To Jeff Fritz,
Thank you for your many valuable reviews, most recently (in my reading) that of the latest flagship preamp from Ayre, the KX-R Twenty. (By the way, your original comments about Devialet will eventually be viewed as a truthful glimpse into the future. Some of us must remain in the past a bit longer, but I admire you for speaking the truth with what must have surely been hard to say.)
For most of us, one difficult reality is that we can't simply go down to our "corner store" and check out all the high-end products that pique our interest. Add to that, the difficulty of working with an audio dealer who, despite the best of intentions, operates on a slim margin and cannot afford to cater to the whimsy of a "try 'em all on first," well-intentioned consumer.
I just bought a pair of MX-R Twentys from a wealthy friend who upgraded to an all Robert Koda system: the most beguiling $600k system I've ever heard . . . but back to my own budget. The BAT VK-53SE preamp that I run now has a beautifully fleshed-out midrange, and nothing else. The Dan D'Agostino [Master Audio Systems Momentum] preamp that I borrowed from a friend has the inverse: a sterile and uninvolving midrange, with everything else in the A+ category, especially its expansive soundstage.
So I am left wondering if the KX-R Twenty will lean toward the BAT, the D'Agostino, or neither. I'm looking for solid state that really does wield a bit of tube magic. Many seem to think the Ayre combo is a bit sterile sounding. Nagra Jazz? VTL TL7.5 III? And then there is Koda, Vitus, Exemplar, Trinity, etc., all out of my price range new and seldom seen for sale on Audiogon.
Back to your review: I don't own the likes of the Magico Q7, as you used, but my Rockport Aviors are quite capable. Will the KX-R Twenty leave me missing tubes? Should I look to something like the Nagra Jazz? Penny for your thoughts. And of course, please speak candidly because I would never expect your ear and mine to be the same; but I strongly respect your opinion.
I can't imagine choosing anything other than the Ayre KX-R Twenty if I were in your shoes. First, there is the synergy the KX-R Twenty will have with your MX-R Twentys -- they will be a perfect match, both functionally and sonically. Second, the sounds of Ayre's preamps -- and especially that of the KX-R Twenty -- have absolutely none of the problems that listeners typically associate with poor-quality solid-state electronics. I have heard many Ayre users call the sound "tube-like" over the years. I would call the midrange smooth as silk.
Although the Nagra and VTL options would insert vacuum tubes in the chain, and that might suit you, the Ayre KX-R Twenty is the natural fit for your system, and the one I would choose all day long. . . . Jeff Fritz