Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Aesthetix Calypso - what is going on?

Source: Absolute Sound. Robert Harley nominated this tube pre-amp as "linestage preamplifier of the year" (for 2003) in TAS 146, and furthermore in full review in TAS 151 concluded: "In an era in which many lesser-quality components cost considerably more money, the Calypso and Rhea (dedicated phonostage) establish new value benchmarks in their product categories" and within the actual text "a remarkable achievement for a $4500 product. Frankly, had the Calypso cost $10k, I still would have recommended it. Moreover, the unit’s build-quality and feature set would have justified a much higher price. The Calypso is not only a world-class performer, but a stone-cold bargain." Read full review here.

Viewpoint: Very high appraise indeed for this "classic" tube pre-amp (6922s, 12AX7WBs etc.), actually almost made me purchase Calypso when I was evaluating new tube pre-amp for my system. The only thing keeping me not buying Calypso was its lack of adjustable gain, the feature I perceive must-have for system matching. For the record, I purchased Audio Research LS25 mkII.

Enter users' comment in AudioAsylum. Evidently this post is not an hoax, and the guy seems to own serious HE-rig. According to him, Calypso with stock Sovtek tubes is quite noisy. His experience was that Calypso really needs to be upgraded with pretty rare and expensive NOS tubes, in this case Mullard 10M Gold Pin tubes.

In the same post, Jim White from Aesthetix stated as a response "For about the first 6-8 months of production, we had almost no tube problems with the Calypso. Then, they started cropping up, as noise like you encountered. This was our worst nightmare, because we thoroughly evaluated the units before they shipped. They were going noisy after leaving our facility. We immediately started burning the tubes in longer and testing more thoroughly and stringently, but with little success. I looked into alternatives, but no tubes of current manufacture worked properly or to my satisfaction, so we stayed with the Sovteks and continued trying to find ways of culling tubes that would go noisy. Near the end of last year, we finally found a 12AX7 of current manufacture that sounded good and would remain noise free. We have since switched to that tube (Teslov E83CCS), and our tube noise issues have been drastically reduced."

If you read follow-ups, you see that quite many other users claimed that Calypso indeed requires NOS tube rolling in order to sound best (decent?) , in particular rolling the 12AX7 tubes. In fairness, majority of the Calypso owners absolutely love the sound , but as said, subject to NOS tubes.

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