Directly across the hall from Musical Surroundings, Garth and Jim White, owner and designer of Aesthetix Audio Corporation, played the same French jazz recording I had just heard. This time, the Clearaudio Innovation Wood turntable ($10,000) with TT2 linear tonearm ($9500) and daVinci v2 cartridge ($5500) did the honors. Handling the rest were the Aesthetix Rhea Signature phono stage ($7,000), part of the Saturn series and named after one of the moons of Saturn; and the same Aesthetix Atlas power amp ($8000) as used across the hall. Vandersteen Quatro Wood speakers, HRS equipment stand, Kubala-Sosna cables and Running Springs Audio power products completed the chain.
The sound? Much smoother, far more refined than on the lower-priced system. How much that had to do with the change of speakers alone, I could not tell. If I had my druthers, I'd combine the directness of the lower-priced system with the mellow refinement of its big brother. But I could easily live with either.