Aesthetix Audio Corporation is the Southern California-based high-end electronics company revered for its bespoke tube and tube/hybrid electronics, many of which have been reviewed in these pages. Built to uncompromising standards, its components fall squarely into the elite “separates” camp. That is, dedicated stand-alone gear such as the company’s flagship Atlas amplifiers, Callisto and Calypso preamps, Io and Rhea phonostages, and digital components like Romulus and Pandora. So, what’s missing from this picture? Only one of the most popular and resurgent segments in recent years, the integrated amplifier. Aesthetix has not only remedied this in grand style with its very first integrated model, Mimas, but after spending a few months with this amp, I only have one remaining question: Why’d it take so long?
Mimas represents the newest member of the Aesthetix Saturn Series. It’s a dual-mono hybrid design. Power output is rated at 150Wpc into 8 ohms, both channels driven—a figure that nearly doubles into 4 ohms. Unlike the new generation of integrated amps that are often packed with digital connectivity—DACs, Wi-Fi, streaming/server options, and the like—Mimas is a straightforward linestage component. Which is not to say that Aesthetix is ignoring that segment or vinyl for that matter (a modular DAC card and modular phono card are in the works—see sidebar), but it also understands the culture and expectations of a purist enthusiast market.
Its preamp section employs one 6DJ8 (6922) vacuum tube per channel in a fully differential configuration. Gain circuitry is borrowed from the Calypso preamplifier and uses premium Roederstein resistors from Germany, Reliable coupling capacitors from California, and a discrete solid-state current source. The amplifier section gleans much of its engineering and sophistication from the Atlas amplifier. The power section is fully discrete; that is, it’s built from separate transistors rather than from integrated circuits. The Class AB output stage is a fully differential, zero-feedback, DC-coupled, balanced-bridge design. The individual FET input transistors and bipolar output transistors are all carefully matched to ensure channel balance, linearity, and stability with any speaker load.
Visually the Mimas is pure Aesthetix. The heavy plate-aluminum enclosure is precision machined in nearby Santa Barbara and is in itself a thing of beauty, right down to the five triangular aluminum front-panel pushbuttons that control display, mute, setup, standby, and input. Aluminum surfaces and detail are everywhere—clearly someone at Aesthetix has an allergy to plastic! The LED front-panel display automatically adjusts for changing ambient light, and indicates the selected input, while larger characters display volume. The actual front-panel volume control took me by surprise. Rather than a traditional knob, this clever controller is literally a part of the display lens—simply clicking the left or right edge of the display raises and lowers the volume accordingly. The front panel also houses a headphone output rated at one-third watt into 32 ohms. The output is automatically selected when a headphone jack is inserted, but headphones or speakers are also selectable should the user prefer to leave the headphones plugged in. A standard-issue plastic remote control is included, but my review sample was equipped with the optional model—a luxurious, brushed-aluminum RC, fully featured and equipped with motion-sensing backlighting. Careful though: If you try this one, you’re going to want to keep it.
The back panel is spacious with plenty of elbow room for speaker cables and interconnects of all sizes and terminations. Particularly convenient is the fact that the right/left speaker terminals are stationed at opposite corners, making hookup a breeze. Further, Aesthetix provides five inputs for both balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA interconnects on every analog input, a rarity in this price segment.
Mimas is also software-driven and laden with top-notch set-up and configuration options. All inputs are assignable; gain offset levels can be matched between sources; and inputs may be bypassed altogether. Headphones can be turned on or off in software. There are left/right balance adjustments, startup levels, maximum levels, and display settings.
Turning to performance, let me first say that today’s mid- and upper-level integrated amps already conform to pretty high sonic standards. There is more consistency than divergence. That said, I found Mimas in its own way as distinctive as any integrated amp I’ve heard for quite a while. The amp was as quiet as a public library on Christmas Eve and established a black velvet noise floor so obviously free from electronic noise and debris that I needed to remind myself whether Mimas was even functioning in the system.