Aesthetix Calypso vs ARC LS25 MK2

Looking for insight from folk's who have compared these two pre's either head to head
in the same system (preferably) or experience with both in different systems.

I'm not looking at any other pre's at this time,
so please don't muddy up the thread with other pre's I should consider.

Thanks in advance...
Heard both but not at the same time. Slam dunk for the Calypso.
Well I will put in my 2 cents. I have heard both and I own a Calypso. I found it more transparent and a larger sound stage. Now with that being said they were close and I herd them with different systems (same speakers). Both are grate pre amps though.
After listening to the ARC and countless others... Aesthetix Calypso was my pick as well. I also own the Rhea and find great synergy in the pair. The overall balance and musicality won me over very easily and that was with stock tubes. People say that the Telefunkens are a whole nother story +++. Just for refererence, I run Atma-Sphere amps thru Coincident Total Eclipses and could not be happier. Jim White is also a great pleasure to deal with. Best of luck Perfectionist!
I have not heard Calypso, but have heard ARC LS25 II a few times: it suffers of terminal vapidness. Go for the Calypso, unless you are into Valium and Muzak.
Audioperv, I don't get it. Please explain further...
If I were a translator for Audioperv, I'd say his opinion of the ARC LS25 II is that it's slow, syrupy and dull. Did I get it right A-perv?
"Terminally vapid" LOL.
Boring, dull, etc.
>>"Terminally vapid" Boring, dull, etc.<<

Characteristic of all ARC products.
Bingo TVAD, dull, boring and to my ears. . . overpriced. That's the LS-25 Mk. 2, not ARC's finest product by any stretch. I would not want to generalize, but LS-25 fits regretably the ARC stereotype declared above.
As stated under the AudioPerv moniker, I have not heard the Calypso, but all indications so far are that it is a great linestage, once the right NOS tubes are found.
As far as I know, no one has ever accused Calypso of being an inducer of somnolence. There are other great linestages of course, but. . .
Let the ARC bashing begin!
Actually Tvad....... I couldn't disagree with you more. The MK2 uses 6h30's which are very fast sounding tube. Maybe you are thinking of a MK1? 6922's that are used in the MK1 are somewhat syrupy. 6h30's are fast, dynamic and very crisp and clean. Too much like a SS piece in my opinion. Plus the MK2's use JFET's in the input stage instead of tubes.... Perfectionist: If you are wanting a traditional tube sound, the MK2's may not be the one.
Has anyone been able to compare the Calypson to the CAT Ultimate?
>>If you are wanting a traditional tube sound, the MK2's may not be the one.<<

Therein lies the crux of ARC's problem. They do not sound like tubes. As the gentleman said, terminally vapid, dry, and boring. Perhaps your speakers work well with these sonics but most reference level speakers do not.
No ARC bashing from me at least. An ARC LS2B has served me well and has been working like a Swiss watch for 13 years, and an ARC Ref 3 is among the 3 front runners for its replacement. It is also fair to mention that ARC has an excellent reputation for reliability and delivering products that sound right, after breaking, out of the box, without the need of going through NOS tube musical chairs. . . . its just that I truly do not like the LS25 II.
Magnepanmike wrote:
Actually Tvad....... I couldn't disagree with you more. The MK2 uses 6h30's which are very fast sounding tube. Maybe you are thinking of a MK1?

Mike, if you read my post, you'll see that I was interpreting Audioperv's comments two posts prior to mine in which he uses the words "vapidness, Valium and Muzak" in reference to the LS25 II. So, in fact, you're disagreeing with Audioperv/Guidocorona (isn't one moniker enough?).
Yes TVAD, one moniker is enough. I created AudioPerv per a joking suggestion in another thread. I may use it on occasion.
Magnepanmike, When was the LS25 II introduced. Last time I heard it was last summer at Audio Connections in Verona (NJ). I do not think it was an Mk1, yet it is possible. During the same sitting I also listened to the REF II Mk. 2, which is also based on 6H30 tubes and is anything but vapid.
Well it looks like another thread run amuck with ARC bashers, what is with you people?
I'm on my second ARC pre, the first was the SP16L, and my current is the LS25 MK1
(XLR to amps=critical). These pre's are anything but dull, boring, slow, thick or syrupy. ARC's been making pre's for a long time and there are alot of them out there, so they must be doing something right. I'm sorry, but I have a great deal of respect for ARC and just don't understand the negative comments. I'll get off my soapbox now.

I think I've assembled a very nice system and have no desire to change any component with the possible exception of the pre. I listen mostly to rock, some jazz/fusion and female vocalist. I like a touch of warmth, hence the tubed pre. But I also love good dynamics and bass slam for rock and feel the MK1 is pretty darn good at it, but could possibly be somewhat better. I've done my homework and read till I can read no more, and for me it boils down to three pre's ARC LS25 MK1 & MK2 and the Calypso. I've had two tube guys tell me I should go from the MK1 to the MK2, that there is no comparison between the two, and that the MK2 is NOT SS sounding.

And then there's the raving reviews of the Calypso that cannot be ignored. Also, much positive press here on Agon with the exception of some early "tube noise" issues that seem to have been resolved. All three of these pre's are at the same pricepoint, so this is not an issue.

Magnepanmike, can you give a little more insight as to why you feel the MK2 is SS sounding? An example of the system/music and time spent with it perhaps?

Guidocorona, I agree with most of your comments regarding ARC.
But please tell me why you hate the MK2 so much?
>>ARC's been making pre's for a long time and there are alot of them out there<<

Yup, they're so popular you can find 110 pieces of ARC gear for sale on Audiogon. Maybe owners are catching on to the fact that for similiar money better products from companies such as Joule, VAC, BAT, Supratek, Canary, Cary, deHavilland, Aesthetix, Atma-Sphere, and CAT are available.
Bashing?? No, simply more awareness and knowledge on the part of the audiophile.
>>Well it looks like another thread run amuck with ARC bashers, what is with you people? <<

Hold on Sparky. It was YOU who initiated the thread if I'm not mistaken. YOU asked for folks (not folk's by the way) who have had experience with the ARC and Aesthetix. Don't raise a fuss because you don't like the message.

PS Go for the Calypso :-)
Perfectionist, I found the sound of LS25 Mk. 2 to be far to 'polite' and almost veiled.
It sounded as if it were saying 'oh well, here is another note for you'.
I heard it in two contexts: ARC CD 3 Mk. 2 + LS25 Mk2 + Rowland 302 + Utopia (don't remember Model), and in a totally ARC system: ARC CD 3 Mk 2, LS 25 Mk 2, ARC VT200, MagnePan 3.6. Music was classical: chamber, orchestra, vocal. In both cases the ARC Ref 2 Mk. 2 transformed the system completely: much broader soundstage (still not perfectly defined), top/bottom extension, fuller midrange, incredibly better macrodynamics, overall sense of excitement and of wanting to immerse myself into the music. I was though more enthrolled with the Ref 2 when it was driving the ARC VT200 rather than the Rowland 302.
As you can see, I am no ARC basher by any stretch, and am seriously considering the new Ref 3 as my next linestage.
I have been an ARC customer for 13 years. I do understand brand loyalty. Why not consider a used REF 2 Mk. 2? It may cost the same as a new LS25 and give you so much more. . . and still be indestructable!
Thanks for all the kind words from all you folks (not folk's).

At least I've got the balls to list my system for all to see and not keep it under wraps like some military secret. I find it difficult to take serious advice from people who won't list their system so I can have a look and see if I think they're full of it or perhaps they now their stuff.
Point well taken Perfectionist. Yet it is not because of any dissociative mental disorder that I have omitted to post my own system, but only because of terminal laziness. I have just created a personal system thread of sorts at:
Please do feel free to visit. Thanks, Guido
"Magnepanmike, can you give a little more insight as to why you feel the MK2 is SS sounding? An example of the system/music and time spent with it perhaps?"

I was using a LS 16 mk1 for 2 years when I purchased a LS25 mk2. I had the both units in my system for about two weeks before I purchased a Ref 2 mk1. (Owned all three units for a month or so before I started selling them off). I felt the LS25 mk2 was very detailed, crisp and clean and fast. Very good pace. Sound seemed to come from the front of the speakers and was very direct, not "layed back". Showed signs of fatique after several hours of listening though. The LS16 mk1 sounded layed back, not as crisp and clean although had lots of bloom. Very easy on the ears.... The LS 16 mk1 was not as crisp. The LS25 mk2 had very little bloom. (I actually like the Pass Labs X-1 better than the LS 25 mk2 as it was more layed back. I ended up with the Ref 2 mk1.....

As you can see I prefer my system to be more layed back than forward. I like the bloom of the 6922 tubes vs. the 6h30's. I have never tried the Calypso, so I really can not comment on that unit, however as you know it gets very high marks..... I'm also not saying that ARC makes the best products out there, it's just that they must be doing something right...... Alot of them are sold, yes, however alot of them are purchased.... It's a matter of economics.

Wish you good luck. (System: ARC 100.2; ARC Ref 2 mk1; ARC CD1 w/DAC5; Maggie 1.6's; sub - cables - power conditioner... yada yada yada)

Guidocorona & Magnepanmike,

Thanks for keepin' it real, and civil.
Both of your detailed descriptions are most insightful, helpful and appreciated.

Comments from others still welcome...
If ARC got it right... why do they have so many different configured pre's over the years? Tubes, transistor, or both?! You must audition the Calypso Perfectionist. Aesthetix will give you a sound that has very few faults (if any), has little or no signature sound, isn't tubey at all, great extention, open, airy, musical, and has great build quality. The versatility of both the Calypso and the Rhea (phono) are quite remarkable in today's market. Unless you have 10k to play with... More products IMHO should be more like Aesthetix. Perfectionist where are you located? I would gladly offer you a listen if you are anywhere near Detroit. I have lost count... has anyone slammed Aethetix yet?!
I take my hat off to Stanhifi! That pretty well tells the story in the fewest words. Enjoy!
I have been following this thread and finally thought I'd dive in for a little balance from Judge Judy and other critics. There's just no way someone can go to one place and hear one product and then to another place in a different room and system and have any value to stating the virtues of one product vs. another.

">>"Terminally vapid" Boring, dull, etc.<<
Characteristic of all ARC products."

Oh? All? Would this also include the SP-6, SP-8, SP-10, LS5, PH2, D70, D115, M100, D250, VT130, VT150? I have much experience with these models and I would not characterize any as boring. There is much harmonic richness, ambience, bloom, musicality with these products.

In its time, the SP-10 had no peers and I listened to a ton of products out there hoping to avoid dealing with this 15-tube 2-chassis product; the SP-10 won. Eight years later I followed this with the awesome PH2/LS5/VT130 that is anything but boring. Anyone who would claim such has their brain on the other side of Mars.

The one issue I always had with ARC was their lack of consistency delivered from one product line to the next. The preamps between the SP-10 and LS5 were worse and worse.....way too analytical to me. They weren't boring...they were simply unmusical! But thousands of others felt differently as shown by the sales of the SP-11, SP-15, LS1 and that dreadful LS2. (Sorry Guido, I couldn't help myself.) And shortly after the LS5, the cycle of unmusical preamps started again. Maybe that has changed again with the Ref2 or Ref3?

I have since changed to BAT, Aesthetix and CAT products as I have found them to be more refined in their tonal coherency, frequency extremes and low level resolution compared to the ARC products I owned and the new models available at the time. After hearing other products and my system becoming more and more resolving, I found the ARC presentation to be more and more too fatiguing for me.

The LS25 II was under serious consideration vs. my LS5 but I was not overly impressed. The LS25 was detailed but lacked the LS5's dimensional magic. I stayed with the LS5. It took the BAT 31SE to better the LS5 in key ways, much more foundation and power in the lowest octave, and a far more tonally coherent (not fatiguing) top end. The wonderful thing was that all I had loved about the LS5 was there in the BAT. The BAT had kept the performers at the plane of the speakers and behind. The LS5 brought the performers way out into the room which in time I came to like less and less. Direct comparisons at two dealers and my home showed me it was more than specific system synergy. The BAT 31SE end up being far superior to the line stage I had owned and enjoyed immensely for 7 years.

Two years later, enter the Aesthetix Callisto Signature. It's a very different experience here. Never had I heard a line stage impress me so greatly across the board. I remembered how the 31SE did the bass. The Callisto takes this to another level. And unlike the BAT, the Callisto renders a mulitude of low-level detail in the highest frequencies. The LS5 never came close to this. And the LS25 did not steal the show vs. the LS5 in this regard either. The Callisto and Calypso are very very similar except for one most important attribute: portrayal of space. I am so impressed when I hear the neutrality and resolution of the Calypso at a local audiophile's (Jadem6) home. But a changeover to the Callisto and that awesome 3-dimensionality is there like you hear from a real performance. The stage exceeds far beyond the boundaries, images are not 1-foot wide - they are so lifelike. A return back to the Calypso and that awesome openness is significantly diminshed. This is one area where I would have trouble going for the Calypso. Even with the BAT's soft top end and lower level resolution, it was far more lifelike in its portrayal of the harmonics, decays, images and space and this alone brought on the emotional connection. The LS5 did the same for me but not at well as the BAT or Callisto.

So that's a little bit of personal history that hopefully gives you some things to consider when you compare in your home and at the dealers. It can really be tough to choose from the strengths between some very impressive products out there.

Good luck in your quest here.

John, why o why are you making my life so difficult? And I am not talking about your side blow at my senescing LS2B!
Now you are truly forcing me to audition the mighty Callisto. No fair!
I too have been watching this thread from afar. Please listen closely to John, for he does an excellent job portraying his personal experiences with both products. We here in Minneapolis can not help but be barraged with AR product in that they are build fifteen minutes from me, and one of our two high end stores push AR like they have some money under the table.

Prior to Aesthetix's introduction of the Calypso, the AR were in a vast group of components that provided varying degrees of sonic quality. The Calypso took all the sonic qualities of the Callisto and packaged it into a very affordable single box solution. The bar has been raised, and in the price range you will have a hard time finding a better product (if it exists) DO NOT LISTEN TO THE CALLISTO UNLESS YOU CAN AFORD THE PRICE OF ADMITION. For us regular folk (folks, folk's) it will pull your heart out lusting for thy friends Callisto. (Come on John, just one more taste)
Jafox wrote-
A return back to the Calypso and that awesome openness is significantly diminshed. This is one area where I would have trouble going for the Calypso.

I can't say I blame you, going from a Callisto to a Calypso would be taking a step backward. It sounds as if you don't care for the Calypso, or have I misinterpreted what you've written???

Also, is it really fair to compare the two given the difference in price?
Please expalin further if you will...
Perfectionist: You raise some valid points here. Jadem6 (JD) and I have had much discussion about these two Aesthetix pieces. We have directly compared them at three different times at our homes. If you have not already read the reviews he wrote here about each of these models, please do so as it will give you much greater insight than what I can do here.

Any time someone asks for opinions about one product vs. another, almost inevitably one product is going to take a little abuse in the final analysis. What I like about this site is the openness of viewpoints rather than the typical magazine review where the reader is left hanging with never getting his own questions answered as to what the writer genuinely heard.

I will try to give you a better perspective here on MY take on the Calypso. First of all the good news: tonal coherency, low-level resolution, frequency-extreme coverage - these are all covered impressively well with the Calypso. Where most tube line stages fall short in the bass, this unit does not. So many tube line stages over-emphasize the mids with sacrifice to the frequency extremes; again not here with the Calpyso. The Calypso has a wonderful natural tone that far supasses the line stages in this price range that I have heard; there is not even one tiny hint of fatigue. AND resolution.... this unit brings on so much more detail and clarity from the music, especially in the trebles. In the context of the BAT 31SE and ARC LS5 II & III that I owned, the Calypso far exceeds these models in these areas with the BAT being very similar in the bass. It is remarkable how nearly identical the Calypso is to the Callisto in these areas. From my extensive auditioning of line stages, my gut feeling is that the Calypso has no peers in these areas in its price point.

And now my personal biases enter the critique. Ever since I heard the ARC SP-8 totally annihilate the great Krells, Klynes and Spectrals of 20+ years ago, it forever changed my perspective on what preamps can do to the musicality of the system. Once you hear an instrument occupy space and render decays in piano, sax and voice, it is tough to give it up. All these years, I have been willing to sacrifice low-level resolution, the utmost in bass control and extension, deal with a higher noise floor, etc., if that was what it took to achieve the 3-dimensionality in the performance that brought on the emotional connection. With each upgrade, the SP-10, LS5, 31SE, Callisto, I have managed to achieve all of the magic in this regard that I had before, but also to build on getting improvements in the areas that were lacking before. No matter how refined those other attributes might be from a product under consideration, if I was to lose any of the "magic" that I had worked so hard to achieve up to that point, that product was not going to work for me. This alone is why I have yet to jump up and down in excitement from any solid-state line stage or preamp. I'm simply a bloom and decays fanatic and I have sacrificed the other areas to get these attributes. But what has totally knocked my socks off (and JD's too) is how incredibly well the Callisto literally does it all.

As JD wrote above, and take his advice seriously, do not listen to the Callisto if it truly is out of your price range. If the Calypso brings on a huge smile to your face when you hear how it surpasses its peers, like JD, you will be a proud owner.

Your issue of fairness is a good one. Of course price comes into it. But that was why I brought the BAT 31SE into the discussion. It is in the Calypso's price range on the used mkt. And for me, it brings on the emotional aspect to the performance much more than the Calypso. But with the 31SE I am also fully aware that subtle details are lost from the music, primarily in the percussion that is rendered beautifully with the Calypso. The BAT is definitely more mushy and grainy on the top. But like the Calypso, the BAT was never fatiguing with overly emphasized mids as was the case for the ARC LS5 and less so, the LS25.

It's really tough to let go of the details in the music. But for me it is more difficult to let go of the dimensionality and space. It's a personal decision. Perhaps other links in the system with complimentary strengths can make the loss in either way "doable".

But trying to correct either of these issues with cables will result in only a lot of frustration. The result would no doubt mess up the tonality and potentially bring on fatigue as you tried to make up for lost extension on the top or make the sound more warm and rich with something like Cardas Golden Cross.

It would benefit you greatly to borrow a Calypso or 31SE for the weekend and hear for yourself how they differ to what you already have. You ultimately may want to keep what you have. Or it would give you some insight to check out the CAT Ultimate, First Sound, or others. To lock yourself into just a couple of models makes it tough to find the model that clicks so well to your own set of biases and system matching.

I truely appreciate the folks (not folk's) who have taken the time to articulate their impressions and opinions regarding this thread.

Trying either a Calypso or LS25 MK2 in my system is not really an option for me.
So after extensive research I have taken the plunge and ordered a new Calypso,
it is due to arrive at my home Tuesday, August 9th.

I will report my findings here for all who are interested.
Although I may wait a few days until the unit has some hours on it and I can spend some "quality time" with it over next weekend.

Again, thanks to all who have contributed...
I was up last night until 4:00 AM (I generally am in bed by 11:00) but last night was my first night auditioning a full complement of Kubala-Sosna Emotion interconnects and two Emotion power cords. I generally listen to one or two cuts from my reference music I use for auditions. (See the Calypso review for list) Rather than one or two tracks, I ended up listening to the whole disk.

It's funny that your second to last paragraph you commented on interconnects and dimensionality. John, you will not believe your ears.

These cables are amazing, they provide better transparency than my Valhallas, and have zero brightness yet at the same time leaving nothing out. This cable did not provide all the Callisto's attributes, but in some ways it tops the Callisto. Piano is wonderful, all the way to the top C key. I have found "the" new reference cable, now I just need to figure out how to get some speaker cables.
Fab choice Perfectionist. Keep us posted!
Right on Perfectionist. I am eager to hear how it all falls into place for you.

JD: Are you willing to share your new cables with us less fortunate cable owners? 8-) If I bring over the Callisto to hear how it works with your new fancy-pants cables, are you prepared to have the french horn player in your lap? And you thought it was hot in your room now!
Actually John, I want to try them in your system if one meter interconnects work. of course any time the Callisto comes over to play is a good day, so either way. if we do it here we can go back to the NBS and then the Kubala-Sosna. let me know, I'm around this week.
All, just yesterday I spent three hours comparing the ARC Ref 3 with the VAC Ren Sig II. Front end was supplied by the new DCS P8I single box player and by the Accuphase DP-77. Ref 3 was stunning and had no obvious problems driving the relatively low input impedance (22K Ohms) of the Rowland 302. Amazingly DCS P8I was also extremely good when driving the amp directly. You will find my rather detailed findings at:
See you all there. Your opinions welcome!
What are your impressions of the Aesthetix Calypso?
How does it compare with your ARC LS-25?
Does it have good synergy with your JC-1 monoblocks?
Thanks a million.
Jafox & Jadem6,
Am I correct in assuming that you are both in Minnesota? Maybe WBL, judging from the stuffed animal I saw in photos of one of your systems. If so, may I ask where you listened to/purchased your Aesthetix products? I'm in Minneapolis. Thanks!
Hello all,

My apologies for not updating sooner, but the reason I have not updated to this point is because the unit had an unacceptable amount of tube noise with the stock Tesla 12ax7's
when I received it, one channel being louder than the other and audible from the sweetspot (13ft from speaks). You can imagine my dissapointment as I was under the impression that these tube issues were no longer a problem with this unit. I did listen to quite a bit of music over last weekend and was pretty impressed, but a fair assessment at this time would be unfair. I am still waiting on warranty replacement tubes which I should receive today. I also have in my possession GE Longplates, Brimar CV4004 and Tungsram 12ax7's on loan from my dealer to play with. I have briefly tried all three of these tube sets and they are all much quieter than the stock Tesla's, probably by 50-75%(whew!). But I feel it would be premature to comment on the pre or any of the tube sets at this time as I just haven't been able to spend any quality time with it. The one thing I will say is that it is an extremely beautiful piece of equipment and the build quality is second to none.
I will have my way with it this weekend and update on Sunday or Monday.
Rja, is WBL White Bear Lake? John, Artg and myself are in the western suburbs. We all met recently and have found a strong three way friendship. Speaking for myself, we would love to add another member to our group of friends. In fact we are about to begin a power cord shoot out on our three systems, maybe you would like to join. I have found having local Audiogon friends has brought this wonderful hobby to a whole new level of enjoyment. What a great world! Why don't you email me privately and I'll give you my phone number...

PS, The bears is just a friend. He happens to love music so he and his friends (I collect bears) all love the music room. Besides it gives my someone to talk to. :>)
It's been about two weeks since the Calypso has been in my system, and IMO, it's a very close race between these two pre's. I'm sure some of you will think I'm nuts, but in my system and room, and to these ears, it's close. The Calypso does do many things better than the LS25, but not everything. Unfortunately, I have not had the opportunity to do a tube shootout. I did receive the Tesla warranty replacement tubes, one of which was noisy. But I was able to make a quiet pair between the original Tesla's and the warranty replacements. I ran all this past weekend with the Brimars installed. I'm not the greatest at throwing around esoteric audiophile terms, but I'll try to describe what I'm hearing. The Calypso definetly accels in the area of vocals, especially female vocals, which have never sounded so lush and realistic in my system. And I would say the Calypso wins in the area of soundstaging and imaging. Also, I'm able to hear small details in the music much better, micro and macro? I havent decided if it's smoother or any easier on the ears just yet. The one area I feel the LS25 is beating it in is bass, believe it or not. It's not so much a lack of bass, but it's different, and I can't quite put my finger on it. But in all fairness, my LS25 has who knows how many hours on it, compared to maybe 150 hours for the Calypso. Perhaps this is playing a part? Also, I havent spent any serious time with the other tube sets. I also have not tried any iso devices under this pre, although I run my LS25 on it's stock footers. The only iso device I have are Daruma III's under my cdp (I'm waiting on a Nueance platform for cdp). A buddy is going to let me try his Aurios Pro's under the pre. I'm using a 3' Harmonic Tech Pro AC-11 pc, and I'm wondering if the Calypso may benefit from a different pc. And I have not attempted to reposition my speaks at this time (although, this has proved futile in the past). I guess what I'm saying is that I'm on the fence with this as they are both great pre's, IMO. In fact, it's so close that this is gonna take me weeks to nail down and I'm not ready to part with the LS25 at this point.
I may even have to pull the stupid TV off the top shelf of my rack and do a pre shootout.
I wanna like the Calypso more than the LS25, it's a thing of beauty, love the numeric volume readout, display dimmer/off, standby mode, and it's easy to service, i.e., change tubes.

I'd really like to hear commentary and/or suggestions from other Calypso owners...

I've finally ended up with the Calypso after a 2 year preamp search. I find it to be the most neutral and revealing preamp to date, with very good air, detail, and presence. Price was not an object in my search as I have owned a Hovland HP100, BAT 50SE, Levinson 32, Conrad 17LS, and Sierra K2 within the past two years. All of the Aesthetix dealers I spoke to prior to purchase indicated that the Calypso was 98% of the Callisto in performance. I don't know this to be true, but, each could have taken considerably more money from me had they said differently - and they knew this. All of these preamps including the Calypso were compared to the ARC LS25 at a friend’s house who previously owned one. We both found the Calypso to be considerably better than the LS25 in all areas. As far as rankings, my friend prefers the Sierra, I prefer the Calypso. We both agree that the rest rank as follows: 1) Calypso/Sierra 2) Hovland 3) Conrad 4) ARC 5) BAT 6)Levinson. Bottom line is that the Calypso is in the upper realm of current preamps and there are many reviews that back this up. I use the Aurios Pro's under the preamp and a Supra Lorad PC. Put a set of Tungsram's in (all sockets), and you will find the music.
Tgun5, thanks for your input, very interesting, and I'd like to ask you some questions...

1) Was the LS25 MK1 or MK2? The thread title says MK2, but I own a Mk1.

2) Did you find there was a lengthy break-in period & approximately how long?

3) I have Tungsram 12ax7's here that I will be test driving this weekend.
I was under the impression that only the 12ax7's were the important tubes.
Are the 6922's also critical in your opinion?
Tgun5 wrote:
All of the Aesthetix dealers I spoke to prior to purchase indicated that the Calypso was 98% of the Callisto in performance. I don't know this to be true, but, each could have taken considerably more money from me had they said differently

If I was a savvy dealer, I'd recommend the Calypso, too, secure in the knowledge that I had sealed a deal, and knowing that many Aesthetix owners eventually upgrade to the Callisto. Therefore, it simply makes good business sense to satisfy your needs while increasing the odds for a future sale.
Perfectionist: Thanks for the update. It's nice to read your honest experiences between the two products. I too can relate to how difficult it can be to ultimately give the nod to one component vs. another when they each have their own strengths. But if there is anyone out there who has put a ton of effort to get the Calypso to do its best, it's Jadem6 (JD) so contacting him would be worth your time.

Rja: Great to learn of another twin cities audio fan. I hope to get with JD and Art soon to do their fancy power cord shootout.

Tgun5: Your comment on all the Aesthetix dealers that you talked to about the Calypso being 98% of the Callisto is interesting. I think of a 2% or even a 5% or 10% difference in performance improvement as being rather subtle - almost to a point where you need to focus your attention to hear the difference. This is clearly not the case compared to the Callisto. The instant you switch from either model to the other, it is VERY clear why the Callisto costs much more. To claim a 98% performance is being a bit too generous on the Calypso's performance. But that's just my view on these two products.

I actually noticed a larger difference when replacing the 6922 with Tungsrams as well as with some other 6922's. The bass became tighter and more extended as well as overall detail becoming better. The version of the ARC was a MK1.

As far as dealers stating the Calypso is 98% of the Callisto; one said that, another said the difference was so close that it was negligible, and a third said he thought the Calypso was close enough to make the price difference a waste of money. I didn't find any of these comments "savvy marketing" as I was prepared to spend the money on which ever was clearly the best. At this point, I have no reason to, for the Calypso leaves you wanting for nothing.

This whole preamp search was time consuming and costly. The Calypso just happened to be the least expensive preamp in the comparison. Each was compared over time using different isolation devices, and without. The Sierra K2 sounded best using symposium rollerblocks on a 1/4" maple shelf. The Calypso was best with just Aurios Pros. We tried each preamp with combinations of 1/4", 2", and 4" maple shelves with combinations of rollerblocks, tiptoes (like products), isoblocks, and Aurios bearings. The Sierra also clearly benefited the most from isolation. Since many isolation combinations simply change the tonal balance, we were careful to use final combinations that enhanced detail retrieval, air, or other non-balance related change. This comparison went on for over two years, so there was plenty of time with each to experiment and fine tune.
Forgot to mention that I use the Calypso with balanced cables from the Esoteric DV50 to the fully differential Denali monoblocks. Everyone agrees that the DV50 sounds better in balanced mode as do the Denali's and the system takes advantage of the fully differental chain. This was not the case when comparing some of the other preamps, The Hovland and Conrad were at a disadvantage being only single-ended. (in this case)
ARC will soon be introducing the LS26, which will be a replacement for the LS25 MKII. According to ARC, the LS26 corrects some of the complaints levied against the LS25 MKII, such as "dryness" and a lack of musicality. It is a scaled down REF3.

I own the LS25 MKI (with NOS 6922) and prefer its tonal balance, liquidity and musicality compared to the LS25 MKII
Jafox, I think Jadem6s' review of the Calypso says it all.

Tgun5, thanks once again for your insightful and helpful input.
I have gained much knowledge by way of others trials and tribulations.

I hope to have at my disposal this weekend a set of Aurios Pro's and a Supra pc to play with.