Put the VAC preamp in the mix as well
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Take a look at the build quality of a Pass XP10 which is my current preamp. It is solid state, I admit. But there is no comparison to Aesthetix--Pass is light years beyond and is a company that has been around for a long time. The OP is looking for "the last preamp I buy" and I would not put the Aesthetix in that class based on my experience with it--hence my cautionary note. Not to dismiss the many positive reviews and fans out there who enjoy the Calypso and its sound quality. But like the OP I was looking for my last preamp ever (maybe!) and I think the Pass is it. To each his/her own, as always, and caveat emptor.
I do wonder what it is about the Aesthetix preamp that makes it so prone to comments like, "with the right tubes...." This label seems to have stuck in a way that you don't hear about other tube preamps (certainly not to the same extent), even if you are a tuberoller. If true, it would be one reason for me not to choose it, especially for a lifetime pre, where those NOS beasties will be getting scarcer and scarcer. If a preamp can't sound goos with current production it would be off my list - even if I do use NOS.
Thanks Guys, a lot of food for thought, I had been leaning towards a REF 3 but the Calypso keeps coming up as a suggestion. I have a LS26 now and if ARC doesn't come out with an LS27 soon I am looking for the REF3. My dealer has me on his list if he gets a trade. I have never heard the Calypso but the comments here have kind of guided me back to the ARC route. I have heard one in my system and loved it but, we always want more right? The only other consideration is the McIntosh C500T, but never heard one either. It is easier to buy a 40000 car than a 10000 pre amp, since you can go to dealer and he has one to test drive. Audio companies should have demos that you could try at home for a week. It would be worth the freight charges, and I would think for them it would increase sales.
funny how these threads go...the Calypso's build quality does not take a back seat to any preamp on the market. The term "sounds good with the right tubes" really means you can dial it in to your system and your taste. When NOS tubes disappear "in the next who knows..50 years"...they will be replaced with better tubes if there is a demand.
I found the stock tubes to be very good...but lets face it, most of us like to screw with every detail in our system. The Calypso gives you the freedom to do so, it is a very good preamp and easy to maintain...almost as easy as solid state. I have owned all the Pass Labs preamps until the current XP generation. I loved the X-0.2 but the Calypso gives more of a real flavor to the music in my system.
Srosenberg - I'm kind of cheap when it comes to NOS tubes, so I hunt for bargains, but for tubes that are highly recommended.
The best I've found so far are Telefunken 12AX7 smooth plates (early 60's vintage) that had great specs. I managed to steal them @ $85 for the pair. I'm using Phillips labeled Amperex SQ white labels in the 6922 slot that I found for $120.
The 12AX7 tubes are the most critical... so place your initial emphasis on finding these first. Telefunken's are clear, fast & dynamic, yet still smooth and fatigue-free. In second place are Mullard CV 4004 Platinum's, which are a good all-around tube, but slower sounding with more emphasis in the lower frequencies when compared to the Tele smooth plates, which excel in the mid to high frequecies.
I have tried more expensive tubes (Mullard 10M Gold Pins) @ $800 for the pair, but I found them to be too slow and muffled for my tastes. Keep in mind, that system synergy (amp pairing, cables, room interaction, etcetera) plays the most crucial role in your systems sound, so the tubes I've found to work best for my system may not be optimal for your system.
Thanks Gandme. But I think in compilation of what I have read and heard I will be happier with the ARC. I have decided (due to economic reasons) to wait and buy a LS27 when one comes available. I wanted to look at Modwright but was actually told buy Dan that the LS100 would be more "tubey" than what I am used too and I have come to the conclusion that the Calypso would probably be close. O have the LS26 now and the 6H30's seem to keep me closer to the SS sound I am used to. Correct me if I am wrong as I have yet to hear the Aesthetix. I wanted to then the dealer passed on before I had a chance to do an in home demo. I have heard the REF3 in my system and loved it and ARC claims the LS27 surpasses it and rivals the Ref5. The only thing missing is the funds. So if anyone would like to contribute to my Theos' Audio Fund please send money to TAF 123 Blue Note Way, Poorsville USA.....:)