Help: my phono preamp is blowing away my linestage

I recently was fortunate enough to acquire an Aesthetix Io Signature phono stage that has taken my system to a whole new level. But now I fear that my old Rogue 99 Magnum linestage is holding back the full capabilities of the Io.

I can't afford to buy an Aesthetix Callisto or Calypso, and indeed I spend most of my time listening to vinyl (but perhaps I'd listen to more CDs if I had a better linestage).

I figure I can spend up to about $2500 on a better linestage. Can I improve on the Rogue for this sum?

I'm sure you can do better than the Rouge for $2500 try VTL 5.5
Sure Patrick, I had the Rogue 88 in my system for a while and improved on it greatly when I went to a John Curl designed Parasound P/LD-2000 that I bought used for around $500. It has a lot more detail than the Rogue, much more power and articulation at both frequency extremes, and is quieter. The sound of the class-A circuit has the smoothness of tubes in the midrange. It's a very dynamic and musical sounding piece. It should let you hear what the Io does, and does not do. I prefer it over tube line stages up to the $4000 price point (I haven't tried any more expensive than that). Hey, with the Io, you already have more than enough tubes in the signal path. Good Luck!
I agree that the rouge is holding you back. Since the IO is designed to drive a linestage directly, you can use a passive volume control like the Placette and get a huge improvement. I used mine this way and it was very nice.

You could also send your IO in and get the stepped attenuator volume controls installed. You save on interconnects and probably get the best sound but the disadvantage is no remote.
I've been considering the Bent Audio Noh passive volume control (based on S&B TX-102 transformers), but I've heard that passives are much less dynamic than active preamps. Also I do want to rediscover my CDs again, and I'm thinking a passive might be OK with the Io but not so great directly from my CDP.
Plato: Parasound, huh? No 2000s available right now, but I see the PLD-1500, also a John Curl design. Is it comparable?

Consider trading the Io for the Janus (preamp w/phono).
Since you have a great phono stage, how about a Supratek line stage only. New should right about on target to your budget. Used you would be able to stay under if you can fine one used.
"...but I've heard that passives are much less dynamic than active preamps..."

Where do these strange "rumors" come from? Preamp manufacturers??

The absolute BEST, ANY preamp can do, is leave the signal unadulterated, while only acting as a "wire with gain".

I owned several "big gun" ($8 - $10k) preamps before finally going with a passive preamp with my BAT P10 phono stage. It was BY FAR much more transparent, with NO loss of dynamics or "headroom".

Patrick, if your looking for the purest, cleanest signal possible (unless you can afford a $10k preamp) at least TRY a passive pre with your set up.

The only possible downside will be one of gain (as in not enough of) depending on the cartridge and phono stage output used.

Good luck!
Patrick, the P/LD-2000 has been discontinued, but you still see them pop up here on A-gon now and then. They are quite a bargain. I doubt that their current offerings are as good.
Hi denf: not from preamp manufacturers (so far as I'm aware!) but from discussions here and at AA. It seems that many people try out a good passive like the Bent, initially like it, and then switch to an active such as an Audion.

My understanding is that synergy is particularly important for passives - source output impedance, amp input impedance, cable length and other variables - perhaps this is why some people are down on them. But I do sense a consensus that passives inject incredible transparency into the system, which initially pleases new adopters, but over the long term subtract a certain drive or PRAT from the music.

The Placette would drive me crazy because I demand a manual rotary volume control, by the way...

Dweller: re: the Janus, I've heard the Io Sig is miles better than the Rhea, which is the phono section of the Janus... I don't want to give up what I've already got.

Swampwalker: I've heard great things about Supratek, but more about their phono stages than their linestages...
Patrick, as already suggested, if you're prepared to spend around $2500 for a linestage, seriously consider sending the Io to Aesthetix to have the volume controls and single switched high level input added. If you listen mostly to vinyl, you may find you like this combination as much as I do. Still allows you to have your CD player plugged into the high level input.
Hi Rushton,

Yes I have been considering this. It's probably the right step. I'm not so into no-remote control and 2 separate volume controls, but it's probably worth the added transparency.

How do you find the quality of the line level?

Hmmm, let me describe it this way... Unlike a purely passive setup, the Io runs the line level input through its final gain stage just before the volume control. This gives the buffering of an active line stage, so you don't experience the potential dynamic limitation that sometimes can occur with a purely passive volume control when impedences are not ideally matched. If you like the Io and find it's sound well detailed and transparent (as I do), that's what you get using it as a linestage by adding the volume control and high level input.

The volume controls are the best available. Yes, there are two of them, but you quickly get used to just grabbing one in each hand and turning them in tandem. It will be hard to find any $2500 line stage that has less coloration than the Io with volume controls. In fact, what you're paying for in the Io will be those volume controls - they alone cost as much as some other tube or ss line stages.

Hope that helps some.
Hi Rushton,

Yes that does help. I think my mind's made up -- I need to go with the Aesthetix volume control upgrade. Now to plan my next vacation so I can coordinate the upgrade with my absence from the listening room.

Patrickamory, the IO Sig is an absolutely phenomenal phono stage and unfortunately, a Supratek linestage will not improve on what it does. I've tried many linestages with the IO Sig and found that going direct to the amp was absolutely incredible. I did this on the 60db setting on my IO and played something with a "slow start" just incase the sound was too loud. I could have switched the jumpers to a lower gain setting - while the 60db was loud, I was too lazy to re-open the IO and change the jumper - so I stuck with the 60db. It worked and didn't blow anything :)

The improvement over having a Supratek Chardonnay linestage in the signal path was absolutely astonishing - breathtaking. So I presume the gains YOU will have when you remove the Rogue to be even greater.

Realizing the Supratek colored/muddied the sound so much, I ran out and purchased a Placette passive preamp and tried that - but to my dismay, the Placette was for whatever reason, FAR worse than having the Supratek in the signal path. The Placette which I had read to be so transparent and so inaudible, actually robbed the dynamics and produced /introduced a very 2D sound.... horrible.

Guess my point is that if you're brave, you could try running the IO direct to your amp(s) and see what you'd be missing by adding any linestage at all.
Bwhite, thanks for the advice. So you're using the Io Sig with volume control, direct to your amp?
Hi Patrickamory - I have, but do not currently own the IO Sig. The IO Sig I owned did not have the volume control. My suggestion was to turn down the gain on your IO by using the internal jumpers, connect it direct to your amplifier, put on a record that starts off quiet - one you are VERY familiar with, and listen.

For me, the experience of hearing an IO Sig with NOS tubes direct to an amp was extraordinary but I couldn't live with no volume control - I tried.

Mick (the manufacturer of Supratek products) told me that his Cortese phono would, "Put the IO in its grave", so I purchased a Cortese - which is an "integrated" phono/linestage preamp.

The Cortese did not put the IO in its grave but is still very good - good enough for me to live with but keep in mind, after I listened to the IO direct, this hobby became more difficult - I became jaded and simply accepted that there was no silver-bullet or perfect solution. It is almost impossible to quantify how much better the IO sounded without a line stage or any volume control whatsoever.

Of course, I pondered having the volume controls & line level input added to the IO but then struggled with the lack of a remote and the inconvenience of two volume knobs.

Maybe a transformer based passive would be better? Silver Rock or Bent? I dunno...
A TVC would be less subject to the impedance mismatches one encounters with pure resistive pots -- but, the load shouldn't be that difficult to drive. Take a look here or here. Say, a 47kOhm, or higher, amp input impedance would help.
Otherwise, why not just add the volume controls on the Io -- as planned.