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To Jeff Fritz,

In your recent article, "The Super Products I'd Buy Today," you make some surprising statements about the Ayre KX-R preamplifier. Do you really believe it to be the best preamplifier out there? It is not inexpensive at $18,500, but it is also not the most expensive. I am thinking about the DarTZeel and MBL line stages as examples of preamps that might better it. Can you clarify your comments about the Ayre so I am clear as to what you mean? Thanks for your lucid articles and always interesting insight.

Roger Blanton

One of the problems in high-end audio today is that there is an assumption that performance scales perfectly with price. The fact is that it does not. That is not to say that the best products are not expensive -- generally they are -- but that a high price does not always equate with the superior products. I have not heard the MBL or DarTZeel preamplifiers in my system so I cannot give you a blow-by-blow account of their performance versus the Ayre KX-R. But I can tell you that the Ayre is the best I've heard, and not by a small margin.

My advice would be to not assume that the more expensive preamps are better just because they are more expensive. That would certainly be a mistake. Consider this: If the Ayre were $40,000, would well-to-do audiophiles take it more seriously? I can confidently state that the Ayre is, in my opinion, state of the art. I'd advise you to audition it to see if you agree. . . . Jeff Fritz