and top software but don't seem interested in home theater or multi-room systems.

Regarding the CD-1, what does Ayon do differently than other CD players with tubed output stages?
We are using pure tube output stages without any transistors or negative feedback.

Why the 6H30 tube? And what is the role of the 6922s - are both used in the output signal?
For Ayon Audio, the 6H30 is one of the best small signal tubes available today. It delivers high current with low impedance. The sound of this tube is quite airy, very three-dimensional, with fine details and deep, visceral, punchy bass. The Ayon CD-1 incorporates all 4 tubes in its output stage which consists of two 6H30 tubes and two 6922s. The CD-3 uses four 6H30 tubes instead.

What are the benefits of a top-loading design?
Better vibration and damping control over drawer-type loading systems.

Thanks Charlie. Back to the action and the listening.