Aesthetix Janus preamplifier and Atlas power amplifier

Tubed power amplifiers,
Tubed preamplifiers
Aesthetix Atlas,
Aesthetix Janus

Take a look at the Aesthetix range and the natural partner for the Janus takes the imposing shape of the Atlas stereo amplifier. Large, seriously heavy (this thing has impacted my lower back on at least two separate occasions) and seriously capable, the Atlas is a tube driven hybrid design that will dump 200 Watts into an 8 Ohm load and 400 Watts in 4 Ohms. Despite employing the same basic chassis architecture as the Janus – albeit in outsized form – there’s no way an amplifier with this sort of muscle comes cheap and there’s no way I’d describe an £8.1K price tag in those terms: except that compared to most of the opposition it actually starts to look pretty reasonable. With the majority of stereo chassis amplifiers approaching this sort of output power fetching up well into five-figures, the Atlas really does look underpriced – and that’s before you’ve listened to it. Throw in balanced or single-ended connection, a massive power supply with two transformers and three chokes – one of each dedicated to the HT rail – and operational niceties like a front-panel mute and you’ve got a product that’s not just impressively capable, it’s actually easy to live with – just so long as you don’t need to move it about too often! Factor in the option to upgrade either unit to Signature status at a later date and you’ve got a pairing that’s not just versatile, but one that will embrace your system as it grows – and can grow with your ambitions too.

Now, remember what I said about the Rhea and Calypso used together? The same is true of the Janus and Atlas; things just keep getting better. Used alone, the Atlas is big, enthusiastic and dynamic, bringing an unstoppable sense of momentum to proceedings, the feeling that your speakers are being kindly coerced to perform within an inch of their lives. With this much power on tap, you certainly could take things too far, but I doubt your ears (or your nerve) would let you. The Atlas simply sounds so boundlessly powerful that the need to prove the point (or stretch the envelope) never really seems to occur. Such obvious power serves as its own warning – a bit like a live wire quivering with voltage in a sci-fi movie. In contrast, the Janus is a model of restraint, big on the traditional tube virtues of colour, shape and musical flow. It is a model of refined grace and expressively quick but unexaggerated dynamics. But combine the two and they build on each other’s virtues – the Atlas gains a measure of polish and poise, the Janus an injection of sheer presence and immediacy. Together the combination has the sort of fluid, feline grace and explosive power that makes big cats so fascinating. Ask the Aesthetix amps to jump and the question really is, “How high?” – it’s just that it’s your speakers that will be asking. Gone is any lack of control, replaced by complete security and the sort of authority that escapes most audio systems. As attractive as the virtues of these two Aesthetix pieces are in isolation, put them together and suddenly it really is time to play…

If you want to know just what these amps are capable of then start by hooking them up to a speaker with decent bandwidth and a desire to be dominated. That means all those speakers that are hard to drive, have weird impedance curves or simply fail to spark into life, no matter what you do to them under normal circumstances. As good as the results you might have heard from those products in the past, prepare to be surprised: speakers that so often fail to really integrate, to drive the room or respond to dynamic demands will suddenly come over all obedient and enthusiastic. Of course, it’s not the speakers that have changed, it’s just one symptom of the degree of control that these Aesthetix amps can exert and just how impervious to back EMF the Atlas output stage is. But it’s not just about control; there are plenty of amps that exert an iron grip – and crush the life out of music in the process. What makes the Janus and Atlas so special is the fact that they do control AND life, definition AND dynamics, authority AND entertainment.

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