Rhea Signature vs. ARC PH-7

I currently have an almost new ARC PH-7 as my phono stage. I'm running that through an Aesthetix Calypso standard, and finally through 2 Pass Labs XP-100.5 monoblocks. I have limited resources to upgrade my front end, but am leaning toward going with all Aesthetix Signature models-the Rhea and Calypso. By the way, I have a new Lyra Delos and am considering a Dynavector DRT XV-1S held by a new VPI Scoutnaster with the JMW 9 Sig arm. I'm sure some of you have heard these two-possibly even side by side. I realize it's all about personal preference, but does anyone have a recommendation? Something to consider-both Aesthetix will be upgrades to Signature from standard. How will that affect the resale value? The standards technically won't be new, but yet they will.
Where would you be buying the Rhea and Calypso upgraded from standard to signature from? At what cost? In general, units that are upgraded sell for a little less on the used market than units that are original, usually because the upgraded items are also older.

I would check out the Aesthetix Io mk II and Callisto Signature that are currently for sale on AudiogoN. That would be a full on Jupiter series setup for under $10K combined.

Also, I wouldn't even consider getting a better cartridge before you get a better table/arm. Many will say that the Delos is too much cartridge for the VPI Scoutmaster with JMW 9 Sig arm, and while that may be debateable, I certainly wouldn't put a Dynavector XV-1s on that setup, it's a waste of money to put a $5K cartridge on a $3K table/arm, IMHO.

I've owned a XV-1s and a Lyra Helikon, among many other cartridges, and the XV-1s has more power and punch, while the Lyra offer more detail and refinement. I have downsized my rig significantly, and I am now running a VPI Scoutmaster with JMW 9 Sig arm and Sumiko Blackbird cartridge. Certainly a very nice package for it's price point, but my amp, preamp and phono stage combine for a list price of about $8K. Your amps alone list for over $16K.

You would want a least a VPI HRX if you're looking at the XV-1s, if not a Galibier, Redpoint, Teres, Basis or some other fabulous table to get the most out of a XV-1s.
Thanks for taking the time to respond. I think there were 90 views, but you are the only one who took the time to answer. I'm relatively new to analog. I played albums back in the 70's and 80's, but defected to CD's around 1987. It took a long while for me to realize vinyl is indeed the best medium. Pls explain why the JMW 9 Sig is not up to snuff for the XV-1S. I know proper mass is important and that a 9" arm will give a certain amount of tracking error, but that's all I know. I always show my ignorance when posting a question, but I am alone in Murfreesboro,Tn and believe it or not, there is not a competent dealer in Nashville who can advise me. I have to learn it all on this site. To answer your question about the cost of upgrades, it is $3K to upgrade the Rhea and $2500 for the Calypso. That will put me with a front end amp investment of around $8K. I was told by an Aesthetix dealer, who will remain nameless, that the separate units would be the way to go and that particular dealer doesn't have a dog in the hunt. My ARC PH-7, going into my Calypso standard, sounds good to me. It's dead quiet with a warm, clear sound. It only has one input and 100 ohms is the lowest setting for a MC cart. Maybe that's sufficient. My Delos isn't even broken in yet, so I expect the sound will become even better in about another 50-75 hours. I'm not wealthy, so I'm not looking to throw money around. My original inquiry was would the Aesthetix Sig's sound better than the PH-7? Also, as your question is directed toward, would I get my investment back when selling the upgraded Calypso and Rhea? Per Aesthetix, they completely re-do the entire units. Basically it would be mostly new components in the original box. Another answer for you is I have a nice Calypso I've had for about a year I bought from a member on Agon-the Rhea will come from another source, but is rated 8/10 and is perfect in both sound and appearance. I have asked you much. Pls try to put me on the right track here.
My experiences show that in general, no, you will not re-coup the money invested on upgrading these two Aesthetix units. Who knows? Maybe you get lucky and find a buyer who would pay...doubtful, but always a possibility.

I'm curious, you say that your systems 'sounds good to you', you say that you are 'not wealthy'. So now I'm curious as to why you are looking to spend so much money.

As for the JMW 9 arm, my knock is not just on the arm, but on the table too. Search the archives, you will find that there are many who think the JMW 9 is a terrible arm. I am not one of them, I think it's a nice little arm and the Scout/Master are very good in their price ranges. However, if you also search the archives, you will find many who also believe that in analog, it is better to run a expensive table/arm with a cheaper cartridge than a cheaper table/arm with an expensive cartridge. I do agree with them in this regard.

When I moved up from a VPI HW-19 mk IV w/ JMW 10.5 arm to a Basis 2800 Signature w/ Vector 3 arm the difference was stunning. I could not believe how much blacker the background got. Bottom line, the JMW 9 is not a stable enough are to properly track a $5K cartridge, IMHO.

When putting a system together, I feel that proper balance is the key to the best sounding systems. Just as you wouldn't want to run $3000 speakers with your $16,000 amps, you also don't want to put a $5K cartridge on a $3K table/arm. I've had $5K and even $8K cartridges, but I had them on a $20K table/arm.

So to follow your original post idea, say you get the Rhea and Calypso upgraded to Signature and a Dynavector XV-1s. Now you have a great cartridge, phono stage, preamp, amps, but the table/arm will stick out like a sore thumb as the weak link in your system. You won't really know what the XV-1s is capable of until you try it on a good arm like a Triplanar or Graham.

If you are happy with the sound of the standard Calypso, Rhea and Delos, I don't understand why you have to spend more money. Just enjoy the music. Buy a couple hundred more LP's instead. :)

Your comments are very interesting. Back in the day, I was told the cartridge WAS the most important component before the (what was then) receiver. If the cartridge is not top notch, how can it reproduce better sound? I mean the cart is where it all begins. I do know what you're referring to as far as sticking out or being the weak link. I learned about tonearm mass when I attached a Koetsu Urishi Black to a low mass arm. Pure crap! Perhaps this is what you are referring to. As far as my system sounding good, it's like a comparison I made to doing drugs. I'm not a user, but back in the 60's and 70's I did my share. In that day and mindset, one was always looking for the better high. Today it would be like better wine or a better car etc. I'm not one to consistently want to monkey with always having to have different equipment, but until you've heard a variety, which I have not, I will continue to experiment-a little. I can see those two pieces lasting a long time for me. I mean after you reach a certain level, (many will laugh at this-there are many pieces that cost more than my house and I salute those who can afford them) improvements in sound become minute. However, if you add several of these minute improvements together, sometimes you get a very discernible improvement. Concerning my "arm", are there great arms that will fit my table? I think I'm stuck as long as I keep the Scoutmaster. Have you heard or have any experience with the PH-7? One last thing. I learned that some of the best equipment may not be compatible. It can best in it's class, but "doesn't play well with others." There's this synergy thing I can't explain.
Concerning my comment about there not being any competent analog dealers in Nashville, if you're out there, please make your presence known. I should have said I know of none.
Hi, interesting post so far. What speakers, cabling and what's your room like? How did you set up your speakers?

I am kinda with John above (I'm a John to) maybe the table is something to consider. I've heard those Aesthetix units and they are great. Nothing to go wrong with there...just is there a better place....?

Curious on my question above and I'll post my thoughts some more...John F
A lot of thoughts have changed regarding audio advice compared to 'back in the day'. 'Back in the day' many were running expensive speakers with cheap little receivers believeing that amplification did not matter, the speakers were all that mattered.

You are right on the money regarding the law of diminishing returns, it kicks in earlier than many believe and hits hard. Yes, spending a lot more money usually gets you better sound. Whether it is worth the money to you or not depends on how much money you have and what other priorities you have in your life. It will be different for everybody, even different for the same people at different times.

For example, I upgraded for many, many years and had a system with a list price of over $120K. Due to economic and health issues, I have cut back greatly, my current system lists for around $20K. Is it as good as the $120K system? No. However, it does come a lot closer to it sonically than I care to admit. It certainly makes me think twice about upgraditis.

I have not heard the PH7, I have heard the PH5 and I have owned the ARC Ref 3 preamp, so I am familiar with the ARC house sound. I have heard Aesthetix gear, but I have not owned it, it does sound similar to ARC gear. From that side of the tracks (neutral tube gear), I've grown to appreciate the sound of VAC gear the most. These are all personal choices, and I could live happily with any of these brands.

Hey, in the end it is your money, and you can spend it anyway that you choose. If you believe that the cartridge is the most important part of the analog front end, go ahead and buy the Dynavector XV-1s, it certainly is a great cartridge.

John M.
If you are happy with ar 7 stay there. I purchased a demo combination of VIP Aries dynavector tone arm and xv1s cartridge as an impulse. My phono section did not have the gain so I started on the phono section hunt. What I truly loved was the audio research ref 2. At 13 k out of the question. Wound up with end of year demo aesthetic rhea signiture. Had always heard in large sound room. When I got it home it was audibly noisy. Dealer said the Jim white had heard it and was in spec. Got a new tube set for 250 dollars, and though not as quiet astt he ref 2 t,very enjoyable. Over long term wonder how quiet will last as tubes age, despite being all tube at ref 2 totally quiet. They also show up here used and hold value well. If I have a windfall the ref 2 is my choice
I used to own an ARC PH-7 for several months. My friend brought over a RHEA Signature to compare with the PH-7. I liked the RHEA better in my system. Then I borrowed an ASR Basis Exclusive to compare with the PH-7. I liked the ASR the most. I ranked these three phonostages as follow: 1-ASR, 2-Rhea Signature, and 3-PH7. Again, it is my opinion based upon my system.

I recently listened to the ARC REF2 SE in a friend's system and it is very good. So if you have the budget, I would highly recommend the ARC REF2 SE.
If you consider Dynavector XV-1s, one consideration would be that ARC PH series has gain of only 58 dB. I think that is really a bit too low for XV-1s. I probably would use ARC PH series with cartridges with at least 0.4 mV. Some preamp sounds find when you crank up a bit more volume than usual but some preamp does not sound so good when volume has be cranked up high. I don't have any experience with Asthetix preamp so I don't know how that would go. For XV-1s, I would prefer something with at least 64-66 dB of gain or higher personally.

Regarding JMW arm, I used XV-1s with the full 10.5 arm for quite awhile and had very good result but XV-1s did sound somewhat better, may be different would be a better word with Graham arm but it was also a different turntable so who knows. However, the new one piece 3D printer VPI arm that is coming sounds very interesting and initially feedback sound promising so it might be something worth waiting for.
The Aesthetix Rhea does have the gain up to 70 db, but it is too noisy to use above 56 db of gain. 56 db from tubes is quite large. It is unusual that AR equiptment, that gets more tube amplification as you go up the food chain stays quiet. Perhaps some of the gain is from the accompanying Solid state circuits. Fortunately, I can get 1/3 my gain from a Spectral SS preamp that is dead silen.t
Pls explain why the JMW 9 Sig is not up to snuff for the XV-1S.


This thread might provide you with an answer to your question.