Ayon Audio Crossfire III PA Power Amplifier

SET Amp with an Attitude

Equipment report
Tubed power amplifiers
Ayon Audio Crossfire III PA
Ayon Audio Crossfire III PA Power Amplifier

I wound up my listening sessions with Barber’s hauntingly beautiful “Adagio for Strings,” played by the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra under the direction of Manfred Honeck. The Crossfire expressively played the sad opening bars with great delicacy, slowly winding up to the tragic-sounding climax. Strings were sweet and smooth; no hint of their digital origin. Through the Crossfire, the orchestra had body and heft—that palpability thing again. Dynamic compression was notably absent.

So with my relatively sensitive speakers, the Crossfire III PA was a spectacular match. But how would it work with less sensitive speakers? To assess such a partnership, I connected the amplifier to my KEF Q700s, which have a fairly average 89dB sensitivity. These 8-ohm speakers cost $1500/pair, and it’s doubtful anyone would mate them with a $12k amplifier, but I wanted to find out how the Crossfire would drive them.

I’m no headbanger, but the Crossfire III PA surprised me by driving the KEFs as loudly as I cared to listen. It sounded divine, too—sweet, detailed, and dynamic. Even when I played Saint-Saëns’ Organ Concerto at a pretty loud level, the Crossfire didn’t flinch, producing plenty of volume from the organ and orchestra. Even the deep bass was decent.  

Bottom Line
The SET amplifier circuit dates back to the beginning of the electronic age and has generally been discarded in favor of the higher-power push-pull circuit. But Ayon has proven that, if you devote sufficient resources, it’s possible to build an SET amplifier that can overcome most of the shortcomings of the genre and that can drive a much wider range of speakers. The Crossfire still needs thoughtful loudspeaker-matching, but the amp is much more flexible than most SETs. It handily exceeded all my expectations.

Normally, I try to avoid listening to really expensive gear because I’m afraid I’ll like it enough to wreak havoc on my budget. But sometimes I let an expensive item like the Crossfire III PA slip past my guard. And as I said earlier, there are a lot of amps way more expensive than $12k. Few, if any, of those are as attractive as the Crossfire III PA. Even more important than how it looks, in my system the Ayon Crossfire III PA power amp is easily the best amplifier I’ve ever heard. It effortlessly jumped through all the usual audiophile hoops, but, most significantly, it genuinely enhanced my music-listening experience. Frankly, listening to hi-fi had been getting a bit stale and boring lately, but the Ayon Crossfire III PA made it fun again—and I truly needed that. If it fits your budget and your speakers, I urge you to audition it. It’s a great amplifier.