Aesthetix has always intrigued and perplexed me, in pretty much equal measure. By many reports, Jim White & Co. make some of the most sophisticated tube gear on the planet, and the heroic lengths they've gone to in bringing the tone out of whatever turntable you feed them is the stuff of audiophile legend. That's the good part. The challenging bit has to do with face plates that are just this side of gnomic. Chevrons, triangle buttons, and unlabeled knobs and dials -- it's even worse than what Ayre is up to. I'm kidding. The look and feel of kit from Aesthetix has always captured my imagination, and I've wanted some to try out for years. Being frank, I've had my eye on the Atlas amp, now available as monoblocks, because of that insanely clever and wildly obvious feature -- that second set of inputs that actively roll off the incoming signal so you can use your outboard processor and/or subwoofer systems. Genius -- and a feature I wish more amp makers would clue in to. Full range loudspeakers are generally way more costly than a great pair of monitors with a pair of world-class subs -- the problem has always been integration. With the Atlas, this is pretty simple -- the subs will get to do what they do best, and your mains can focus on their other areas of expertise. All you need is a preamp with dual outputs and Bob's your Uncle.
Shown here at RMAF, importer Musical Surroundings brought together a suite of sweets for us.
- Focal Maestro Utopia loudspeakers ($50,000/pair)
- AMG Viella 12 with wood trim skirt and 12j2 tonearm ($16,500)
- Benz-Micro LP-S phono cartridge ($5,000)
- Aesthetix Io Eclipse phono preamplifier ($15,500 — volume control adds $3,000)
- Aesthetix Callisto Eclipse preamplifier ($17,000 — remote adds $2,500)
- Aesthetix Romulus DAC/CD player ($7,000 — volume control adds $1,000)
- Aesthetix Atlas Signature monoblock power amplifiers ($16,000/pair)
The middle-of-the-range Focals are enormous, massive, monolithic, and when the audio was run from the Romulus, the sound was fantastic, dynamic, detailed and superbly Hi-Fi. This was one of many, many rooms I wanted more time in. Popular place, too — this room was always packed.