Aesthetix Calypso VS ARC Reference 3

Half price off course ($5000 VS $10000) , but suppose cost is not an issue: what you think are the sonic differences between the two pre-amps ?
I own a Calypso with well upgraded tubes. I love this preamp, in my system it is a very good addition. However, if my budget were not a factor, I would have gone with the Ref 3.

In my experience the Ref. 3 is more resolving and detailed over the Calypso (but the Calypso is plenty detailed/resolving for me, I run Krell amps and Wilson speakers so I like resolving and the Calypso adds just the right amount of tubed warmth without compromising the resolution I like).

There are not very many preamps I would prefer over the Calypso, but the Ref 3 would be the first that comes to my mind. I think both are excellent preamps and I do not feel the Ref 3 is anywhere close to twice the price better than the Calypso.

I think the Calypso delivers better flexibility as it responds better to tube rolling (a requirement for the Calypso anyway). I must admit that I don't really have much experience with tube rolling the Ref 3, just what I have read.

Again, the key to the Calypso is the tubes, you should add $1,000 to the price to put in the best tubes for this unit - factor that aspect into the purchase price.
Ckoffend what tubes are you using in your Calypso,I also have a Calypso and your right on about tube sensitive. I use Mullard CV 4004 box plates and Amperex US White Lable PQ with great results in my system. Duonri sorry just had to ask !
I have heard both, and I own the ARC Ref 3. The Calypso is a very good preamp, and a great bargain for the price. IMHO the ARC Ref 3 betters it in a couple of ways. The biggest is in quietness. The Ref 3 is one of the quietest preamps I've ever heard, tube or SS. The Ref 3 also has a bit more refinement or air in the high's and slightly better definition in the bass. The midrange is about equal with some good tubes in the Calypso, which is more prone to tube rolling.

Is the Ref 3 twice as good? No. The law of diminishing returns is in effect. Only you can determine if the price difference is worth it to you.

I have owned the Calypso, but could not warm up to it. That combined with noise issues had me send it back. I get to hear the Ref.3 very often and ever since my friend added it to his system, I have really liked it. I would not put them in the same league at all.
Is the Ref 3 twice as good? No. The law of diminishing returns is in effect.
I have not heard the Ref3 but I'm very eager to compare it to the Aria WV. However I heard a Calypso with premium tubes directly against the Callisto Sig. several times and it was not even close....not even close! The Callisto was way beyond twice as good as the Calypso because of the Callisto's ability to portray space, body of instruments and to carry the sound far beyond the edges of the speakers. And the Calypso here was dead quiet. Tonality is very very close but the Callisto digs a bit deeper in the bottom octave as well.

In many shootouts I find pros and cons and subtle refinements between two components. But that is not the case between these two Aesthetix line stages. And I truly cannot imagine such a similarity between the Ref3 and the Calypso. If these two pieces are truly that close then I cannot understand what's with all the praise over the Ref3.

I just gotta hear the Ref3 myself I guess. Or should I wait for the Ref5?

05-28-08: Jafox

The Callisto was way beyond twice as good as the Calypso because of the Callisto's ability to portray space, body of instruments and to carry the sound far beyond the edges of the speakers.

I guess it all depends on opinions of what "twice as good" means. IMHO, as with most things in audio, you pay 100% more (twice as much) for that extra 5-10% improvement (law of diminishing returns). I feel that if item A is way beyond twice as good as item B, item B must be broken. I don't feel that once you're in the high end, that anything KILLS anything else, I call that salesman speak.

That said John, you haven't heard the ARC Ref 3, and I haven't heard the Callisto. I VERY highly doubt that I would believe it was twice as good though, let alone way beyond twice as good, just from my previous 30 years in the hobby, and what twice as good means to me.

Not sure how you measure the last 5-10%, or how you calulate twice as good? But to me, gear that has the ability to get it right (last 5-10% ?) is always at least twice as good as gear that can almost get there. I also think that extra performance is well worth the money at any cost.
Sadly, this does mean I can afford to get it.
I have had the pleasure of owning both pre amps.At its price point the Calypso is very competent,I never experienced noise issues.The REF 3 just has that emotional immediacy and correct sense of timing that was lacking in the Calypso.
In my system the Calypso just lacked dynamics and soundstaging and was a little grainy compared to the PS Audio PCA-2. I would like to try the ARC myself but was impressed with the Pass Labs X0. Although it could be a little bright on some recordings, it was very dynamic and transparent with a great soundstage. The low level detail was outstanding. But the remote and user interface is rather poor.
Have you considered the Modwright LS 36.5? It is the price of the Calyypso and the performance of the REF3.
The Calypso Signature should be out soon and the Hovland HP200 should be given a try along with the Wyetech offerings.
Delayed response to question addressed to me by Jafant. I have tried several of the 12AX7 (which I feel impact the sound more than the 6922). I have tried a NOS pair of Telefunkens that were okay witin my system. With my other components (Krell and Wilson), I have found that I like the Mullards the best. I have a pair of 10M which are just a hair better than the longplates in a couple areas, but I really like the longplates and don't feel that I give up much vs. the 10Ms. I feel that they are tighter in the bass than the 10Ms but not so vs. the regular ecc83/12AX7 Mullards. Technically, the standard mullards should sound virtually the same as the 10M. They are really the same tubes just that the 10M have gone through additional testing (Just like golf balls destined for the Masters, they come off the same lines with the only differences being in the additional inspections - and packaging of course). I have tried several others over the past 1.5 months or so and found that I like the Mullards the best - with my system.

For somebody buying a Calypso, I would say start with either the 10Ms or the Mullard longplates to cut to the chase a bit faster (especially if their system is somewhat similar to mine). Additionally, if on a budget, I would seriously consider the "other" branded Mullard longplates (which are the same) but will save some scratch.

For the most part I have ended up with Philips in the 6922 position and have been happy. I played around with a couple of others, amperex, etc. . . but not nearly as much as with the 12AX7s.

Again, I am not saying the Calypso is better than the Ref. 3. If I would have been willing to spend the money for the Ref. 3 I would have probably bought that over the Calypso. Now that I have the Calypso, I am not too eager to get rid of it and am still not willing to spend the additional money on the Ref. 3.
Ckoffend - Before you spend another $500+ on a pair of Mullard 12ax7 10M's, you might just want to try a pair of Sylvania 5751 triple mica black plate. They run around $60-80 a pair regularly on ebay. You might be pleasantly shocked. Once I heard these, I have not bought another 12ax7 pair and I went through a bunch. As for the 6922 socket, the Valvo or Amperex PQ pinched waist tubes are smooth smooth vs. the Philips and Tele that I used before in the Aesthetix, CAT and Aria gear.
Jafox, Thanks for the recs. I actually have a pair of both the Valvo and the Amperex PQ pinched waste tubes and like them both. After the previous comments, I went back and looked at my tube box. But I honestly don't see as big of an impact with the 6922s as the 12AX7 tubes - which are immediately noticeable without any careful listening in terms of the extend of the affect/changes they have.

I will take your advise though the on the Sylvania when I get around to finding some. Thanks for your comments.
How long typically do the tubes last in the Calypso? 2000 hours? or 4000? or 10000 (like what the 10M claims?)?

by the way, Ckoffend, you just out bid me on a 10M a few days ago on ebay.


KC - I can't honestly say how long the tubes last. I have only owned my unit for a couple of months and much of that time it has ended up with a variety of tubes in it. I would suspect that at this point, if I had a pair of tubes with 250 hours on them I would be surprised. As for outbidding you on EBay the other day, I was surprised I won that auction. Most of the time I only bid in the final 15 seconds. I was tired that night and bid hours in advance and probably paid more as a result. But I have now bought 3 pairs of these as I want to have two pair for back-ups as I suspect I will keep this preamp for quite a while.

FYI, I was discussing with Aesthetix regarding HT bypass a long time ago, and I vaguely remember it was 2k-4k hours (stock tubes)
. I think it is crazy to burn $600 worth of tubes on a tube-preamp when watching movies.

I'm just curious if the 10M will last 10k hours.

Currently I'm using Telefunken/Fishers R-plate for now; it looks like I can't afford the 10M ...the last pair were sold at $270 yesterday.

The 5751, as Jafox suggested, for some reason, went up to $225 on ebay yesterday.

I got some Ediswan for the 6922 position as per the recommendation of another A'goner, but I haven't tried them yet.

BTW did you play with the gain settings?

I find that the Calypso won't sing if coupled with a tough load (in my case, singled ended connection to Ayre V3).

Calypso is also quite sensitive to the powercord.

Happy listening.

If a device is sensitive to a power cord it is very poorly designed.
I never understand why people make such generalizations like this.

Rwwear, your statement would then imply that Ken Stevens of CAT, Michael Elliot of Aria/Counterpoint, Alex Peychev of APL, Jim White of Aesthetix and Roger West of SoundLab, all designers of top-tier products that I have much experience with, are all poor designers. Products from these companies (in my system) respond significantly to power cord changes. Please do not attack the designer of the product but rather the implementer of the completed system.
Kschiu: Sorry about the jump in price on the 5751. That sometimes happens when there is a frenzy with auctions. If you can find a good deal on a GE or RCA pair, the triple mica might also work out well. I only compared the Sylvania and the JAN to the various 12ax7's I had and the Sylvania was significantly more full-bodied and clear compared to the JAN in the CAT JL-3 amps I was comparing them in.

Concerning the use of a tube line stage in "bypass" mode for movies, I am in full makes no sense unless you can do this with the line stage powered off. I contacted a few preamp companies about this exact feature and I got the same answer: their product needs to be powered on. The new Aria WV that I have had for two months is the first tube line stage that I am aware of that defaults to bypass mode when powered off.
I don't believe you or anyone else can hear the difference in power cords Jafox. But I'm sure you believe and that's why you do. It is not a generalization it is a fact that you and other psychoacoustic engineers need to realize. I don't care whom you refer to and what high end product they have designed, this kind of voodoo device(high priced power cords)makes high end audio look foolish. You can say I can't hear or that my equipment isn't revealing enough all you want but I don't care.

Sorry for getting off topic.
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I would be the first to agree with you. If you can't hear it, then don't spend the money. But... I find the change in sound w. power cords to be more profound than some CDP or interconnect changes. But if your system is revealing you will hear a difference. Also I find most power conditioners to have much less of an audible difference than a power cord. But that can only be said in relation to my system where I live.

Be careful with absolute statements unless you are sure you know it all.
I mean no disrespect Dgad. But I am absolutely sure. What you think you hear is not what you hear. But I do believe you think you can. There are lot's of things going on inside a component that affect sound quality but the short piece of wire going from the wall to the back of the audio device cannot do so as long as it is of proper size. It defies the laws of physics. And my system is revealing enough.
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What you think you hear is not what you hear.

I agree, the experience of hearing is not thinking. Sometimes the best listening involves no thinking at all.

Audio ergo sum,
I disagree totally with you.
My friends and I have done double-blind testing between the stock power cords on my JC-1 monoblock amps, and inexpensive Signal Cable Magic power cords, and the sonic differences and/or improvements with the Signal Cable PC's are clearly audible to all 4 of us... How do you explain that???
i guess i accidentally opened that can of worm ...

I wasn't a believer, and trust me, the best power cord I have right now (!) are the generic 14awg ones came with the amps. I have some other generic PC power cord kicking around.

What happened on that day I was swapping the power cord for some reason I don't remember, and I swapped the 14awg cord out from the Calpyso with a generic PC cord (i guess it was either 16 or 18 awg).

My wife walked in and said:

"what did you do? it sounds like cr*p!!!!"

Needless to say, I'm now a believer.
I used to be a non-believer in power cords as well...No more!
While I do not believe in spending big bucks on power cords, I will say this:
I have never heard two power cords that sound alike.
They may just be "a few feet of wire between your component and the outlet", but all have their own unique sonic signature for whatever reasons that I cannot explain.
I can also pick out upgrade power cords over my stock one blind, and quite easily.
And, on top of that, my girlfriend can tell the difference if I change out power cords while she is away, and I fire up my system, and she is not an audiophile or critical listener in the least.
She will ask, "what component did you change out this time?"
I will ask her what she means, and she will reply:
"You bought some new component, I can tell, cause your system sounds different."
She only says this if I have actually made a component or wiring change to my system.
It blows her mind when I tell her the only difference is a different power cord! LOL!
Thanks for the detailed answers.
I own the Aesthetix Calypso and use it in my reference system for the last 2 years or so. I have decided to go for a new ARC Reference 3. I just got it and now I own both pre-amps.
After the Reference 3 will break-in I will try to give you my opinion about sonic differences between the two pre-amps .
Thanks !

Congratulations on your purchase.

Re: the Power Cords & physics

I had a highly esteemed material science professor who was a big advocate of the use of interconnects & power cords. His specialty was electronics and cable use in aviation. The physics must be there, but at a level we might not understand.
Duonri, That is great. I would definately be looking for your review and feedback. As I have previously mentioned, it is probably only the Ref. 3 that I would prefer over my Calypso, though I did consider several at the time of purchase. I just couldn't afford the Ref. 3. I look forward to your comments and hope/request that when you write the review you may be so kind as to indicate when and where the Ref. 3 is, that you can try to reference by "how much". My guess is that in a couple of years when the Ref. 3 price comes down and I am ready for a move that I may be able to get one then. The AR stuff lasts for years. My last AR preamp I had for about 12 years. Funny thing is in the past 18 months I haven't owned a single piece of equipment for that long. Of course I no longer live in Guam in the South Pacific!
Sonic differences between ARC Reference 3 and Aesthetix Calypso.

System components:
VPI Super Scout Master signature
ClearAudio Concerto
ARC Reference 3 (replacing Aesthetix Calypso)
Antique Sound Lab Hurricane
Wilson WATT/PUPPY 6.0
Nordost reference speaker cable and interconnects.

I like both preamps. The sound is very good regarding most aspects with both. Both are very easy to handle - Good functional remote.
The REF 3 is excellent in every way. Overall the REF 3 is better than the Calypso.
In general the Calypso is a great preamp. Considering its price tag the Calypso is almost unbeatable.
The Calypso has many good sides which are written in many reviews, so I will not duplicate.
I will just compare the Calypso with the REF 3 and will emphasize the differences:

NOISE – the Calypso is not a quite preamp. Out of the box with its original tubes it does not have
an acceptable quite background. I replaced the original tubes with the same tubes, brand new ones but with no success – very noisy.
NOS tubes (I tried few NOS tubes – the Telefunken are OK for the job )
decreased the noise significantly, but even than the REF 3 is much better: The REF 3 is not only quieter but it is a QUITE preamp.

Sound and Resolution details – Compare with the Calypso the REF 3 has better resolution and details in the upper range.
Also the upper range is smoother and easier for the listener. The mids are good with both preamps. The REF 3 mid and lower bas are more tight.
The Calypso overall sound has more attack and is more punchy. The REF 3 is more laid-back.

User interface – Both preamps have good functional remote control. The REF 3 remote control has more functions: Tube hours, Phase, SE/BAL and more.
The screen panel of the REF 3 is also more detailed.

Heat - The REF 3 is a quite hot for a preamp, much more than the Calypso. On a standard rack it will possibly need a ( special purpose quite ) ventilation.

If you want the best – take the REF 3.
Take the REF 3 even if value for money is what you are looking for.
If you want a great preamp for $5000 than the Calypso is a great contender !
Duonri, Great write up on the differences. Very similar in many ways to my impressions of the two. I run my Calypso with the low gain setting and with the NOS tubes, I find that it is quite silent (vs. with the stock tubes) and several other tubed preamps I have owned (Cary and BAT). However, I agree with you that the REF 3 is more quiet even that the Calypso with NOS tubes and the low gain setting. However, I can turn my Calypso up to about 50 and not hear a thing from my seating position in terms of noise.

Have a great time with the REF 3 and sorry the thread got sort of hi-jacked by the power cable crew.