Aesthetix launches superlative ‘Signature’ edition of the acclaimed Atlas hybrid power amplifier
- Hi-Fi+ Staff
- Mar 2014
In Greek mythology, Atlas was the Titan who supported the heavens. If you name something after him, it had better be rousing. Fortunately the Atlas amplifier has proved worthy of its name, attracting an impressive array of accolades. So how do you better that? With a crowning ‘Signature’ version…
California-based Aesthetix’ Atlas amplifier features an innovative hybrid design incorporating a bipolar output stage, bipolar driver stage and vacuum tube input gain stage. It still stands alone as the only hybrid amplifier with zero feedback, essential for maintaining harmonic integrity, air, space and coherence.
In the six years since the launch of the original Atlas, this big-hitter has earned an enviable reputation, described by reviewers at What Hi-Fi? Sound & Vision as “one of the finest pre/power amps that money can buy”, and by those at Stereophile as “one of the really great amplifiers”.
The Atlas’ circuit layout and elaborate power supply design are superlative. One 6SN7 tube per channel is used to provide all of the voltage gain for the entire amplifier. Its two transformers and three chokes are housed under a stainless steel cover to prevent magnetic fields from interfering with the audio circuitry. A 6dB/octave high-pass crossover can be set to 16 different values between 40 and 200Hz – an unusual feature which is ideal for speakers featuring powered woofers (such as Vandersteen) or for audio and home cinema systems using outboard powered sub-woofers. Alternatively, a direct input on the rear panel by-passes all of the switches and crossovers for the purest performance when used in traditional full-bandwidth mode.
The results are, quite literally, awesome. To say that the Atlas is capable of driving virtually any high quality speaker would be an understatement. Its boundless muscle delivers a momentum that feels unstoppable. But this isn’t a mindless power: the Atlas is commanding and authoritative. Its energy masterfully pushes speakers to perform at their peak. Even wayward speakers seem to be brought to bear: those that are hard to drive, fail to fully integrate or rise to dynamic demands, or simply lack the ‘oomph’ to drive the room, will find a new motivation and enthusiasm thanks to the degree of control exerted by the Atlas. Again, however, this is not an uncompromising control. While some amps overdo control at the expense of creative freedom, the Atlas walks that fine line between control and creativity, precision and dynamics, command and freedom.
The new Atlas Stereo Signature
The Atlas Stereo Signature uses the same circuits as the standard Atlas Stereo, but here the circuits are crafted using only the highest quality parts available. While the standard Atlas uses very high quality Rel-Caps as inter-stage coupling capacitors, the Signature upgrades these to Peter Moncrief’s StealthCaps, costing more than 10 times as much and revolutionising the sound beyond expectations. In addition, high current output stage power supply capacitance is doubled, increasing bass drive and solidity. Binding-post wiring is upgraded to an audiophile 14 AWG which further increases resolution. A further critical refinement is the replacement of all emitter resistors with a specialised metal foil low-inductance type.
The first difference you notice is the velvety black background silence. From there, an incredible transparency emerges, revealing a new richness of subtle musical information and spatial imaging. The next thing to hit you will be the clarity of focus and stunning coherence, where every part of the music comes together and all elements are articulately focused and united in every moment, with no time smear or blurring. This in turn gives a stunning dynamic impact: since all parts of every musical note are united at the same moment, they all add up to a higher transient peak, thus reproducing the recording’s dynamics much more accurately.
It should go without saying that power and quality of this magnitude do not come cheap. Nor would you expect them to. However, if you compare the Atlas’ price tag with that of amplifiers of comparable output power and quality of build, then value-for-money must surely be added to its long list of desirable features.
The full Atlas range
Three editions of the Atlas are now available: the standard Atlas Stereo, the new Atlas Stereo Signature, and the existing Atlas Mono Signature (only available in the Signature version). The mono version dedicates the entire power supply to one channel, increasing space, drive and dimensionality. All are available with either a black or silver faceplate.
For existing Aesthetix customers, the standard Atlas Stereo can be factory upgraded to the Signature version.
The Aesthetix Atlas Stereo, new Atlas Stereo Signature and Atlas Mono Signature feature:
· Zero feedback, fully differential amplifier with complementary balanced bridge design for open sound.
· One 6SN7 tube per channel provides harmonic accuracy and soundstage layering. This single gain stage provides all of the voltage gain for the entire amplifier.
· Stereo amplifier: 200 watts per channel into 8 ohms; 400 watts per channel into 4 ohms.
· Mono amplifier: 300 watts per channel into 8 ohms; 600 watts per channel into 4 ohms.
· Amplifier has a built-in high-pass crossover: 6 dB / octave, 16 settings from 40 Hz to 200 Hz in approximate 10 Hz increments.
· Single-ended and balanced inputs provide extended compatibility.
· Direct input by-passes all crossovers and switching for ultimate purity.
· Bus technology reduces power supply impedance between output devices for more instantaneous current.
· Power supply uses two transformers and three chokes. The high current section uses a dedicated transformer and choke input power supply. The vacuum tube high voltage power supply has choke input and is discretely regulated. The result is unequalled clarity and control.
· Cardas patented rhodium-plated binding post with single knob lockdown.
· All aluminum chassis construction assures durability.
· Stainless steel cover for transformers prevents magnetic fields from interacting with sensitive audio circuitry, preserving low level musical nuances.
· RS232 control and trigger for special installation requirements.
· Available in black or silver faceplate.
Atlas Stereo & Stereo Signature
Atlas Mono Signature
200wpc channel into 8Ω, 400wpc into 4Ω
300wpc channel into 8Ω, 550wpc into 4Ω
60mV (1 watt),
2.3V (full power)
60mV (1 watt),
3.1V (full power)
0.25 at 1kHz
Signal to noise
Bandwidth at full power
4 – 150kHz
Rated THD at full power
100 watts at idle
18″ (w) x 8″ (h) x 19″ (d)
3 years, non-transferable
Pricing (inc. VAT) and availability
All three versions of the Atlas, including the new Atlas Stereo Signature, are available now with either black or silver faceplate.
Aesthetix Saturn Series / Atlas Stereo
Aesthetix Saturn Series / Atlas Stereo Signature
Aesthetix Saturn Series / Atlas Mono Signature (per pair)
Combining ground-breaking design with superlative build quality, California-based Aesthetix design and manufacture a range of hi-fi components from source to amplification in two reference-standard series: Jupiter and Saturn, both of which have earned an impressive stack of global accolades and awards.
At the company’s helm is engineer and music lover Jim White, who draws on his advanced studies in physics, mathematics and electrical engineering in pursuit of his passion for analogue hi-fi.
Initially a boutique niche brand, Aesthetix have grown rapidly to become a major player in high-end audio and now distribute to clients in 27 countries worldwide. Every product is still meticulously hand assembled by Aesthetix’ talented team in Moorpark, California.
Consumer contacts for publication
Cool Gales, Bath
T: 0800 043 6710
Hi-Fi Sound, Stockton-on-Tees
T: 0845 6019390
For more information, product samples or high-resolution print-ready images please contact David Denyer on 07976 646 404 or [email protected].
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