Aesthetix IO Sig tube rolling/initial impressions
I think it has been a while since anyone has mentioned tube rolling the Aesthetix IO Signature. Let me tell you, I have been fully happy with IO and never wanted to change anything. I decided to jump into the tube rolling bandwagon to experiment since the tubes I ordered are available and reasonably priced. So I finally got around to do some tube rolling. After hearing what others say about how quiet we can make the IO's and Rheas by replacing the stock Sovtek 12AX7's for other tubes I decided to try. This will be a quick update, a more formal one will follow.
I replaced all of the stages, first the V1/V2 with Sovtek 12AX7LPS and the rest (V3/V4/V5/V6) with the Mullard 12AX7's. I also replaced the stock Sovtek 6922 with an EH6922. I did not order the 6SN7 due to some confusion on my part, I will order new EH gold pins though.
Ok, after installation I plugged in all of the cables and powered it up and waited for the moment of hearing my system again.
First impression right off the bat, silence, the tubes in the IO now are so quiet that I hear in between the music and I hear slightly more detail in nuances. I will call the sound right now, less edgy or less detailed at the frequency extremes while having a lot smoother frequency range from the upper bass to the lower to mid high frequencies. I guess you could say that these extremes are somewhat rolled off compared to what I am used to. The subwoofer control had to be bumped a couple of notches to get the bass I was used to back. But, these are probably symptoms of the new tubes breaking in and me getting used to the whole new tube sound.
I have to crank the volume higher, almost to the 1100-1200 for somewhat loud listening, whereas before, I could get away with the 1000 position for louder music. When I turn the volume up though, I do not hear one speck of tube rush as I did before. This is a dramatic improvement over the previous tubes in the IO in that regard, you hear a silent background with only the music or the sound of the needle crackling over the vinyl, no tube rush. Not that the tube rush was that bad before, but it is definitely quieter.
I can sum up the listening sessions, they all seem to be easier to listen to at all volumes, almost pleasant if you will. Before, there seemed to be a perceptible high mid presence that would sometimes be overbearing, especially with lead guitars, now the whole spectrum seems real smooth. The top hat and cymbals are a little laid back, but as I said that could be due to the tubes breaking in. I can hear voices in Supertramp Live in Paris that I never heard before, the piano on Pablo Cruises song Running Away (Nautilus Half speed mastered) is absolutely gorgeous. I heard the piano play from left to right and player seemed to pan right their in front of me. In fact, this time I believe that the piano had some more heft and some sparkle to the performance then before.
Now for some technical speak:
These tubes are what I would call somewhat laid back but with excpetional noise control and improvements to the overall frequency spectrum in regards to balance. My two discernable differences are what I compared to the etched precision of the stock tubes and the deeper bass. Not to say that these do not have detail, they do, just in other places of the audio spectrum.
When I do swap out the 6SN7 I will write a full report, but until then, I just passed the 10 hour mark today with these tubes and I think that they have become more detailed, but without the noise. Overall, I would say anyone wanting to go this route to ensure the quietest phono operation without giving up to much performance, then these tubes are the way to go except for what I was nitpicking. The overall soundstage and depth seem to be the same as with the old tubes.
Ok, that is all for now. I will keep you posted.