Disturbed By Ayre And Vandersteen

OK, it's probably more fair to say I was "Disturbed" at the Ayre and Vandersteen room. Ayre's Steven Silberman was on a mission this weekend to prove to any doubters out there that zero feedback amplifiers and first-order loudspeakers can ROCK!

Ayre's zero-feedback, 300-Watt per channel MX-R monoblocks ($16,500/pr.) drove the Vandersteen Quatros to teeth-chattering, sanity-challenging levels. One of the CDs Steve bombarded me with was called "Disturbed." As I write this I'm still not certain if that moniker is the name of the band or the album, or if it describes the music itself or the personalities of the band's members (or all of the above). All I do know is it makes System of a Down sound like dainty chamber music in comparison.

Rounding out the system were Ayre's K-1xe preamp ($8600 w/onboard phono), the Ayre C-5xe stereo universal disc player ($6K) and an SME Model 20/2 ($13,500 w/arm) turntable with a Lyra Skala cartridge ($2500).

Vandersteen Quatros start at $7K/pr., but as shown here in a wood-clad version are $10K/pr. Both versions are time-and-phase coherent, and eack speaker houses a 250W powered sub with dual 8" woofers. Vandersteen makes a variety of center and surround speakers as well as outboard powered subs.

Although I've focused on the dynamic slam and punch-in-the-guts power this system meted out, with less agressive musical selections it also exhibited all the staggering imaging, inner detail and immediate, natural sound I've come to associate with both Ayre Acoustics and Vandersteen Audio (and yeah, my own reference system does use Vandersteen speakers and source components from Ayre).

No, high-end audio isn't an inexpensive game to play. But the return on investment is beyond measure for those who value music as much as movies.