Feedback on Ayre and Aesthetix with Vandersteen 5As


I am looking to upgrade my two channel system. This will also be part of home theater setup. (75% two channel listening vs 25% movies). Currently I am running Vandersteen 5a (non-carbon) with a Bryston amp (9bsst) and Marantz preamp (8801).  I have narrowed it down to two brands, Aesthetix - Atlas & Calypso or Ayre-  KX-5 twenty & VX-5 twenty. I do not have a local dealer for these brands but I was able to listen to both while out of town hooked up to the Vandersteen 5a carbons. They both sounded amazing. I felt the Aesthetix had a warmer laid back sound and the Ayre had a more revealing, forward sound. I am looking for some feedback on your experiences with these brands or things I should be thinking about. Both retail for around the same cost but I am able to get Aesthetix combo for less. My listening preferences are all over the board from classic rock (Pink Floyd, CSN, Elton John) to jazz and classical/acoustic music.


both Ayre and Aesthetix are sonic matches for Vandy speakers. At this level, get as much demo time, as possible. Most important of all-which cables/cords are you planning to use?
I was recommened to go with  Audio Quest Castle Rock DBW for the speaker wire and Water for the interconnects.
Sounds like a good plan. Agon member audioconnection (JohnnyR), recommended the AQ Rockets for my Vandy 3a sigs. I would imagine the Castle Rock's would do better. Actually, you should just contact him directly. He has the best info on Vandy's you can get.
Go to Johnny as he's the best going. he won't oversell you and you'll walk out with what you want and be happy for a long time. I got Vandy Treo's and the Ayre AX5/20 with CASTLE ROCKS and top AQ interconnects. Personally, I'd go with Earth rather than Water at the level you are playing at.  Makes MUCH more sense. Also, I'd think about asking Johnny when the Niagara 5000 comes out in Sept as that will take it to even another level.  Ayre is worry free, built like a tank and is neither tube nor SS.  I am a former tube guy. I have the Aesthetix Rhea, but went with Ayre as I liked it much better because it's resolving and extended without every given any of us fatigue.  I play a bunch of high res Zepplin and the micro and macro dynamics are outstanding. WE all know that Bonham hit the heads harder than any drummer who ever lived and with the Ayre and your awesome 5a's your room will move!  The best part is the control that Ayre gives you.  it won't blow you away in the store, but it will reveal itself over time as you will stop 'listening' and just enjoy. 
You described the listening experience of both as "amazing ". If that's truly your impression I'd buy the Aesthetix as it is available for the better price. Both brands are well regarded and have enthusiastic owners. 
Charles, I too love both.  Personally, when I can find a SS device that sounds as good or better than tube gear I"m going with SS.  Tube gear is a bear to maintain.  I've had it all my life and the only product I have problems with in my system is the Rhea.  At the moment, I have a bad tube and I'm trying to find out which one.  These were new tubes as the unit came back from needing the power supply fixed along with some other 'refresh' items (Sent back to Aesthetix).  The company was and is great.  They want to fix this situation, but it just reminded me why I don't like to own tubes. I went with it because it sounded GREAT, but the PRICE was less than a few other's I was listening to and liked as much or a bit more.  I totally regret this move as I went with my wallet and against my own head IRT buying fully tubed gear.  I'm more concerned when it's power tubes as even those that are automatically biased can never sound the same once the power tubes start to get older and more used.  It get's much more expensive to retube everything so in a few years you are paying more for the amps.  This is just my humble opinion.  When playing at this level you can't make decisions based solely on dollars if you can afford not to.  Johnny is a great sounding board to walk him through this as he knows what questions to ask of folks to lead them to the right decision, but they have to listen to his answers too, lol. Two way street I guess.  That's why so many of us have worked and continue to work with him.  Again, JMHO
Hello ctsooner,

Believe me I understand your argument for SS rather than tubes particularly in regard to power amplifiers. It has been made multiple times. You have found obvious satisfaction with your SS Ayre and that's good for you.  Hasn't worked out that way for me, no SS amp thus far sounds like my SET amp. Horses for courses as is often said.

In the case of the OP he's interested in the Aesthetix  Atlas which has a bipolar driver and output stage (tube input stage ) so essentially this is a SS output stage amplifier. He found it equal to the Ayre (both amazing he said). So he may as well get the lesser cost option in this case. Granted his preamp would be tubed but those small signal tubes are pretty much low maintenance . It seems by his initial post that he'd be thrilled will either brand of amplifier.
Excellent discussion guys. I like SS for both electric guitar and bass.
Otherwise, tubes are good choices. Be sure to mention your cabling.
I'm using my 5A's with complaints.  I would heed Audio Connection's recommendations...he's never steered me wrong.....however......I have just installed ClearAudio double shotgun bi-wire speaker cables and was shocked at the presentation.. so good.  I know John at the Connection doesn't like silver, but....

Everything sounds different in different setups...the NY Philharmonic sounds different in Avery Fischer Hall and Carnegie Hall.  The audience smiles in both places.
Thanks for the feedback. I did go to Audio Connection to listen to both systems. I do have some concerns about the maintenance factor with tube gear. 
If the tubed  components  didn't sound any better than Ayre during you latest audition and you have reservations concerning tubes, you should just get the Ayre components. Tubes only make sense if you clearly hear /believe that they sound better than transistors. 
Only you can decide what you want. I spent all morning figuring out which tube to fix. Sure enough it was a bad tube so it's still down. I love the sound. I do. It's just where I'm at in life to stay SS. As long as you get from Johnny he'll take great care of you as all of us will attest to. Did you ask him him thoughts on which way to go. 

Guys us silver can be warm. It has to be drawn in small batches and alloyed properly so you have small grain size and directionality in the wire. Most done know how to do this. AQ is one of the few companies who make production silver cable where they can do this. There is also a situation as to how fast the signal travels within the cable as well as the outside i.e. Skin effect. Garth Powell was explaining this a few weeks ago at Johnnys. Fascinating stuff actually.  There are some brands that go great together but that doesn't mean there aren't others that still sound great that the dealer doesn't sell. 
I have the Calypso and Atlas Signature. Tubes in these units have never been a problem or hassle, as stated above the Atlas only has two tubes and the Calypso has four. Both units really step up a level with NOS tubes, they can be pricey but last a long time. I didn't opt for the Rhea mainly because it has, I think, ten tubes which I didn't want to deal with.
Yes it has ten tubes.  It does however sound better than nearly any other pre I've heard and I love the three in puts and remote control to change bias and gain or input from my chair, lol.  Great company with even better customer service.