Question on Aesthetix / Tube Maintenance


I am looking at upgrading my 2 channel system and Aesthetix (Atlas / Calypso)  is one of the two at the top of my list. Given that I currently do not have tubes, what should I expect in terms of maintenance of the system? How often do you find yourself replacing the tubes? How much does it usually cost? Is it easy to figure out which tube is the issue? Do you just replace them all after a given time? Do they degrade the sound quality over time or is it like a light bulb and just goes out?

I have an Aesthetix system (Rhea Signature, Calypso, and Atlas). I am very happy with the system and it sounds great.

I don't keep track of how often tubes need replacement, but not really very often for the Calypso and Atlas.

The Calypso has 4 tubes and the Atlas has two tubes so tracking down and dealing with a tube that is going bad is not very difficult.

Tubes deteriorate with time and usually one goes bad before the others. All you have to do is swap left for right for each pair (12AX7 and 6DJ8/6922) in the Calypso and with one or two swaps you will know which tube is bad as the issue will move from one side to the other.

You can just replace them all when one goes bad. I would determine which tube was bad so you can discard it and keep the good tube as a spare. You should call Aesthetix to find out the price of a factory tube set for each.

You should use balanced connections between the Calypso and Atlas. I found that sounded better than single ended (RCA) connections.
A good set of tubes can be like changing tires on a sports car! LOL. Its the price we pay for those little glorious bottles. I think your about to enter goose bump zone! Tube gear in general is very sturdy and tubes last several thousand hours if you dont leave them on all the time. Good rule : If you plan on listening that day turn the system on then later that night before bed turn it off. Tubes dont like to be turned on and off a lot. Other than that its nice to keep spares for emergency and run your most expensive tubes in the unit. You will know when a tube is going bad when you have no output or one side is noisy all the time. Also, it takes 45 mins at least for things to warm up before you really sit and listen. Have fun :-)

Matt M

You can listen and enjoy the music before the  tubes fully warm up and sound their best so don't let that possibly sway you away. Also, there are a number of quality tube suppliers out there so you don't have to rely upon the manufacturers supply. One of the benefits of tube equipment is being able to swap in (tube roll) different brands and equivalent tube types to tailor the sound as you like it.  Here's a link to Brent Jesse's website (I don't work there) that if you scroll threw to different tube pages you can get a sense of variety of NOS tubes versus new production and his impressions on sound. There are other competent/quality tube sellers out there as well.

Hi Rob, To answer a couple of your questions,

Tubes gradually wear out and at some point this will result in sound degradation. Small signal tubes (not power tubes) usually last 3,000 hours, give or take a thousand or so. Some old stock tubes (made between 1940 and 1980) are built to do 10,000 hours.

They can go bad at any time, but with small signal tubes (or preamp tubes as they’re also referred to) they will most likely not cause any damage to your gear.

They can also go microphonic (send feedback through your speakers) if you drop them on a hard surface or something like that. If you buy from a reputable seller they should be guaranteed not to be microphonic on arrival. So handle them carefully after you receive them.

New Old Stock (NOS) can go for anywhere between $75 and $500 a pair. New production tubes are much cheaper, say $25 and up a pair. These are made in Russia and China, often branded with the names of classic old stock tubes. Many people are quite happy with the sound they produce.

Don’t be scared off by the downside of tubes, they are not much trouble or risk to you or your equipment and they can produce really nice sound. The Aesthetix separates you mentioned should sound very good.

The people at Aesthetix would be happy to advise you on tube choices as would the good sellers.

Other good sellers are:

Upscale Audio


Vintage Tube Services

Jim McShane