RMAF 2018: Ayre Acoustics EX-8 streaming integrated amplifier

Ayre Acoustics was showing off some of the newest kit in their lineup at Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and the piece of gear that interested me the most was their new EX-8 integrated amplifier. The EX-8 hails from their latest 8 Series, which they tout as containing “Groundbreaking technology – Equilock Gain Stage, Variable Gain (VGT) volume circuit and Ayre’s Diamond Output Stage – in affordable products…[which] embodies “Made in America craftsmanship and value.”

The EX-8 is a 100-watt integrated with digital inputs aplenty. A trend I’m seeing more and more from a variety of bot high-end and mid-end manufacturers with these ‘super’ integrated amps that are designed to be your complete audiophile hub for the more discerning millennial (or not) listener who is looking to make the jump from feeding Spotify, Tidal or Qobuz to an-all-in-one micro system to a scalable two-channel system within the context of hers or his budget as time and money allow. The EX-8 is a perfect example of this type of thinking because all you need to is jack in an ethernet cable and speakers. Oh, it's also Roon Ready. Done.

Packed with inputs, the EX-8 (loaded with all available digital inputs for $7,850 USD) has USB handling up to 24/384, DSD64 and DS128 (as DoP). Optical, SPDIF and AESEBU handling the ones and zeroes up to 24/192 and DSD64 (as DoP). It has one line output at 4.5 Vrms in balanced mode or 2.25 Vrms in single-ended mode. A very nice touch – and one were seeing a lot more of lately on integrated amps – is the dedicated headphone amplifier built in, which features 4.0 Vrms balanced output and 2.0 Vrms for the single-ended variety. Analog inputs are of the RCA (2) and XLR (1) variety, all wrapped up in a svelte and what I consider ‘classic’ Ayre case/chassis with no-nonsense ergonomics and a minimum of buttons. Speakers were the beautiful composite-enclosure Kaya 45 by Vivid Audio which can stretch from 35 Hz ~ 40 kHz and have a nominal six-Ohm impedance.

Ayre was also utilizing their new CX-8 CD Player, EX-8 Integrated Digital Hub and VX-8 Power Amplifier in their setup.

I’ve heard Ayre gear in the context of many systems over the years (both at shows and in private residences) and have been deeply impressed at their innate level of musicality, linearity to frequency response from their preamps and amplifiers and solid control over notes nestled between the the lowest octaves. That’s not to say that midband and upper registers are anything to gloss over, far from it, but Ayre is not about massive watts to grip the bottom end. They use zero-feedback, fully-balanced circuit topologies and the highest quality parts available for their particular brand of aural impact.

The vibe in the room was super positive, with people laughing and generally feeling good – thanks to the quality of playback no doubt. The sound in the room had real flow, depth and color to tonality and an accuracy to timbre that let me know what was a cello and what was a violin without any smearing between the two during my short listening session. Bass response was solid and of the multi-note variety with plenty of air up top on decay from piano and realistic metallic shimmer off high hat and cymbals. Midrange had punch and was guttural when needed.

I plan on contacting Ayre regarding a review sample of the EX-8 so look for that in the future on AudioStream as soon as availability allows. Check back often for ongoing coverage from RMAF.

Ayre Acoustics
6268 Monarch Park Place, Suite B Niwot, Colorado 80503 USA
+ 1 303.442.7300

Sue's picture

That's a plus for me :-)

Rafe Arnott's picture
Apparently Charley Hansen was not a fan of it...
Venere 2's picture

Charley Hansen was right! To say he was not a fan is an understatement.

Sue's picture

I met Charley at Vegas CES shortly before his accident. Couldn't ask for a nicer guy. And I can honestly say the Ayre system was the best I heard at the show that year.

R.I.P. Cnarley