Aesthetix Io Users Group

OGH

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Thank you. This is a Callisto Eclipse - correct? And it was tested with digital sources, not analog? If it used chinese stock tubes I am not surprised it sounded a bit SS. Anyway what mainly interests me, is how they compare, when using the Aesthetix Io Eclipse as phono stage, either into the Callisto, or into the MP-1. I don't think that was done, in the test?
 

BruceD

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Thank you. This is a Callisto Eclipse - correct? And it was tested with digital sources, not analog? If it used chinese stock tubes I am not surprised it sounded a bit SS. Anyway what mainly interests me, is how they compare, when using the Aesthetix Io Eclipse as phono stage, either into the Callisto, or into the MP-1. I don't think that was done, in the test?
Are you sure the tubes you heard were Chinese?

Just that Jim told me they do not use Chinese tubes--if so wonder what made him change--costs/supply?

Interesting if so:)

BruceD
 

OGH

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BruceD - I was referring to the link to the Aesthetix / MP-1 comparison, see DetroitVinylRob's post #380 above. I wasn't there (would have liked to). Over the years I have bought two-three sets of stock replacement tubes from Aesthetix, I cannot remember if any of these were Chinese, maybe not. Based on my experience, I very much doubt that cost/supply is the main reason for eventual Aesthetix stock tube changes. But they have a strict paradigm I believe. The tubes should be easily available current production. And sound good (or as good as possible, compared to the best NOS). This is typical of tube equipment manufacturers. Their box should sound good with current tubes. From there on, the user can improve the sound by experimenting with NOS etc. But the manufacturers often have a "hands off" attitude (quite understandable) - in my experience.
 
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OGH

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Anyone using JJECC83S in the first or second gain stage of the Io? Experience with these?

These are the very low noise JJs I wrote about. I got them as part of the stock tube set from Aesthetix in 2017. Back then, when we A/B listened, hot-swapping tubes in the two first gain stages, my wife and I were both very impressed with the lower noise level, compared to all the tubes (new + NOS) that we had used in the Io before.

I am not sure, if they were selected at Aesthetix for ultra-low noise, or if this is typical of all the JJECC83S. Sadly my tube tester doesn't really test for noise in the extremely demanding context of the Io, I have to use the Io itself. I have no other experience with these tubes. A light on the horizon: current price is around 10 dollars.

However, we felt they were a bit hard and flat ("solid state") in our system, compared to NOS Telefunken 12ax7 even though the T's were more noisy. Adverts for the JJs say they are low-noise (yes, seems so) and balanced (well yes ok but I wouldn't call them musical).

Now, some years later, my Telefunkens are soon asking "good night" - that is, the noise level has increased, and is more of a nuisance.

So I wonder - maybe I should try the JJs once more, and give them more time, maybe some of the hard/flat sound goes away with more break-in. We only used them for a week or two, back in 2017, and since then, they have been stored on our loft.

I suspect, however, that the best answer is - no, they retain their limited character, compared to good NOS - so the best advice is to getter better (lower noise) NOS in the two gain stages (or at least the first and most critical stage). Ultra low noise Telefunkens are hard to find, but maybe some of you have experience with good sellers? Or with other good NOS brands in those positions?
 
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OGH

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Some manufacturers give more info than others. For example,
1 Atma-sphere encourages improving their amps by using selected tubes esp the driver tubes. The output tubes, they write, have less impact, but I changed all to RCA NOS, and did like the result.
2 Einstein basically says, you are free to experiment. Consulting with them, I changed to a CBS Hydron tube, creating a marked improvement. But I got the advice mainly from Audiogon and other fora, not the company.
3 Aesthetix is similar. My email conversations boil down to "Please try, but you are on your own". They don't want to come out with a "top ten tube list" for their boxes. Or, not so far.
Another and maybe more important consideration is what they do - not just what they say. Regarding stock tube sets.
A manufacturerer who is willing to send a TESTED stock tube set obviously gives much more value than just "off the shelf" sets.
Here, I would give a plus to Aesthetix, judging from the tube sets I have received from them. Good value.
 

Kcin

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Mar 27, 2016
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Anyone using JJECC83S in the first or second gain stage of the Io? Experience with these?

These are the very low noise JJs I wrote about. I got them as part of the stock tube set from Aesthetix in 2017. Back then, when we A/B listened, hot-swapping tubes in the two first gain stages, my wife and I were both very impressed with the lower noise level, compared to all the tubes (new + NOS) that we had used in the Io before.

I am not sure, if they were selected at Aesthetix for ultra-low noise, or if this is typical of all the JJECC83S. Sadly my tube tester doesn't really test for noise in the extremely demanding context of the Io, I have to use the Io itself. I have no other experience with these tubes. A light on the horizon: current price is around 10 dollars.

However, we felt they were a bit hard and flat ("solid state") in our system, compared to NOS Telefunken 12ax7 even though the T's were more noisy. Adverts for the JJs say they are low-noise (yes, seems so) and balanced (well yes ok but I wouldn't call them musical).

Now, some years later, my Telefunkens are soon asking "good night" - that is, the noise level has increased, and is more of a nuisance.

So I wonder - maybe I should try the JJs once more, and give them more time, maybe some of the hard/flat sound goes away with more break-in. We only used them for a week or two, back in 2017, and since then, they have been stored on our loft.

I suspect, however, that the best answer is - no, they retain their limited character, compared to good NOS - so the best advice is to getter better (lower noise) NOS in the two gain stages (or at least the first and most critical stage). Ultra low noise Telefunkens are hard to find, but maybe some of you have experience with good sellers? Or with other good NOS brands in those positions?
My experience, take it for what is worth, is that the stock tubes Aesthetix provides are excellent low noise- I will call them as you said , perhaps with less character and rather bland as compared to the NOS trials I have experienced. Especially in dimension, space and tonal colour.

I know that they were supplying Sovtek... LPS in the critical #1&2 positions and 12Ax7W* in the others.. Perhaps they have turned to JJ. My experience with JJ is they can perform well, initially, then they go noisy . Aesthetix may burn them in to try to avoid this if they are using them now.

Good tube suppliers can certainly get you low noise Telefunkens for positions 1&2 - but be prepared to pay $100USD or more for them. IMO worth it for the pedigree of the Io.. but $10 sound pretty good to the wallet if they meet your objectives.
 
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OGH

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In my former stock tube sets from Aesthetix, ca 2006 and 2013, I got Sovteks, no Chinese, as far as I remember.
I was never so keen on the Sovtek LPS tubes, despite many months of burn-in. That is why I changed to NOS, and eventually to Telefunken, hearing clear improvements along the way. In the 2017 set of stock tubes i got from Aesthetix, the 12ax7s were the JJECC83S. A very clear improvement in terms of noise, and also - I think - a bit in balance, musicality, compared to the Sovteks.
 

OGH

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I've done some tube checking. Sadly the Telefunken 12ax7s in gain stage 1 and 2 are getting too noisy. Wonder how to replace them. I am not sure the gradually increasing noise is due to these tubes only, but my guess is, 90 percent. Maybe there are other tubes I should check? Symptoms: tubes play nicely, and for good NOS, very well indeed, although there is a bit of background noise, low at first. Gradually the noise level increases. It is fairly harmonic (in Telefunken NOS 12ax7 at least), a sort of low breeze in the background in the beginning, nothing to worry about. With more hours, over the years, things change. The mild breeze is more like a constant background noise. If things go on, the noise may become "smattering", like a lot of boiling going on, in the background.

By "too noisy", I mean that I can hear the background noise from the Io not just in front of the speakers but also in the listening position, at moderate-high volume (without music playing). In my case, unplugging the phono cable from the Io makes no difference, the noise comes from the Io itself. I compared, now, switching from the phono input (Io) to the aux input (Teac NT-505 DAC) on the Einstein preamp. The aux has no noise whatever, or very little, even listening closely in front of the speakers.
 

audioquest4life

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Hi audioquest4life, I am glad to read of your experience with the Eclipse upgrade - it is much in line with my own experience. A question. Do you use stock tubes from Aesthetix, in the first gain stage? I got JJs from them, which are remarkably low noise. Yet I later swapped back to my Telefunken NOS, finding them more musical, even if they are more noisy. The noise level is still lower than what I hear from the groove itself (playing the Atlas cart, in grooves without music).
@OGH,

Hello. Yes, I am using the stock JJ tubes from Aesthetix. I made a point to photograph each JJ tube box that had the measurement data inscribed for each tube that correlated to each of the installation locations. I don't notice any low level noise from the tubes, yet. However, at extreme loudness levels I do hear some groove noise and perhaps tube noise as well. I do no at this loud level, you hear a lot more stuff in the system. But, the levels I am talking about no sane person would listen to for too long, unless you are at a concert. I am pushing on average 3-30 watts, with 30 watts being really really loud with my newly acquired high efficient speakers. I think they are 99-101 db. So far, I am really enjoying the sound and the music reproduction. At the extreme loud level, when you can't hear other people talk, that is when I start to hear some noise, but not too bad concerning the level of sound I am pushing. At low to normal levels of listening, everything is fine.

Ciao,
Audioquest4life
 

audioquest4life

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Sep 24, 2020
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Dogma , does not go far in the art of learning. Raul is entertaining and knowledgeable, but not knowledgeable in all.

Best not respond for fear of getting caught in the vortex.

Another choice for 12AX7 types might be the 6681 although its price is creeping up as well. I have invested heavily in Telefunkens and I think I have enough for a few more years of total replacement. After that it might have to be new production or maybe a total change from the Io. Good for now :)
You can never leave the Io...its like Hotel California, you can check in, but never leave. That would be a bold move for sure and one that you would most certainly rationalize.
 

audioquest4life

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Sep 24, 2020
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In this new Audiogon thread you see Rauliruegas once more dismissing tube phono stages and especially Aesthetix Io. I get irritated by his categorical judgements, based on hearing the Io a few times, probably quite long ago, and not in the upgraded versions, or with the best low noise tubes. I have disagreed with him before, so maybe someone else will answer him?

Audiogon link

@OGH,

I hear ya! I often get wrapped up in the content of what is being posted by said person, and conclude most often, that it is extremely difficult to interpret or rationalize what is being stated. Also, if you fall into the trap of disagreeing and want to elucidate on a point, it may very well cause you to forget about the subject all together, and start asking other questions or pondering the experience level about said person. For example, no one will be able to discern, approve, or realize one's own "individual investigation and experiences" with equipment. I believe that is what is called an objective opinion. Very easy to get frustrated...I just deleted a whole paragraph of stuff I was going to write. Just forget about it and enjoy what you like and know.

BTW, sorry for late responses. I fractured a tooth, and well, pain, meds, more pain, meds, and now back to life.
 

audioquest4life

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I have been most rewarded over more then a decade of rolling in my Aesthetix Rhea Signature, first gain stage, with a couple of excellent quads of Amperex Harleen Bugle Boys. The smooth plate Telefunkens are wonderful, so damn linear beyond anything made today or yesterday, though they work with Aesthetix circuits , sometimes in other gear they sound a tad dry. But the BB’s never fail to add just a bit of a emphasis to the midrange warmth and smoothness, with a bit of atmospheric sparkle which, though possibly not as text book perfect, and possibly an added sonic effect, I absolutely fall in love with what they do to portray music more musically. If that makes any sense. There is no current production valves that even come close! None(.) Let your ears be the judge.

On a side note, Glenn Buckley from Aesthetix recommended for the Calypso and Rhea some long time ago I try RCA black plate 7058’s as they were very cheap and not in high demand and see what my ears hear. They are a ruggedized for transportation sub for 12AX7’s and work in Aesthetix circuits though they differ from the 12AX7 in that they designed for 12V-13.8 V filament heaters which my gear accommodated by design. Now I don’t know if the Aesthetix IO offers the same voltage accommodation, but I believe that it would be worth investigating with a call to Jim or Glenn.

What I find, in my gear over the years is that for the second and third gain stage with the Rhea they seem to offer good performance and no audible difference from say a Telefunken or whatever.
@DetroitVinylRob,

All good points. In my recent experience with factory Io tubes, it seems to me that the latest iterations of the JJ tubes that Aesthetix is putting into their equipment are tested for low noise. So far, I do not have any issues with my newly remodeled Io in partial Eclipse form with the JJ tubes. But, I am wiling to try the "tube rolling" route again, or at least, test the waters. From what you describe about the BB's, it seems like a match made in heaven. Do you have a source of where to locate the BB's and also the Telefunken's which are compatible to the Io? Thank you.

Ciao,
Audioquest4life
 

audioquest4life

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Sep 24, 2020
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In my former stock tube sets from Aesthetix, ca 2006 and 2013, I got Sovteks, no Chinese, as far as I remember.
I was never so keen on the Sovtek LPS tubes, despite many months of burn-in. That is why I changed to NOS, and eventually to Telefunken, hearing clear improvements along the way. In the 2017 set of stock tubes i got from Aesthetix, the 12ax7s were the JJECC83S. A very clear improvement in terms of noise, and also - I think - a bit in balance, musicality, compared to the Sovteks.
@OGH,

Interesting report. My last tube rolling experiments with the Io was using Sovtek low noise/matched 12AX7LPS in V1/V2 positions since it is a real quiet tube. I did not think that it took away that much harmony or musicality, but added back, due to those tubes being quiet. I must admit, the newer JJ's that Aesthetix is using seem to be perfectly balanced with the right amount of musicality verses low noise. That could change as we know through experience, that the JJ's could go nuclear and start making noise at any time. .
 

DetroitVinylRob

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Dec 29, 2016
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Perhaps the usual suspects... VTS Andy Bouwman, Brent Jesse, Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio. Perhaps there are others... to be honest, I purchased a majority of my signal tubes over two decades ago when we could still find date matched pairs, and they (needless to say) were much more affordable. My power tubes all came from the Ukraine and were USSR military graded stock. Mostly 1965 wing =C=. Only buy a few things here and there at this point.
 
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audioquest4life

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I've done some tube checking. Sadly the Telefunken 12ax7s in gain stage 1 and 2 are getting too noisy. Wonder how to replace them. I am not sure the gradually increasing noise is due to these tubes only, but my guess is, 90 percent. Maybe there are other tubes I should check? Symptoms: tubes play nicely, and for good NOS, very well indeed, although there is a bit of background noise, low at first. Gradually the noise level increases. It is fairly harmonic (in Telefunken NOS 12ax7 at least), a sort of low breeze in the background in the beginning, nothing to worry about. With more hours, over the years, things change. The mild breeze is more like a constant background noise. If things go on, the noise may become "smattering", like a lot of boiling going on, in the background.

By "too noisy", I mean that I can hear the background noise from the Io not just in front of the speakers but also in the listening position, at moderate-high volume (without music playing). In my case, unplugging the phono cable from the Io makes no difference, the noise comes from the Io itself. I compared, now, switching from the phono input (Io) to the aux input (Teac NT-505 DAC) on the Einstein preamp. The aux has no noise whatever, or very little, even listening closely in front of the speakers.
@OGH,

The tube whistling and tube rush sound sounds to me like the sound of a tube or tubes going bad. In my experience, when I had that noise in my system, I started replacing tubes with the correct spec version until I isolated the problem tube. This worked for me when troubleshooting some Siemens, RFT's, and JAN's when I owned Octave amplifiers.

I did a quick search on tube noise and found the following information:

Problems with preamp tubes are often due to microphonics and noise issues. A microphonic tube will ring and amplify any outside noises such as bumping the amp, tapping on the bottle, or even footsteps as you walk across the floor. All tubes will amplify tapping to some degree but an unusable tube will be very loud and often have feedback or squeal. Loose or dirty tube socket pins can cause all kinds of hard to diagnose intermittent problems including complete loss of signal, red plating due to loss of bias voltage, weird noises, static, crackle & pop, weakening or thinning of signal output, loss of tube heat, higher than normal plate voltage, zero voltage on the cathode of a cathode biased amp--almost anything.

From Upscale Audio:

"The other way tubes age is they become noisy. Tube noise can present itself a number of ways. Sometimes the noise may sound like popcorn popping softly in the background, or it may become a loud roar. It can happen to any tube, including brand new ones. The most common reason that I have found for tubes becoming noisy is the coating on the filament becomes compromised."

I guess any NOS tube is going to be hit or miss in terms of longevity. Probably the same can be said for today's modern manufactured tubes:)

I would also check your sockets and pins while you are investigating the cause of the noise. Perhaps, throw in your original JJ's or Sovtek's to see if the sound goes away. It will be a methodical process if you are doing V1/V2 first and the noise still remains.

This statement is intriguing to me "By "too noisy", I mean that I can hear the background noise from the Io not just in front of the speakers but also in the listening position, at moderate-high volume (without music playing). In my case, unplugging the phono cable from the Io makes no difference, the noise comes from the Io itself."

The reason this is intriguing to me is that when I received the Io back from Aesthetix in partial Eclipse upgrade form that included two new power supplies, it became quieter. It was an option, so, I upgraded the power supplies to Aesthetix's latest versions which were described to me as being more efficient, quieter, and adding more dynamics to the music. Do you know if you have the latest power supplies for your Io? I do not know when they made the change or if this is a separate upgrade, but worth evaluating while you are investigating.

Ciao,

Audioques4life
 

DetroitVinylRob

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Dec 29, 2016
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I believe it really matters who you buy your NOS valves from. The few I listed are very rigorous in their inspection. And to me, it seems crazy to own great tube gear and not consider matching some great NOS valves in key positions.

Great tubes take great electronics, and you to a whole ‘nother place.
 

audioquest4life

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Sep 24, 2020
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Perhaps the usual suspects... VTS Andy Bouwman, Brent Jesse, Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio. Perhaps there are others... to be honest, I purchased a majority of my signal tubes over two decades ago when we could still find date matched pairs, and they (needless to say) were much more affordable. My power tubes all came from the Ukraine and were USSR military graded stock. Mostly 1965 wing =C=. Only buy a few things here and there at this point.
Thank you. I will do some research and see where I end up . I love going to "nother places":)
 

oldvinyl

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Jun 4, 2017
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Specific Northwest - Seattle area
@OGH,

Hello. Yes, I am using the stock JJ tubes from Aesthetix. I made a point to photograph each JJ tube box that had the measurement data inscribed for each tube that correlated to each of the installation locations. I don't notice any low level noise from the tubes, yet. However, at extreme loudness levels I do hear some groove noise and perhaps tube noise as well. I do no at this loud level, you hear a lot more stuff in the system. But, the levels I am talking about no sane person would listen to for too long, unless you are at a concert. I am pushing on average 3-30 watts, with 30 watts being really really loud with my newly acquired high efficient speakers. I think they are 99-101 db. So far, I am really enjoying the sound and the music reproduction. At the extreme loud level, when you can't hear other people talk, that is when I start to hear some noise, but not too bad concerning the level of sound I am pushing. At low to normal levels of listening, everything is fine.

Ciao,
Audioquest4life
Noise from the Io is a combination of things. Tube noise is easily separated by turning it on and turning up the volume until you hear tube rush - without playing a record. Tube rush is a fact of life for tubes, especially when the phono stage has 70 - 80 dB gain. Use tubes screened and selected for low noise, especially in V1 and V2 position.

Noise also comes from the power supply. Shielded umbilicals reduce a lot of background noise in the Io. Cleaning oxidation from all connections, tube pins and sockets will also reduce the noise floor.

When playing a record that is all analog mastered, there will be groove noise and tape hiss. This is apparent on the lead in groove since the tape usually starts a moment after the the first few seconds of play. Digitally mastered recordings have an eerie background silence in the grooves. Groove noise is low level, usually only apparent between songs or movements.

All of this is impacted by cartridge selection. Lower output moving coil requires more gain and is more likely to have audible noise at high volume settings.

Another factor is whether the Io drives the amps directly, such as when it has volume controls or whether the Io is used with a preamp. My Io has volume controls and I use a cartridge with 0.6 mV output. Changing from a lower output cartridge to the new one greatly reduced noise since less gain was required. Stylus shape can also impact groove noise.

‘My system has very low noise. With normal listening levels with volume between noon and 3 pm setting, there is no tube noise from the listening position. You have to have your ear next to the speaker to hear it.

I also use a sub panel with 4 20 amp dedicated circuits.the sub panel has 2 ground rods for it. That also reduces noise.
 

Kcin

Well-Known Member
Mar 27, 2016
351
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Noise from the Io is a combination of things. Tube noise is easily separated by turning it on and turning up the volume until you hear tube rush - without playing a record. Tube rush is a fact of life for tubes, especially when the phono stage has 70 - 80 dB gain. Use tubes screened and selected for low noise, especially in V1 and V2 position.

Noise also comes from the power supply. Shielded umbilicals reduce a lot of background noise in the Io. Cleaning oxidation from all connections, tube pins and sockets will also reduce the noise floor.

When playing a record that is all analog mastered, there will be groove noise and tape hiss. This is apparent on the lead in groove since the tape usually starts a moment after the the first few seconds of play. Digitally mastered recordings have an eerie background silence in the grooves. Groove noise is low level, usually only apparent between songs or movements.

All of this is impacted by cartridge selection. Lower output moving coil requires more gain and is more likely to have audible noise at high volume settings.

Another factor is whether the Io drives the amps directly, such as when it has volume controls or whether the Io is used with a preamp. My Io has volume controls and I use a cartridge with 0.6 mV output. Changing from a lower output cartridge to the new one greatly reduced noise since less gain was required. Stylus shape can also impact groove noise.

‘My system has very low noise. With normal listening levels with volume between noon and 3 pm setting, there is no tube noise from the listening position. You have to have your ear next to the speaker to hear it.

I also use a sub panel with 4 20 amp dedicated circuits.the sub panel has 2 ground rods for it. That also reduces noise.
Couldn't agree more with all points. Cartridge output and stylus profile are really influential with noise. Overall gain of your system and room requirements. The best tubes possible with 80db of gain is a requirement. No room for prisoners with the Io. You have to use premium fuel if you want to play and optimize.

Although I match my own tubes for gain and noise I actually start with known good ones from some of the best suppliers as my own stash is now dwindling for positions 1&2 . I have re-stocked and should be good for some time.

On the cartridge.... with the Io you have to think about compromise in some systems. You may , for example , be better off with Atlas rather than an Atlas SL if gain and noise are an issue with your overall system. I do not have that issue , however, I know that some users might.
 

OGH

Member
Oct 9, 2020
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Tube rolling is fun - or at least, reducing the noise and increasing the musicality of the Io is an important part of the user experience. So today, we have dragged to Io out from the shelf, onto a chair in front of the rack, so I can remove the cover and testing 12ax7s in the v1-v2 (first gain stage) section. Audioquest4life photographed his tubes, a very good idea. Following the tube position advice from Aesthetix.
Although the JJ tubes from Aesthetix that I got in 2017 for the Io gain stages were very low noise, there have been problems with two of them, one in the V5 position, and now one (I think) in v1 or 2. The first caused lack of volume in one channel. The new failure, today, caused strong hum in once channel. I first heard a smatter or pop noise, turning the Io on with the JJ tubes (instead of my noisy Telefunkens) in v1-2, but I did not see exactly which tube it came from. I suspected an Io component error, but luckily, this was not the case, changing back to the Tele, the hum was gone. I have some more NOS to experiment with, and also some Sovtek LPS (and LP), to help reduce noise (and get the best musicality), so the Io will remain "exposed" in front of the rack, for a while. I measure all the tubes on the Beck RM-1, but a tube may measure OK there and yet create trouble in the Io. On paper, the demand on the tube in the first gain stage may not look so special (?) but my feeling is, this is a very hard position for a tube, it has to be ultra low noise, to make it. Especially if we want musicality too.
 

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