My personal amp shootout on Vandersteen Quatros

    Im currently in the fortunate position of being able to compare two great amplifiers with my Vandersteen Quatros. Actually, three,condidering one is a pair of monos.

    The system consists of a VPI Prime with Soundsmith Nautilus 2 cart, Aesthetix Rhea phonostage, Aesthetix Calypso linestage. Cabling is mostly Wireworld. I should also note that my Quatros are the cloth version, not wood or wood CT.

    The first amp is the Aesthetix Atlas. I've had this beast for about 8 months or so. I must admit, Ive always liked having matching pieces from the same manufacturer. Cant deny the part that synergy plays when building a system, and I'd like to assume that gear from the same maker is made to play with eachother. Not always the case, more on that later.
This Atlas is the "base" model. This series of Aesthetix gear can be upgraded to Signature or Eclipse status. None of mine is.(tho I've heard its a worthwhile upgrade) For those unfamiliar, the Atlas is a hybrid amp. It has one 6SN7 per channel on the input stage and a SS output good for 200w into 8 ohms and 400 into 4. When I say beast, I mean it. Its 70 lbs and built rock solid.

    Soundwise, the word that comes to mind is "effortless". No matter the volume, its all there, and easily controlled.Its everything you'd expect from a high power amp. Just a little more three dimensional than SS amps I've had in the past.Excellent detail. The feature set is amazing, especially for a Vandersteen owner that doesnt want to buy an external crossover.I could have lived with this amp forever.

But I really missed tubes...

    The absolute best my system has ever sounded was with an AtmaSphere MP-3 preamp and M60 monos. I've been reminded of this by a few friends,and my wife. If you havent had a chance to hear these amazing OTL's,do it! The only drawback(besides my constant itch to try new things),was the amount of tubes.With 34 tubes in the signal path, it became a chore to keep everything quiet and balanced.

    Which brings me to my newest additions...Quicksilver mono 120's. I chose these over the V-4's per the recommendation of Mike Sanders. He thought they would be a better match for my speakers, which he perceived as a potentially difficult load.

    First off, these amps are beautiful. In an industrial kind of way. And with only two power tubes per channel, easy to keep happy. Though not as pronounced as other tube amps(especially the Atmas)the glow of those two KT150s adds some of the look and ambience my wife had been missing.And you cant deny the channel seperation that comes with mono amps. I notice it every time!
    These amps sound like they look. And they look like they'd be driving some super sensitive speakers. Two power tubes, plus a 12AT7 and 12AU7 per channel. That beautiful midrange and immediacy of low powered amps. This is what Quicksilver was shooting for. I absolutely noticed that I was missing some very subtle details in familiar tracks, when compared to the Atlas. But it still sounded natural. Perhaps more natural.
    After going back and forth for a couple of weeks, I realized how lucky I was to be able to play with such awesome gear. I also realized that I stayed up much later with the Quickies. Cliche, I know, but it really tells the story. Staying up way too late playing record after record, followed by hours of Tidal. If I had to pick one, it would be two. Quicksilver Mono 120's. I look forward to trying different tubes in these,as well.
    Fortunately, the Quickies and the Aesthetix gear play really great together. I had Quickie monos in the past, mated with a Quicksilver full function pre, and it was a total mismatch gainwise. 9oclock on the volume would be wide open. Never understood that
    One more thing: In the last week, I've added some two inch granite slabs under my speakers. Im upstairs on suspended wood floors, and its made a noticeable improvement. Just an FYI.

My Quicksilver Mono 120 amps are six months old.  Liking them even more now. 

  • After 300 hours on the Tung Sol KT150s and the coupling caps I noticed a nice change. While the factory installed EI inputs and JJ driver tubes were okay, the amps elevate to a new level with really good 12AU7s. 
  • Wow, with a really good 6SN7 based tube preamplifier, the Mono 120s far exceed their price point. Using an upgraded Cary SLP-98 preamp.   

BigBoltz Thanks for your Quickie report agree with Aesthetix and Quicksilver work together
Glad to hear the slabs worked nice. Did you get a chance to experiment with wider placement? May need to get a laser and re factor til back or ad a washer or 2 on each speaker with the slabs.
Best, JohnnyR

Decooney, getting better every day.  Underrated amps, right?

Johnny R,  thanks for the constant support. Even though I’m across the country, and didn’t buy my speakers from you, you’ve gone so far above and beyond. This is why I made it a point to visit your store while on vacation.  We ALL appreciate you and what you do for our community.  I haven’t got the chance to move my record storage yet, but I will.  The granite was a nice improvement. A pleasant surprise was how it solidified the center image. I was expecting an improvement in bass, but not in focusing the soundstage!

02-03-2020 11:07pm
Decooney, getting better every day.  Underrated amps, right?

Yes, underrated for sure.  Misunderstood, maybe.  Marketing, none. The first 100 hours I was uncertain.  After 200 hours and the right input tubes, the amps are surprising and made me forget my former amps.   

Considering amps with large quality transformers capably running pairs of KT150s are ultra expensive comparably.  Taking a look at the Conrad Johnson Art 150 with four KT150s, has a retail price of $19,500, that's 4.5x retail price of a pair of Quicksilver Mono 120s, underpriced, yes!   

The Mono 120s are not just another pair of KT88 amps with KT150s installed. The Mono 120s were designed ground up with notably larger transformers, different caps, meters and more. Stout build quality.  I really like the manual bias too, as it allows you to further fine tune the presence and sound stage fore/aft.  With good mid 1960s NOS Mullard short plate 12AU7 and 12AT7s tubes, its a really nice balance paired with the KT150 output tubes giving a tad more of a smooth vintage sound which I prefer for lossless streaming content.  
...staying up way too late playing record after record, followed by hours of Tidal. If I had to pick one, it would be two. Quicksilver Mono 120's. I look forward to trying different tubes in these,as well.  Fortunately, the Quickies and the Aesthetix gear play really great together. ...

Sending you a private message.  Discovered something unexpected and truly amazing with the Quicksilver Mono 120 tube amplifiers  ..I too .stayed up way too late myself this past weekend. 
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