My Rhea's new partner arrives today

Just bought it here on the A'gon. This is a bit of an experiment to see if it might be a better match with my Rhea phono stage thus replacing my current pre, a BAT 50SE. Don't get me wrong. I'm very happy with the BAT. I don't expect a big difference between these pre-amps, but I'm hoping the Calypso and Rhea together will add more depth to the music. If the Calypso stays it will allow for tube rolling where the BAT does not. So I'm hoping some other Aesthetix owners can offer tube suggestions.
I'm interested in your reaction to the Calypso. Please keep us posted as it settles in. Thanks
Well, this is a tough one. The Calypso is more detailed than the BAT. The image is very focused, to the point that the voices and instruments almost line up behind each other. It is very quiet with the Rhea.

The BAT seems to throw a much wider stage and I get the impression that some sounds, like small bells and the like, are coming from off stage. There seems to be more passages that are coming from each speaker, like the engineer was using some gimickry to bounce sounds right to left. I don't hear these from the Calypso as everything seems to be between the speakers.
thanks for the initial feedback. I'm confused by your comment "its very quiet with the Rhea". My understanding was that the Rhea is a phonostage and Calypso a linestage and each can be used separately. Does the Rhea HAVE to be plugged into the Calypso to drive your amp, or did you just connect it to use the Calypso passively as a switching device?
Have you rolled the tubes in the Rhea? I replaced V1-4 with Telefunken smooth plate 12AX7s and the 5922s with Siemens 6DJ8s. So much smoother and analog sounding. I had one of the Teles go on me a couple of weeks ago, so until I found a suitable replacement, I threw the stock Sovtek 12AX7WBs in V4. Awful in comparison. I was going to take my time and see if I could turn up a nice pr. of Tele NOS, but having grown accustomed to the Teles, I nailed a used pr. quickly and got the Sovteks the hell out of there. What are you running in the Calypso? I gotta believe if you roll the tubes you will be much more pleased with it.
Ubglub, the Rhea has no volume control so it has to be used with a pre-amp. The Calypso is the linestage of the Aesthetix Saturn series. The Rhea and Calypso together are very quite, this is with no music playing. I do hear some noise when the Rhea is mated to the BAT although it is still pretty quiet. I wonder if this has something to do with differences in balanced circuitry between BAT and Aesthetix. This is not really an issue for me, just an observation.

Stew3859, I have not seriously rolled tubes in the Rhea. I have replaced the 6922 with a somewhat quieter tube but I don't recall what it is just now. Right now I'm just concerned with deciding which pre mates better with the Rhea. Once I get this sorted out I'll start rolling in earnest.

I must say that I'm surprised by the differences I'm hearing from just switching the pre-amps. The BAT is sounding so much more musical that I'm wondering if something isn't connected or matched properly, or if the Calypso is not fully broken in. I believe it has around 100hrs on it. It may need another 100-150hours.
I almost posted before you sent your initial reponses. I had a Rhea vs BAT VKp10SE listening test about a year or two ago. I pretty much heard on the phono stage side what you hear on the line stage side. I think the Aesthetix are a better value. Details were better. The BAT had a better flow and image.

I kept my BAT. And since then have updated it to the super pak version. I'm pretty sure a Io Signature will beat my current p10se superpak.

Also, if you upgrade to a 51se from you 50se, you're in for a monumental change. Truly a much much much better preamp.

btw, I bet the Calypso does sound better after 2-3 weeks...
Hi Jfrech. Well, the Calypso definitely sounds better if one doesn't connect both amps to only one channel! Now that I'm over that senior moment I am hearing more what I would have expected from the Calypso. It sounds much closer to the BAT now, but I agree with you. The BAT does have a more defined image although it sounds just a little veiled and less detailed. The Calypso is definitely the better value as the 50SE was retailing for almost twice what the Calypso does. Then there is the added feature of being able to roll tubes in the Aesthetix units. I never did get to listen to a P10SE. I was looking when the Rhea came up for sale. May have to follow your lead and put these two great phono stages up against each other some day.
Hi Dan...I am also interested in the Calypso!! I also have the Rhea (all original tubes and they sound fine). I am curious to know how you feel about a "no mono" and balance capability on the Calypso? I am anxious to hear more form you as the tubes have more hours.
I should be outside stacking firewood now that it's finally quit raining here in New England. I should be, but I'm not!

The Calypso experiment is progressing very well. It did occur to me that I might tame some of the slight edginess by switching out tonearm/cartridge combination. I have been running my Vector/103R combination for a few weeks now that I finally seemed to have solved the static issue I was having. But that's another story. This arm and cartridge together are quite dynamic. I think the edginess is attributable to the 103R. The Calypso/Rhea is to be a very revealing combination, which really suits my tastes. Others may want more of a tube sound and from Stew3859's post it is possible to get it with the right tubes.

Anyway, out came the Graham 2.2/Benz Glider. The main difference here is the cartridges as I think the 2.2 is very stable with this cartridge. The Benz is pretty dynamic but also abit smoother. This combination is working very well with the Calypso/Rhea.

The Calypso is really beginning to impress me! There is part of Peter Gabriel's Red Rain when the bass is playing a riff towards the end that starts as a single phrase, no harmony. Then it starts into the same riff with harmony. (Sorry, I'm not a musician so I'm describing this the best I can.) I've never heard that before and I've played this record hundreds of times! The bass is very clear, every bit as much as the BAT and maybe more. It's doing a very good job controlling the 301's. Now, this is not what I would call a tubey sounding pre by any means. But it is not really SS sounding either. This is how I've always thought of the 50SE's sound as well.

Rwd, I'm not sure where this notion that the Calypso doesn't have balance capability came from (I have read that too), but it certainly does. If you adjust the balance (which can only be done with the remote) you see two volume settings come up in the window, one side less than the other. The lack of mono is not such a big deal for me either. I've tried switching to mono on the BAT while playing mono records and I don't hear any difference. Perhaps if I had a mono cartridge.

I think I'm going to have to listen to the Calypso for a week or so and then switch back to the 50SE.
Thanks Dan...your input is going to be very valuable to me as was Perfectionsit's so i awaite your comments. I have an ARC LS25 and I am thinking of the upgrade to the Calypso.
I have to say that I'm blown away by the one-box solution of the Aesthetix Janus. How do you like the classe/aesthetix combo Dan_ed? I'm looking at the BAT VK-250, but haven't figured it all out yet, you tried any other SS amps?
Hi Dan,

I can relate so much to your experiences with the BAT vs. Calypso....and the Callisto. I had a BAT 31SE (a phenomenol product) and it too threw a much bigger stage and did a more accurate portrayal of space than the Calypso in my system. But the Calypso allows so much more low level information, subtle queues in the performance, and greater dynamics in the upper frequencies. It is a very tough call to choose and ultimately it comes down to balancing with the rest of your system.

With my preferences being more in the areas of warmth/bloom/3D, the BAT was prefered. But once you hear the subtractive nature of the BAT vs. the Calypso, this lingers in the back of your mind. This all ended up being a moot point as I went with the Callisto which has all of the strengths of both and goes to another level in portrayal of space, dynamics and low-end extension and control.

The Calypso I have heard many times as a reference here is the one owned by A'gon member Jadem6 (JD). He has really maxed out the performance in his unit with tube rolling. I suspect this has much to do with the incredible resolution and openess that I have experienced with this model. I strongly suggest you contact him if you are interested in tube rolling advice. I have done a lot of experimentation of 6922, 12ax7 and EL34 tube rolling in the Callisto and the Io with various Telefunken, Siemens, Mullard, Ei vs. the stock Sovtek and could give you some details here. But I suspect JD's direct experience with your model would be more valuable.

Concerning phono stages, I had an identical experpience with the BAT P10 and the Io. Both were standard models, but for the $1k difference on the used market, the Io was in a completely different league (with stock Sovtek tubes) in the sense of dimensionality, decays, etc. This model loaded up with Telefunkens is pure magic. And in the case here with the Callisto/Io, as for you as with the Calypso/Rhea pair, it is no surprise these are incredibly musical products.

I was introduced to the Sovtek/Calypso tube pop at startup this afternoon. I won't go into what I mean by that. For those not familiar with the tube issues Aesthetix went through I'll refer you to the archives and Jadem6's excellant review of the Calypso. I usually turn my power amps on last so this is not something I'm all that concerned about. I have not heard any pops during play. Hey, that's pretty easy to solve with tube rolling but could be something that one has to account for $$ wise. Allison Krause is mesmorizing me right now.

Mimberman, the only other SS amps I've had were Rotels. I'm pretty happy with the 301's, very cost effective too as you can get these for around $2500 these days. They are very transparent and power my Aerial 10t's effortlessly. They allow me to hear any change I make to my system. They are playing quite well with Calypso as they certainly do with the BAT. I've always had an itch to try tubed amps but not with these speakers. They just need way too much power to make them sing. I bet the Calypso would match well with a slightly warmer sounding SS. Just another way to tune a system. I was tempted by a Janus. If it sounds anything like the Calypso/Rhea combo it is one hell of bargain.

Hi John, I went back and re-read Jadem6's review of the Calypso. I am very greatful to early adopter such as him because I can benefit from their experiences. This is especially true with the unfortunate tube issues Aesthetix went through early on with these pre-amps. I have to say that I was somewhat intimidated by Jadem6's need to go to such a high priced tube to find the sweet spot. But to keep things in perspective I think he might also be needing to tame some of the digital edge from his Sony. That's just a guess on my part as I ofcourse haven't heard it. I did try my BAT D5SE with the Aesthetix and it still sounds very smooth so that's a plus. Since I listen mostly to my TT I think that I may also have an advantage with all those extra Rhea tubes in the signal path. I can't image what your Callisto/Io must sound like.

I can assure you that JD's system does not at all have the digital edge that is prevalent in many other digital-based systems. I believe his Sony unit has gone through a few 3rd-party upgrades so this is not your average Sony unit anyway. The first time I took the Callisto Sig (it had the stock Sovtek tubes at that time) to his home, the sound was not at all forward nor fatiguing.

As for needing to spend a fortune on tubes here, there are many great Mullard and Telefunken pairs out there for less than $100. In fact I have bought quads of these tubes that comes down to $30-40 for each tube and these far exceed the stock Sovtek tubes in terms of resolution, tonal coherency and dynamics. But so far the most quiet 12ax7 I have tried is the Ei and these are only $15-20 a pair! I have 30 or so Tele 12ax7 tubes and none of them are as drop-dead quiet as the Ei's. The Ei's give up a little of the magic to the others in the Callisto & Io but so far, I find them to be the best tube for the Io's input stage. But this is only an issue on the first stage of the Io. I have not played with many Mullards in the Io yet.

JD and another local audiophile were at my home a couple weeks ago and we dropped in a prized pair of BugleBoy 12ax7's in the Callisto. I think we all agreed that the Mullards I had just swapped in replacing the Tele's "locked in" the music like the BugleBoy's had not. With the Mullard, the tonality was more coherent and the sound was more dynamic as well. The Tele's were definitely lacking resolution and presence in the upper frequencies....but I love these things in the Io. You just gotta try each one for yourself in your system.

I just loaned a few pairs to an A'gon member and he ultimately liked the Ei the most in his CAT preamp. If you'd like, I could loan you a pair of the Tele (smooth or ribbed) as well as a pair of Mullard. He ultimately kept the pair of Ei's so I do not have any extra here.

Hi John.

I knew I was probably going to get spanked for that "digital edge" comment. :) Guess I was really trying some bogus rationalization technique. Thanks for sharing some of your tube experiments with the IO. As it happens, I do have some of the Ei's. I'll have to give them a try in both the Rhea and Calypso. I checked again and the 6922 that is installed right now in V5 of the Rhea is the JAN-Phillips ($20) as I believe I had read somewhere that a poster had gotten the Rhea a bit quieter using these. I'll have to swap those out with the originals to see if there is much of a difference since I'm guessing I could hear that easier with the Calypso in the path than with the BAT.

I think I have found some Tele's and Amperex 6922's to try in the Calypso. I'll have to keep my eyes open for reasonably priced Mullards to give a listen to. Thanks for the offer to loan some to me, very nice of you. I may take you up on that if I have trouble finding some. As for the Tele's, do you find much difference between the smooth and the ribbed?

That's a nice thing about the Rhea/Calypso combo, and probably the Janus as well. There are several places along the signal path to change the sound abit. Then this number grows even more with the Callisto and Io. The BAT is wonderful, but not much room to tweak should one feel the urge.

I have not compared the Tele smooth to the ribbed. Each time I have gotten more Tele's, I have tried them in the Io's input stage hoping they are super quiet like the Ei's, but so far such a quad (or even a pair) of Tele's has not crossed my path. So I have simply replaced the stock tubes with the newly arrived Tele's and enjoyed the improvement with no attention to which type of Tele it is. I guess I will have to do this next time I have an itch to tinker with the tubes. If you are interested, I could loan a pair of each to you.

And one more thing: I have tried the Amperex 6922 in the Callisto and the Io and this tube just does nothing for me. It was lifeless and in fact a bit fatiguing. I always prefered the RAM and Sovtek tubes to this in the ARC LS5 that I ran with for years as well. YMMV. But oh how sweet the Mullard 6922s are in the Callisto and in the CAT amps.

Today I'm posting some early Calypso tube rolling results. I tried a pair of Ei 12ax7's but the ones I have just didn't really sound that quiet although they are better than the stock tubes which are a pair of Teslovaks. Next I swapped in Tesla ECC803S. Much, much quieter than both the Ei's and Teslovaks. I have to stick my ear up to the speakers to hear any noise Very good dynamics and decent imaging. A nice improvement but not much different than the Ei, just quieter. Then came a pair of Tung-Sol 12ax7. Just as quiet as the Tesla but the details, dynamics and image resolution are a real big improvement over all of the tubes I've tried so far. The soundstage is deeper with the Tung-Sol. I could be happy with this tube. This combination of the Rhea and Calypso is quieter than with the BAT VK50SE with just changing two tubes. This tube may be a real good candidate for the V1, V2 positions in the Rhea. Still waiting the arrival of the Tele's and Amperex I bought the other day.

As for the 6922, I am trying a Tesla PCC88 but it is too soon to give a decision on them.
>>Dan, I have not compared the Tele smooth to the ribbed<<

I hope the ladies aren't reading this.
Thanks Stanhifi! Humor is always welcome and even more so since tonight I'm full of Buffalo chicken wings and Jack 'n coke!

I hope folks are still getting something useful from my fumbling about here. After scanning through different thread here and on AA it seems I'm probably way behind most of you guys that own Rheas and/or Calypsos. I suppose if things get too boring we could always start arguing over what is "the best" tube or cartridge to match with Aesthetix gear. I think it goes without saying that I'm right and you guys are all wrong!
Dan ed,
Try Jack (Black) and Club Soda (in a tall glass) in lieu of Coke and let me know if you hear an improvement it does taste better).
UPDATE! The tele's arrived today! The BAT has met it's match and then some! Sorry Jfrech, I really love Balanced Audio and I'm sure the 51SE is superb but the price difference will buy a lot of tubes.

First things first. Cello, we're talking really good buffalo wings. I can't taste much else after a few bites! Now if I was to order filet mignon I would be obliged to order Makers' Mark and soda! The Jack 'n Coke is sort of a nostalgic throw back for me.

I was pretty impressed with the Calypso with the Tung-sol 12ax7 (these are reproduction, not NOS) and tesla PCC88 6922's. The image and soundstage where every bit of what the BAT 50SE can do. The highs were slightly tizzy, but that may or may not improve with hours as both sets are new. Still a very good tube alternative for the Calypso and the price per tube is sweet!

Now these telefukens are, as many have reported, in a completely different league. I have every bit of the soundstage and imaging prowess of the 50SE and the additional bonus of the details the Aesthetix components excel in. I'm hearing instruments placed across the stage with a few feet between them, voices are extremely clear and focused, and the reverberations in the recording are very apparent. This is all rendering a deep and more life-like stage. Timbres sound right, especially piano. This tube has made so much difference in the performace of the Calypso that I have been able to go back to the Vector/103R combination which is probably adding to the dynamics. I'm a very happy camper! Now to seriously roll some tubes in the Rhea!