Modwright SWL 9.0SE -vs- Aesthetix Calypso?

I was just wondering if anyone out there has owned both, heard both, or compared both the Aesthetix Calypso and the Modwright SWL 9.0SE preamps?
If so, what were the sonic differences between the two?
Which is overall sonically superior?
Any comments would be greatly appreciated.
Angela, I wish I had some experience to offer, but I've not heard either of those models.

Would you consider contacting the companies just to get their take on the units, and possibly how they compare. The info might have to be taken with a grain of salt, but you might get enough of a foundation to build on with further inquiries.

It always works best if you can get comments from a person who has experience with both, but usually that doesn't happen. AND even if it does, you cannot be certain of their preferences, or whether they coincide with yours.

Good luck! Merry Christmas!
Write to member Tvad...I'm pretty sure he put the Modwright up against some pretty stiff competition recently. I don't know if the Aesthetix was the challenger...

Yup. And nope, the Aesthetix wasn't one of them.

I believe it comes down to what sound you prefer, Angela. The Modwright is very extended, dynamic and punchy with accurate highs. It's not particularly warm, yet it has just a touch of midrange bloom compared to the First Sound Presence Deluxe II, which is a very neutral tube preamp, in my opinion, and was replaced by the Modwright SWL9.0SE.

From my personal experience hearing a few preamps in my system (VAC Renassaince and CJ CT5), the Modwright is closer to the VAC house sound than the Conrad Johnson house sound. I, too, would be curious to hear the Calypso.
Thanks for your responses so far!
Keep 'em coming.
Merry Christmas to all of you as well!
So far I prefer the Modwright to

Exemplar Exception 2
Thor TA 1000 MK2
CJ 17LS2
Supratek Chardoney

I have had many others, but in a leser price range, and all of the above are more $$$$.

I am waiting for a Dodd refence pre-amp to come my way, after Gary is done with the upgrades. Than I will send this one back to Dan for his..

Sorry I cannot help with the Calypso, but, for the $$$$, and the quality, I feel the MOdwright is just KICKASS good.

Good luck in your journey, and let us know whatcha do.
Well, I can't be of any help with this comparison. I can tell you that I recently put a Calypso up against my BAT vk50se. At first I was not impressed with the Calypso. It just didn't have the deep, wide soundstage like the BAT although it was more detailed. Then I replaced the tubes with Telefunken 12ax7's and Amperex white label 6922's. To make this story short, my BAT is now up for sale. The point I'm trying to make is that sometimes these units are not so impressive in their stock configuration and can change dramatically with differenct tubes and power cords.

Good luck and Merry Christmas to you too!

I can't be of help either in the comparision. But in my system, the Modwright SE equiped with NOS Tungsol tubes was a disappointment. Main issue I had was a lack of soundstage depth, width and height. Presentation was foward with a non-relaxed sound. Kinda like a solid state grip. Not very transparent or detailed.

Reb1208, what's the rest of your system...amp, speakers, source?

This info could be helpful for those looking for synergy with the SWL9.0SE.
This is Dan Wright of ModWright Instruments. First of all, thank you to those who replied with positive experiences. To the last poster who was not impressed with the unit, I do wonder if it was fully broken in. The unit requires a full 150+ hours for the teflon signal caps in particular, to fully break-in. The unit can sound a bit closed in until full burn-in has been achieved.

I will not apologize for the units accuracy, dynamics and control. It is NOT an overly tubey sounding unit and will not impress those who like the warm and romantic sound of some tube designs.

I prefer a sound that is natural and neutral, with some tube warmth and the presence and body that only tubes can bring. The 5687 tube we use is unique in terms of its dynamic character and linear operation.

I honestly know of the Aesthetix units by reputation only. I believe that one of our dealers may have compared these two units, but am not sure if it was the Calypso or a different Aesthetix model.

We have a growing network of dealers and international distributors. These are all hand-picked by me, to assure that they offer the level of service that ModWright is known for.

I chose dealer representation rather than going factory direct only. I want our customers to have the opportunity to personally audition and evaluate the SWL 9.0SE for themselves.

I am very pleased with the performance and success of the SWL 9.0SE. It conveys the ModWright Sound exceptionally well. This will not necessarily be for everyone, but so far our detractors have been VERY few.


Dan Wright
President, ModWright Instruments Inc.
Hey Dan, I have been curious about these because of the overwhelmingly positive response in this forum. The Calypso is the next preamp I am planning to try because I run all balanced equipment. Any plans for a fully balanced unit?
There seams to be some confusion over the Sonicraft platinum capacitors. They are NOT teflon. The cap is a hybrid design that happens to use teflon film as one of the ingredients. The unit was fully broken in.
Reb1208 - I too would be curious to hear what the rest of your system is. Your comments are surprising to me. I bought one of Dan's prototypes for the current production preamp. From what I understand from the few comments I've read from folks who've owned both, the production model is only an improvement on the prototype. Now on my prototype the soundstage was nothing short of superb, and, though I wouldn't have called it a 'tubey' sounding pre, but I also would not have thought to relate it to an SS pre. I found it to be neutral sounding and very dynamic and fast. Again, differences exist from prototype to production, but I'm be really surprised to hear that they'd go the direction you describe experiencing. My issue with the prototype was a simple one that it did not have as good synergy with my SET amps as with my Push/Pull rig. Dan was implementing some changes at the time based upon feedback from the prototypes which he thought would address some of my desire for better synergy with SET. Unfortunately I already had a deal in place to sell the prototype so didn't get to follow up on the offer. My issues with my SET amps were that the prototype did not give me as strong a low-end as I was used to. The emphasis in that matching up was all about midrange. It also seemed to take away some of the warmth (which may be coloration, albeit coloration that i very much like) from that midrange in favor of neutrality. This was not the case with the P/P amp where the prototype really shined in every area and was a superb pre. After reading many comments on how improved the production model is I wish I'd stuck with the program. So let us know what you are pairing the preamp off with. If you are going to make comments that are specific to a component it helps to know the associated system as it could simply be a poor combination. If there were one great preamp that went with every system out there there would be no need for forums like this, or rags that thrive on reviews.

Ok, I'll go thru the hastle soon and list my system for you guys. Obviously if a power amp has a very sensitive input stage, the system may sound more foward with a high gain pre-amp. That one is easy to figure out. Or if the speaker is mid 90's and up in sensitivity, also an issue for fowardness. Like many of you, lots of pre-amps and other equipment has passed thru my rack over the years. The pre-amp that I compared it to was my modified Cary SLP-2002, driving a Classe Audio model 15 in balanced mode. Speakers are Snell CV, cartridge is Transfiguration Temper V. Digital player is MF A5. Using some of the best wire in existance, most of which I build myself. For those of you that have run balanced tube pre-amps, you should be aware of the potentially superior soundstage this offers. I personally did the modifications myself to the Cary pre-amp. Gone is the electronic hash of the stock unit. I hard wired the whole thing and improved every aspect of the wiring layout. The output caps are polyprop bypassed by polystyrene and REAL TEFLON capacitors. So we have addressed the fowardness and soundstaging issues. Sure, could be system dependent. But how do you explain lack of transparency and detail. Oh I forget, the so called "Teflon" caps were not broken in. Lastly, anyone that knows about the SLP-2002 is aware of the fact that it has very low levels of tube coloration. It is lightning fast, transparent, dynamic, detailed, with balls to the wall authority. At the time the Modwright was here, a friend lent me his AES AE-3 (cary)pre-amp. I ran both the AES and ModWright single ended in a direct comparision. The AE-3 easily outperformed the ModWright, in the soundstage depth. Detail and transparency were about the same. Then I compared them both to the SLP (hey, I'm always looking for a better pre and I'm not saying the ModWright is bad. In fact for the $$$ its a good value. I was just hoping for better) and it wasn't even close.
Thanks again, all of you guys!
All of your info is greatly appreciated.
Happy Holidays Everyone!
In response to the question about a balanced preamp, I do plan to offer a higher-end product in the future and it will be a balanced design. It will also be a higher-priced product, likely in the $3500-$4000 range.

In response to the comments about the Sonicap Platinum caps and their not being a true 'Teflon' cap: I was told that they used teflon as the dialectric. Yes, I believe that the construction of the cap does include a proprietary mix of other dialectric materials as well. I am a bit amused at what I perceive as an intended 'deception' here. Bottom line, I found that the Sonicap Platinum caps worked extremely well in our design and I chose them over other manufacturers' designs. I am not going to get into a debate here about the science of capacitor design or the benefits of different dialectrics. I am very pleased with the sonic results in our design with the Sonicap Platinum caps.


Dan W.
Hello I can tell you first off the 2 preamps need 200 ,the Calypso 300 + .You for sure want to trash the stock tubes the jj are ok
The 10 m Mullards are superb if you have $ 400.00 .for the 12ax7, for the input side ,for the outputs with the 6922 you could get some good amperex reasonably priced .
The input is where you will see over 90% of the sound improvement.The Modwright even with the Tungsols are more solidstate sounding with a little laid back presentation. The detail is very good .The Calypso is a little more forwards.In absolute terms with say a Te1efunkin 12ax7,
I would say the timber is a little more natural and a little warmer sounding ,as in life. not thick or far as scaling dynamics the Calypso ,is a notch better and just stays glued.Everyone goes my 6 moons ,that is good
for his reference ,please remember the Calypso is 2x the cost.for a 5-10% improvement.if money is not the issue than the Calypso.
If you have 4k this is the a giant killer ,modwright is a close second,taken out of a 4 man panel,+ my wife.I own both,the Modwright is going to a freind.p.s they were both enjoyable.
Thank you for the reply. If I might summarize some of your findings for my own sake...just wanted to clarify some things as I lost track of which unit was being referred to in a couple of sentences.

"The Modwright even with the Tungsols are more solidstate sounding with a little laid back presentation. The detail is very good .The Calypso is a little more forwards."

***9.0SE is a bit more laid back in its presentation, while the Calypso is a bit more forward?***

"In absolute terms with say a Te1efunkin 12ax7,
I would say the timber is a little more natural and a little warmer sounding ,as in life. not thick or tuby. as far as scaling dynamics the Calypso ,is a notch better and just stays glued.

***Are you saying that the Calypso has a bit more natural timber and dynamics? I am just trying to clarify.***

I appreciate your sharing and I apologize for asking for the clarification. I am simply interested, as the designer, to know in which ways exactly, that you preferred the Calypso. There are some sonic aspects of both units that are simply subjective and will depend on personal preference. I prefer a certain sound, and some things I will simply not want to change. On the other hand, if there are sonic traits of the design that I can improve upon to make the unit better overall, I certainly want to do so.

Thank you very much for your thoughtful reply.

Dan Wright
President, ModWright Instruments Inc.
I think it would be worthwhile for you to consider replacing the toroid with a stacked transformer. Is the power supply fully regulated?- if not, consider this as well.
The use of a toroidal transformer was made for a couple of reasons. First of all, I decided to keep the power supply internal and this meant a need to keep noise and emi fields to a minimum, etc. Size and orientation were thus critical decisions.

I have used both types of transformers, but have not had the opportunity to make direct comparisons in the 9.0SE. If we had gone with an outboard power supply design, it would have been possible to use stacked type transformers, but this decision would have also driven up the price.

There are many design options that are being considered for a Reference unit to follow possibly next year. The power supply will be outboard for one thing, it will offer balanced and SE connections and I have some other design ideas as well. The price will, necessarily be considerably higher than the 9.0SE, but we will offer attractive upgrade options for existing 9.0SE owners.

As to whether the supply is fully regulated is a difficult question to answer exactly. The circuitry is fairly unique and current and voltage regulation are achieved, but not by conventional means. Additional, possibly tube-based voltage regulation is being considered for the Ref. model.

Bottom line, the 9.0SE was meant to represent our entry into the manufacturing realm and I wanted to do so at a 'reasonable' price. Obviously this is a relative term, but our chosen price-point did preclude some costly design options.

All of this being said, I am VERY pleased with what we have achieved with the 9.0SE at the $2200 retail price.

Thank you for your suggestions.

Dan W.
I can honestly say that the ModWright is a terrific preamplifier ,very opened and detailed and very good at
both the extremes and very involving ,It is in my experience the best under 5k preamp on the market. I also own the Calypso . This is the most complete and involving preamplifier at under 10k, there will be a few out there that will disagree as always, read the several reviews against units at more than 2x the Calypso
price. I hear further into the music then with any preamp
previously in my home, and musical textures and shadings as good as any preamp at any price! With vintage valves another 10% so.These two preamplifiers rewrite what is possible in the respective price -performance catagorys.
Pjl2122/Aaudiophile: have you never had a noise issue with the Calypso? I´ve read many comments stating the Calypso is noisy which until now kept me away from the unit. I too consider the SWL 9.0 SE but as I use Ayre V-5xe as power amp (true balanced design)and the SWL 9.0 SE is a none balanced design I fear a possible loss of sound quality.
The Modwright you own/compared to the Calypso was a standard SWL 9.0 SE or already a unit equipped with DACT stepped attentuator, Bybee filters, Cryo´d tubes?
Thanks for your commets.
a total modified Signature Modwright with the Tube rectification upgrade with Bybee purifiers
and vintage tubes and of course a high quality power cord
I use the Acoustic Zen Tsnami a great pc. is very close to the Aesthetix , and some will prefer this taste it is pretty close. p.s the new Dodd Battery powered pre is
more natural sounding than either of them and I may be getting one soon.