The elite phono stages VS. Full function Pre-amps

I currently use an Aesthetix Io mark2 w/ a First Sound Presence Del Mk. 2 and am enjoying very good results with this combo. While simply having the bug to upgrade, we all look to address what may be the week link in our systems to upgrade. I do believe the perfomance of the Aesthetix would be hard to beat after preferring its sound to other stand alone phono stages I have compared it to. I am considering comparing my current linestage-phono setup to a few of the premier Full- function pre-amps such as the Vac PHI 2.0, or the Messenger, with the benefit of one less cable (phono to linestage interconnect) in my system. However , I also think the Io is so good, that it would be foolish not to take the Io Signature upgrade path , or/and upgrading the First Sound.I would greatly appreciate any thoughts on this subject.

I have been thinking exactly along the same lines. I too own a standard Io with one power supply and want very much to hear how an Io signature might be and the benfits of the 2nd power supply. I posted a question on this just last night. And as incredible as the Io is with Telefunken tubes, I can only imagine what the Signature model does.

I also just got a Callisto Signature with one power supply. This brings on a level of dynamics and authority to my system like I never could have imagined. And again, what would NOS tubes and the second power supply do here as well. Now I can relate even more to what the likes of Albert Porter and Rushton have been saying about Aesthetix gear.

With all this said, the thought and sight of 6 of these chassis, 4 power cords and all the tubes AND all their heat, oh man, there's got to be another way to audio nirvana! But they just do the music so very right. And yet I think there could very well be one option coming up on the horizon: Michael Elliot, the designer of the awesome Counterpoint SA11 and SA9 products in the late 80s/early 90s is soon to release an all-out-assualt 2-box preamp with phono and line stages in one chassis and power supply in the other. Check out his website:

This could be THE preamp I have been seeking for a long time and perhaps the last I ever buy --- don't we all say this regularly!

I will receive this week the upgraded version of Thor Audio's TA-2000 linestage which includes a phonostage and remote volume control. I, too, considered the elite phonostage route but I needed a volume pot since I did not own a linestage. I am using an Art Audio Vinyl 1 w/volume right now. Thor products are incredibly built and include a lifetime warranty.
I have no direct experience with the Thor gear, but I did do an A-B comparison of the Aesthetix Io vs. the ART AUDIO ref. vinyl phono stage and preferred and kept my IO. I know the Thor is highly regarded and would look forward to hearing your future results.
Interesting, the ariaaudio pre (if i read correctly) will not handle mc cartridges, very strange,,,
G_m_c: Read the page again. Michael Elliot writes that he will not handle the MC gain through active circuits but rather with an step-amp transformer because of the noise issue. It sounds like he has a few different companies that will source him some models to try.
Maybe your should consider a different route for SOTA performance? How about a respected full function preamp that is "highly modified?" And I mean 'highly' modified. Granted glowing reports for their owners would undoubtly be biased, but they do have their cult following. It's sort of like the High Efficiency / High Sensitivity thing - either they know something we don't or they're just senile. Either that or drop $30k on something equivalent. The choice is yours. Maybe you should check it out?
Jafox Hi
Interesting concept.Only in High-end.Did you buy an Aria Serial Number?
Using a transformer in the interest of not introducing additional noise is nothing new. Kondo/Audio Note has gone this route and not changed its philosophy on this in 20 years. Kondo goes to such lengths as to sell a cartridge, external power supply, and transformer as a matched system.