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EX-8 2/0

Manufacturer: AYRE ACOUSTICS, Inc.
Price (when reviewed):
&- basic version - PLN 43,300
- tested version - PLN 60,080

6268 Monarch Park Place, Suite B
Niwot, Colorado 80503 ⸜ USA


Provided for test by: AUDIOFAST


Photos by „High Fidelity”

No 240

May 1, 2024

AYRE ACOUSTICS was founded in 1993 by: CHARLES HANSEN, KATIE LEHR and PETER BOHACEK. Leading it in the ensuing years, Hansen was previously a speaker designer and founder of a major American brand, Avalon Acoustics. Its first product was the V-3 power amplifier. Charles passed away in 2017, and Ariel Brown became his successor. AYRE’s products are made in Boulder, Colorado, and are fully balanced designs and operate without global feedback. We test one of the company's latest products, the EX-8 version 2.0 integrated amplifier.

THE TESTED amplifier was introduced in March 2021; its previous version, without the '2.0' designation, was premiered in May 2018. The EX-8 2.0 is the most affordable (read: cheapest) amplifier the company’s lineup. The unit is part of the "8" series, along with four other products: a line preamplifier, a power amplifier, a Compact Disc player and a digital-to-analog converter. It is the only one with the '2.0' in its name. Ayre describes it as follows:

The EX-8 integrated amplifier provides a complete solution for music reproduction at the highest level. Simply plug in any source (digital and/or analog) and a pair of speakers or headphones to enjoy a musical experience that will revitalize your soul. Built on Ayre's unique innovations, the Ayre EX-8 has a fully balanced, zero-feedback (real-time) circuitry for natural musicality.

⸜ source: press mat.

The man behind the new version of the amplifier is Ariel Brown, who is the company's chief engineer following the death of founder Charles Hansen. Commenting on the changes made in version 2.0, he told Stereophile magazine that the circuit board in the EX-8 was designed as a kind of universal platform intended for several possible products, including the VX-8 stereo power amplifier. There was previously some vacant space on it for additional output transistors and capacitors.

According to the author of the article, Ken Micallef, Brown raised the output with these changes, doubled the capacitance of the capacitors in the power supply, and optimized the polarity and output impedance of the amplifier's Double Diamond output stages, thus achieving, he says, "better detail, musicality and spatiality" (test → HERE, accessed March 18th 2024). Thus the 2.0 version was born, indicated by a chrome plate on the front panel.

EX-8 2.0

INSIDE THE ELEGANT, ALUMINIUM chassis hides a device offering an output of 100 watts at 8 ohm and 170 at 4 ohm. The first five watts, according to the manufacturer, are in Class A. The manufacturer’s specification also shows that it has a very wide frequency response, from DC to 250 kHz, as well as an unprecedentedly high input impedance - 1 MΩ for RCA and 2 MΩ for XLR. In a way, this makes Ayre independent of the type of connecting cables and the output circuits of the signal sources.

The EX-8 2.0's electrical circuit is fully balanced and made without integrated circuits in the audio signal’s path. What's more, the whole thing is not subject to a feedback loop (zero feedback). Another important feature is that it is a modular design, in the sense that in addition to the basic signal amplification tasks it can also perform digital-to-analog conversion, the DAC can be equipped with a USB input, but you can also equip it with a audio file transport module, which turns the device into an amplifier with an audio file player in one box.

FEATURES • In its basic form, however, the Ayre is simply an integrated amplifier. It offers three analog inputs, two of which are unbalanced and one is balanced. There is also a preamplifier output, and both in balanced (XLR) and unbalanced (RCA) form. These can be used to connect an external power amplifier, for example for bi-amping or for a subwoofer.

Bi-amping can be horizontal, with one stereo amplifier powering the tweeter section and the other the woofer section, or vertical, with one amplifier powering the two sections in the left chanel and the other powering the the right chanel. The speakers are connected to Cardas speaker posts, which are typical of this manufacturer, though not that often used by other manufacturers. These have a single screw clamping the clamp on both spades at the same time. Ayre's relationship with Cardas is quite strong, as it also uses (internally) its cabling, as well as its wooden stands.

The designers have equipped the device with a headphone output. What's more - it is a balanced output. Headphones can, of course, be connected classically, via a 6.3 mm ø big jack plug, but also via two 3.5 mm ø mini-jacks. The latter connection is balanced and is rather unusual. As there is no real standard three connections are considered ones - 4-pin XLR, dual "big jack" or (and this is the most elegant solution) Pentaconn ø 4.4 mm. Two mini-jacks - that's a bit of a problem, and even I didn't have a suitable adapter, although I thought I had every one available.

The device is controlled by a microprocessor, so we can change several settings in its menu. To access it, press the input selection button for three seconds or use the remote control. Once in the menu, we can change the display layout, the input sensitivity, choose the way the line outputs work, and, with the Internet option installed, choose the way it works. There we can also change the name of the inputs and choose which one is active and which is not. There are more possibilities, by the way; I have only listed the most important ones.

Despite the many functions the amplifier can perform, its appearance is neat and clean. We control the volume with a convenient, large knob. Inputs are changed using one of the two buttons we find on the front panel - the other is used to wake up and put the unit to sleep (standby mode). These are accompanied by a two-color LED with green and (unfortunately) blue colors; more about the color blue in tech → HERE.

Next to it there is a small liquid crystal display with a blue filter, which reads the selected input, volume and, if you have installed a DAC or file player, the digital signal parameters. After a few moments, the display is turned off so as not to generate noise. The amplifier connects to other devices from the company via the company's AyreLink link based on Ethernet cables. This allows them to be controlled from a single remote control, as well as turned on and off with a single button.

TECHOLOGY • Ayre is a manufacturer with its own developments and technologies, often patented. As we mentioned, important features include a balanced-from-input-to-output audio path, no feedback, and a discrete design of the entire audio path. And, importantly, the production of its products is carried out in the USA, in the state of Colorado, where the company is headquartered.

The preamplifier was built using a technology Ayre calls EquiLock. It's a kind of amplification circuit resembling two triodes operating in cascode, without feedback. Additional transistors are supposed to help stabilize their operation. This section is constantly supplied with voltage so that the transistors always have the optimum temperature; the unit therefore consumes 60 watts in standby mode, and inside you can see the glowing LEDs that are part of the power circuits (current standards).

The current stage, on the other hand, operates in a circuit the company called Double Diamond, used in more expensive components from this manufacturer (test of the AX-5 TWENTY amplifier → HERE ˻PL˺). The company materials say that in the original design, two pairs of bipolar transistors are connected through their emitters and bases as an alternative to the more common push-pull topology. The Double Diamond configuration adds a new buffer stage, also using the principle of this circuit. This is supposed to improve circuit efficiency and minimize heat loss. We should add that the original patent for this solution in 1967 was obtained by MIT employee Richard Baker.

In a test of the VX-8 amplifier in Stereophile magazine, Ariel Brown, then vice president of Ayre, specified:

"The 'Diamond Buffer' is a fairly well-known circuit block in general electronics, though less specifically in audio," Brown explained. "One of the drawbacks of the circuit is its relatively high bias current needs and the resulting power dissipation. This is perfectly acceptable for line-level signals in a high-end audio product but becomes problematic trying to implement it as a power amplifier output stage. The Double Diamond output stage combines multiple diamond buffers within the overall diamond topology to better delegate the power-dissipation needs to more appropriately sized transistors (...).”

⸜ KEN MICALLEF, Ayre Acoustics VX-8 power amplifier, "Stereophile," September 22nd 2023, →, accessed March 14, 2024.

Volume control is provided by a digitally controlled analog integrated resistor ladder. It allows the volume to be changed in 48 steps and offers 4-step sensitivity adjustment for individual inputs (0 dB, -6 dB, -12 dB and -18 dB). The device is powered using a linear power supply.

OPTIONS • Although nominally the EX-8 2.0 is an integrated amplifier, the manufacturer refers to it as an "Integrated Hub" and that's the name shown on the display when the power is turned on. And "hub" in the terminology introduced to audio by the IT industry means "center" - the center of everything, so to speak. Although an integrated amplifier is a "hub" by definition, here it is a digital hub.

The first available option is the digital-to-analog converter. It's based on the ESS Technology ES9038Q2M chip (in the CD player in this series it's the ES9028Q2M, more → HERE). The basic version offers optical, RCA and XLR inputs, but a USB input can also be installed for an extra charge. We will then be able to benefit from PCM signals up to 384 kHz and 24 bits, and DSD up to DSD128 (DoP); the DAC does not decode MQA signals. This input is Ayre's own development and operates in asynchronous mode.

An extremely interesting piece of information is that the device decodes the signal from HDCD discs, and also informs about the pre-emphasis on CDs. Although the display will not light up the beautiful HDCD logo, you have to pay for that, but in two lines we read the information: HD / CD. An important part of this DAC is also the digital filter this company is well known for - it's a minimum phase shift ("minimal phase") filter. You will have to pay an extra 7040 zloty for the DAC, and an additional 4330 zloty for the USB input.

When we have the DAC installed, we can also add an audio file transport module inside. It will play PCM files up to 192 kHz and 24 bits, as well as DSD64 (DoP). The module also offers Spotify Connect mode and works with NAS drives via UPnP. The device is also Roon Ready certified. The transport module costs 5410 zloty. A fully equipped amplifier will thus cost a substantial 60,080 zlotys.

As with other Ayre devices, the box with the EX-8 2.0 also includes something the company says is a "gift." These are wooden blocks we can place the device on, Myrtle Blocks, manufactured by Cardas. The Myrtle Blocks can also be purchased separately; more about their effect on sound in the CX-8 player test.

CONTROL • Like the other units in the "8" series, the reviewed amplifier can be remotely controlled using a plastic remote control bearing the Ayre logo. I'll repeat what I wrote when testing the CX-8: it's not a very user-friendly remote control. The buttons for skipping forward and back, as well as those for returning to the menu, are so tiny that you might even miss them. With the amplifier's excellent design, this trifle really gets in the way.


HOW WE LISTENED - The Ayre EX-8 2.0 integrated amplifier was compared to a split reference amplifier, namely the Ayon Audio Spheris III preamplifier and Soulution 710 solid-state power amplifier, as well as the Norma REVO IPA-80 integrated amplifier. During the test, the unit stood on its three feet on the top carbon shelf of a Finite Elemente Pagode Edition Mk II rack.

During the test, I used the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition SACD player and a Lumin T3 file player as sources. The analog signal between the player and amplifier was sent via Crystal Cable Absolute Dream RCA interconnect, and the digital signal was sent via Acrolink 7N-DA610 III cable. The amplifier was powered by Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version cable, and the signal to the speakers was supplied by Crystal Cable Da Vinci speaker cable. The amplifier was driving Harbeth M40.1 speakers, and I should add that I connected a Nordost QKore artificial ground to the ground terminal.


⸜ TSUYOSHI YAMAMOTO TRIO, Midnight Sugar, Three Blind Mice/Impex IMP8308, Gold HDCD (1974/2015).
⸜ THE MONTGOMERY BROTHERS, Groove Yard, Riverside/JVC, JVCXR-0018-2, XRCD (1961/1994).
⸜ TAME IMPALA, Currents, Universal Music Australia/Hostess 4730676J, CD (2015).
⸜ MADONNA, Ray of Light, Maverick | Warner Bros. Records 9362-46847-2 | WE 852, CD (1998).
⸜ PATRICIA BARBER, Cafe Blue, Premonition Records/First Impression Music FIM CD 010, HDCD (1997).

⸜ THOMAS KESSLER, Close to Silence, Hypersensitive Records/Tidal, Master WAV 24/96 (2022).
⸜ MARK KNOPFLER, Watch Me Gone, Universal Music/Tidal, SP, FLAC 24/192 (2024).
⸜ MADELEINE PEYROUX, Please Come Inside, Just One Recording/Tidal, FLAC 24/96 (2024).
⸜ UMI, Why Dont We Go, UMI Music International/Tidal, EP, FLAC (2024).
⸜ FLEETWOOD MAC, The Best Of Fleetwood Mac, Columbia/Tidal, FLAC MQA Studio 16/44,1 (1996/2016).

» HIGH FIDELITY: Ayre EX-2.0 playlist is available on TIDAL → HERE.


SO IF YOU LIKE THE SOUND OF, for example, Italian Norma devices, or Polish Circle Labs or Haiku Audio amplifiers, if the CH Precision sound aesthetics appeal to you, then the sound of the Ayre EX-8 2.0 amplifier may not be quite what you like.

Not that you will completely reject what you hear, but you will miss something in the sound that the aforementioned devices already guarantee from the start: attack, impact, transparency, selectivity. But there is also this: if, however, you appreciate the sound of devices from Dan D'Agostino, the Canadian company Tenor Audio, the Japanese Kondo or, for example, the Austrian Ayon Audio, you will find - and after just a few minutes - that this is exactly IT!, and that the qualities spoken about by proponents of the first option are not advantages, but disadvantages. And that you can no longer live without them. That's how audio is and that's that.

Ayre, as I have had the opportunity to find out every time I test a new product from this company, has its own sound philosophy. It consists in offering the most tangible, as dynamic as possible, but at the same time "physiological" sound. That is, one that perfectly "settles" in our heads and which does not need to be reconstructed, because it is given "here and now". It's a thoughtfully developed presentation, not something random, achieved accidentally. It is a sound that, once heard and understood, can become "our" sound for life.

One of the main features of this company's equipment is the lack of global feedback and the minimization of local feedback. I know from experience that this results in rather warm, internally soft and friendly sound. This is also the case here. That's why the rather bright and expressive sound of TSUYOSHI YAMAMOTO's piano in the ˻ 1 ˺ title track from his album Midnight Sugar was shown in a direct, fast, clear way, but nevertheless without "putting pressure" on us, without attacking us, which happens surprisingly often.

Playing this track, I was able to crank up the volume to really high levels, and I didn't end up with an aggressive sound, nor did it cause me any fatigue. The important thing is that as the sound pressure was raised, the volume of the sound and its dynamics also grew. Because, it's true, records are mixed at high levels and only listened to in this way have the right tonal and dynamic balance. With the tested device this truth was clear, which testifies to its ability to differentiate the sound.

The Ayre amplifier reproduced this recording in a very resolving manner. A characteristic thing for this company, although rare for devices playing on the "warm" side of power. There was both tape noise, and details of piano playing, and double bass phrasing, and energetic yet nonchalant drum playing. The sound was extremely carrying, detached from the speakers, but above all, dense and had "some character" - this was definitely not dispassionate presentation. It was a low sound, meaning based on the breakthrough of the midrange and bass, only that without too much weight in it.

For what this device excels at is harmony and tonal differentiation. The harmony I'm talking about came out wonderfully not only with the Japanese release by Three Blind Mice, but also with the magnificent reissue of THE MONTGOMERY BROTHERS Groove Yard, released in 1961 on the Riverside label, and remastered fir XRCD by JVC in 1994. Already XRCD, at its best, promotes the saturation of sound with harmonics, and Ayre took this a step further, pushing the depth of sound even harder.

Again - everything was here, as both the brass was clear, and the piano was properly open, and there was also this clear upper midrange of Wes Montgomery's jazz guitar. But there was no doubt in my mind that the amplifier "focuses" on the midrange, that its designers were primarily concerned with building deeper emotions, not with a quick and fast-passing "wow!" effect. The attack of the sound here is excellent, but it is not dominant - and it is with its help that the effect of "immediacy" and quickness can be produced. Ayre, though, goes for density and saturation.

As I say, this is a fantastically mature, thoughtful presentation. But also not exactly transparent and not some super-selective. One should know this when deciding on this amplifier. Even with the rather brightly produced TAME IMPALA Currents album, the American amplifier did not sound bright, but rather creamy, shading the timbre more than opening it up. But at the same time, it was the case that this album sounded remarkably cool, in an exceptionally satisfying way. It's great music, an excellent album, and it was Ayre that showed both low, dense bass and great space.

And so it was with other discs I listened to whose tonal balance was not quite right on or on which compression left a strong mark. The EX-8 2.0 played them all in a pleasant way. It won't muddy things up, but it won't allow fuzziness either. Worse productions, weaker productions will gain a new dimension "in depth" with it. The better ones will have a similar tonal balance, but there will be better resolution and dynamic differentiation.

The presentation of this device is based on low, dense bass. It has nice timbres, is well-differentiated and preserves the structure of the low tones. That is to say, it doesn't blur them, there is order to their presentation. But it's also not punchy or contoured bass. Clear - sure, but with the clarity of the whole, not details. In general, this is not a "detailed" sound, but rather osmotic, if I may say so. The device conveys a lot of information, that's for sure, it's extremely resolving playing. But it goes with this information "deep" into the sound, not "across," if I may say so.

The detailed and open sound give the presentation that spreads out wide in the panorama, more like a "wall of sound," to refer to Phil Spector's recording technique. The Ayre plays differently, as it shows a deep stage and at first, for a while, we may feel that it doesn't differentiate plans very well. But let's listen to ˻ ˻ 2 ˺ Nangs from the Tame Impala album, let's play 2 ˺ Candy Perfume Girl from MADONNA's Ray of Light disc, and we can even see the air, almost touch the recording space - in the first case all around us, and in the second case deep into the stage.

What the amplifier won't do is bring out the attack from recordings with a blurred leading edge, as from the aforementioned Madonna album. It played very cool, because in a dark, saturated way, but I missed the attack, the impact. This album sounds like that in general, it's a realization recorded partly in Cubase and partly in Pro Tools, an album with a low sound and not very high resolution and selectivity. And this will not be solved with Ayre, it will be a somewhat blurred, not very selective sound..

DIGITAL-TO-ANALOG CONVERTER • The DAC module in the Ayre EX-8 2.0 amplifier is an exceptionally honest, high-end addition. Its timbre is set higher than that of the reference players, namely the Ayon and Lumin, but it is not bright. It's just that the mid-bass, strongly articulated by the amplifier, is slightly let off with the DAC. The presentation is clearer because of this. Madonna's album sounded stronger, clearer, although it there still wasn’t any particular selectivity - this recording is not like that.

The DAC offers good resolution. Its character is soft rather than attacking, so it meshes well with how this company's designers see sound. The bass doesn't go as low as with the reference players, as the sound is built more on the midrange. So the Montgomery Brothers were shown a bit further away from me and with more breath around the instruments. It was a soft, pleasant, multicolored, pastel in expression sound.

And now - a slight lift in timbre could also be heard when I compared the DAC with the Ayon player, listening to HDCD encoded discs. But, note, the difference in class was smaller than with classic CDs. The decoder really "gets the job done," and having this module in the Ayre I would look for discs with this logo on the cover, and there are surprisingly many of them. Both the trio's album from Japan and the very good reissue of PATRICIA BARBER's Cafe Blue sounded fast, resolving and clear, yet with the warmth that the amplifier offers.

AUDIO FILE PLAYER • The Ayre's file player’s sound is largely shaped by how the DAC plays. The transport section adds even more softness to this - files with the EX-8 2.0 sound in a very pleasant way. That was the character of MARK KNOPFLER's recording of the digital single Watch Me Gone, available on Tidal as 24/192 FLAC files, and that's how MADELEINE PEYROUX played the title track from the soon-to-be-released album Please Come Inside.

It's an absolutely safe sound. It's not particularly resolving, that's not the case. If you want to go deeper into a recording, you'll have to reach for files from your local NAS or USB drive. Those played from Tidal will be extremely pleasant, but the quality will not be comparable to CDs. But that's not the point, it didn't bother me at all. In fact, I treated this option like a high-end radio. And it was great.

Played immediately afterwards, UMI's Why Don't We Go from the EP of the same title sounded strong, dense, almost contoured. It's a new wave of R&B music, with more space, more frequent references to pop music - and that's how I received it. Taking all this into account, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the entire album The Best Of Fleetwood Mac. Admittedly, Ayre didn't decode the MQA signal, but somehow I didn't miss it. I had a big picture, strong guitars and a deep soundstage before my eyes.

HEADPHONES • Although not very visible, the headphone outputs on the tested amplifier seem to be an important part of it. I couldn't find information anywhere on whether this is a separate headphone amplifier or just a preamplifier section with a buffer, but would bet on the latter option.

Indeed, the difficult to drive HiFiMAN HE-1000 v2 magnetostatic headphones sounded nice, but it wasn't what I heard through the speakers. It wasn't until I reached for the dynamic designs, be it the AKG K701 or the in-ear Lime Ears → PNEUMA, that I heard an incredibly dynamic, fast sound, but with the characteristic Ayre warmth. There wasn't much bottom end, but I wouldn't particularly care about that. Especially since the spatiality of the headphone output sound on the tested amplifier is above average.


I MUST SAY that the kind of sound Ayre offers, which is also realized by its EX-8 2.0 amplifier, is extremely pleasant. Deep, somewhat warm, dense, but also superbly dynamic enables long sessions without any fatigue. Its dynamics and resolution are of a high order, so it won't be hours during which we snooze, but time spent actively listening.

The amplifier is not cheap, and neither are the additional module, but this can indeed be the center of an audio system, as even the file transport module is a very nice addition. Unless we want to spend a few thousand more on an external transport, Ayre's proposal will be completely sufficient. But the bottom line is that it's just a very, very nice integrated amplifier. Without fireworks, without gimmicks and without pretending to be anything else, it will draw us right into the middle of the events on stage./p>

And it is unlikely that after purchasing the EX-8 2.0 you will immediately start nitpicking and think about replacing it with a more expensive model. The EX-8 2.0 is such a good device that it will encourage you to buy more music because you’ll be curious to see what how they sound with AYRE.


The EX-8 2.0 IS an integrated amplifier from Ayre. Its dimensions are classic for this type of product as it measures 440 x 330 x 115 mm (W x D x H); the amplifier weighs 11 kg. It would weigh much more if it featured classic heat sinks - in this case the transistors are cooled by the entire chassis. That's why it's extremely thick, even though it's made of bent sheet metal. The amplifier stands on three small feet, two at the front and one at the back.

FRONT AND BACK • The appearance of the amplifier and its size have been matched to the rest of the "8" series components. The unit's chassis is made of non-magnetic material - aluminum. Its bottom and back are extremely thick, the top and sides are thinner. The front is divided into two parts, varying the depth of the milling in the middle, where the buttons, display, headphone jacks, and a flat volume knob are located.

Like the CX-8 player, the sockets on the back are arranged horizontally, which reflects the board’s layout inside the unit. At the top there is the digital board, and at the bottom there is the analog board. The latter has a mirrored layout, that is, the left and right channel sockets are symmetrical towards the axis of the device. This layout suggests a dual-mono design. On the sides there are XLR and RCA line inputs, and closer to the center the same types of outputs.

On the top plate you can see the AyreLink system communication sockets and a USB port which allows software upgrades. Further to the right there is a USB type B socket and an IEC inlet with a mechanical switch. At the left edge, on the other hand, you can see an Ethernet port and two USB Type B sockets. The XLR connectors are solid, being gold-plated components from Neutrik, while the RCAs are quite common with only the ground contact gold-plated and soldered to the board. Interestingly, the unit also features an optical output with clock signal, for example, for a CD transport.

INSIDE ⸜ analog • The electronics are assembled on two main boards - analog and digital. They are mechanically and electrically independent. The main board is the analog one. It takes up half of the bottom of the chassis. It nicely shows the design principle of a dual-mono balanced circuit. It's also easy to point out the company's EquiLock and Dual Diamond solutions, as the assembly is clear - only transistors actually work in the circuit.

The preamp uses interesting high-power dual transistors, model 1003NPK - that's two bipolar transistors (NPN and PNP) in one housing. The symmetrical configuration places four transistors per signal branch, or eight per channel. In turn, four groups of two transistors each are the control of the power amplifier and are the same components as in the preamplifier. This section is surface mounted, but using "premium" components.

The output transistors, four pairs each (per channel) operating in push-pull in class AB, are screwed directly to the bottom of the chassis. This is because there is no heat sink inside. With such high output power, this was only possible by using an upgraded Double Diamond circuit, in which heat loss was reduced. These are ON Semiconductors MJL1302A + MJL3281A bipolar transistors. Let's add that the attenuator is a classic analog, resistive one - it's a black potentiometer from Alps with a motor. The inputs are switched in hermetic relays.

INSIDE ⸜ digital • The digital section uses a sizable PCB mounted above the analog one. The basis of it is a digital-to-analog converter - without it, neither the file transport nor the USB input work. These two modules are mounted next to each other.

At the heart of the DAC there is a small, surface-mounted chip from ESS Technology, model ES9038Q2M. It is a stereo from Sabre series chip guaranteeing decoding of PCM signals up to 32 bits and 384 kHz, as well as DSD natively up to DSD512. This is its maximum capability, in this case limited by the USB input (24/384 and DSD128). The file player’s capabilities, however, end at 24/192 and DSD64. Designers can choose whether they get a current signal at the input and build the I/U converter themselves, or go out with a voltage signal. Here, the second option seems to have been chosen, as interconnects are soldered directly to the circuit outputs, from the underside of the board, carrying the analog signal to the amplifier board.

The interconnect, like the speaker cables, is produced by Cardas. ESS equips its circuit with programmable digital filters, but Ayre has designed its own minimum phase shift filter, similar to apodizing filters. Its algorithm was implemented in a large Xilinx Spartan-6 FPGA chip, and I assume there is a digital filter for HDCD there as well - recall that its software version was called PMD 200. At the inputs and outputs there were impedance-matching transformers.

On the right side you will find a board with a USB input. This is a solution developed by Ayre. It is an asynchronous link with an XMOS chip, in which the corresponding algorithm is stored. On the left side, in turn, there is a file transport board. This module is purchased by Ayre from a third-party supplier.

INSIDE ⸜ power supply • The power supply is one of the most important components of any audio device. The EX-8 2.0 uses a large transformer with classic EI plates. But already the choice of mains ripple suppression capacitors is unusual. Indeed, Ayre belongs to the group of manufacturers that use many small capacitors instead of a few large ones each. They argue that small capacitors discharge faster and charge faster, thus better "handling" transient, fast and short current peaks.

In the tested amplifier, a separate power supply was installed for output stages, we can find there as many as sixteen Nichicon capacitors per channel, and separate power supplies were used for preamplifier and digital section. This part of the power supply is fully stabilized in a discrete transistor circuit. Next to it you can see another sixteen voltage filter capacitors.

This is a very solidly built device with a clear electronic circuit, in addition, using several proprietary solutions.

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

Rated output power: 100 W/8 ohm, 170 W/4 ohm
Output Voltage (Pre Out): XLR → 4.5 Vrms, 2.25 Vrms →RCA
Headphone output: 4.0 Vrms → balanced, 2.0 Vrms → unbalanced
Input impedance: 2 MΩ → XLR, 1 MΩ → RCA

» Optional USB input:
• PCM → 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz ⸜ 16, 20, 24 bits.
• DSD64 and DSD128 (DoP).

» Optional file transport:
• 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz ⸜ 16, 20, 24 bits.
• DSD64 (DoP)

Power consumption: 120 W in operating mode, no input signal, 60 W in standby mode
Dimensions (W x D x H): 440 x 330 x 115 mm
Weight: 11 kg

THIS TEST HAS BEEN DESIGNED ACCORDING TO THE GUIDELINES adopted by the Association of International Audiophile Publications, an international audio press association concerned with ethical and professional standards in our industry, of which HIGH FIDELITY is a founding member. More about the association and its constituent titles → HERE.


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Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC