Please check the archives as this was covered a couple years ago.
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Here it is. I remembered this as it was a result of a thread I posted. And Albert Porter pretty much summed it all up between the 2 units .... and then a few posts down, so did another contributor. I ultimately went with the Io, had Steve Huntley at GNSC do some magic on it over a year ago and he is looking to do more.....this time on the P.S. To evaluate the Io or the Callisto with stock Ei, EH or Sovtek tubes is silly. These things come alive with some tube-rolling efforts.
Exlibris, As a fellow owner of the Atma-sphere MP1, I am curious to know what you might not like about it that causes you to want to change to the (very much more expensive) 6-box Aesthetics, fine as the latter preamp may be. Or is it the eternal quest for something different (and possibly better) that drives you?
The MP-1 is the best preamp that I've ever owned.
I've never had an Io in my system but I have lived with a borrowed Callisto Signature (one power supply) for a couple of months. The Callisto does three things better than any linestage that I've heard and these three things are very important to me:
1. huge soundstage: the all-important 'fore-edge' of the soundstage is actually behind me(!) on most recordings. Many linestages present great width and depth but the real magic comes with 'fore-depth'. It 'energizes the room' better than any linestage that I've heard.
2. ambient detail: it presents an incredible amount of information in the air around and well beyond the performers.
3. action: sound from images propels forward in an incredibly natural way, washes over, and engulfs the listener.
These three factors lead to a 'shared sense of space' with the performers. This for me is the holy grail.
The MP-1 is no slouch in any of these areas so to answer your question, there really isn't anything I 'dislike' about the MP-1. In fact, it does a number of things better than the Callisto: it is more dynamic; more authoritative; puts the performers closer to the listener; and is more transparent. It also outperformed the Callisto overall when used with MA-2 amps. I would never think of using a different pre-amp with Atma-Sphere amps.
I should also mention that I think Ralph is the greatest guy in this industry. He is incredibly helpful and responsive.
I have an older (very much older) MP1 that I purchased used and in virtually non-functional condition. Therefore after purchase I was forced into DIY mode, both to fix it and to update it to what were then Mk II specs. This took more than a year's worth of my spare hours. Ralph and his group at Atma-sphere was a great help in this endeavor. (At the time, I owned an MFA Luminescence, as a user til the MP1 was "finished".) This all happened about 5-6 years ago. Then as of last year, and after a great deal of study and brain-picking, I took my MP1 into the great unknown, making several more mods that are similar to the Mk III version but also reconfiguring the phono and linestage circuits in ways that could not really be done in a production unit (e.g., using battery bias in the phono input stage and in the circlotron output stage). The results are fabulously good; the phono is by far the best I have ever heard in my system and with tons of gain for any LOMC. I'd love to compare it to an Aesthetix or Manley (or Raul's phonolinepreamp), to see where I'm at with it. Vinyl now so blows away CDs that I really don't bother with listening to the latter. If anyone with any of these or other top drawer units resides near to me in the Washington, DC, area, perhaps we can have some fun comparing preamps.
I cannot comment on the Manley, however, the Aesthetix IO Signature is an outstanding device when you desire an all out assault on vinyl. It leaves me missing nothing. I have seen various posts in this forum about IO versus other phono stages, the one most common trait is that the IO gives you outstanding dynamics, stage and width. Others have commented about some tube rushh, hey this is all out tube unit BTW, well, I do not notice any tube rush as a detractor to any of my listening sessions and what there is of any tube rush could only be heard at 0300 on the volume control, unreasonable listening levels by any measure.
I use the stock Sovtek tubes and will dabble in tube rolling when these start to show their age, but for right now the stock tubes are great. One other note, the Manley Steelhead was a close second on my list.
If you have the space for the IO, I would think that would be the last component you would ever think about upgrading.
I just re-read my posting about the three strengths of the Callisto Signature and realized that none of the three were directly related to the actual sound of musical notes.
You've probably seen Chinese brush paintings where the subject matter is typically bamboo and the medium for the painting is simply black ink? What makes one painting great and another poor is not primarily the representation of the bamboo nor the appearance of the black ink, it is nature of the white space, the empty space, around the black ink.
I think you might be pushing the analogy a little too far. :^)
The point is that the white space between the brush strokes is as important as the brush strokes themselves to the aesthetic appeal of the overall painting.
For me, the 'empty' space between the sound of the images on the soundstage is as important as the sound of the images themselves to the aesthetic appeal of the overall presentation.
Here is a case in point: I can set the VTA and VTF on my arm such that my system can present a near perfect holographic reproduction of a violin. I can also alter the VTA and VTF such that the image of the violin is not nearly as distinct but now I can 'see' the violinist, the expression on her face, and the room she is playing in. Most visitors are more impressed by the former but I prefer the latter.
An interesting off-topic here. I can relate as I often associate digital sources resulting in more immediate truncation of the notes. Does this result in more "observed" silence between the notes from the digital source? ..... because the notes exhibited by the analog source carry on a bit longer? I also find this longer-note-follow-through portrayed by the Aesthetix Io and Callisto more than other phono and line stages I have heard in my system. It will be interesting to hear how the Aria WV performs in this key area.
Vinyl definitely does it better than digital and I agree that Aesthetix does it better than any preamp I've heard.
I sometimes wonder about the "black backgrounds" and "silence" that people get excited about, especially when they insert new digital, new cables, or new power conditioning into their systems. I have heard some very expensive products which provide silent, 'black backgrounds.' The background is certainly free of ambient detail, note decays, action (the projection of sound from images towards the listener) and spatial information.
I won't name names so as not to offend.
Not all trailing-edge transiency is equal. Listen for a component's ability to reproduce human intervention on decay. Perhaps most audibly evident from percussionists dampening their instrument (timps, bass drums, cymbals, bells,) with their hands. Conductors and concert musicians are aware of decay and actively manage it. Its pretty cool. That big dynamic full stop that leaves an harmonic cloud sprayed over the entire orchestra - that wonderful moment when the air is charged, when some are sated and some are stunned and no one is yet applauding. Or the flickering fade from the single emberesque note at the top end. Bow no longer touching string, asymptotic, the lark ascending.
And yep - some cables with their bloodless black backgrounds sucking on the event horizon only to offer hyped hi-fi artificiality that screams digititus. Point my ear at a real world black background - pretty rare if you ask me.
Jtimothia, WOW! Very nice. Some will refer to that kind of language as descriptive pornography. Too bad, it's their loss. How can one remove the romance of the music from it's description? Anyway back to the subject at hand: It is an old and common truism among musicians that the silences are even more important than the notes. Enough said!
"... some cables with their bloodless black backgrounds sucking on the event horizon ..."
Nicely put, Tim (even if we're a bit slow in noticing).
Similar to such cables is the lubricant-laden stuff some people use on their vinyl to produce blacker backgrounds, which smothers the very life you described so, er, tonographically.
Myles, you are quite right re the "new" sound of CH. To your observations, you can add the fact that now it is harder for the musicians to hear each other on stage; particularly from one side of the stage to the other. In the old hall, it was much easier for low woodwinds to hear and blend with the bass section. Now, bass seems less defined, with inferior pitch definition. End result is that the bass section is forced to play louder and more aggresively; not always a good thing for the music. Still, the best hall we have for orchestral playing in the area. With the possible exception of NJPA; great hall!!