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Integrated amplifier

Ayon Audio

Manufacturer: AYON AUDIO
Price (in Poland):
• Scorpio II + EL34 – 15 900 PLN
• Scorpio II + KT150 – 19 900 PLN
• opcjonalny pilot: 450 PLN

Contact: |


Provided for test by: NAUTILUS Dystrybucja


Translation: Marek Dyba
Images: Wojciech Pacuła | Ayon Audio

No 206

July 1, 2021

AYON AUDIO is a company specializing in expensive and very expensive audio components: amplifiers, digital sources and loudspeakers. In 2008, however, it presented an amplifier costing only PLN 7,500 called Orion, which changed the rules of the game. SCORPIO II is the latest incarnation of the basic amplifier from this manufacturer and the second in its history amplifier featuring EL34 tubes.

NE OF THE "PROBLEMS" OF AYON AUDIO PRODUCTS is that they all look the same. Regardless of the type, price level and year of production, all devices manufactured in the last - say - ten years are indistinguishable for a layman. Individual models differ from each other, it is obvious - they are not identical, but these changes have a common denominator and are never something that breaks with tradition. This makes them difficult to define.

And it was not always so, just look at the one we tested in 2008 (HF № 50 ⸜ June 2008 | test HERE), 300B power amplifier to understand what we are talking about. The unification of enclosures, because this is what this manufacturer is all about, has a deep sense and is economically justified - this way you can either save money or use the savings to prepare better chassis. From the first Ayon products with the now classic chassis made of thick aluminum plates, it was obvious that GERHARD HIRT, the founder and owner of the company, opted for the latter variant.


SO LET'S COME BACK TO THE APPEARANCE. For a layman it is monotonous, for long-term users like me, the products of this company are consistent in their appearance. You can mix devices from different years without worrying that they will stick out. Moreover, their artistic design is restrained, so it does not get boring.

And I know what I'm talking about - my system has been featuring this company's line preamplifier since 2008, first the POLARIS II, a year later replaced with the newer POLARIS III, which was replaced in 2011 with the SPHERIS II. The current preamplifier, SPHERIS III, has been in my system since December 2014, but I am "already" (after seven years!) getting ready for its newest incarnation, the SPHERIS EVO. Anyway, for all these years this device has been the only constant in my system and I still hasn’t got bored with its appearance.

The only departure, although a rather symbolic one, from the Ayon's aesthetic concept were the painted black, not chrome transformer cups used for the cheapest integrated amplifiers. When in 2008 Gerhard introduced the ORION model, it was about reducing the price of the device as much as possible, so that it could compete in the price areas that Ayon had so far forfeited. It seems that this procedure was successful, and Orion, and later its version ORION II, sold in the largest quantities in the history of this Austrian company.

With the third integrated amplifier in this series -there was also the SCORPIO XS in the meantime - it is a bit different. For the first time, it looks exactly like the more expensive integrated amplifiers of this brand. What's more, it looks even better than them, because it was the first to receive oversized transformers, new, larger knobs, and a modernized auto-bias circuit. I asked at the source for the details of these changes.


| A few simple words…

Owner, designer

⸜ A workshop, where Scorpio II amplifiers are made – the last measurements are performed by AŁEKSANDR in Bulgaria • photo Ayon Audio

WOJCIECH PACUŁA Could you tell us when did you start to work on the MKII version of the SCORPIO amplifier?
GERHARD HIRT We started working on the new amplifier last year.

WP What was the purpose of the new version?
GH As you may know, the smallest Ayon amplifier always looked different from the rest of the Ayon amplifier. You could always recognize the entry-level model immediately by the black transformer covers. After much discussion with our US distributor and pressure from Ayon Audio USA, we decided to achieve the same look as all other Ayon amplifiers.

WP What are the differences between Mk II and Scorpio XS?
GH Actually, the Scorpio II differs greatly from the technical side from the XS. We installed a completely new PCB board layout, a more powerful power supply and a more powerful transformer as the Scorpio II also has to handle KT88 and KT150 tubes.

⸜ Scorpio II ready for packing and shipment • photo Ayon Audio

WP Has the Auto-Bias circuit also evolved since then?
GH Yes, for the MKII version we installed the latest generation of auto fixed bias system and the latest protection system.

WP Tell us about production process of the Scorpio?
GH Scorpio II is manufactured partially in Austria, and partially in Bulgaria, because we employ several technicians from this country. It means that we have a really good relationship with them. Such synergy helps us to reduce production costs - otherwise we would not be able to offer Scorpio at this price level, it would have to cost much more.

WP What’s the next project for you?
GH The next projects are: In July we will introduce the new Triton Evo monoblocks and the new Spirit SE II integrated. The Spirit SE II will be also equipped with the KT170 tubes.


SCORPIO II IS AN INTEGRATED TUBE AMPLIFIER with a solid-state power supply section. It is based on the proven push-pull circuit, but with all tubes working in class A without feedback. The device is equipped with four RCA line inputs and one digital one - USB, supporting PCM signal up to 32 bits and 384 kHz and DSD up to DSD256. The volume can be controlled using a remote, which features also a "mute" button.

⸤ TUBES in the input there are 6Ж8 tubes, the Russian equivalent of the 6SJ7, which is an octal pentode invented in 1935. The one used in the Ayon looks great, thanks to a metal, not glass bulb, which protects the signal from interference. The specimen used in the Scorpio II were manufactured in the Soviet Union in June 1958 and come in original boxes with the original sheet of technical data and description.

6H8C (6SN6) double octal triodes handle the phase inversion and driving the output tubes. They are also NOS tubes and were produced in the USSR. A novelty in the Ayon basic amplifier is that we can use three different types of output tubes - EL34 pentodes and KT88 or KT150 beam tetrodes. Each of these tubes sound differently, but when choosing them, the thing will be more about the output power, which is getting higher and higher with each subsequent model. And so with the EL34 we get 2 x 38 W, and with the KT150 2 x 50 W.

The given output applies to the pentode mode in which the output tubes work. As in other Ayon amplifiers, also here the user can change it and select the triode mode, thanks to which the output tubes operate as triodes. A downside in this cas is a lower output and higher distortion. The settings are changed with a small switch on the rear panel, and they are signaled by a LED with the letter 'T', placed next to the input selector. In triode mode with EL34 tubes we get 2 x 25 W, and with KT150: 2 x 35 W.

⸤ TECHNOLOGY One of the most important features of the new amplifier is an advanced microprocessor-controlled auto-bias circuit and tube protection circuit. The former one automatically adjusts the voltage for the tubes to the voltage in the power grid, and also corrects the bias as the tubes age. From time to time, user can check their condition and read the indications on the small LED display on the back.

This system also provides a "soft" start, extending the life span of the tubes, and protects them against overloads, so - again - significantly extends their life. The latter is also helped by an anodized non-magnetic chassis, hand-assembled from brushed aluminum, refined to better dissipate heat from working tubes.

I disassembled the device, examined it carefully and I must say that it is one of the better planned amplifiers from this manufacturer. Powerful, double power transformers flooded to minimize vibrations, as well as a choke are part of an extensive, multi-element power supply. The stages are coupled with polypropylene capacitors, the solid RCA sockets are gold-plated, and the loudspeaker sockets, with separate taps for 4 and 8 Ω, are made of copper (!); they were made by the American company CMC.

⸤ PRICING The Scorpio II costs more than its predecessors, but it surprises with chrome transformer cups, making it similar to the much more expensive Spirit V. It also has newer protection circuits and nicer knobs. The version with four EL34 tubes costs PLN 15,900, and with the KT150 - PLN 19,900. A massive metal remote control is available for an additional PLN 450. The latter has the same marking as the remote control in the Spheris III (RC-4A), but it is different - it does not offer an option to control both, amplifier and preamplifier.


⸤ HOW WE LISTENED The higher output offered by the KT88 and KT150 encourages user and this option is one of the major changes compared to the previous versions of this amplifier. However, these are not my favorite tubes. On the other hand, the EL34, although considered a "entry-level" one, has been used in many top amplifiers, let me mention, for example, LEBEN CS600X and KONDO OVERTURE II, and I like its sound.

So when I found out that it would be possible to use not only the EL34, but even the KT150 in the Scorpio II, I thought not about higher output, but that the EL34 I decided to test the amplifier with, would work with power supply and output transformers usually they could only dream about. Because the KT150 has such a high power consumption that the power supply has to be much "bigger" compared to the one required by the EL34. So the device was tested with EL34 tubes.

I also used the option to select the output mode. However, the switch must be always made with the device turned off, which means a long time for amplifier to turn off - this is how the tube protection circuits work - and the same time for it to turn it on - again the same systems are responsible for that. It is impossible to compare the sound of the pentode and the triode mode "on the fly".

Anyway, the amplifier was placed on the top shelf of the Finite Elemente Master Reference Pagode Edition rack, on its own feet. It was powered using the Harmonix X-DC350M2R Improved-Version cable, and the signal from the Ayon Audio CD-35 HF Edition player was sent via the Crystal Cable Absolute Dream interconnect. The amplifier drove the huge Harbeth M40.1 speakers, and the signal to them was led using Western Electric NOS cables, as well as the Siltech Triple Crown.

Before the tests, each time I turned the auto-bias mode on, and left the amplifier on without feeding it with a signal for about 1 hour.

Recordings used for the test | a selection

⸜ COLEMAN HAWKINS, The Hawk Flies High, Riverside/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2030, SACD/CD (1957/2006).
⸜ ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA, Out of the Blue, Epic/Sony Music Japan SICP-30111, 2 x Blu-spec CD2 (1972/2013).
⸜ HANK MOBLEY, Soul Station, Blue Note/Audio Wave AWMXR-0001, XRCD24 (1960/2009);
⸜ JUDY GARLAND, Over The Rainbow, Going for a Song GFS236, CD (?).
⸜ SANTANA, Abraxas, Columbia/Sony Records Int'l ‎SICP-10135, 7-inch mini LP, SACD/CD (1970/2020).
⸜ SUZANNE VEGA, Nine Objects of Desire, A&M Records 540 583 2, CD (1996);
⸜ TAKEHIRO HONDA TRIO, This Is Honda, Trio Records PA-7005/Ultra-Vybe | Solid Records UVWA-0043 | CDSOL-1484, CD (1972/2020).


LOOKING AT LARGE, HUGE EVEN TRANSFORMER CUPS, both for power and output transformers, comparing them to the size of the EL34 tubes, which are the main beneficiaries of this increase, it is not difficult to have specific high expectations for the Scorpio II. One expects a power, dynamic sound with great bass. And it’s all right, it’s what we get in most such case. Even after such an "exposure", you will not know one thing: how sophisticated a device is the amplifier in question.

I started the listening session with the classic, pentode mode, not liked by purists very much. And I understand why - it is difficult to get the smoothness, three-dimensionality and right resolution with it, which we get with a triode amplifier or one working in this mode. The Scorpio II is one of two, maybe three amplifiers - at the moment I can only think of the Kondo Overture II, but I would definitely find something else having more time - sounding in pentode mode like a pure SET amplifier - so not just a triode, but also single-ended amp.

The Austrian amplifier surprised me above all with its perfect balance of all elements of the sound. I do not mean "only" the timbre - quotation marks, because this would be extremely difficult - but all other features of the sound that we usually refer to when describing it. It was so, that for a long time I sat listening to the albums I knew well, not finding anything in this presentation that would distract me hence drawing my attention. It was a really complex, rich sound, maybe not perfect, there is no such thing, but simply great.

I mentioned the resolution - the tested amplifier sounds warm, dense, one could even say: tangible. And yet the thing that draws attention from the very beginning is the ability to differentiate, an extraordinary ability, let's add. It's about all aspects of the sound, not just details, which lets us know it's resolution, not selectivity. The Scorpio II is not the best amplifier in the world, it has its weaknesses, that's normal. In what it does well, however, it is simply unique.

Take, for example, the COLEMAN HAWKINS’ The Hawk Flies High. Recorded over two days, on March 12 and 15, 1957, in a classic way for that time, that is, with all the musicians in the same room, it has a very orderly, precise sound. And yet most devices, be it players or amplifiers, blur the details a bit, which makes the album seem a bit blurry and not very expressive. The Ayon amplifier did not emphasize the details artificially, it did not destroy the "decorum" that came from JACK HIGGINS's hands, but it went deeper into the sound, allowed it to grow.

| Our albums

⸤ COLEMAN HAWKINS The Hawk Flies High

Riverside/Mobile Fidelity UDSACD 2030

Hawkins, born in 1904, was considered one of the most important jazz saxophonists. In the original booklet, featured also in the Mobile Fidelity re-edition, which I would like to recommend to you, it reads: “In the beginning, at least when it comes to the tenor saxophone, there was COLEMAN HAWKINS and only Coleman Hawkins. Today there are many talented saxophonists, but there is still only one The Hawk.

The Hawk Flies High is the 1957 album by the jazz tenor saxophonist COLEMAN HAWKINS. It is the only album recorded by Hawkins for Riverside Records (RLP 12-233). It was created at a time when the musician already enjoyed unquestionable authority, both among music audiences and the best American saxophonists, regardless of the jazz style they played.

Therefore, the artist was given a free hand in choosing other musicians. The basis for the accompanying sextet were musicians of bibop-based origin, such as J.J. Johnson on trombone, Idrees Sulieman on trumpet, pianist Hank Jones and Oscar Pettiford on double bass. Apart from the drummer, everyone was 20 years younger than the leader.

The recordings were made during two sessions on March 12 and 15, 1957 at REEVES SOUND STUDIOS in New York. The album was produced by Bill Grauer, and the sound engineer was JACK HIGGINS, the Riverside producer. Founded in 1933 and operating until the 1970s, Reeves studios were the brainchild of Hazard Reeves, an innovator who introduced multi-channel audio to film. In these studios, therefore, film soundtracks, radio commercials, and the famous Riverside musicians, such as Thelonious Monk, were recorded. It was also where material for Mercury and Verve Records was created. The studio had great Fairchild compressors.

The version of The Hawk Flies High I am talking about was remastered from the original mono tape in 2006 at the then MOBILE FIDLITY SOUND LAB headquarters in Sebastopol by SHAWN R. BRITTON , at the time the main mastering specialist of the label. This album was released in 2006 as a hybrid SACD disc, and a year later on 180 g of vinyl. The company's Gain 2 System was used to prepare the material.

I TALKED ABOUT THE ABILITY TO EXTRACT INFORMATION - a similar effect as with the Hawkins album I heard with the Nine Objects of Desire by SUZANNE VEGA, I once wrote about (more HERE | POLISH).

Not very resolving on its own, it has a unique atmosphere obtained by adding weight to the bass and smoothing out the treble. The Scorpio II showed it just like that, but added something else - bass energy, which we will not get with many solid state amplifiers. I am talking about energy, not power, because the latter can be summoned very easily. The Ayon showed not a crude "punch", but an inner richness, density, not forgetting about focus.

In the third track on this album, entitled Caramel, the bass hits very hard from the very beginning, not fully defined, but also not boomy - just big and strong. With the reviewed amplifier it turned out to be phenomenal - yes: phenomenal - because I got a sufficient definition, but most of all energy. It was a strong sound, giving the "drive" to the whole track, but without masking other instruments, especially warm, sensual vocals.

I had a similar feeling when I listened to the Black Magic Woman from the latest re-edition of SANTANA's Abraxas album on the SACD (fantastic, let's add). The bass sets the right pace, but the percussion instruments are just as important. Scorpio II withdrew them slightly on stage, but didn't extinguish them. So I had a great imaging and a beautiful tone. Because it is a warm sound on the one hand, and incredibly energetic and vibrant on the other. This was confirmed by the album This Is Honda, which was recorded for Trio Records in 1972 by Mr. Okihiko Sugano.

⸤ TRIODE OR PENTODE? In the paragraph above I mentioned space - and not by accident. Apart from the fact that the Ayon amplifier shows beautiful, refined colors, besides the fact that it is extremely energetic and has a warm and sonorous sound at the same time, one of his most important skills is presentation of instruments in such a way that we have an impression that everything is as it should be. I'm not saying "as in reality" because recording is a separate art form other than a live performance and mixing the two is frivolous. Instead, I say: "as it should be".

I base this absolutely subjective observation on the fact that we are listening, be it Vega or TAKEHIRO HONDA TRIO This Is Honda, or the ELECTRIC LIGHT ORCHESTRA from the Out of the Blue feeling no need for to change/improve anything in the presentation. I do not know about you, but I have such a thing that if something in the sound annoys me, I immediately think about how I would change it, what would I improve in it. That is why I value such audio products so much, which do not have to be perfect at all, but which have everything arranged in a way that does not raise any doubts and which relieves me of such thoughts.

In the case of the Scorpio II, only our choice is questionable - that is, the output tubes mode, triode or pentode. Personally, I'm not a member of any of these "churches", I'm interested in the outcome, not the ideology. However, I have a tendency to ascribe to the triode mode some features that many music lovers talk about. In the case of the reviewed amplifier equipped with EL34 tubes, I had no doubts that with the Harbeths the PENTODE mode sounded much better.

It was with it that the sound was smoother, better controlled, fuller and warmer (!). I have no doubts that there are systems in which the triode version will appeal to you more, but with classic loudspeakers with 85-87 dB efficiency and strong bass, the Ayon will seduce you - just as it seduced me - playing in the pentode. The triode mode brings the sound closer, saturates it, but deprives it of some information. It also simplifies - because that's what it's all about - space. Although the events on the stage seem more tangible in it, they are more flat, we do not have such a natural perspective with it.

Maybe it doesn't really matter, because the Ayon is very good also in the triode mode. I'm just saying that in the pentode mode it is excellent and I would listen to it this way.


NEXT GENERATIONS OF Ayon Audio PRODUCTS, their next versions are getting better. Truism? - No, it’s not, but rather an important remark, because this is real progress, and in the direction which - in my opinion - should be followed. It is about the incredible fullness and energy of the sound. The Scorpio II sounds saturated and dense, the way some companies' solid state amplifiers sound today, whether it is ACCUPHASE, or MOONRIVER AUDIO.

The Ayon is also incredibly natural and refined. And, importantly, it sounds strong, disciplined, delivering a low, well-filled bass. The low range is not very well defined, but I did not miss it because it had excellent energy and rhythm. The treble is a bit withdrawn, but not by being muffled, but by sounding a bit further away on the stage. And the latter is deep and wide, but most of all well ordered and defined. I chose the pentode mode for the listening session, but it may be different for you - the Scorpio II allows you to match it to your loudspeakers.

Technical specifications (according to the manufacturer)

Frequency range: 10Hz – 40kHz (-3dB)
Nominal output:
• pentode mode - EL34 | KT150: 2 x 38W | 2 x 50W
• triode mode - EL34 | KT150: 2 x 25W | 2 x 35W
Input sensitivity (@ full power): 350 mV
Input impedance (1kHz): 100kΩ
NFB: 0dB
S/N ratio: 95dB (2 mV)
Volume control: Alps
Inputs: 4 x RCA + USB
USB input: PCM 32/384 | DSD256
Remote control: yes (optional)
Dimensions (W x D x H): 600 x 530 x 410 mm
Weight: 29 kg


Reference system 2021

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