Shane, when I purchased my Io Signature, I asked the designer, Jim White, about the second power supply and he replied with this advice about what he heard with the Signature upgrade from the standard MkII version and then with the second power supply:
The Signature provides the following benefits:
.. Greater resolution
.. More neutral presentation
.. Improved high frequency extension and detail
.. Greater top to bottom coherency
.. Better bass definition
Adding the second supply improves the sound in the following ways:
.. Added space
.. Improved macro dynamics
.. Improved micro dynamics
.. Blacker backround
.. Greater ease to the sound, less strained
What I can say is that my Io Signature with the dual power supply option is extremely satisfying in all the areas Jim mentioned.
As to the vintage tubes, I know that lots of people have really liked the results of their tube rolling experiments, particularly following Albert Porter's recommendations. I tried all the small tube substitutions and returned to using the stock tubes by preference. For my sonic priorites and for listening primarily to classical music, I found that the stock tubes gave me the best combination of resolution and timbral accuracy. Jim told me that his customer base splits about 50/50 on the vintage vs. stock tube issue, with many classical listners (like me) preferring to stay with the stock tubes. As always, YMMV... But in my opinion, you can't go wrong getting the second power supply if you like what you're hearing with the Io Signature with a single power supply.
I own an LP2 Deluxe, and have heard the IO, though not recently. I think that if I has the space (imagine, a four box preamp and three-box phono stage--there'd be no room for any source components!) and was willing to put up with the potential of the hassle of a large number of tubes I would have gone with an Aesthetix, though the sound of the two units is excellent and similar, the Lamm being perhaps a little darker in overall tonal balance. The Lamm is quieter, but at least part of that could be from its lowish gain (57db). If your Dynavector is less than .3 mv output, you may find the Lamm lacking in ultimate gain and dynamics. These are both great phono stages; I think you would be making a sideways move to get the Lamm (unless you really feel you need the quieter background and less heat/tubes to worry about), and since you like the sound of your Aesthetix, I'd suggest that if you have the money and space, upgrading the power supply would be a good choice.
I agree mostly with the above response. My experiences are as follows:
Aesthetic IO Signature MKII with 2nd PS:
1. Great dynamics.
2. Great air in the top end.
3. Good flexibility for variety of carts.
4. Fairly quiet at first, very noisy shortly after limited use.
5. Works tubes very hard.
6. Support was not great.
7. Tube replacement is fairly costly.
8. Needs a lot of real estate for all the chassis.
LAMM LP2 Deluxe
1. Dead quiet
2. Slightly dark sounding.
3. Top end air lacks slightly.
4. No flexibility with gain or loading. (LAMM believes it is unnecessary)
5. Inexpensive tube replacement.
6. Good textural detail.
You have a very low output cart which I have used with the LAMM and it definitely works, but a bit more gain would help. Personally, I would not own an Aesthetix product again as I have had terrible personal experiences as well as many of my customers. Others may disagree and I am happy their experiences are different, but if you are in Australia, I would look for something that is more of a sure thing.
I've had great support with my Aesthetix gear, as have many others who post on Audiogon. Jim White has been a superb person to work with. I've used my Io Signature for five years and the original tubes have remained dead quiet.
thanks guys. BTW, I don't own the IO, just listening to it from the dealer.
Tube noise and reliability are both issues, however the local guy who does the repairs on the IO, owns an IO and he says it is very reliable, so I feel more comfortable about owning one in Australia.
Rushton, Are you saying you have used your original tubes for 5 years?? How many hours a week do you play??
Rcprince / Jtinn
From reading the Lamm is a little warmer sounding than the IO??, or just a little darker - not sure what the difference is.
ON the Lamm side I can buy a 2nd hand unit as they are changeble to 240vlts, the IO you must use the 240vlt version made for Australia.
I have found the Aesthetix support to be outstanding. Their telephone support with Jim White and Glenn is exemplary and repairs have been done for me quickly, efficiently, and at a fair cost. I should mention that the repair I needed was a result of user error, not a problem with the product. In addition, and most importantly, I could not be more satisfied with the performance of the products. I have the Callisto and the Io with dual power supplies on each.
Downunder, I listen about 20 hours a week when the system's up. Over those five years I've had some relocation transitions and the system has been down probably 18 months out of those five years. Add to that non-play time when I'm out of town and I'm probably pushing 3,800 hours on these tubes. Sure, it's about time for a re-tube which will tell me how much the sound has degraded and I'm just not noticing it. But the tubes have not self-destructed as Jtinn suggests.
Downunder, when I say "darker" I'm talking about a slight roll-off in the treble, which translates into the slight lack of air (especially compared to the IO) in the treble range that Jonathan is referring to and a tonal balance more tilited to the midrange than the treble. I would call the bass and midrange very natural, not warm, but with the lack of treble emphasis some might call it that overall. This is the sound I tend to prefer, so I do not see it as a drawback for me. I should mention that one other thing the Lamm seems to excel at is reproducing a very three-dimensional soundstage; layering of instruments in the soundstage is excellent (which is its biggest advantage over my JP200's phono stage and why I use it along with the JP200's line stage). Dynamics are good, but probably not as startling as the IO; bass on both of them is excellent, you would not know either of these was a tubed unit.
On the reliability question of the IO, a friend of mine (with my urging, as I heard it for the first time with him and thought it was extraordinary) bought one of the early IOs back when no one had really heard of them, and has been happily listening to it with no problems for over 8 years. I have no reason to doubt Jonathan's warnings from his experience; however, having the local tech nearby should ease any reliability concerns you might have.
On the gain question, I lived for years with a Koetsu Rosewood Signature Platinum (VERY low output cartridge) and the Lamm with no real problems, but the lack of gain was enough of a bother, particularly on large scale orchestral works that might be cut at lower gain levels, that ultimately I did replace the Koetsu with a higher-output EMT cartridge. Jonathan's right, a low output cartridge will work with the Lamm, but there are times when you wish you had just a little more gain.
Downunder: I am in complete agreement with Rcprince's response.
Rushton: Respectfully, my experiences are not unique. These are not "suggestions", they are experiences. Speak with Lakefrontroad, Gladstone, Jonathan Valin, Rmaurin, etc. And by the way, I am extremely happy you have not had the same expeience. When the IO Sig was good, it was very good.
Hey Shane - now that you've heard the Aesthetix Io, how do you think it compares with the ARC PH7? Is there a $3k difference (not that we're counting)?
The Aestetix IO that I have been using for almost a year now has given me zero problems. I did have some noisy tubes but this was easy to rectify. I also owned the Rhea preamp, good but not good enough.
I have three sets of tubes for the IO, the stock pair and a set of cryoed and a set of nos tubes.
They all sound wonderful and give me the chance to tweek or tailor the sound to my liking.
I can only imagine that the second power supply will open things up even more so. This is only speculation due to the fact that I have not heard the the IO with a second power supply.
good question. I think I will get the PH7 back for a another listen as they are in the same league.
I can comment on a couple of things thou.
The IO's bass is more dynamic and bigger in size, whereas the PH7 is a little tighter and does not have as much impact. For my musical tastes, the IO is a step ahead in that area.
Mid's and hi's, not sure one way or the other as I have new speakers, but the IO does seem to have a bigger presentation overall.
Both are more musical than my Xono, however both a lot noisier.
The PH7 only has 57.5 db gain (same as the Lamm), so I want to re-try it with my new speakers as they are a little more efficient.
At high volumes I remember I could hear slight transformer noise from the PH7.
From the IO, even at 62db, you get that wonderful ( not!!) tube rush - but no other noise. Please note at normal volume's you can't really hear the tube noise, but at louder volumes you can hear the tube rush between tracks and I would guess on quieter music tracks. I am not sure I can live that again. I used to have a cj prem15 and that was noisy like this as well.
Only really listened to it for one night, now I have the flu so everything sounds like crap - but the IO bass does rock thou.
I'll keep you updated.
Let me chip in with a couple of observations on the IO Sig. I have had mine for about a month (I am second owner of this unit 18 months old bought here on the Gon)and it superceded a hot rodded Sonic Frontiers Phono 1 SE with Amperex Bugle Boys. My speakers are 89db sensitive with ribbon tweeters that love to let you hear any tube noise going!
Both phono stages are in the sytem for direct comparison.
When I first powered up the IO Sig the tube noise became a big issue for me compared to what I was used to with the SF using a .25mv output ZYX UNIverse and a .15mv output Kondo IO-j. The SF has a 62db gain but is totally quiet even with the lowest output carts and no tube rush to speak of (function of the FET gain stage). With the IO, I found that I had to notch the gain jumpers back to 60db to reduce the tube noise and with subbing in various NOS Raytheons, NOS Brimars and regular electro-harmonix the noise issue basically went away. I concluded there was a noisy Sovtek somewhere and maybe just removing and replacing tubes cleaned up the tube socket connections. I also put on a top notch Granite silver power cord 10awg (with ferrite) and that seemed tame the noise a bit as well. I also found with the really low output Kondo, a 1:10 Tribute transformer that sounded horrible with the SF is just great with the IO and absolutely no ground hum whatsoever, which can be a challenge with some phono stages.
I can't fault the IO in any way with 1 power supply and if Jim says 2 are better, I am not sure my ears would be up to it even! My SF is competitive with most expensive phonos out there, but the IO just takes everything to a new level and it is the top of the food chain, putting pressure on the rest of my equipment to keep up. In comparison to the SF, the IO is more open, relaxed and dynamic all at the same time, the SF sounds a little closed down and veiled in comparison. It is also worth noting that background noise is also a function of appropriate loading to match cart impedance.
I have spoken to Jim White when the initial noise issue first depressed me and he was incredibly responsive both email and later by phone when I needed some info. I recently decided to send the units back to Jim for a tune up as they were used and even though I am a second owner, no warranty and living in Canada, Aesthetix have been wonderful in supporting me. My next decision is whether to get the Callisto to replace my SF Line 3 SE and the only concern (besides the cost) is if the heat will be much greater in my closed listening room.
This is a little off topic but has anyone compared the Aesthetix IO Signature to the phonostage in the Atma-Sphere MP-1 mkIII?
You state that you put the gain back to 60db??
In IO manual I have here the gain stating at ATT1 and going to ATT5 is 80, 74, 68, 62, 50. My manual says IO, not sig so I think it is an old manual.
Are impedance's from jumper position 10 - 1. 10k, 4.75k, 1k, 475, 243, 121, 75, 40.2, 20 , 10
Is anyone's else's manual different??
You are correct as above - gain setting at ATT4 is attenuated 18dB to give a value of 62dB, not 60 - I was scribing during a quiet moment in the office, so a slip of the pen! The impedance values are as you describe.
My unit was approx manufactured 2 years ago as verified by Jim White, but the manual is revision 2.6 dated April 2002 and there is no reference to the signature version in the manual other than the warranty card. It might be 2002 was the time that Aesthetix recognised the issue with the old Mills resisitors and changed over to the Roederstein. The circuitry has not changed as far as I know from inception.
I have an IO Sig with 2 supplies & volume controls. Its just over 2yrs old so the Mills resistor issue is not a concen with my unit.
I run a Koestu RSP which is .2mV and noise, with careful NOS tube selection, has not been an issue in my set up with re-worked Quad ESLs.
I have had a recent problem with one Power-supply failing(for the 2nd time) & am awaiting the tech's response on this. It was a capacitor last time. So while the sound has bested, to my ears, PH7, lamm, steelhead,ART... the verdict is out on reliability. Does anyone have an recent email contact for Jim White directly?
you can reach Aesthetix here:
5144 N. Commerce Ave Suite A
Moorpark, Ca. 93021
Jim White can be reached at: email@example.com
I have owned an IO Signature with one power supply for over a year now and have about 600 hours on this setup. I am running 62db gain with a Benz LP and 1K ohms. I know that after about 30 minutes the IO Sig sounds better then cold, or this could be the accumulative effect of 46 tubes coming to life with the amps and preamp. I have not tried tube rolling and agree with Rushton about the stock Sovtek's having a magical appeal with the IO Signature.
I would be interested in trying the second power supply also. We are in the process of moving into a new build home and I will evaluate the space in the new listening room.
Rushton, I see you went back to the stock tubes. How was the sound of the other tubes in the system?
Audioquest4life, I will sometime try the vintage tube route again. I've heard good outomes from too many people to not at least give this another try. I just have not had the time to do so. In my sitution, I started with Telefunken 12AX7s in the second and third gain stages, then moved to change out the other tubes in the audio section. At the end of the process, the sound lacked the resolution and image specificity that we prized, and we lost the ability to resolve complex instrumental lines in complex music. Simple music (e.g., singer/song writer) sounded lovely, but the system no longer resolved orchestral music with the ease to which we'd been accustomed. As I say, we need to try the experiment again and spend more time identifying which tubes are doing what to the sound.