“Audio design is part science, part art. No great audio product has one without the other.” This quote is from Jim White, engineer, music lover and the creative force behind Aesthetix, an awe-inspiring brand of high-end audio electronics that has been bringing musical enjoyment to the audiophile community since 1993.
Jim became obsessed with music and audio systems from a very young age. He remembers going to concerts from the age of 10 and subscribing to Stereophile magazine at age 13, eagerly reading every edition. These early signs manifested into a life that would become consumed with music, vinyl playback and the pursuit of realism in audio reproduction. After studying physics, mathematics and electrical engineering, Jim began honing his skills in 1990 at Theta Digital. His contributions to the Theta Casablanca and Dreadnaught were his first examples of outstanding design.
Analog remained Jim’s true hi-fi passion and in 1993, he began building a massive tube phono stage in his garage. Audiophile friends who heard the first homemade unit urged him to build more and thus Aesthetix was born. Aesthetix has grown to distribute a full range of hi-fi tube products in 27 countries. Every unit is still meticulously hand assembled by Jim White and the talented Aesthetix factory technicians in Moorpark, California.
The result of groundbreaking design and a commitment to build quality, the Aesthetix Jupiter Series Io phono stage and the Callisto line stage soon became industry benchmarks, garnering Golden Ear and Editor’s Choice awards. The Saturn Series followed, offering a full range of products from source to amplification and is now similarly honored with global accolades and awards.
The secret to the long term success of Aesthetix is simply the superb sound quality. Over all those years, we have seen new brands come and go, often hyped by the audio media and fueled by massive marketing budgets. However the ultimate judge, the ultimate measure that sustains a brand for many years is the musical enjoyment that it brings to listeners, the joy of ownership that compels people to keep a component in their system and not look to replace it.
This is the essence of Aesthetix. As Jim said….part science, part art. The science part – the advanced circuitry, the quality of components and build, the reliability, the materials and topology, the engineering and design. This mixes with the art part – the human ear, inspiration, the ‘thinking outside the box’ ideas and voicing that has come from the heart of an experienced, passionate music lover. Mix the two together and you have a dose of that elusive ‘magic’ that we all crave in our music system.
Aesthetix Pandora Mk2
Saturn Series Tube DAC
Aesthetix Romulus Mk2
Saturn Series Tube CD Player DAC
Saturn Series Line-Stage Preamplifer
Saturn Series Full Function Preamplifer with Phono Stage
Saturn Series Phono Preamplifier
150W Stereo Integrated Amplifier
Hybrid Stereo Power Amplifier
Aesthetix Atlas Stereo
Saturn Series 200W Stereo Power Amplifier
Aesthetix Atlas Mono
Saturn Series 300W Mono Power Amplifier (Each)
Aesthetix Callisto Eclipse
Jupiter Series Eclipse Reference Two Box Preamplifier
Aesthetix IO Eclipse
Jupiter Series Eclipse Reference Two Box Phono Preamplifier
Aesthetix Second Eclipse Power Supply
Optional Jupiter Series Tube Power Supply
Statement Single Box Preamplifier
Interview with Jim White
Principles of Design
No Aesthetix product uses feedback, a method traditionally used to compensate for poor design or other anomalies. Aesthetix circuits are designed to measure well without the use of feedback, a difficult endeavor but the results of which are clearly audible.
Differential amplifier circuits are used liberally, despite the associated higher cost, because of their inherent advantages of common-mode rejection and greatly reduced ground currents. Special attention is given to the related passive components (resistors, capacitors, etc.) of the differential amplifiers, as these can greatly affect sound quality and stability.
Aesthetix designs, while primarily vacuum-tube, are technology agnostic. There is no “best” amplifying device; vacuum tubes, bipolar transistors and FETs all have their place and each can achieve stunning results if properly designed and manufactured. That being said, Jim White believes that vacuum-tubes seem to be the best suited for voltage amplification of audio signals, delivering the most neutral, grain-free, full-bodied sound…if properly implemented. Aesthetix uses transistors and other technologies where appropriate; frequently in power supply regulators and power amplifier output stages.
Aesthetix aims to create universal products that can perform well anywhere in the world, under virtually any operating condition and in any audiophile system. They accomplish this by manufacturing products that are extremely reliable, with great care given to structural design and integrity and that integrate design features like robust power supplies.
Robust Power Supplies
Thorough power supply design is crucial, and all Aesthetix products have extensive power supplies. Nearly all include choke (inductor) input power supplies which are rarely used in audio due to their precision manufacturing requirements, cost and weight. However, nothing can replace a choke and the benefits they provide, which include improved regulation, a much easier load for the transformer thus reduced current spikes and greater immunity to radio-frequency interference. All Aesthetix products employ discrete regulation for audio circuits and utilise the highest quality electrolytic and film capacitors. Every power supply voltage in an Aesthetix products is carefully regulated to ensure consistent sound quality day-to-day, regardless of ac power conditions.
Circuit Board Design
Circuit board layout and design is also critically important to achieve Aesthetix’s design goals. For example, all Aesthetix preamps and power amps use separate left and right channel audio circuit boards, a technique which prevents cross talk and increases dimensionality and sound staging. Even seemingly minor changes in circuit board layout and trace routing can have a major effect on sound quality and performance. Multiple iterations of circuit boards are common in the design process, each one successively better than the previous.
Damped, Rigid Chassis Design
Structural design is given a lot of attention. Constrained-layer damping, transformer isolation, and other techniques are employed to lower mechanical noise to a minimum. This is part and parcel with an attractive cosmetic design, with form following function to achieve user friendliness and the ability to meld elegantly into any home.