Preamp for Aesthetix / Atma-sphere


I have the Aesthetix Io Eclipse with volume and dual power supplies, Atma-sphere MA-1 monoblocs (140 watts) and Audiokinesis Dream Maker (93 db sensitive) speakers. These are great components. My question is about system synergy, how to make them play together.

I have been running the Io direct to my amps since I first bought the Mk2 version back in 2004. At the time, I had a Krell FPB600, and in that context, it was a blessing, and a great step up from the Krell KAV 250p preamp. I'll never forget my first impression with the Io - it was like going from the wooded hills up into the mountains. There was no going back.

With volume, the Io functions as a preamp. It looks like a preamp. Someone here on A-gon said going direct is best - which I interpreted as: it IS a preamp! So I thought, OK I have a combined phono and preamp - problem fixed. But it wasn't.

From recent testing I have finally become convinced that the Io does benefit from a separarate preamp. Even if clarity and detail is better going direct from the Io to the amps, the punch and "here-ness" of the music is clearly better with a preamp in the chain, at least in my system.

Trouble is, which preamp? I am testing a small solid state Musical Innovation preamp, which helps with the punch but veils the music. An optimal solution might be the Aesthetix Callisto, preferably with dual power - but I don't have the space, and I already have a lot of tubes and tube heat. I have space for one or possibly two boxes.

From what I have heard so far, a solid state might do the job well (in my tube-rich context), however it should not impart any s-state artifacts or reduce the resolution from the Io Eclipse.

The ideal would be to test a few tube and s-state preamps, and then decide. However, this is difficult where I live, so advice is welcome.

My question relates to my own setup of course, but is relevant for everyone with a top phono stage on the one hand and amps on the other. What is best in the middle?

From recent testing I have learned that problems that I thought were related to the speakers, the phono pre, the pickup and so on, were in fact related to the preamp issue. For example, the Dream Makers straight from the Io may sound a bit lazy and washed out in the bass, very clear in mid and treble but not fully embodied. Plugging in the solid state pre, the situation becomes dramatically different, now the speakers are driving, propulsive. Very enjoyable, but some detail is lost and some transistor things added that I don't want.

So I am looking for a solution with most of the plusses, and not much of the minuses. The preamp must be fully balanced with XLR in / out.
Ag insider logo xs@2xo_holter
I guess, with each combination of quality preamp between a top class phono stage and amps / speakers, what you hear resembles "editing". The preamp is a bit like the "editorial board". You fellow A-goners have told me how I can ease up a bit on the "Teutonic" aspect of this preamp - and yet get even larger dynamics and stage. Very grateful for this.
Seems there are a lot of suggestions; mine is to audition an Ayre KXR, Can be found used for around $11K. Now that the KXR Twenty is out, maybe less.
Now the Telefunken 12au7 is back in (instead of the RCA 12bh7) and is getting housewarm. I think it will be fine. Very interesting this also. Which one I prefer? Later. Listening to the Dire Straits studio albums box, I bought the last copy in the shop, sounds good, but not sure it was worth it, since the originals sound good too. Also, today, I got the three extra RCA 12bh7s with handwritten measurements from the Ebay seller. Nice. Will try later.
Twb2 - even if I stay "teutonic" for now, and enjoy experimenting with tubes in the preamp I have, I am grateful for suggestions, they can be useful in the future.
I believe that you're doing fine with the Einstein and tube rolling options. I'd be surprised if you preferred the Ayre to what you have now. You're on a good path with your current direction. If you can directly compare these two, go for it. My bet would be that you'll keep the Einstein.