A very original and complete hybrid: Aesthetix Mimas
From the United States, in California and near Los Angeles, Aesthetix has been offering electronics for a quarter of a century from the hand of his father, Jim White, to which he wanted to “lay the glove.” I was finally able to do it thanks to Alma Audio, when Jorge Castellano brought me this unit of his integrated hybrid Mimas at home to test it. Although they use valves in their designs, their products are not minimalist at all: on the contrary, I have always seen devices with complex circuitry and sophisticated power supplies. His specialty, or his beginnings, were in the previous ones with valves, and the product that we have been able to test goes one step further. The Aesthetix Mimas is a hybrid integrated amplifier, with tube preamp and transistor output, and with a beautiful and very complete control (from a distance) of its functions and options.
The chassis of the Aesthetix Mimas is made up of thick brushed aluminum panels forming a good-sized box: the usual 43 centimeters wide by 45 deep and 14 high. This volume is surprising due to its weight when lifting it from its packaging to install it or in my case start taking photos of it. 20 kg declare and not one is missing. The front has a particular but practical design as we will see, where a large centered digital screen will inform us of the connected source and volume, among other things. And also “is” the volume control: pressing the screen on its right side will raise the volume, pressing on the left we will lower it. Original and unexpected, but as I say really practical and effective.
There are five other buttons, in the shape of the brand’s logo (another original touch), to select source and turn it on or off (standby, it remains “warm” circuitry unless we turn off from behind) or the “mute”. Another button allows turning off the screen, whose brightness (pay attention to this) we can regulate or allow the device itself to do so depending on the ambient lighting (and at the relative level that we want). The fifth button “setup” allows you to intuit that it is the access to the (many) available configuration options: activate or deactivate sources, adjust their relative levels or configure in detail some of the optional boards available, such as the phono that our unit had . Finally, the front has a headphone jack.
The rear of the Aesthetix has all the connections: power (IEC and main switch), inputs for five sources and pre-out (all duplicated RCA / XLR), speaker outputs (with connectors perhaps not worthy of this device) and two panels for “accessories”. Our Mimas had one, the phono board with two inputs that are fully configurable MM or MC, and there is one with a very good looking DAC (which we did not test this time). Any input can be configured as a “Home Theater Bypass” for direct connection to the output stage.
By removing only two screws we can remove the top cover and access the interior; It is something that has to be done on the first day and will have to be done some other time, as the Aesthetix has two valves in the preamp part. I understand that they come disassembled (protected) from origin (I received it mounted and rolled) and if someone wants to be able to try others: they are double triodes 6922 (6DJ8 equivalent) quite common of which there are, of course, very expensive NOS copies … Jim White must be quite agnostic on this: ride some good Electro Harmonix and period (selected, shot and tested, yes).
With the lid off, it is surprising how the Aesthetix is on the inside, of course “minimalism” nothing at all! To begin with, one of their creeds is to use differential circuits, that is, completely balanced, which already implies using twice as many components as traditional unbalanced circuits. In fact, since the architecture is balanced, the RCA inputs are converted on the input plate itself to balanced signals: the Mimas will potentially sound better with pure balanced sources, then. It is just the opposite of what is usual in other devices on the market, which are not really balanced and do the opposite with their XLR inputs.
The entire interior surface of the device contains plates: the pre-or control section behind, near the inputs and outputs, the well-worked power supply in front with the large toroidal transformer (almost 1kW) centered, and the amplification plates in a vertical position. both sides. The preamplifier uses one tube per channel as I already mentioned (thus mounted at the rear) while this output amplification combines FET transistors in the attack part and bipolar output transistors (four pairs per channel) in class AB capable of 150 watts at 8 ohms (figure that almost doubles when impedance is cut in half). This Mimas is a combination based on their separate products Calypso (tube preamp) and Atlas (transistor stage), in a single chassis.
The use of good passive components stands out, although without going to excessive “boutique” elements, and the important volume control is its own: a network of relays and precision resistors (1 percent) that allow changes of 1dB as indicated on the screen. (zero to 88). No potentiometers. I was struck by the good general internal manufacturing, with attention to detail, such as the plate separates the power supply, and the good level of this, with four large main capacitors of 8,000 microfarads at 50 V later complemented with several premises, and good regulation of several “branches” depending on the circuit. Excellent engineering, which is valid for the complete metallic control, and that detects when we pick it up by illuminating its buttons.
As usual lately, I tested this amp on both of my rigs: in the living room with the Merlin TSM monitors, and in the basement (for better acoustics) with the tremendous Legacy Audio Focus cabinets. In both teams he was quite chameleonic, but at the same time he left his mark. The Aesthetix is a hybrid but its sound is much more “valve” than “transistor”, something that we could expect a priori from a manufacturer that is committed to vacuum lamps to amplify signals.
Although we are in a period of confinement, I had just enough time to enjoy the device, but I anticipate that I needed a little more to fully test two of its “extras”: the headphone output (which by the way can be improved with another internal dedicated amplifier) and the phono section so configurable. I proved that both things worked … but little else. The phono promises a lot, since only having two inputs and being able to configure them from the remote control is great, for subtle load changes for example.
In the basement system, with the Legacy cabinets and their large 12-inch woofers (two per cabinet), the Aesthetix proved that the power section is very capable of driving speakers like that. These cabinets are very versatile and even with low-power pure tube amplification they “sound”. But how they manage to show the bass punch that they are capable of is with something much more energetic, in my case usually some Hypex Ncore400 stages. The Mimas was there in controllability and stuck, with the same extension (underground in my basement) but much more beautiful in mids and highs, and that the tape speakers of the American columns are very forgiving. The sound profile of this amp made it clear to me what it is: warm, not cloying,
With that idea, I put him on the team in the living room, to see how he behaved with the Merlin TSM monitors that usually work so well precisely with valves or amplifiers with a warm touch (although my ideal partner for them is the transparent Gran Filarmonía with EL34) . Also there I was able to connect the plate, although as I anticipated it was an ephemeral test (although positive). The price of the Mimas is not low (8,900 euros) although that is its level, but the 1,575 euros of that phono plate does seem to me an excellent price compared to what an equivalent external (less comfortable) would cost us.
Well, the combination of the Aesthetix Mimas with the Merlin was sensational. From below it seemed to be able to get better bass than the boxes are used to (they are closed monitors with 6-inch woofer, nothing more), which is welcome. On the other hand, the mid-bass was perfectly filled so important for the voices and some instruments to really sound “corporeal”, something key with these boxes (and all, I presume) to get closer to that feeling of “reality” when listening. In fact, from those notes upwards, nothing to object but quite the opposite: the Mimas sounds liquid and I wonder how it would change its timbre with other 6922 tubes in the preamp, but these are very well chosen.
Being warm doesn’t mean not being verbose or transparent: I’m still learning or discovering how to use my fonts over the net with Roon (a program I highly recommend) and one day I altered something in the settings without realizing it. I began to detect that something did not sound like it should. It had left a volume a few dB above the maximum level and the source must be saturating its output section: that distortion was the one that I appreciated immediately thanks to the Aesthetix … Beyond the anecdote, the point is that in well-known cuts the Mimas me allowed to appreciate every little detail.
I really liked how it reproduced the space of the sound scene, especially in depth. It seemed to give the boxes an extra in that sense, and also with a certain “density” of the air … very valve. In works with an orchestra it did not give the feeling of emptiness when we only listened to the solo piano or violin, the rest of the musicians were there, present, although at that moment they did not intervene. Also with small outfits I had that feeling of better appreciating the “atmosphere”, something that I like and it was very welcome. And it always sounded pretty.
The Aesthetix Mimas is a complete high-end integrated, more sophisticated than a priori one would think. This internal complexity turns into facilities and advantages for the user, with exhaustive control, a highly configurable device tailored to each team and that can have everything in a single box. Aesthetically it is beautiful without being flashy or garish, and it is very well finished on the outside as well as on the inside. Its sound hooks and the word that came out the most in my notes while listening to it is that… “it sounds nice”. Perhaps the name of the brand comes from there (Aesthetix), but it certainly fits and is a warm sound profile that I doubt will be incompatible with any system or box. And it doesn’t lack the energy to move complicated boxes either: a recommendable amp that I will miss.
+ Premium manufacturing
+ Internal sophistication, fully balanced
+ Versatility, connectivity and remote control
+ Warm sound profile, very versatile
+ Powerful and energetic
+ Excellent and competitive phono
– Need for maintenance (valves)