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Aesthetix Calypso Preamp

It took a little while for me to appreciate the true quality of the Aesthetix Calypso. Why? Well, quite simply, I didn't want a preamp in my system. Having lived quite happily for some time driving my Cary Audio 2A3 SE's directly from my Audio Aero Capitole MKII, I'd convinced myself that "source direct" was the best approach. Taking a simplistic view of this it made complete sense that eliminating one rather large active component from the signal path had to be a good thing for sound quality. It wasn't until I thought about it more openly did I come to realize the unpredictability of the affects of running source direct. Basically, it's about coupling components whose input and output electrical properties combine in a synergistic way. Eliminating a preamp, places the output impedance of (in this case) the CD player, in direct contact with the input of the power amp. That may or may not be a good combination.

Adding the Calypso preamp between the CD and power amps introduced a sense of dynamics that I hadn't heard before in my system. Initially, I heard the dynamics but also a little "leanness" to the sound that I didn't much care for. I interpreted this information conveniently to support my theory at the time, that source direct had to be best. However, I needed a preamp to facilitate the addition of a projector system with DVD player to my system, so after the initial disappointment had settled, I set about trying to make it work. The first step was to add a better power cord to the Calypso. Enter the ESP Essence cord. Wow. That was my first real positive experience with semi-exotic PC's. Other experiences with VenHaus designs and expensive cables from Virtual Dynamics, hadn't yielded anything real noteworthy. The ESP cord opened up the stage, increased dynamics still further and improved overall transparency. Great! - but still a little lean.

Next on the agenda, when in doubt, introduce NOS tubes. I knew the Sovteks that came with the Calypso preamp (supplied stock by the factory) were probably a little weak, but I'd read online about many negative tube-rolling experiences by owners of this preamp, primarily due to the rather high demands the amp places on the 12AX7's, resulting potentially in an excessively noisy output.

Along came a pair of Mullard 4004's from Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio. Premium tubes, checked for low microphonics and ultra-quiet. Next, enter a pair of Telefunkens for the 6922 positions and a pair of Siemens, Amperex and Svetlana's.

After much trial and error, including the elimination of some tubes due to excess tube noise, I settled very happily on the Svet's for the 6922 and Mullards for the 12AX7 slots.

That was it folks. Wonderfully transparent sound, dynamics, bottom end solidity and extension, and.....a nice liquid midrange.

The Aesthetix Calypso really is an amazing preamp, I can't imagine going back to source-direct.


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