Asthetix IO users group

oldvinyl

Well-Known Member
Jun 4, 2017
49
37
85
Specific Northwest - Seattle area
I have had an Io for over 21 years. Started with the basic Io with volume controls and one power supply. Added the second power supply a couple years later. Have done all the upgrades along the way – Signature and now Eclipse. A second balanced output was also added to help with bi-amping my speakers. Also added a line level input that is selected by switches on the front panel. After trying the line level input, I favored connecting directly to my amps when listening to CD since the CD player can adjust volume without compromising the resolution.

The Io has been very reliable. Aside from the occasional tube failure, I once had a voltage regulator fail. That was easily fixed by Aesthetix. Recent maintenance by Aesthetix included replacing all the power supply capacitors at my request due to their age. The new power supply capacitors improved the solidity of the image and result in a quieter background. The depth of the soundstage is more consolidated (instruments sounded more palpable and realistic). Interestingly, the reflected ambient sounds from the recording venue were clearer - adding to a more 3d effect.

Once or twice a year I take the phono stage apart to clean out the dust and clean all the connectors, tube pins, tube sockets, IEC connectors and the power cable. I use Flitz on the IEC connectors, power cable and pins of the larger octal tubes. I clean the tube pins and sockets with Kontak and pipe cleaners or Q-tips. This really lowers the noise floor and makes the sound more transparent. It is a lot of work. I am always amazed at how much oxidation there is on the various parts.

For modifications, I replaced the EL34s in the power supplies with KT-66s. Also added some plastic spacers and longer screws for the top of the power supply to clear the taller KT-66 tubes. KT-66s improve bass heft, soundstaging and overall dynamics. The umbilicals from power supplies to the phono stage were swapped with replacements made by Audience. Audience found a higher-grade wire, shielded each individual wire and added shielding around the entire bundle. The new umbilicals reduced the noise floor and removed some the of the low level hiss or white noise.

In my original location with the Io, I used 220V pancake fans I found at Home Depot and just used them with 110V input. This reduced the fan speed and was ideal to keep the power supplies cool. In the new location there is no need for the fans since we live in a cooler climate and have air-conditioning.

Overall tube preferences: Telefunken CCa for the 6822, RCA red base 5692 for the 6SN7, Telefunken or RCA black plate 12AX7. The less microphonic the tubes are, the better the overall sound is. I have a set of 7058 for the power supplies, but have not tried them yet. 7058s are supposed to be quieter than 12AX7.

The other factors that improved the Io – an HRS SXR stand with M3 base for the phono stage and R3 base for the power supplies. Also replaced the AC power cord with Nordost Odin. Some of the tubes have vibration dampers from Vintage Tube Services.

Jim and Glenn at Aesthetix have been great over the years. They have been very responsive when questions came up and have supported the gear – even when it is over 20 years old. Early on, some of the upgrades (Roederstein resistors) were done at no charge – other than shipping.

Overall, I am really happy with the Io. It has been upgradeable and very reliable. The sound is very transparent and musical. It is one of those components that let me enjoy the music.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
8,364
2,750
730
Beverly Hills, CA
I have Io Eclipse with two power supplies and additional line inputs.

. . . For best results, the two power supply boxes must be away from the main box as far as possible. . . .

How do you accomplish this?

Why is this necessary for "best results"?

Have you ordered aftermarket umbilical cables at longer than standard lengths?

Thank you!
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
8,364
2,750
730
Beverly Hills, CA
Hello oldvinyl,

How did you choose the Audience replacement umbilical cables?

I think Purist Audio Designs also makes upgraded umbilical cables. Are you familiar with those as well by any chance?

Thank you!
 

microstrip

VIP/Donor
May 30, 2010
17,061
1,795
720
Portugal
How do you accomplish this?

Why is this necessary for "best results"?

Have you ordered aftermarket umbilical cables at longer than standard lengths?

Thank you!

Although my answer is not related to your particular case, the length of an umbilical case is always a compromise. Moving the hum and noise inducing power supply elements as far as possible from the amplification section is a good thing, but the umbilical cables can work like an antena, picking noise. Also depending on the way they are built and the equipment some particular lengths should be avoided. IMHO you should ask the manufacturer before changing it.
 

oldvinyl

Well-Known Member
Jun 4, 2017
49
37
85
Specific Northwest - Seattle area
Ron,

How did you choose the Audience replacement umbilical cables?
- I was familiar with their products since I have their aR12 power conditioner. I had talked with John at Audience on several occasions and found him very helpful. At that time, I was interested in their CD player customization, but they discontinued that service. I asked about custom cables and they were perfectly willing to make them. We discussed ways to get better quality wire and better shielding - they had solutions for both. They also had the equipment for terminating the wires and assembling the connectors. Their cables are quite flexible.

I think Purist Audio Designs also makes upgraded umbilical cables. Are you familiar with those as well by any chance?
- if these are the ones that Albert Porter was selling, then yes. I tried a set. They did basically the same thing the Audience cables do; lower the noise. The problem I had with them was that they were too stiff and lifted the phono stage up off the shelf. They were also quite pricey (list price) for the budget I had at that time.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
8,364
2,750
730
Beverly Hills, CA
Thank you very much, oldvinyl!
 

Lagonda

VIP/Donor
Feb 4, 2014
1,718
1,637
590
Denmark
Aesthetix have probably also improved their cabling in the 21 years you had your phono, a new Io might have better cabling stock. Just speculating of course :)
 

mariusc

Well-Known Member
Feb 23, 2014
4
4
208
Johannesburg
How do you accomplish this?

Why is this necessary for "best results"?

Have you ordered aftermarket umbilical cables at longer than standard lengths?

Ron,

I have a massive Sound Structures custom made equipment rack (the thing weighs a ton), with the two Io power supplies positioned at the bottom left and right extremes, and the main box right in the middle of the top shelf. I had to do it to accommodate the many dCS boxes as well. The umbilical cables are close to 9 ft in length and was custom made.
I experimented a lot with positioning and found that placing the power supplies away from the main box resulted in less noise and a cleaner overall sound. As pointed out previously, care should be taken not to induce RF through the umbilicals. It is not a problem in my setup. I only run balanced interconnects, and even the Furutech Silver Arrows phono cable is fully balanced. The power chords are all Furutech Power Nanoflux NCF50. So it might be that a lot of small things contribute to the excellent net effect.
 

OGH

Member
Oct 9, 2020
48
18
8
68
Dear fellow Io users

I bought an Io with volume and single power back in 2004, here in Norway, and upgraded to partial Eclipse w dual power in 2012. The upgrade sounded strange at first, but Glenn wrote: ‘be patient’, and after 300 or so hours, all was fine - I’ve never looked back. In 2016 the Io broke down, I had to ship all three boxes to the factory, expensive from over here – and it stayed for almost a year for repair. It turned out that the errors were hard to find, both volume controls had to be replaced. Aesthetix charged very low for the hours they used on it. Since then, all has been well. However, I turn it off when not in use, even though it takes an hour or three to sound its best. Glenn (and Jim) has been great help all the way.

In my system, the Io sounds better into the Einstein The tube mk2 preamp, rather than direct to the Atma-sphere MA1 amps – more fleshed out, muscular sound, while direct to the amps sounded a bit thin or “ghostly”. I know that the preamp has to be very good indeed to achieve this effect (if not, much of the info from the Io is lost). It may well be that a Callisto (or Atma MP-1) would be even better, I have never heard that combo, and my rack is already over-full (Einstein is just 1 box). I prefer Telefunken NOS in the first (and most important) gain stage, more musical, even though the JJ tubes I got from Aesthetix a few years ago have less noise. A matter of taste I guess. Finding ultra low noise Telefunken 12ax7 is very hard these days.

All in all, I love the Io, and cannot imagine parting with it. System: Lyra Atlas on Sme V on Hanss T30 player - > Io -> Einstein preamp - > Atma MA-1 -> Audiokinesis Dream maker speakers. A great match, to my ears.

Question: I use a single ended tonearm cable into the Io (a Kimber KCAG that I soldered to the DIN plug going into the base of the SME V arm). I borrowed a Hovland cable (also SE) for a while, maybe a bit better, but not much. Have anyone experienced substantial improvement by using a balanced tonearm cable? (If I remember right, Glenn wrote that its not a big deal.)

I also wonder if it is possible to use the Atlas SL version (0.25 mV), which is said to be even better than my standard Atlas (0.56 mV). I suppose theoretically the answer is “yes”, but in the real world, “probably no”. Unless you have a time machine and can go back to the Telefunken factory in Ulm to pick the absolute best ultra-low-noise tubes (I’ve actually dreamed about that!). I think the higher noise would outweigh the cartridge performance benefits. But I don’t know. What I do know, is that using a step-up is not a good idea, at least the ones I’ve tried (the Io by itself sounds purer). Your experience is welcome.

Thanks for the initiative to create this forum, Audioquest4life.
 

Lagonda

VIP/Donor
Feb 4, 2014
1,718
1,637
590
Denmark
Dear fellow Io users

I bought an Io with volume and single power back in 2004, here in Norway, and upgraded to partial Eclipse w dual power in 2012. The upgrade sounded strange at first, but Glenn wrote: ‘be patient’, and after 300 or so hours, all was fine - I’ve never looked back. In 2016 the Io broke down, I had to ship all three boxes to the factory, expensive from over here – and it stayed for almost a year for repair. It turned out that the errors were hard to find, both volume controls had to be replaced. Aesthetix charged very low for the hours they used on it. Since then, all has been well. However, I turn it off when not in use, even though it takes an hour or three to sound its best. Glenn (and Jim) has been great help all the way.

In my system, the Io sounds better into the Einstein The tube mk2 preamp, rather than direct to the Atma-sphere MA1 amps – more fleshed out, muscular sound, while direct to the amps sounded a bit thin or “ghostly”. I know that the preamp has to be very good indeed to achieve this effect (if not, much of the info from the Io is lost). It may well be that a Callisto (or Atma MP-1) would be even better, I have never heard that combo, and my rack is already over-full (Einstein is just 1 box). I prefer Telefunken NOS in the first (and most important) gain stage, more musical, even though the JJ tubes I got from Aesthetix a few years ago have less noise. A matter of taste I guess. Finding ultra low noise Telefunken 12ax7 is very hard these days.

All in all, I love the Io, and cannot imagine parting with it. System: Lyra Atlas on Sme V on Hanss T30 player - > Io -> Einstein preamp - > Atma MA-1 -> Audiokinesis Dream maker speakers. A great match, to my ears.

Question: I use a single ended tonearm cable into the Io (a Kimber KCAG that I soldered to the DIN plug going into the base of the SME V arm). I borrowed a Hovland cable (also SE) for a while, maybe a bit better, but not much. Have anyone experienced substantial improvement by using a balanced tonearm cable? (If I remember right, Glenn wrote that its not a big deal.)

I also wonder if it is possible to use the Atlas SL version (0.25 mV), which is said to be even better than my standard Atlas (0.56 mV). I suppose theoretically the answer is “yes”, but in the real world, “probably no”. Unless you have a time machine and can go back to the Telefunken factory in Ulm to pick the absolute best ultra-low-noise tubes (I’ve actually dreamed about that!). I think the higher noise would outweigh the cartridge performance benefits. But I don’t know. What I do know, is that using a step-up is not a good idea, at least the ones I’ve tried (the Io by itself sounds purer). Your experience is welcome.

Thanks for the initiative to create this forum, Audioquest4life.
Wow you waited a whole year for the repair and return of your Io to Norway :eek: I was told the 7 month i waited was because of long term employe sickness, maybe we are just not high on the priority list in Europe when it comes to repairs and upgrades. My Io broke a second time 3 weeks after having been on a 7 month all expenses paid vacation to the US, it was still under warrant from the upgrade i had just commissioned. The distributor was probably not gonna have a penny left from the profits on the 5k upgrade after shipping to and back from the US of the pallet with 70kg of Io, and who knows how long it was going to take this time ?:rolleyes: He opted to have it repaired in Sweden, and his local guy was an old friend of mine Blørn Haglund , after a couple of sessions with Aesthetix in the US and a service department unwilling to forward schematics, he ended up backwards engineering the phono, and drawing up his own schematics. He located the problems in one of the power supplies and it has run smoothly ever since. The importer did everything he could to fix the problem in a timely manner and i was treated very well. I hope i never need the American service department again :oops:
 
  • Like
Reactions: the sound of Tao

OGH

Member
Oct 9, 2020
48
18
8
68
Hi Lagonda - a sad story, I agree - nice to know you got it fixed in Sweden. Like you I don't like the thought of shipping it to the US again in case it needs a new repair. Actually there was a service shop here in Norway (Audiomix / Hans Kise) willing to do the repair, but he didn't get the schematics, so he gave up. Backwards engineering - now runs smoothly - not bad! This secrecy about schematics is a real minus, esp for overseas customers, on the other hand, I've heard that its not only Aesthetix, but many others also. Yet when my Atma-sphere MA1s broke down, Kise could fix it, no problem, so I think some companies are more helpful than others.
 

Ron Resnick

Site Co-Owner, Administrator
Jan 25, 2015
8,364
2,750
730
Beverly Hills, CA
Dear fellow Io users

I bought an Io with volume and single power back in 2004, here in Norway, and upgraded to partial Eclipse w dual power in 2012. The upgrade sounded strange at first, but Glenn wrote: ‘be patient’, and after 300 or so hours, all was fine - I’ve never looked back. In 2016 the Io broke down, I had to ship all three boxes to the factory, expensive from over here – and it stayed for almost a year for repair. It turned out that the errors were hard to find, both volume controls had to be replaced. Aesthetix charged very low for the hours they used on it. Since then, all has been well. However, I turn it off when not in use, even though it takes an hour or three to sound its best. Glenn (and Jim) has been great help all the way.

In my system, the Io sounds better into the Einstein The tube mk2 preamp, rather than direct to the Atma-sphere MA1 amps – more fleshed out, muscular sound, while direct to the amps sounded a bit thin or “ghostly”. I know that the preamp has to be very good indeed to achieve this effect (if not, much of the info from the Io is lost). It may well be that a Callisto (or Atma MP-1) would be even better, I have never heard that combo, and my rack is already over-full (Einstein is just 1 box). I prefer Telefunken NOS in the first (and most important) gain stage, more musical, even though the JJ tubes I got from Aesthetix a few years ago have less noise. A matter of taste I guess. Finding ultra low noise Telefunken 12ax7 is very hard these days.

All in all, I love the Io, and cannot imagine parting with it. System: Lyra Atlas on Sme V on Hanss T30 player - > Io -> Einstein preamp - > Atma MA-1 -> Audiokinesis Dream maker speakers. A great match, to my ears.

Question: I use a single ended tonearm cable into the Io (a Kimber KCAG that I soldered to the DIN plug going into the base of the SME V arm). I borrowed a Hovland cable (also SE) for a while, maybe a bit better, but not much. Have anyone experienced substantial improvement by using a balanced tonearm cable? (If I remember right, Glenn wrote that its not a big deal.)

I also wonder if it is possible to use the Atlas SL version (0.25 mV), which is said to be even better than my standard Atlas (0.56 mV). I suppose theoretically the answer is “yes”, but in the real world, “probably no”. Unless you have a time machine and can go back to the Telefunken factory in Ulm to pick the absolute best ultra-low-noise tubes (I’ve actually dreamed about that!). I think the higher noise would outweigh the cartridge performance benefits. But I don’t know. What I do know, is that using a step-up is not a good idea, at least the ones I’ve tried (the Io by itself sounds purer). Your experience is welcome.

Thanks for the initiative to create this forum, Audioquest4life.


Hello OGH,

Thank you for this interesting history with your Io! Asking for 80dB of gain from three boxes with a couple of dozen tubes is phono madness, but I just love the Io!

I am glad Glenn and Jim got everything fixed ultimately, but it surely is no fun to send those three boxes halfway across the planet. I take significant psychological comfort in knowing that I can drive the Io to Aesthetix, and that I can drive the Siegfried IIs to VTL, in about an hour if anything goes wrong.

I share your concern that it is asking a lot of the Io to be happy with a cartridge output as low as .25mV. But Jim says we are both wrong.

I'll find out for sure for myself when I use with a new Io Eclipse a ZYX UNIverse Premium with an output of .24mV later this decade.

Jim does not believe in using a step-up transformer with the Io, and his opinion is authoritative enough for me, so I have never explored the SUT option.
 
Last edited:

Kcin

Well-Known Member
Mar 27, 2016
294
183
130
Canada
I have the Eclipsed version with volume controls and 2 supplies. I only once ever had a real problem and the doing was my own with tube rolling. I too use Telefunkens almost everywhere. I do not use a line stage and use the Io direct. I have used balanced phono cables and the result is really not that significant IMO .

On cartridges the Io does indeed handle low output. Ordinarily, I am no fan step up transformers. Transformers will introduce tradeoffs. YMMV.

I use a Lyra Etna SL and a Jade Platinum Koetsu. It all works. Having said all that .. there is something about the output of my Goldfinger Statement and Atlas that make for incredible dynamic contrasts. There is something to be said for higher output.

Noise from tubes is never an issue here unless a tube goes south. My system is extremely quiet. I do spend many many hours selecting the Telefunkens with my noise and performance tester and keep all the pins clean by tending to them 2-3 x per year.

I have been fortunate in that my Io has been incredibly reliable. The upgrade to Eclipse include new electrolytic caps so many more years of performance ahead I hope. You are correct. The first 400hrs with the Io after Eclipse was excruciating.

When I seriously listen on the weekend I turn on the Io Friday and turn it off Sunday. It sounds best after at least 24 hrs. but can sound good after an hour or two.

Have fun.
 

OGH

Member
Oct 9, 2020
48
18
8
68
Hello Ron

Thank you! Yes 80 db is madness - but a lot of fun! I have the volume on the Io down to around 80 percent. Although I don't really need the volume controls now, using a preamp, it is great to be able to fine-tune the mix of the Io volume with the Einstein preamp volume to get it "just right".

You sure have an advantage in terms of geography. My wife is American, and we sometimes consider living in the US, if things become better, over there. Be sure to vote (this is very off-topic, I know). For me, US progressive music has been vital. I just bought the first Vanilla Fudge album, 2 x LP 45 rpm on Mofi. It sounds great, and with the Io, you can really hear the difference - I have an US early re, and a Japanese version. It is maybe not my music of choice now, but it brings back the days back in 67, when this - for me, 15 years old - was glorious revolutionary music. So the Io brings forth a lot of joys, making me willing to pay for repairs and even shipments around the globe.

SUT - I have a friend who says he benefits a lot, so maybe, some others can chime in. But I think the best formula is a fairly robust cart, 0.5 or so mV output, direct to the Io.

It will be interesting to hear about your experience with the ZYX. Maybe some others have experiences with low output carts.

Oystein
 

Lagonda

VIP/Donor
Feb 4, 2014
1,718
1,637
590
Denmark
Hi Lagonda - a sad story, I agree - nice to know you got it fixed in Sweden. Like you I don't like the thought of shipping it to the US again in case it needs a new repair. Actually there was a service shop here in Norway (Audiomix / Hans Kise) willing to do the repair, but he didn't get the schematics, so he gave up. Backwards engineering - now runs smoothly - not bad! This secrecy about schematics is a real minus, esp for overseas customers, on the other hand, I've heard that its not only Aesthetix, but many others also. Yet when my Atma-sphere MA1s broke down, Kise could fix it, no problem, so I think some companies are more helpful than others.
If you have problems, let me know, i’ll give you Björns number, he is a retired nuclear measurement equipment guy who also does repair work for a lot of the Swedish importers, he’s lives close to Stockholm.
 

OGH

Member
Oct 9, 2020
48
18
8
68
One more thing. I have been recording from LPs since the early 70s, first on a Revox A-70, later on Sony DAT machines, then a Korg MR-1, and over the last five years, a Tascam DA-3000. Using the best format: DSD 5,6 mhz. I just got a Teac NT-505 delivered, having waited a long time, in these corona times. It plays back my Tascam recordings excellently. This means, I have ca 400 albums on my home network hard disks, and can play them back - *very* close to the original LP sound. With no wear and tear to the cartridge, the Io, the tubes , etc. Recording LPs is a bit of work, I know, but I find, it is well worth it. I recently bought the Vinyl Studio software, which is a help for marking the tracks (the Tascam just records the LP sides). I have ca 1800 LPs, and will keep recording. The Teac does streaming and digital very nicely, with full MQA, etc - but to my ears, the LP recordings, through the Io, are better. So if you have a good analog rig, this is something to consider. Maybe in twenty years digital will sound better. But its not there, yet.
 

OGH

Member
Oct 9, 2020
48
18
8
68
Kcin -

thank you for relevant information. If you have zero problems with background tube noise, you must be lucky. All the Telefunkens I've tried have a bit of noise / cooking in the background (more than the JJ tubes I got from Aesthetix some years ago), but since they are more musical, I live with it.
I don't hear the noise in the music, but I hear it between tracks, or turning the volume high, without playing music. And I suspect that it does subtract from the musical experience. But like I said, one day we'll wake up in Ulm, back in 62 or so, selecting the best tubes :) Any idea, how to get these perfect Telefunkens? Interesting that you get the Etna SL to work fine. Koetsu - I have often wondered - but have never tried it.

400 hours to break in the Eclipse version - you are right - my experience also. Balanced cable no big deal - ok.

"Turn off on Sunday" - exactly - that is why I mentioned the digital recording thing. To avoid this anxiety. For several years, I followed my ears, leaving the Io on all the time. Since it sounded better, fully warmed up. Not a good idea. It broke down, and I had to ship halfway around the globe for repair. Diagnosis? Glenn wrote "wear and tear" on the volume controls. But heat x time was probably a big part of it. Leaving it on, most of the time. I read debate that turning this type of component on and off might be worse, than just leaving it on. Not so, in this case. I now have a two computer fans, running slowly, to cool the Io down.
 

Kcin

Well-Known Member
Mar 27, 2016
294
183
130
Canada
Hi there OGH,

There is no luck involved with finding quiet tubes;). I have about 100 or more Telefunkens. I work very hard to find the best testing quietest ones possible. If you do not have these tubes available or the equipment then a good service like Vintage Tube Services may prove beneficial as the price of admission for the Io.

The tubes actually do last 2-3 years the way I use them and even then, I move some to less critical positions and move in new ones to the front positions. These front end tubes will be the most critical.

Io2.JPG
 
  • Like
Reactions: Lagonda

OGH

Member
Oct 9, 2020
48
18
8
68
Hi Kcin - I sure respect your work! I also use a tube tester, Beck RM-1. It is useful in some respects, but it does not really tell me how quiet the 12ax7s are. I have to try them in the first Io gain stage itself, to find out. I also have a small Jade OTL headphone amp, with one 6as7g and one 12ax7, very easy to swap tubes, and easy to hear musical difference, but again - not the level of background noise. I think this is due to the special context of the Io's first gain stage (very demanding on the tube). Like you, I've found that Tele 12ax7s that become a bit too noisy there, may still perform OK in the later gain stages. Question: is there some standard measure indicating the level of background noise, for example, when looking for tubes e g on ebay? "Tested strong" and similar isn't enough, in my experience.
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. A place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss existing and new audio products, music servers, music streamers and computer audio, digital to audio convertors (DACS), turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel to reel, speakers, headphones, tube amplifiers and solid state amplification. Founded in 2010 What's Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing