Aethetix IO Signature Question

Is it a very musical phono stage?
Radrog, I use the Aesthetix Io Signature with dual power supplies. In the usual parlance of "musical" versus "analytical," I would say that the Io is in the "musical" camp as far as devices of this caliber are capable of being classified. The Io has a relaxed, somewhat warm, overall presentation, but with exceptional resolving capability. It reproduces the natural bloom of the harmonic overtones of acoustic intruments exceedingly well. Hope this brief response helps.
I have the same phono stage - what Rushton said.
Thanks for the input. I hope it sounds well with my Krell Solid State equipment.
Hmmm, let me put it this way... A friend just replaced three tweaked out KPEs with an Aesthetix Rhea and the improvement in his system was dramatic. The Aesthetix Rhea devestates the Krell and the Aesthetix Io Signature plays in the league above the Rhea.
The IO Sifnature is a wonderful, great sounding phono stage with only one potential issue.
Tubes rush noise. Used with LOMC's it was noisy in my system when I was playing a reasonable volume, so I had to rule it out.
If you play a lower volumes, or can get it to sound quieter with NOS tubes like some owners do, you could be in vinyl heaven forever.
I am hearing that it is noisy. WHAT DO THEY MEAN BY NOISEY?????
What I mean by noisy is tube rush when used with LOMC's. Using only tubes for 60db+ of gain is very difficult.
I am sure owners of the IO will chime in giving you some options of NOS tubes to reduce or remove this effect, however with the stk tubes i could clearly hear the tube rush in between songs and during quiet parts of songs.
Radrog, I use the Io with a .36mv output moving coil cartridge, use the stock tubes, and don't experience any material tube noise from my listening seat at my normal listening volumes. But keep in mind, the Io generates 80db of gain entirely through active tube gain stages. This is very challenging, so the quality of the tubes in these gain stages is critical. The stock tubes have always worked fine for me.
Thanks for all the help. I am looking forward to receiving the Signature unit (dealer said 4 to 6 weeks). I honestly believe this unit is one of the best out there just by reviews and your help.

If you care to answer one more question. Would it be beneficial to go all tubes or keep the solid state preamp and monoblocks ?????
Again, I agree with Ruston on the noise issue as mine was also not too noisy with the stock tubes and my Dynavector XV-1s. Sure it has a little tube rush when the music is not playing but I never noticed it when I dropped the cartridge, That said, if you DO want to quiet it down even more, you can place four good Telefunkens 12AX7s in the first gain stage and tube rush will likely be NO problem at all (no need to replace all 12 unless you have the funds and simply want to). I've had mine in for 6 years and haven't had any problems.

Good luck with your audition and let us know your impressions.

Would it be beneficial to go all tubes or keep the solid state preamp and monoblocks ?????
There's no absolute answer to this, I'm afraid. For my listening priorities, all tubes is the path I've followed and will continue to follow. But there are too many variables for there to be only a single path to getting great sound out of your system. One caution: don't believe the "too much of a good thing" comment so often tossed about with respect to having all tubes. As always, system balance, synergy and paying attention to the details are the key to a great sounding system.
Is it a very musical phono stage?

Why not let your ears decide.

You may enjoy the journey as well as the destination.

Cheap way out for conversation sake, "yes, it is very musical and very detailed and airy"

Happy Listening!
I have a little different experience than the comments above.

I have an original Io but I had it updated by Steve Huntley of GNSC with the same Dynamicaps as the Io Sig. Many other parts have been replaced beyond the Sig, mainly Caddock resistors throughout. I have considered changing the other caps in the Io beyond the stock RelCap parts but have held off with this. Steve also noted that just from a quick glance inside the power supply, parts could be changed to bring on significant refinements as well. And now that he is an Aesthetix dealer, he has a lot of knowledge of this product line.

The above changes did not affect the original Io's tonality but simply brought on a stronger bass foundation and significantly greater dynamic contrasts. The incredibly rich and textured midrange, a strength of the Io, was thankfully retained but now more clear. There was a little more openness on the top and I suspect it had more to do with a refinement of treble clarity rather than extension. The overall presentation of the Io's top-most coverage was/is still a bit soft and clearly attenuated.

I can not imagine running an Io or Callisto with stock tubes. There is so much benefit here to get those horrible Sovtek tubes out. People spend much time playing around with various cartridges, turntable leveling, isolation, VTA, etc. To not put the same effort into trying premium tubes for a product of this caliber just makes no sense. And a "mediocre" tonearm cable can so quickly destroy much of the potential here as well.

For the longest time, I had a noticeable tube rush with the volume high and the music material at quiet passages. I had been in contact with other Io owners (Sig and non-Sig) who had the same tube-rush issues. There was a problem with early units with the power resistors. These were later changed to Roederstein for all subsequent products. When I changed these in my Io with a free resistor kit from Aesthetix, the noise level was much the same so the noise problem was elsewhere. I changed the resistor values in the RIAA circuit with an update kit from Aesthetix as well.

Ultimately, Steve at GNSC determined that a tube-socket in one channel was noisy and the pair of input tubes on the other channel were noisy. Both of these finally resulted for me to get the Io to a noise level I had never experienced before. Clearly the older parts, noisy tubes and a noisy socket all contributed to the noise issue that relates to what other people have reported about the Io. But I suspect that the vast majority of reported noise issues with the Io is because someone has not gone through the effort to find a quad of ultra-quiet tubes for the input stage.

Telefunken 12AX7 tubes are wonderful here, but it takes time to find 2 pairs for the CRITICAL input stage. The Io takes 12 12AX7 tubes and the Callisto 2 more so I bought 20. I went through all I had to find 4 for the Io's input stage. So many of these tubes worked well in the other stages but simply were too noisy for the first stage. Ultimately I found myself running with 10 Tele 12AX7 and 2 Brimar 12ax7 on the final stage to bring on a little more presence in the trebles. It was a trade-off between the midrange magic of the Tele and the more tonally-coherent Brimar.

It was long after I learned much from the 12AX7 effort that I also learned that the 6922 tubes here were as critical. I tried many here, Mullard, Siemens, Amperex but the Tele 6DJ8 was outstanding. I was really floored by the added smoothness and reduction of grain in the mids by just the 6DJ8 tube over the Sovtek 6922. I played with the 6SN7 but the other tube here that truly makes a major improvement is the pair of EL34's in the PS. I tried so many EL34s but the old Mullard XF2 along with the much less expensive JJ bring on yet another level of benefit. All the tube changes here were far more significant than the parts changes to take this Io to beyond Signature status.

If the Io has no volume controls, it needs to drive a line stage: the Io MUST be used with XLR cables to achieve its magic. No other product that I have tried was so responsive to XLR vs. RCA. And I used the exact same cable brand/model for this observation. The difference here was not in the way that many people write about the benefits of balanced connections. The RCA connection here simply robs so much of the dimensionality and decays that are the Io strengths. My CD playback system into the Callisto Sig did not exhibit this same difference between XLR and RCA cabling so I concluded it was more the Io than the Callisto that excelled with, or was sensitive to the XLR connection. So keep this in mind when you connect the Io (without volume controls) to your line stage.

My view on the Io's resolution differs from Rushton. Perhaps 5 or so years ago, I might have considered the Io to have exceptional resolving capability but that is just not the case today. Direct comparisons with the new Aria WV show that the WV brings on so much information that is suppressed by the Io. And maybe the newer "updated" versions of the Io and Callisto Signature models address this primary weakness of these otherwise outstanding preamp models.

It's funny yet typical that people have different experiences with the same piece of gear. I agree wholeheartedly with Jafox's tube discussion as his experience is the same as mine - I have 8 Telefunken 12AX7s and 4 Brimars in mine (and I bought them and paid a premium from a reputable dealer I trust to get top quality matched tubes), Amperex in the 6922 spot and the Mullard EL 34s Jafox discusses. However, where our experiences differ is in the XLR vs RCA arena. In one configuration of my system the XLR sounded better and in my current system I prefer the RCA cables. So, as always, each person has to make that determination with his/her own ears based on their system, sonic preferences and hearing acuity.

Jafox, I presume you now have the Aria? Sure sounds like a great piece.
Yes, I have had the Aria for 5 or so weeks now. I have spent much time evaluating tubes, and now sending them away to be tried by others so the system is a little "down" at the moment.

The Aria has made me aware of much information on LPs and CDs to a point where I have had to re-tune the system with tube changes to bring on the full capabilities of the Aria.
I went through this same process with the Io and Callisto.

It gets tricky to balance all this new detail and to also retain the dimensionality and bloom that I had for so long with the Io/Callisto. My experience has been that it takes about a month or so to optimize the system. I'm just about there now with the Aria. I will look to do a review on it soon once I can secure the lid with no more tube trials and then focus on the pros and cons of the other gear in house.

Thanks for the input John. I know what you mean about re-tuning one's system after a component change. This is why I try not to be a "gear hound" and have had most pieces in my system for years. That said, I am still always amenable to increasing my enjoyment of music if changing a piece will accomplish that goal (as oppposed to the system just being different). I may try to audition the Aria if I can possibly get a chance (assuming Mike will do so or possibly allow me to review it).


...once I can secure the lid with no more tube trials...

I can appreaciate that! My speakers got spiked far sooner than my preamp's top was screwed down, and even now that was too soon. Fortunately the MC load resistor terminals reside on the outside of the MP-1's lid - there is another set of listening trials. Having tried the TX2352 (second with me to Audio Note Tantalums) guess I'll want to spring for a few of the Vishay Z201 and TX2575s that MikeE likes. At least these are production tweaks - much easier than finding quiet phono stage tubes.

Lotta interesting options for the WV lineup - which model are you using?

This is why I try not to be a "gear hound" and have had most pieces in my system for years.
Same here - other than this recent preamp change, the rest of the LP playback system here has been unchanged for over 3 years....excluding tubes and cables.

Frank - Mike E. has an in-house WV. Perhaps he will loan this out. I have suggested this possibility to another A'gon member in SoCal to borrow it. I could loan out to you the tube set that works well for me but I am eager to be done with dickering around with tubes.

Tim - I have the WV5 XL with all the options except the WBT RCA jacks. The cost is high to replace all WV jacks and replacing only a few pairs was not an option to the customer. Perhaps it will be possible to replace a few when the WV goes back for a tweak in the future ... we'll see.

There is a tweak to the phono stage design that I have asked Mike E. to consider. He replied back that it is indeed possible and I am eager to go for it. But it means close to two weeks with the WV away and right now I don't like that. Maybe later this summer.

I can not appreciate the contribution of the TX2575s in the WV as I never heard the WV with the regular resistors. But "this" WV is a resolution powerhouse.

I AM STILL WAITING TO RECEIVE MY UNIT NEW. i have to wait 4 weeks to get the unit. How about telling these tweaks after I get the dam thing. Just Kidding.
radog: I think you're getting a super phono stage.

I am considering selling my beloved BAT VK-P10SE super pak and getting a Aesthetix Io Eclipse. I have been searching far and wide where to update my system next.

jafox: I know in the past you went from a vkp10 to a Io.

I am curious if I have any downside here. The BAT does a lot of things really well.

Jfrech - The BAT P10 does a lot of things very well indeed. With your more supercharged P10 model, the gap between this and the Io will be narrowed. But I suspect the Io does the magic in the mids like very very few phono stages out there. The strong fundamental and textures puts the Io at a performance level far beyond the P10 that I had. And listening to the Io again this week (after a month of being powered off) into the WV's line stage makes me aware of the Io's unique strengths and incredible midrange musicality.

The P10 like the ARC PH2 I had the 6 years before was a little less bloomy than what I had enjoyed with the ARC SP-10 the 8 years before the PH2. I was looking for the Io to bring some of that back and indeed it did .... incredibly well for that matter. But with the Io came a higher level of background noise than the P10. Getting all that tube magic comes at a price of potentially higher noise level. As I shared, it takes some effort to reduce the Io's noise level. But my memory tells me that the P10 still was a wee bit quieter. The P10 also did the bass incredibly well compared to the Io std. With all the Dynamicaps in the Io Sig, the bass becomes more energized but I still think the P10's bass was more natural, smooth and controlled.

The PH2's 48db gain limited me to cartridges at 1mv or higher. The P10's 55db gain (without using the built-in SU devices) allowed me to use cartridges at .6mv or so but there was not much room left with the (ARC LS5 or BAT 31SE) volume control. The Io with its higher adjustable gain settings from 62-80db in 6db increments made for a huge difference here. As I have changed from one Io gain setting to the other (via internal jumpers), the perception is not so much a louder level by 6db but often of greater dynamics and openness. When I kicked in the P10's SU devices, the level was louder but I did not get that same sense of added openness and dynamics.

Many people talk of SU devices reducing dynamics, and perhaps this is the case with the P10, but I know that at least with the WV and its internal Sowter SU devices, this is not at all the result. Using the WV's MC SU input, or an ARC MCP-33 into the WV's MM input, the Io Sig into the WV's line stage is a distance 3rd here in dynamic contrasts and this includes the midrange .... not just a result of the Io's more mellow top-end. It would be interesting to hear how the Eclipse versions compare in this way.

I am looking forward to receiving my unit. Just do to the fact that I am used to the Krell KPE Reference unit. Everyone tells me it is in a DEFERENT LEAGUE ALL TOGETHER AND AT 9,000 DOLLARS IT SHOULD BE. I think it is going to be wonderful to put it in my solid state system.
I will let everyone know the differences.