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Audio girl, I've been reading your preamp threads, and since I didn't have any experience to offer, I've refrained from replying. You've got a lot of excellent advice in other threads, and I don't think there's enough audiophiles here who have compared the two to really give you a consensus.
As mentioned on other threads, you're really looking at solid state vs tube and you've stated that you're very tempted to try out a tube pre. So you really should audition a tube preamp and see if you like it. Now are you using the phono section in the Ayre? If so, that might be a consideration too.
Well, since you have gotten zip in the way of input, I will give you my "impressions" of the differences. (FYI, I have the Ayre K-1XE, and I love it.) Please note this comparision is based upon my friend's Aesthetix Rhea phono preamp, not the Calypso line stage. However, I am lead to believe (based on my reviews and my friend's auditioning of the Calypso), that they are similiar is sonics.) FYI, my friend uses an ARC Ref. 2 preamp, with his Rhea, in case that makes any difference to you.
You should already know the Ayre strengths and weaknesses, as you have one. They are very detailed, have a very low noise floor, it is a true balanced design, and it is very musical, (surprisingly so for a solid state unit).
The phono stage is very good, but not quite as good as the Aesthetix Rhea. The Rhea is slightly more musical, and the distortion from the tubes is not as grainy as the Ayre. (Not that the Ayre has much graininess, but it is solid state, so there is a little bit at higher volumes.)
The weakness of the Rhea, and from what I have read, the same is true of the Calypso, is that they are a bit on the noisy side for tube units. Tube rolling will solve some of this, but it will never be quite as a quiet as the Ayre.
As you can see, there are trade offs involved for both.
Question to you now:
What about the Ayre are you not satified with?
(Or is it just upgraditis hitting you?)
From what listening to my friend's Rhea, it is a fine phono preamp, and having a bit of noise in a phono preamp is somewhat to be expected. However, having the same noise in a line stage is a bit distracting. If you go that route, do a search here and on Audio Asylum as to which tubes to try. (I gave up on my ARC LS-2 preamp and PH-3 phono preamp for exactly that reason: the tube rushing noise eventually got to me. I have no regrets at all about not having tubes in my preamp sections of my system!)
However, in my opinion, YOU just might be better off with the Calypso, (and the Rhea, as you will need a phono stage too) as you would at least introduce a bit of that ole "tube magic" with a tube preamp, since you are considering a solid state set of monoblocks.
I did the same type of thing, except I went reversed it.
I use my Ayre K-1XE preamp with hybrid Lamm M2.1 monoblock amps. The Lamms only have one tube in each channel, but it is just enough to get me the mid-range magic that tubes provide. (However, like a good solid state amp, the frequency extension on both ends, but especially in the bass response, is fantastic with the Lamms.) Another thought for you would be to get the Aesthetix Janus, which combines the Calypso and the Rhea into one unit. (Save you a bit of money.)
Anyway, take what I wrote with a grain of salt, as I have had to extrapolate from a similar unit, and from my friends experience, rather than a straight up comparision myself.
Well, Good Luck in your search!
It's off subject and I hope you get your answer but have to ask a question and make one comment.First do you play LP's a lot and find calypso incrporated enough of the Rhea into it?(I maybe wrong but thought Calypso was not just a line stage but full LP player as well).And aren't we talking glass verusus solid state?Me I alwayss thought that glass went better in center to adjust voltage but tube amps i have had in poast would lack bass controll and defintely (at same price point) roll off highs.Think I would consider what else I was going to put into mix.Hope you get you head who has done a head to head.
Chazzbo, the Calypso is linestage only. The Aesthetix Janus is the full function preamp in the line.
Mikesinger, the reliability of the Aesthetix is just fine from all I hear. And as self-disclosure, I'm a very satisfied owner of an Aesthetix Io Signature.
Audio_girl, you may have some difficulty getting a response to your specific question because you've paired two specific pieces that not many will have had an opportunity to directly compare. The Ayre certainly has a good reputation, so does the Aesthetix. From what I've read and heard, the differences will be qualitative and preference will strongly depend on one's listening priorities. For example, I just could never give up those things that I've only heard excellent tube electronics do. For me, excellent tube gear delivers a magic 'naturalness' to the sound that I never hear in solid state at any level. I consistently hear a difference in the rendering of the harmonic overtones of instruments and the microdynamics that makes a meaningful difference to me. Since I listen almost entirely to acoustic music (classical primarily), the natural rendering of acoustic instruments is important to me, and tubes more often get this right for me. FWIW, the Aesthetix gear is some of the best at getting this right of any I've listened to over my 30+ years in this hobby.
But, none of this answers the specific question you asked. Hopefully someone in the community will be able to give you some thoughts based on having actually heard both the K-1Xe and the Calypso.
Thanks guys for all of your responses!
I am not unhappy with the Ayre, I was just curious on how it compared with a great tube preamp like the Aesthetix Calypso and its "tube magic".
I am also very curious about the Calypso/Parasound Halo combo that Perfectionist is extremely happy with.
Guess I am just itchin' to give tubes a spin!
I read the Audiophile Perfectionist journal last year that included both of the products that you are looking at in one of their journals. This will not help as they liked both the Ayre K1xe and Aesthetix Calypso extreemely well. I ended up buying the Calypso a few weeks ago as I wanted a little more warmth in my system. You might try talking to dealers that carry both products.
I have demoed the Ayre and owned the Calypso prior to selling it due to system integration with my theater system, (not as bad as you think). First off, they are both awesome preamps, and the Calypso is not "tubey" sounding at all, so the tonal signature of each is relatively similar.
One thing the Calypso does that no SS pre I have heard other than those costing as much as my car does is create a truly immersive, layered, and extended soundstage. What makes the Calypso great is that with this you don't lose the focus or placement in the stage, nor do you get bloated bass, or rolled off bass or highs.
The Calypso is much like the Sonic Frontiers Line2 SE I owner before with less grain and more dynamics while being a little less forward.
I will say you cannot use the stock tubes and expect it to be quiet, but there are some inexpensive options I found performed incredibly well for less than $30 a tube. As always people will either look at tube rolling as fun, or as a chore, and this also likely depends if you are a diehard tube lover, or a longtime SS user. The Calypso is very easy though as the top cover is removeable with no tools or screws, you can roll tubes very quickly (as long as it takes to cool them off).
I agree with Mds's post, the Calypso isn't warm, but you can make it warmer with different tubes, and the Ayre isn't what I would call warm either. I owned a CX-7e for a while as well, great player, but just the facts, not bright or warm, just neutral.
Good luck, you can't go wrong with either pre.
I have not made a direct comparison of the two, but I am an owner of the Calypso and hv quite a lot of experience with Ayre gear (I used to own K3/V3 and now own its SACD player). I absolutely agree with those points raised by others in this thread, in particular about tube noise and tube rolling of the Calypso, which are not something I am used to as a traditionally SS guy.
The tube noise in Calypso can be a bit demoralizing, and I bought A LOT OF tubes in order to find the right ones that sound great and relatively quiet (I ended up with Amperex and Telefunken). Quite often the tubes are noisy, but once you hit the right pair the Calypso just transforms into an awesome pre-amp, much more musically involving than my previous Rowland Synergy IIi.
I guess a lot comes down to system matching - if you think you need a bit of tube-magic, then Calypso is an excellent choice, although I would not consider this change an "upgrade" (Ayre K-1Xe is a great pre-amp by itself and much more expensive). There are going to be some trade-offs if you switch, and probably not something you may want to live with (e.g. the patience in tube rolling), although I can say that changing from Synergy IIi (similarly priced to Ayre) to Calypso has been an eye-opener for me - I wouldn't have thought that the Calypso sounded so much more musical than the Synergy even when using a Rowland power amp!
There's nothing like a A-B comparison, particularly in your case when both pre-amps are superb. Try to talk to your dealer (my dealer offered me a home trial of the Calypso, and I got hooked)......
Thought I'd chime in since Audio Girl and I have chatted offline regarding the Calypso and since I own one. I've never heard any Ayre gear (nor have I ever heard maggie's). So I can't talk to that. I'd like to share my experience with tube noise in relation to the Calypso. I had done extensive research on pre's in my price range and even had the opportunity to try a Rowland Synergy IIi in my system for a short time. I had read all the threads in regards to noise with the Calypso, but it seemed that most of these issues had been put to bed. When I received the unit new (07/2005), with stock Tesla 12ax7's, both tubes were noisy with one being louder than the other. It was an unacceptable amount of noise and I was quite livid. But, the dealer I bought it from also gave me three different sets of tubes to "play" with it a bit since I have never really tube rolled. The other three sets were quiet and I finally settled on 1963 GE Longplates. Said dealer also sent me a replacement pair of Tesla's, and again, one was noisy. But out of the two pairs I was able to make a good pair and they are now back-up's to the GE's. Jim White also offered to send me a warranty replacement pair, but I told him not to bother and that all was good. He was a little surprised to hear of my tube issues as he thought they had purged all bad tubes. But other than that, no big deal really. It's quiet at full volume-have to put your ear right next to the tweeter to hear anything. Personally I really don't care cause this preamp freaking rocks! I listen mostly to rock, blues and some jazz fusion type stuff and I am enjoying my music like never before in my audio life. Also discovering female vocalists' these day's 'cause this unit is oh so sweet. I'm not trying to sell anyone on anything and I don't claim to be no audio expert. I could start throwing around a bunch of audiophile esoteric terms, but I'll digress. I will say this...This unit takes awhile to break-in (not as long as JC1's thank God). I've logged and tracked many hours on pieces of gear, ic's and pc's, but for some reason I didn't do it with the Calypso. But if I had to guess, and I do, I'd say 150-200 hours at minimum (and that's probably on the conservative side) (Some are saying upwards of 450 hours). And it just continues to get better week after week, month after month. I'd also like to say that for me, for music to believable, I have to feel it, literally, as in bass. The bass slam that my overall system produces is astounding, and the Calypso is now a big part of that. A friend brought over his JR Synergy IIi and left it with me for a weekend, prior to my purchase of the Calypso. I enjoyed it's overall sound, but it had zero bass slam in my system, I was shocked and as soon as he walked out the door, I pulled it out of my system and put in the tube preamp I was using B.C. (before Calypso) I only mention this since the above post references the Synergy IIi (and I'm not dissing JR gear and it was only in my system for a couple of hours).
In any event, I don't think anyone should shy away from this unit because of threads in regards to tube noise. It's a non-issue for me...
P.S. I bought the Calypso without ever hearing it.
I own the Ayre K-1xe and had the Calypso in my house for an audition for two weeks. The Calypso is a very good tube system and much cheaper then the Ayre. The pre amp I replaced was a Sonic Frontiers Line 3 SE, also a very good unit. The Calypso was better then the SF Line 3 but only by a hair. Nice base clean midrange and nice polite high end. I auditioned it with the Boulder and the big super tubed BAT and the Calypso held its own against that lofty competition. I almost bought it.
But then I stopped by the Ayre factory in Boulder (I live in Fort Collins Colorado)just to listen for a few minutes. My wife and I sat down in their listening room and it took about 2 minutes to realize we were listening to something at another sonic plane then the preamps mentioned above. The Ayre may not be the best pre in the world but its the best I've ever heard. Like many audiophiles I sometimes strain to hear sonic differences between units in the high end. Not so with the Ayre. Its the most musical, dynamic, and extended sound I've ever heard. (I listen to classical, jazz, and new age mostly) My wife is a pianist and we are both quite sensitive to the natural sound of accoustic instruments. The K1xe provides lots of information including the inner detail in the piano where you can hear the body tones, the action, and the wonderful micro dynamics associated with the harmonics set up in the instrument. Playing it makes you realize the all music is percussive. The human voice, wood winds, etc all have a leading edge attack that in a live setting is "percussive" is a sense. The Ayre conveys this. (My system includes Krell FPB300cx, Revel Ultra Studios and my newest Ayre purchase a C-5xe Universal player.)
I cannot comment on a comparison between the two preamps, as I have never heard the Ayre. I can, however, tell you that the Aesthetix Janus/JC-1 combination is really quite extraordinary - at least in my system. The synergy between the two surpassed all of my expectations (I recently acquired the JC-1s from Bob Crump's estate - they were his personal pair). I am, as they say here in Tejas, as happy as a gopher in soft dirt.
Not sure oif you made the leap yet but if you do let us know how it worked out.Thanks to Rushton for corectiong me that the Calypso is a line stage at a lower cost than the full Janus pre-amp.I wonder if you go with the Aesthetix if you look at the feature differences (or want sperate flexibility to change your mind latter) as to go with Claypso/Rhea or the Janus.Haven't heard them but the Halo is supposd to be aesome and the review I read (Stereophile somebody) actually bought his review sample.Must quite an amp.One vote for the Rhea is I think that digital is the wave of the future.My freind bought the new DEQX 2.6 pre/processor and said he was able to make a pair of Dahlquist dinosaurs sound like a set of Infinity Preludes.The digital amps (class D) have sounded prety bad except the ones produced by PS Audio but many may catch upo.I think the future is digital and this is from a guy who now runs German semi horns wioth a 40 watt EL34 tube EAR.While I'd love a Rhea or and EAR 324 or P88 I ca't afford the $4500 price tage.I am thionking of giving up tubes and going to PS for a poor mans Naim or Audio Note one brand rack.Waht strted me down this road was looking into the new PS phono which has XLR outputs,easy to reach gain and load knobs in the back as well as mono and phase control on the front all for $1K!!!I'll miss the tubes but wioth it's "Gain Cell" volume I could run it iinto my tube integrated or a glass amp if I want.If it's as good as their last series of HCA amps (and the new integrated ahave goten even beter reviews) it sounds like a real winner.But I digress.You sound like with the right speakers to be on the road to audio nirvana where more expense would bring only diminishing returns.Hope you post how it turns out.
I have an Ayre K1xe (used with a v1xe, and a c5xd into Vandersteen 5A's. The air is one great preamp. If you need more bloom place it on Ultam slab which will change the perspective a bit (put the instrument back a few rows in the orchestra, but still retain its extremely musical excellence. I suppose you can use Purist cables etc. to play with the balance as well, but the preamp as well as all their gear is a cut above.