CAT vs. Aesthetix vs. Supratek - Preamp Choice

Hello All - I'm looking for some advice here. I want to upgrade my Modulus 3a with either a Supratek Chenin, and Aesthetix Janus, or a CAT Ultimate Mk 2 - and could use some advice. My system is linked below (I promise to respond to questions soon - and cut me a break Marco!) I am looking for something that images well, is dynamic (don't want to lose dynamism with Quads), and is just overall musical. Has to be a full function preamp (phono included). Remote is nice but not a requirement.

Can those with experience provide some thoughts on the difference between these preamp flavors? Good advice is highly appreciated!

Thanks, Peter
I'd be interested in the CAT/Aesthetix comparison, particularly if someone has heard them both in the same system.

BTW, from talking to the CAT designer Ken Stevens, I'd guess that he might take objection to the idea that his preamp offers a "flavor" to be used synergistically with components of other "flavors".
I can only respond to the supratek and that it is everything the owners and reviews say. Along with thor, these are my two favorites.
I have the Chenin. I can only respond to the Supratek-Odyssey combo. I used to have the Stratos monos and the Supratek is a "very good" match. Things that really stands out with the combo were how deep the bass becomes and how true-to-life the vocals become compared to the other preamp I tried (VanAlstine, ARC LS16, and ARC LS12). I was using Martin Logan Ascents when I had the Stratos.

Another thing is that I sold my Wright Sound WPP100C phono preamp after one week owning the Chenin. The phono section is marvelous and it gets better with better tubes. One thing to be aware of is that the phono section of the Chenin takes MC only up to 2.5 mV. If you are in love with MM, then it could be a problem. My remedy is to buy a MM preamp (Hagerman Trumpet) just in case I plan to go to the MM route.

I can only speak to the CAT and the Supratek Cortese, as I have owned these and a set of Pks 57 Quads. The Cat worked with everything, MM and MC, etc and SS by Symphonic Line and Levinson 331, tubes by Jadis, Audio Valve Callenger with cryoed el-34s, Art Audio Jota.

The Cortese I heard and fell in love with was owned by the guy from whom I bought Wayne's Quads. He used Transition Tube amps and and Reference 3as (while waiting for a triple stack from Wayne!) After that, I looked for one for over 6 months and found one said to be "the best sounding one", that Mick's partner ever heard. It was liquid and smooth, (or was it slow, thick, lush, creamy), but out of my system in 3 DAYS! I've never had a unit move in and out so fast.

Go ahead guys, tell me all about my tin ears. I've been in high end for over 20 years and even sold gear for a while, so insults will be taken good naturedly...I trust my ears. I'm sure you trust yours.

I know those who have Suprateks love them, but I didn't like the Cortese nearly as much as the CAT (any of them) and my Emotive Audio Sira. I have heard and think that the lesser priced Suprateks have a similar family sound (so if you like it, go for it). I just didn't like the Cortese IN MY SYSTEM, even though I thought it might compliment or "slow down" my (very fast)VDH Black Beauty.
(I'd used Benz, Grado, naked Blue Points, Dynavector 17D with the CAT)

Older CATs are extremely inexpensive for what you get and Kent's service is fabulous.(I only needed one repair on one of the units in 5 years of ownership). I'm sure Suprateks must be great, I've heard one, but I sure didn't like the one I had in my system with VPI HRX, VDH, and Audio Valve Challengers/ Art Audio Jota with 300 B XLRS and Waynes Quads. CATs just seem more flexible/adaptable, but the Supratek IN MY FRIEND'S SYSTEM sure sounded good.

For a change, I can respond with experience on each of your possibilities (almost). I have owned - in order of earlier to later - the CAT Ultimate, the Supratek Cortese, and the Aesthetix Janus. In my opinion - and obviously in my system and for my own tastes - the Janus is not only the best sounding of the three in nearly every regard, but is also far and away the most flexible. For example, I find the ability to switch polarity from the remote to be absolutely invaluable. I'm still amazed at the variability in apparent polarity of recordings, and at the improvement in sound when polarity is 'right'. Make no mistake, the CAT and the Cortese are both very good preamps, but the Janus simply does it all.
I recently compared the Supratek Chennin, CAT Ultimate, Supratek Cabernet, and Aesthetix IO phono stage all together the same day. For the line stage I thought the Cat and Chennin were neck and neck for 1st place. The Cabernet just sounded awful to me. No dynamics and a very unnatural tonal character. To be fair I dont think the Cabernet was completely broken in. To my surprise the phono stage of the Chennin held its own against the IO. The IO was better but not by a lot. Keep in mind this comparrison was not done on my own system and all other components in the system were unfamiliar. E mail me if you are interested in specifics.
Something to keep in mind. Tubes make a huge difference. The sound of my Cortese changed a great deal when I replaced tubes. I also use a Van Den Hul Black Beauty Sp x
with otl amps and esl speakers. The Cortese with some tube rolling in my system is quite incredible.
I have owned several CAT's. I now use the CAT Ultimate MK2.
I found that with the stock tubes (sovtek) the sound was analytic beyond the point of abrasive. When I installed NOS Ameperex 6922's (PQ White label) and Amperex 12AX7's,
the sound was improved immensely.

I own the Aesthetix Io/Callisto and the CAT JL-3 amps. Earlier this year I borrowed a CAT Ultimate II for a couple months from a CAT dealer. The strengths and "house sound" of the JL-3s was very evident in the Ultimate. There's a resolution, openness on top and dynamic contrasts to die for with the CAT products. With the Aesthetix, you get portrayal of space, decays and textures that I have yet to hear from another preamp. It's a matter of choosing one set of strengths for another and which fits in the overall sonic character of a system.

Bart's comments are right on with my observations. The first thing to do with the Ultimate is to get rid of the Sovtek tubes. I found Mullard 12ax7 and 6922 tubes significantly transformed the Ultimate's line stage. The Ultimate's phono stage did not benefit to the same degree. Once I heard the CAT without the Sovteks, I could not go back to listening with them. Yada yada yada on the issue of these products being voiced with the Sovteks. Replace them and you're in for a wonderful surprise.

The same issue holds true for the Aesthetix products. Here they sound more "acceptable" with the Sovtek tubes. But once you change to a mix and match of Mullard and Tele tubes, these products take on a magic all their own.

I know from hearing the Calypso directly to the Callisto a number of times, the Callisto's tubed power supply has got to be much of the dimensionality strengths over the Calypso. So my suspicion is that the Io runs away from the Rhea for much the same way. From this I would have to say that the gap between the Janus and the Ultimate would be much narrower than what I heard between the Io/Callisto and the Ultimate.

I honestly can not imagine a clear "winner" between the Ultimate and Janus. I have no experience with the Supratek models. You really need to hear these for yourself in your own system, and preferably any two at a time. And you need to have a handful of tubes to replace the Sovteks if you are to do a fair comparison and to hear these products' greater potential.

Power cables used for the listening session were Purist Dominus. And a Purist Dominus RCA IC was used from the line stages to the JL-3s.

Peter: Email me if you would like some ideas on what tubes work very well in various stages of the Aesthetix and Ultimate. And I can share with you greater details of the specific differences here. Going into such detail here or posting a report on another thread would certainly stir up a lot of controversy. But I can go through the various reports of these differences that I shared with a handful of people and pick out the relevant information that might be of value to you.