Aesthetix Io Signature
... I'm not inclined to even go further.
... I'm not inclined to even go further.
Interesting the mention of the Herron. Cmk, have you ever heard it in conjunction with the VTSP-1A linestage? Having already bought a K&K phono stage (which I think is as good as most anything up to the Io non-signature) I decided not to get a VTPH-1mc when I bought the VTSP-1A, but understand it is a fine piece.
I have pined for a Io Sig. Mebbe some day.
4yanx, not yet.
So far everyone who has heard the Herron readily agrees its a great piece of engineering. Its a good match for the Dynavectors 0.25mv output. I don't quite understand how it works exactly, but it works fine at 47k ohms for low output mcs, sounding extraordinarily detailed and dynamic, not bright at all. In fact I've tried it with the Urushi, Allaerts and the owners said their carts never sounded better.
Folks looking to hear the Aesthetix Io one day: remember that the "Signature" version is truly better than the standard version. The cost-no-object premium parts quality in the Signature make a difference when considering phono stages at this level. Also, the optional second power supply gives a further enhancement.
I have an ancient outboard phono preamp...PS Audio II, which dates from the early 1980s, and was the original product of the firm. It consists of a single top quality circuit board, with top quality parts, inside an elcheapo folded aluminum shell with wooden ends. Who cares what it looks like as it is mounted out of sight. I think it cost about $275 (1980 dollars).
The circuit consists of complementary amps using very low noise transistors, and a passive RIAA equalization network between stages (instead of heavily equalized feedback). This was unique at the time. Does anyone use this approach now?
Anyway, I have yet to hear a better phono section.
PS Audio did come out with a later model, where the power supply was relocated to another box, but I don't know why because there was never a hum problem with the original model. They also evolved the design into a full preamp, with line level switching. When they jacked up the gain for MC pickups the results were not so hot. I used a transformer with mine, and it worked well.
Rushton pretty well has taken the words right out of my mouth. I can't speak as an owner but I have a good friend with the full blown Aesthetix Io Sig. and it is pure pleasure! As for myself I recently acquired a Rhea and Calypso. Even in a head to head with the Io it comes real close to everything I have ever wanted out of a tube phono amp and paired with the sister preamp it works out real nice. IMO other than Ralph's Atma-sphere MP-1 w/phono, I have not heard anything close to Jim White's Aesthetix gear. A lot of folks have mentioned Lamm and Janis gear repeatedly through these threads on the subject of tube amplification, I have never heard either of them, but would like to very much.
There is absolutely no way to give a definitive answer to this thread question,and everyone probably knows this!Too many variables.To many differing tastes;and really too many fine products.Basically anyone happy with their unit will,most likely,nominate it.That being said,what one can do is indicate a unit that sounded good in a given system.One that may have been so impressive(the system) that weight is given to the phonostage,even though other factors were probably at play.Sort of like going to a nice restaurant,with a fun,lively crowd.You had so much fun,that you give a bit more credit to the food.Next time you go there,by yourself,you are a bit disappointed.Just "food" for thought,though I do love the Aesthetix,and the CJ!!The Lamm ain't bad either.Oh,yeah--the Steelhead is a killer too,especially with a bit of tube rolling.I own none of these,but why should I bother to allow myself to allow "ego" to enter the picture(regarding my own unit),though I do love it.It would dull down credibility,IMO!Intimately familiar with the others mentioned.The best I've heard?Who knows?Maybe the "Zinfandel" could have had too much influence!Best regards!!
A nice topic to migrate into,on a similar note,would be:What are the best "small signal phono tubes" that you tubies have tried?This I'm well versed in;and they do make a BIG difference!!Anyone having a "big hitter" phonostage(Aesthetix,Manley etc.)that denies this,or hasen't tried it,is in for a nice surprise if they allow themselves to go that route!Best of luck!
Best phono preamp and moving coil section I have had is the
moving coil card or input which Levinson put in his preamps.
Lots of adjustments and tons of gain without hum. Plus it
sounded super. I think the sensitivity of the input is
critical to the sound you get: too little and the sound is
dark and not dynamic or even might be peaky; too much and
the overload is prominent on peaks. Close to the Levinson
have been transformers which match the cartridge used; a
hum problem at times, but usually can be worked out with
grounding and careful placement of the transformer.
I'm a statified Herron owner who gets to hear the seemly top two contenders (the I/O Sig & Lamm) on a regular basis. I never come home after hearing either the Lamm or I/O with preamp envy. I like the no fuss aspect of the Herron's. The Herron's are at their best with current production tubes and are easy on them. IMO, the Herron's are under appreciated in audio land.
I think it depends very much on combinations. I do not think that, with many years and spending a lot of unnecessary money (of course, within my own financial means) pursuing the so call "best single" component per se, makes me realize that there is one such component exists but eventually to presume that the whole concept is just simply a business ball game. It is strictly a system dependence. You can have the so called "best Phono" but to a larger extent you have to consider the cartridge/s to go along with it. I feel that there isn't any single best PHONO STAGE to cater for different cartridge/arm/turntable/preamp combinations. If so, we will at least not to receive reviews on components. Even reviewers have to admit that their reference system has to be changed from time to time. More so, with careful notice, it is the combination of the whole system that got to be changed from time to time let alone the speakers. You can't simply find any reviewer to just to stick one best component and allow the rest of the system to evolve. So, I would advise that, with these forums, try to find out the musically satisfied combination of components from others and of which, it fits nicely within your financial capability.
Counterpoint SA-9 modified by Michael Elliott:
removing 2 SS buffers, changing to Dynamicaps, removing MC stage, changing output volume control to naked Vishays, changing to high impedence circuit to have tubes directly drive output volume control, better Diodes, changing electrolytics to Blackgates, adding circuit damping
All of these pay off in sound quality.
I have`nt heard them all.The Herron is superb,and so is the Aesthetix.I listened to the Manley for a week when it first became available,i was impressed,but not blown away.I sold my first Walker reference while i was doing all this listening,regretted it,bought another,and now i am a happy camper again.I am a tube freak too,but there is something about this Walker phonostage that is very satisfying.Now mind you,i did say i have`nt heard them all.
The "Best" Phono stage I have heard was a cross between two.
As was said before "the best" does not make sense because the rest of the system matters too much.
But anyway..... Back in the early 80's.....
I Really liked my ML-1 Levinson. It totally trashed all the Audio Research (The other High End company of the time) options out there.
Then again I was using a Fidelity Research FR1 Mk3 Phono cartridge and The ML-1 had a phono section option specifically for that cartridge.
(I miss that cartridge - I had it in a Cyrinx Arm on a Linn)
An "Equal" preamp to that one was my old ancient STAX preamp.
Well - the STAX I had was one of the last SRA-12S's made and the circuit was slightly different.
The STAX was quite modified by me - especially in the power supply sections. I also reduced the feedback in the phono section to increase it's gain enough for my FR1-MK3. Also changed a few capacitors.
Just the other day I found those STAX circuit boards. I was surprised to find I still had them.
When time allows I'll build it up again.
My preamp now is an Audible Illusions M3A.
Parts quality is outstanding and it doesn't really have a "Tube Sound" which gets me sick.
(I'll get flamed for that!!)
But - I'm not really a tube fan.
Every time I change tubes (even from the same batch of a tube buy) I have a different sounding preamp.
It's the nature of tubes - Their characteristics vary too much from unit to unit which puts different tubes at different operating points of their "gain curve".
To a lesser degree - JFETS have that same issue.
When I sold STAX - I listened to the 4 preamps we had and took home the best sounding one.
The ML-1's I've heard all sounded the same - they are bipolar based. Although "Beta" of bipolar transistors can vary quite a bit, the "Operating Point" of different bipolars in a circuit are quite predictable
Jeff Rowland Cadence sounds better even using entry level
table and cartridge than any other setup I have heard
regardless of the price
The music arrives from dead silent background
it is coherent and inner detail is to die for, the cleanest
Ive heard, but If you know Rowland gear you know what Im
I loved the Aesthetix Rhea. I ended up buying the Conrad Johnson EV1 though, and it's marvelous, especially at its price point. I haven't heard the Boulder yet, but from what people have told me it's the most amazing piece of gear on the planet. The local Boulder dealer, who also carries Aesthetix and BAT, told me point blank "Do yourself a favor and don't listen to the Boulder. It's THAT good."
I notice that alot of people speak highly of the Aesthetix products in this thread, i have been looking for a new phono pre, and have found an estate sale that is selling alot of high end stereo equipment, and i can pick up a
Aesthetix Callisto Signature, for not much money, has anyone heard this particular preamp, and would it be worth $900 ??
I have heard the Aesthetix IO signature but I would not list it as the best I've ever heard.
I have heard the Boulder briefly, but seriously, $25,000??? If I had the money I would still not buy a $25,000 phono section.
The Rhea is good, but a little too noisy for me.
The best one that I've spent any time with is the Pass Labs X-Ono.
Based on information I have gotten directly from friends who are owners of the Manley Steelhead I am think seriously of buying one.
So there, you have another post that really doesn't offer much help...