Listening to a more saturated mix tended to show how the Andros Téssera handled a dense pop arrangement. Sade’s Diamond Life album served as the subject (using “Cherry Pie” for this session). This track was mentioned in the Ortofon Windfeld Ti equipment report (via the Andros Téssera along with other phonostages). This time, the phonostage stayed the same and multiple cartridges were employed. I consistently heard a nice soundstage and no objectionable sibilance from any of the cartridges. The whole drum set was full-bodied and added a sense of weight to the listening experience. Sade’s vocals stayed smooth with her overdubs still audible, although much farther back from her main vocal. Also farther back in the mix were the cymbals (soft and clean sounding) and synthesizer. The musical message along with its timing remained intact throughout the track.
Large dynamics and a sense of physical impact can help create a visceral experience with some forms of music. The Mobile Fidelity reissue of Dire Straits’ Brothers in Arms contains an exceptional amount of low-frequency content and dynamic transients. No other pressings (reissue or original) previously listened to have this same character. Despite whatever MoFi did to achieve this result, the music stays clean and clear without a hint of harshness (for a digital sourced LP) throughout all tracks. Using the Andros Téssera phonostage, the album still maintained its big dynamics (with a slightly rounded start on transients) and its propulsive drive. “Ride Across the River” is deceptively slow at the start until the drums come in packing a wallop that can be startling on systems that can portray (and cartridge/’arms that can track) the bass transients. Turning the volume up showed the Andros Téssera to be capable of transferring the dynamic wallop of the track well.
Vocal dynamic impacts can be just as difficult, if not more, than those in the lower end of the frequency spectrum, especially for cartridges to track and phonostages to maintain without compressing sustained (or temporary) amplitudes. The late Régine Crespin singing Ravel’s Shéhérazade on the Speakers Corner reissue of a Decca (SXL 6081) album is a good example. Through the Andros Téssera, the orchestra, by itself, is very nice sounding with a full-bodied, smooth, and wide soundstage that has very good instrumental separation. Crespin’s vocal is also sweet and smooth yet powerfully effortless when it soars above the orchestra. The Andros Téssera allows her vocal intensity, as transcribed by the cartridge, to continue unhindered through her crescendos, when she appears to “blow the roof off” without sounding compressed. This ability to allow such reproduction makes the whole performance enjoyable from start to finish.
In the end, the Zesto Audio Andros Téssera phonostage embodied a certain level of surefooted calmness. Easy to operate in daily use, it appeared to be a quiet and solidly designed piece of electronics. It didn’t seem to give any more than it took from the cartridge by adding something obtrusive to the signal. It was warm and full-bodied in a preferred way, but there was nothing thick or sluggish about it—the sound retained timing and pacing along with its portrayal of musical content. With the capability to connect up to four tonearm/cartridge combinations, the user has the option to quadruple his analog front-end input choices for musical playback from a single phonostage. A look and listen are encouraged.
Specs & Pricing
Type: Tube phonostage
Tube complement: 4x ECC83s (12AX7s), 2x ECC82s (12AU7s)
Gain (moving-coil): 60dB, 65dB, 70dB
Gain (moving-magnet): 40dB, 45dB, 50dB
Cartridge loading (moving-coil): 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 300, 350, 400, 500, 700, 800, 1000 ohms
Cartridge loading (moving-magnet): 47k, 68k ohms
Output impedance: 150 ohms
Dimensions: 17" x 5.5" x 14" (main chassis); 17" x 5" x 8" (power supply)
Weight: 25 lbs. (main chassis); 17 lbs. (power supply)
3138 Calle Estepa
Thousand Oaks, CA 91360
Analog vinyl: Basis Audio Debut Vacuum, Basis Audio 2800 Vacuum ’tables; Basis Audio SuperArm 9, Basis Audio Vector IV (x2), Graham Phantom III, Lyra Atlas, Lyra Atlas SL, Lyra Etna, Lyra Etna SL, Lyra Titan-i, van den Hul Colibri XGP, Hana SL
Analog tape: Otari MTR-10 Studio Mastering tape deck (¼" 2-track) with custom Flux Magnetic Mastering Series repro head and secondary custom tube output stage
Phonostages: The Raptor (Custom), Lamm LP2 Deluxe, Ayre P-5xe, Musical Surroundings Phonomena II+
Preamplifiers: Dual Placette Audio Active Linestage, Lamm L1.1 Signature, Lamm L2 Reference
Amplifiers: Custom/Modified solid-state monoblocks
Speakers: Vandersteen Model 3a Signature with dual 2Wq subwoofers using M5-HPB high-pass filter
Cables: Assortment of AudioQuest, Shunyata Research, Tara Labs, Acoustic Research, and some custom cables
Racks/Accessories: Minus-K BM-1, Neuance shelf, Maple wood shelf, Symposium Ultra, Aurios Pro, Walker Audio, Klaudio RCM, VPI RCM
Listening room: 18' x 8' x 43'