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DAC & USB signal regenerator

Ideon Audio
AYAZI mk2 &

Manufacturer: IDEON AUDIO
Prices (in Poland):
AYAZI mk2: 2600 EUR | 3R BE: 2750 EUR

Contact: Parren 6, Neo Phychiko
11525 Athens | GREECE


Provided for test by: AUDIO ATELIER


Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Images: Ideon Audio | Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Marek Dyba

No 196

September 1, 2020

BIT: ‘a little part of something bigger’, ‘short distance or short period of time’ | source: Cambridge Dictionary,; accessed: 29.07.2020

n a world where "a bit is just a bit" everything is simple and the sky is always clear. Moreover, the children are polite and the adults are kind. Believe it or not, this is a world where most engineers, sound engineers, mastering engineers and record producers live. And that's a good thing - one problem solved, they have enough problems in their lives generated by the things they deal with on a daily basis.

But you also have to know that there is a place where there are more questions than answers, where there is no one constant "truth". It is a place where there is a sunny day and all shades of gray, an area where incredible discoveries happen, a land of people searching - thinking and questioning what is "clear", "certain" and "safe" to others. This is where the founders of the Greek company Ideon Audio found themselves (the company uses both, the 'IdeonAudio' and 'Ideon Audio' form of their name - I will use the latter).

| Ideon Audio

Ideon Audio is a young company based in Athens. When a friend told me that their employees were going on vacation soon, I asked myself, deeply surprised: "Where could the Greeks go on vacation to?" I know that even the citizens of my beloved Milano, or people from Sopot that occupies a separate place in my heart, they also spend their free time elsewhere. But going on vacation from Athens?

The company was founded by four friends. Its "face" is the main designer, Mr. Vasilis Tounas. There are three more man that together with him are the core of the company: George Ligerakis (COO), Greg Mitsacopoulos (Marketing Director) and Angelos Gallis (Sales Director). The last two are former board members of top corporations.

In the paragraph entitled "our goals" one finds an information that they want to reproduce the digital signal in the best way possible and that the products that allow it should be at the same time affordable. One sentence sums it up: "We are trying to make digital sound affordable to everyone" (from: Our Goal,; accessed: 07/27/2020).

The current "affordability" is probably not exactly what the gentlemen imagined. Their first product, the Ayazi DAC, was indeed relatively inexpensive - costing just over $ 1,000 - as was their next product, the USB jitter reduction device, the 3R Master Time. When designing them, however, it turned out that it could be done even better - but more funds would be needed for this. This is how the Absolute series was created, which is not cheap. But that's the way it is: anyone who thinks they can get high-end components cheap is simply wrong.


The basic series, which includes the Ayazi DAC, is, however, affordable. The device is now available in a new, modernized version of the mk2. One could say it is actually an mk3 - for the test I received its latest ‘2020’ version, with a changed front panel even though on the manufacturer's website I still found the previous version (mk2). However, since the changes only concern the appearance, the manufacturer remained with the original name, adding only a year as its distinguishing feature (mk2 2020).

Up the signal chain, however, there is a unique device: the 3R Master Time jitter reducer, now in the latest version of Blackstar Editon (2020). The manufacturer calls it "USB reclocler", but it is about minimizing digital distortions known as jitter.

This is a special type of distortion because it doesn't affect the signal itself, it doesn't change it. They influence the way digital signal is clocked, i.e. with what precision the data is provided. The "blurring" of the signal, that is, the reduction of the timing precision, causes the receiving circuits to work under greater "pressure", and this translates into increased power consumption, and thus - higher noise.

Theoretically, this should not matter much, because modern DACs have built-in modules that to some extent make them independent of time fluctuations in the digital signal. Yet, in the real life, even top class DACs need a signal with the lowest jitter possible. This is what the 3R Master Time Blackstar Editon is supposed to provide.

It's a relatively small, but incredibly heavy device. Its proportions immediately bring to mind the devices of the Italian company North Star Design, because the housing is relatively shallow (175 mm) and low (70 mm, including the feet). The front baffle is made of aluminum, but the chassis is made of thick steel plates. They are 1U high, which suggests a connection with a pro-audio world. On the back we find an USB input and output, as well as a switch with which we can cut off the supply voltage of 5 V, traveling in USB cables along with the signal.

The reclocler is designed to re-clock and amplify the input signal so that the precision of successive impulses is higher than that of the input signal. The small SMSC USB2532i chip from Microchip Technology is the one that does the job. The manufacturer calls it an "USB 2.0 Hub". It is located on a small PCB connected to the main one by gold-plated pins and apparently it can be replaced with a higher quality one in the future. Most of the chassis’ interior is occupied by a power supply section with many capacitors and several stages eliminating voltage fluctuations.

Interestingly, the board has longitudinal slots cut out in it in several places, as if the designers wanted to eliminate vibrations in this way. Which would make sense - I know from experience that digital circuits are extremely sensitive to the use of anti-vibration elements, and therefore to vibrations. Perhaps this is why the chassis is so solid and very heavy.

| AYAZI mk2 (2020)

A signal is delivered to the 3R Master Time Blackstar Editon jitter reducer via the USB interface - from a computer or files transport. Then it is send out from it also via USB port, but the signal delivered this way to an input of a DAC is already "clean". Ideon Audio offers one that is stylistically and dimensionally matched to the 3D Master Time - this is the Ayazi Mk2 (2020) DAC.

Spartan made and equipped, the device offers only two digital inputs and an unbalanced stereo analog output. Of the two inputs - USB and RCA S / PDIF - only the former really matters. The device does not feature a display, so there is no way to confirm whether the signal sent it receives is the same as in the file, or whether it has been downsampled, upsampled or transcoded along the way.

Ayazi mk2 accepts PCM signal up to 384 kHz (24 bits) via USB input, and up to 24/192 via S / PDIF. Nowhere in the description was an information regarding the DSD signal to be found, but after listening to it it turned out that it also accepted the DSD signal. The device uses the same housing as the regenerator, but on the front panel there are two switches - one that turns the power off and on, and the other one allows user to select an active input.

Inside, the similarities between both devices are striking: the primacy of the power supply section and the PCB with cut "slots", but everything is bigger. A power supply could probably handle a mid-size integrated amplifier, which is always a good sign.

From the USB input signal goes to the CM6631A receiver chip from C-media. It is an "ultra-fast" audio processor that accepts USB2.0 (and higher) transfers, from which we output the IIS signal. Interestingly, it can be programmed to some extent, which gives device designers a significant influence on its operation. I would like to add that the system works in asynchronous mode, which for some time now has been the only one used in this type of devices.

And maybe that was done, because C-media in the company materials says that it is a chip that accepts PCM signal up to 192 kHz (32 bits), and we know that Ayazi accepts PCM signal up to 384 kHz. Right behind it there is a FLASH memory and it probably has a job to do. I would like to add that the signal from the RCA input is received by the Wolfson Microelectronics WM8804 chip. The actual D/A chip comes from ESS Technology, and it is the ES9023P.

| ESS Sabre ES9023P

The ESS Saber ES9023P is a D/A chip introduced in 2010 and intended mainly for portable devices, but not only for them. Let me remind you that we can find it in iFi Audio iDAC and in the S.M.S.L VMV V2, as well as in ASUS music cards, also in the new ROG Maximus XII HERO. It is a relatively inexpensive solution that is already some years old, but it is still liked by many designers.

The circuit has a S/N of 112 dB and it is built in a similar way to the company's top systems (Saber, Hyperstream, Time Domain Jitter Eliminator). Its special feature is that it is integrated with the output circuits - I / U conversion, as well as the buffer and the output amplifier; at its output we get 2 V signal, which is send directly to the RCA sockets. The downside is that it can't be done in a better way, a plus is that it shortens the signal’s path and cuts costs.

And now the most important thing - this is the PCM 24/192 chip, at least this is what the materials provided by ESS Technology show. There is not a word about ability to process a DSD signal. At the same time Ayazi accepts the signal up to 384 kHz and DSD via USB input. How is this possible? I haven't found any information about it, but it looks like the USB receiver chip downsamples all signals to PCM 24/192. It is a solution used sometimes, which is about using a given D/A chip, and at the same time adapting it to the requirements of modern times. Besides - 99% of files are actually the ones accepted in their native form.

In the audio path and in the power supply you can see nice passive elements, with great output capacitors. Next to it, however, there is something which is the most important element in this circuit: two excellent Crystek CCHD-957 clocks, which would be a great fit for any high-end DAC. Ideon Audio refers to this architecture as "femto" because the shifts here are measured in femto-seconds and their impact is less than that of noise.


How did we listen to it | The system consisting of an Ideon Audio USB signal regenerator and D / A converter was tested in the "High Fidelity" reference system. The test was a comparison against the reference one in A/B/A sequences, with A and B known. We listened to the regenerator and the converter with the regenerator separately. 'Re-clocker' was powered by the Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version cable, and the DAC with the Acrolink 8N-PC8100 Performante Nero Edition.

The audio path - we're talking only about the signal source - looked like this:

Music files transport Silent Anger Rhein Z1

USB cable Acoustic Revive USB1.0 PL

re-clocker Ideon Audio 3R Master Time BE

USB cable Acoustic Revive USB1.0 PL

SACD player Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition
D/A converter Ideon Audio Ayazi Mk2

The devices worked flawlessly throughout the test. The only problem I had was with the indications. In R3, green LEDs indicate the connection with the transmitter and receiver. The former was not always lit, and yet the sound was playing. On the other hand, in Ayazi, the two-color LED shows whether the DAC is synchronized with the transmitter (green) or not (orange). During the test, the LED was orange several times, yet the sound was played. I think it's some minor software bug that is easy to fix.

Tracks and albums used in this test:

2xHD. DSD, 2HD, USB Master Flash, DSD64/DSD128
2xHD. PCM, 2HD, USB Master Flash, WAV 24/192
FIM Super Sounds! I, First Impression Music FIM DXD 066 USB, Promo USB Master Flash, FLAC 24/176
Opus3 DSD Showcase No. 2 (DSD128), Opus3 CD 21000, DSD128 (2014)
⸤ Frank Sinatra, I’ve Got a Crush on You w: tegoż, Sinatra Sings Gershwin, Columbia/Legacy/Sony Music Entertainment 507878 2, CD (2003) + WAV 16/44,1 (rip z CD)
⸤ Frank Sinatra, Sinatra At The Sands, Reprise Records/Stereo Sound Publishing, Inc. SSVS-011-012, „Stereo Sound Reference Record”, SACD + CD (1966/2019)
⸤ Frank Sinatra, When You're Smiling w: tegoż, Swingin’ Session!!!, Capitol Records/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2110, SACD/CD (1961/2013) + DSD64 (rip z SACD)
⸤ Fred Simon, Kore (O Love, Where Are You Leading Me Now?) w: tegoż, Remember The River, Naim Label naimcd081, CD (2004) + FLAC 24/96
⸤ Lizz Wright, Barley w: tegoż, Grace, Concord Records ‎0888072033184/Tidal Master MQA 24/96 (2017)
⸤ Maroon 5, Nobody’s Love, Interscope Records | 222 Records/Tidal, FLAC 16/44,1 SP (2020)
⸤ The Beatles, Come Together w: tegoż, Abbey Road, Apple/Universal Music LLC UICY-79050, 3 x SHM-CD + BD Audio (1969/2019) + Tidal Master, MQA 24/96

| 3R Master Time Blackstar Edition (2020)

A jitter reducer in an audio system with a transmitter: music files transport, and receiver: digital-to-analog converter is functionally similar to an USB cable. Both the USB signal regenerator (I will use these terms interchangeably), and the USB cable are the interfaces between two devices. However, while the USB cable introduces distortions - mainly jitter - the regenerator aims to reduce them; we can't count on complete elimination, it's just physics.

Plugging the 3R Master Time Blackstar Edition (2020) into my audio system resulted in an effect similar to that of when I replace a USB cable with a better one. The scale of the changes was bigger though, and it appeared with all the cables I used during the test, but the kind of changes were very similar to what I hear after replacing one cable with another one.

As I wrote in the AudioPhase test, these changes are completely different in perception than the differences between speakers, amplifiers or signal sources. On the one hand, they are many times smaller - I'm talking about basic changes, such as tonality and imaging - and on the other hand, much bigger, that is, they have a much greater "importance". I mean something "inside" the sound, thanks to which it come to life, although it is apparently not much different from what we get with another USB cable and without the Ideon Audio regenerator.

The Greek device changes the sound in a clear way, although we do not immediately know if it is a better version of the sound than without it. After some time, after a few comparisons, everything becomes clear, but at first I wasn't sure if I liked what I heard more or less. Perhaps, it was because the jitter reducer in question does not cause one’s "jaw to drop" or a "wow! effect". Its impact is important, perhaps even more important than changing the power cord fro the D / A converter. However, one needs time to fully appreciate it.

Plugging it into the audio system cleans the sound and smooths the “grease” that was audible in my system with Ayon working as a USB DAC. I do not mind such sound, but I also know that it is a deviation from full linearity. With CDs and SACDs, and with a turntable there is no problem with it, but with digital sources and a USB signal - there is.

After turning the device on, the upper bass was cleared and thus became more selective. At the same time, the lower bass was significantly deepened and its energy was greater. It was especially audible with the Lisa Wright’s Grace, where already in the first track there are some very low bass note, but also with the new single by Maroon 5 entitled Nobody's Love. It was as if someone let air into the sound, gave it more energy.

The dynamics of the presentation is also improving, and perhaps most of all. Without the Ideon Audio device in the signal track, the sound was good, really good - the Silent Angel Rhein Z1 file transport with the Roon is great - but a short while without the regenerator and I could hear straight away what always irritates me in files: flattened dynamic. Ideon changes this by differentiating events in three dimensions, saturating their "body" and making them more vivid.

At first, it seemed to me that it also had a weaker side, that it made the sound slimmer - but it does not. It turns out that it lets a lot of information previously hidden to exist and that it made it seem sounding brighter. But also the aforementioned Liza Wright, and The Beatles from the Abbey Road album, and even Frank Sinatra from a recording from 1948, recorded by Columbia on a 16" LP (a transcription), all of these recordings had a lower center of gravity, sounded deeper. They were just more resolving.

The changes introduced by the 3R Master Time Blackstar Edition (2020) make the sound from the file transport sound more like a "master" tape than like a vinyl record. Without it, the presentation had just such a character as if I were listening to a turntable, i.e. warm, dense, with slightly emphasized upper bass and sweet high tones. Ideon showed everything in a more direct and "faithful" way.

CD-quality files played from Tidal and DSD files played from Master Flash cards have benefited from its use too. However, in the former case, the changes were more basic, and thus maybe even more visible, and in the latter, they transformed the sound into something of a very high quality, even if the difference was not so big. Simply with the regenerator in the signal’s track, the music was more interesting, more surprising and less "re-played" and more "played".

| AYAZI mk2 (2020)

It's best to visualize it this way: the Ayazi mk2 DAC is like a hot-rod car, or even a dragster, a car that speeds like an airplane over a quarter mile distance. In the case of this DAC a powerful motor would be a power supply, and a human equivalent would be a converter system. And this is also the sound of this device - incredibly dynamic, extremely open and fantastically resolving. I had heard the ESS Saber ES9023P in a few applications where it was doing very well, but I had no idea it could do THIS!

As I said - dynamics. This is the weakest part of systems playing music files. Only in recording and mastering studios, where they work with DAWs, i.e. computer music stations, with files in which each channel has a separate track (file), we get a real sound reproduction. In home systems - it almost never happens. And Ayazi is following this path, sounding incredibly dynamic and energetic.

It achieves that by transferring some of the energy to the middle of the band, to the range between 600 Hz and 1 kHz. This gives the music a "kick" that gives this performance an edge over average music files systems. Interestingly, the Greek DAC perfectly presents the differences between PCM and DSD files, even if the latter are converted to PCM before D/A conversion. What’s more - you can hear perfectly how good the DSD128 and DSD512 files sound like - hence it seems that this device’s another quality is DSD/PCM conversion! If I add that DXD recordings simply sounded like a dream, would I exaggerate? - even if so, not by much ...

| Our albums


DXD "Format" has a great logo and even better PR. In fact, it is not a separate format, but simply a PCM signal. It is a digital PCM format with a word length of 24 bits and a sampling frequency of 352.8 kHz. The name DXD was introduced by Sony, which mixed and converted the DSD signal in this way.

There are not many recordings of this type on the market, as few recording studios work with such files. Most work with 96kHz and some with 192kHz sampling frequencies. It is worth trying out some DXD recordings though, because well-made ones are unbelievably good in their naturalness.

One of the few record labels that offer them are the Norwegian 2L and the Dutch TRTPK. the latter offers its recordings on FLASH memory as "DXD studio master", i.e. directly downloaded from the DAW workstation. A similar offer is proposed by the Japanese company Briphonic.


Exclamation marks, question marks, and ellipses are basic tools for creating SEO-compliant websites, i.e. positioning requirements. It's about catching the reader's attention and making him click on whatever we throw at him, curious about "what will happen next". In fact, there is almost nothing behind it, and instead of information, we get "goods" that we buy by clicking and simply "being" on a given website.

However, please do not consider what I wrote earlier as cheap (though amazingly effective) manipulation. The Ayazi mk2 just sounds like that, which you can try for yourself - either in distributor’s audio showroom or in your own system. I am sure that you will hear the same and you will be equally surprised how mature this device sounds like. Is it neutral? - No, it's not. Did it bother me? - Absolutely not.

Emphasizing the midrange and - let's add - a slight suppression of the range around 200-300 Hz „spices up” this presentation. Such results are not achieved by accident, but in a long process of "tuning", that is selecting individual elements, circuit versions, etc. Here, as I said, it results in an extremely dynamic and open sound. And resolving too.

The latter feature is important because it is - after all - not the most expensive DAC in the world, and yet it still shined when compared to the D/A section of the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition, which costs 20,000 Euros! The performance wasn't the same, that's not the point. But it was such a refined sound that I could easily forget about any doubts and disbelief and focus on the music.

Recording after recording, album after album, each was a new, exciting experience. After some time, it can get a bit tiring, after all we don't always need excitement in our lives. But I say this after listening to the Ayazi mk2 for several days in a row, for several hours each day. In normal sessions, that is, with one, two or even three albums, it won't matter.

The frequency range is nicely extended in both extremes. Especially the bass should impress you, because it is low, dense and energetic. And again - does not sound like from music files. The reference player, same as the CS Port TAT2 turntable, which served as an "analog" reference point, sounded lower and darker. But it doesn't mean that the Greek DAC sounds bright, not at all! - it just sounds in a more open way, where energy comes first.

It is similar with imaging, i.e. with space and with the way phantom images are built in it. The DAC renders a very large space, extending backwards and to the sides. The foreground is placed close to us which makes the whole presentation very vivid. The rear part of the soundstage is a bit closer to us, more expensive devices show it placed further away. It's just that there is so much going on in front of us that - I'm sure - we won't notice it.

| Summary

Ideon Audio devices may be utilitarian in appearance and are built like a tank. Their sound, however, is nuanced, mature and fantastically differentiated. The 3R Master Time Blackstar Edition jitter reducer should be used in every USB audio system, it will improve the signal transmission, no matter how expensive file transports are or how expensive D/A converters you use.

The Ayazi mk2 DAC is also unique. It delivers an energetic, powerful presentation, showing a remarkably extensive sound stage. Its "enthusiasm" is audible in all recordings, but I prefer such approach to the flattening of the sound that we usually deal with. And there is also the resolution - exceptional. It is hard to believe that such a simple D/A converter was able to achieve something like this, which resembles what some companies achieve with NOS circuits without oversampling. The Ayazi mk2 represents top level in its price class.

Technical specifications (acc. to the manufacturer):

| Ayazi mk2 (2020)
Digital output: USB type 2, S/PDIF
Nominal output signal: 2 V RMS
Nominal output impedance: 250 Ω
Frequency range: 10 Hz-25 kHz (+/- 0.5 dB)
SNR (DC-20kHz): >112 dB
THD+N (1 kHz, FS 96 kS/s): <0.002%
Crosstalk: -110 dB
USB input: asynchronous (dual clock)
USB input
• word length: 32 bits
• sampling frequency: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 352.8, 384 kHz
S/PDIF input
• word length: 24 bits
• sampling frequency: 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192 kHz
Power consumption: 20 W (max)
Dimensions (W x H x D): 290 x 170 x 80 mm


Reference system 2020

1) Loudspeakers: HARBETH M40.1 |REVIEW|
2) Line preamplifier: AYON AUDIO Spheris III Linestage |REVIEW|
3) Super Audio CD Player: AYON AUDIO CD-35 HF Edition No. 01/50 |REVIEW|
4) Stands (loudspeakers): ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom) |ABOUT|
5) Power amplifier: SOULUTION 710
6) Loudspeaker filter: SPEC REAL-SOUND PROCESSOR RSP-AZ9EX (prototype) |REVIEW|
7) Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|


Analog interconnect SACD Player - Line preamplifier: SILTECH Triple Crown (1 m) |ABOUT|
Analog interconnect Line preamplifier - Power amplifier: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RCA-1.0 Absolute-FM (1 m) |REVIEW|
Speaker cable: SILTECH Triple Crown (2.5 m) |ABOUT|

AC Power

Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - SACD Player: SILTECH Triple Crown
Power (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Line preamplifier - ACOUSTIC REVIVE
Power Reference Triple-C (2 m) |REVIEW|
Power cable | Mains Power Distribution Block - Power amplifier - ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 |ARTICLE|
Power cable | Power Receptacle - Mains Power Distribution Block: ACROLINK Mexcel 7N-PC9500 (2 m) |ARTICLE|
Power Receptacle: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE |REVIEW|
Anti-vibration platform under Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE: Asura QUALITY RECOVERY SYSTEM Level 1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RPC-1 |REVIEW|
Power Supply Conditioner: Acoustic Revive RAS-14 Triple-C |REVIEW|
Passive filter EMI/RFI: VERICTUM Block |REVIEW|


Speaker stands: ACOUSTIC REVIVE (custom)
Hi-Fi rack: FINITE ELEMENTE Pagode Edition |ABOUT|
Anti-vibration platforms: ACOUSTIC REVIVE RAF-48H |ARTICLE|

  • HARMONIX TU-666M "BeauTone" MILLION MAESTRO 20th Anniversary Edition |REVIEW|


Phono preamplifier: Phono cartridges: Tonearm (12"): Reed 3P |REVIEW|

Clamp: PATHE WINGS Titanium PW-Ti 770 | Limited Edition

Record mats:


Headphone amplifier: AYON AUDIO HA-3 |REVIEW|

Headphones: Headphone Cables: Forza AudioWorks NOIR HYBRID HPC