a musical journey - Aries Cerat, various devices

Verdier

Well-Known Member
Oct 7, 2018
26
24
68
Hi!

About 4 years ago, I started looking for a new hi-fi system. I had set up my hi-fi system in a living room after moving house. The system, which I had put together with the help of a friend, consisted of

- Bauer DPS-3 iT with Schroeder No. 2 tonearm and a Lyra Delos
- phono stages Lamm LP-2 and Audio Exklusiv P2, SUT Silvercore
- Robert Koda K10 preamplifier
- Mark Levinson ML-2 power amplifiers
- Westlake BBSM 10 VNF speakers.

I had been listening to them very, very happily for about 5 years. I liked the organic sound of this system and the long-term suitability, i.e. listening without fatigue for many hours, but I also noticed that it sounded like a bit too much midrange (and not enough low bass, not enough treble) and that it lacked resolution.

In my search - including here at wbf, but also at audioexotics and in other forums, in many high end magazines and so on - I came across a few brands that would become of lasting interest to me. Looking for speakers with more than 90 db efficiency but without impedance problems (the Westlakes had a minimum of less than 2 ohms), I remembered - among other things - an old review on 6moons: Aries Cerat Gladius. I contacted Stavros from Aries Cerat (AC). He informed me that the Gladios are no longer produced. However, when I looked at the homepage, I found that AC has a lot of interesting equipment. I also read that AC appeared at a HighEnd with Tune Audio speakers. I read about the equipment here and there and my interest in AC equipment was aroused - the subject of loudspeakers became a side note at first.

I enquired where I could hear AC and was referred to Michel (Flyer) in Belgium. He invited me to visit him. At his listening room I listened via

- Evo 432 server and a CD drive
- AC Cassandra DAC
- AC Impera reference preamplifier
- AC Concero 65 power amplifiers (this large, older version) and
- AC Symphonia loudspeakers.

The wiring was done by Signal Projects.

The sound was very impressive. First of all, the room was acoustically very well done. And the electronics played colourful, lively, dynamic ... but the word I kept using was: natural. What impressed me most: they sounded really good with any music, but best with classical music. I never thought you could get such a result with a horn system. I was there for 2 days and was able to listen to the system several times and was always very impressed! I had never heard anything better. The only thing I would have missed to be 100% satisfied would have been a slightly deeper bass. The quality of the equipment also seemed very good to me. There was no hum or noticeable hiss on the horn speakers without music, even with the volume turned up. Very good.

On a side note: It was also an extremely pleasant human contact. Michel is very nice and open-minded, helpful and also very relaxed - you are looked after without any pressure in any direction. Great!

We also visited a customer nearby who had a comparable system with slightly smaller electronics in a huge living room (Incito S, Helene DAC and so on). That was also really good. But I was most impressed by the sound in Michel's listening room.

So I thought about getting a system like that, or one based on it.

Stay tuned ...
Verdier
 

Verdier

Well-Known Member
Oct 7, 2018
26
24
68
Yes, photos would be really nice. Unfortunately, I don't have any photos of my visit to Flyer. But he can post a picture of his system from 2018. My system looked like this at the time - unfortunately you can't see everything and the picture is probably even a year older, shortly after the previous move, so it's not very nice there yet. The TV, which is a nuisance there, was later removed altogether.
 

Attachments

  • IMG_2656.JPG
    IMG_2656.JPG
    628.8 KB · Views: 65

Verdier

Well-Known Member
Oct 7, 2018
26
24
68
What is more interesting is what you don't see. Right behind the system, on the other side of the wall and only 2 metres to the side - that's where the switch cabinet for the electricity is. I got the power from there with a crazy expensive cable and an audiophile fuse.

The system stands a little to the side in the room, there was no other way, but it was unfavourable. Nevertheless, with a few measures (mainly furniture) I managed to make the room sound really good. Not absolutely top-notch, but really good for a living space used by a family. Especially regarding reverberation times.

The positioning of the speakers changed over time (it was later about 2.5 ft to the back wall and 3.5 ft to the side wall). Likewise, many small things changed, such as the feet under speakers and equipment.
 
Last edited:

Verdier

Well-Known Member
Oct 7, 2018
26
24
68
As a basis for turning my good hi-fi system into a top system (from my point of view), I first acquired

- a Platine Verdier
- Acoustical Systems Axiom tonearm
- Palladian cartridge and
- the SDP (Special decoupled platter w/isolated spindle and customized mounting pillar)
.... all from Acoustical Systems.

Now the sound of my system went more towards full range. Thus equipped, the Verdier built the music on a solid, low-frequency foundation.

After my visit with Michel, we wrote many emails. I was still enthusiastic about his system. He offered to visit me and came to me with

- AC preamplifier Incito S
- AC phono stage Talos and
- AC Poweramps Concero 65.

This visit must have been 3 years ago (just a small photo of it below. Unfortunately, only a small part of the equipment can be seen).

These devices weigh very, very much. Michel deserves my respect for bringing such heavy equipment for a test.

It sounded good and much finer than with my equipment. It was interesting and impressive, for example, that even the "small" preamplifier from Aries Cerat, the Incito S, played much better than my Koda K10.

But overall, one still had the impression that it played a bit like "with the handbrake on". The Concero 65 power amplifier didn't really have the problematic Westlakes under control. But it was impossible for me at that time to exchange the entire system for AC and also to buy AC Symphonia loudspeakers. That would have been far too expensive.

It would have been much better in terms of sound to use the Incito S instead of the Koda K 10, but that wouldn't have worked quite as well in practice. The AC preamps (and phonostages) have quite a high amplification factor (I think the preamp has an amplification around 18 db), with my components it was the other way round (Koda K 10 has 6 db). So it wouldn't really have been practical.

So I postponed the subject of the Aries Cerat once again.

Some time later I also acquired a pair of Acoustical Systems Prometheus speakers, which have no impedance problem and are easy to drive at 92 or 93 db. They are 3-way speakers with passive drivers (instead of bass reflex); also included are active subwoofers, each with a 12" bass. Now there was really low frequency response down to 30 Hz, much more resolution over the whole frequency range and also the high frequency range was much better now.

I also had the opportunity to replace my Koda preamp with a Trinity Reference, which was also a step in the right direction. Also with an organic sound, but more resolution.

But I knew that in the medium term I wanted to go further in the direction of AC. But a lot of time had passed since my visit to Michel and I was no longer sure whether my impressions at that time would still apply today. So I visited Michel again the year before last. The result: it was just as good as before. But I liked the bass range much, much better this time. On my first visit, I found it a bit thin or not deep enough ... This time I found it not only OK, but very good: contoured, clear, well resolved, with beautiful and many timbres. Simply exemplary good. - He had only changed the power cables.

Now it was clear to me that I should (OK, if nothing else unexpectedly intervened) go as directly as possible in the direction of the AC.

But a short time later I had to move again. So in the course of the year before last I moved to another house. There I got a basement room for listening to music. I set it up (including separate circuits for my hi-fi system and some diffusers). That took a very long time. Then, in the course of last year, I was able to move in there.

To make sure if I could get more music with less effort, I listened to Lyravox Karlotta there. But it was only different, not better. My own speakers with my previous electronics were at least as involving, but with a bit more resolution. My own system just sounded better.

I could also briefly hear some other transistor electronics from a friend at my place: CH Precision L1 and A 1.5, which also sounded different from my electronics, but not really better. I was especially disappointed with the A 1.5. I had expected quite big things from electronics that are so hyped. But the fact that these power amps - if at all - only play a touch better than my old Mark Levinson (and that only with CH preamp - with Trinity the A 1.5 didn't sound at all), that was a really bitter disappointment.

After this move and setting up the new listening room, I arranged to meet Michel again. He came to me last summer with some smaller AC equipment, and we quickly established that AC could certainly drive my speakers, but that more sophisticated AC electronics would be needed.

Stay tuned ...
 

Attachments

  • Incitos S.jpg
    Incitos S.jpg
    22.9 KB · Views: 28
Last edited:
  • Like
Reactions: flyer and TDX

Verdier

Well-Known Member
Oct 7, 2018
26
24
68
In addition to my first post in this thread, here is a photo of just the DPS 3 iT - a turntable that is often underestimated because of its compact size. It replaced a Feickert Blackbird in my system. The DPS has an intelligent, multi-layered construction. The DPS sits on a steel base to which the motor is screwed. The (multi-part) frame has a cut-out through which the motor protrudes. The frame itself is decoupled from the base by some kind of foam (it should be Sylomer) - an absolutely impact sound resistant construction. The plate is light, the motor has a lot of torque.

The tone arm cost me some nerves when adjusting it (it was extremely misaligned on delivery). But here it pays not to give up. Together with the Delos, it's a wonderfully dynamic combination.
 

Attachments

  • DPS3 - Kopie.jpg
    DPS3 - Kopie.jpg
    425.1 KB · Views: 5

Verdier

Well-Known Member
Oct 7, 2018
26
24
68
Yes! That's is roughly how it looked in Flyer's listening room when I first visited it.

And this would have to be the other system I listened to.
 

Attachments

  • 27993639_2122685618019664_4199010036916924987_o.jpg
    27993639_2122685618019664_4199010036916924987_o.jpg
    196.7 KB · Views: 33

Verdier

Well-Known Member
Oct 7, 2018
26
24
68
But now back to my system. Here is another picture from Flyer's visit last summer. You can see not only the Impera II preamp and the Genus (used as a power amp), but also my speakers.
 

Attachments

  • Genus.jpg
    Genus.jpg
    462.7 KB · Views: 42

Verdier

Well-Known Member
Oct 7, 2018
26
24
68
I ended my report by saying that Michel had visited me for the second time last summer (and for the first time in my new listening room). In the time that followed, we had an intensive exchange via email and considered how best to move my system forward. He reported on new poweramps: Aries Cerat Ianus Essentia. TriodeFet. These I ordered (not really blindly; we had made good arrangements that secured my interests in case I didn't like the Essentia) and Michel came to me a few weeks ago with

- Aries Cerat Impera II
- Aries Cerat Talos
- Aries Cerat Ianus Essentia

and some cables from SignalProjects. Oh, and a passive Bespoke preamplifier was also there. I had it with me for a few days before. It was probably a bit more resolving than my Trinity, but a bit less involving.

The AC units are really heavy. The preamp alone weighs 60 kg (132 lbs) ... The Essentia are even heavier. :eek: It took us 2 hours to get everything out of the car, unpack it, set it up, wire it and dry the sweat.

By the way - somewhere I once read that Aries Cerat is "Luxury Hifi". I take that to mean that the emphasis is more on price than sound. Really? Well, let's see then ;)

OK, after we had acclimatised, I put on some records. It sounded good. Very good! We listened through the Bespoke first. 10, 15 minutes. OK, then we tried the Impera. 5 minutes of listening or so ... Mhm, I wasn't sure if it was better or worse or just different (Bespoke vs Impera). So back to the Bespoke for a moment to check again. O.k., back to the Impera. No, the Impera is clearly better ... Okay, now listen to music ... A few minutes and the Impera was warm. Wow! I have to say that of course I had hoped that it would sound a little better or, with luck, significantly better than before - otherwise I wouldn't have agreed with such a logistical effort either. But what I experienced was more than that.

I kept putting on different records after 1 or 2 songs. Quick, quick, the next one, the next one, the next one. I was like in a frenzy and wanted to hear all my records at once. Sound colours, energy, dynamics, bass-bass-bass and space and body! It was like a wonderful party.

And I heard instruments on records that I've known since I was 10, 12 years old, that I'd never heard on a system. Here and there I've experienced hearing a little more subtlety in other systems than in my system. But more in the way that it was not audible before and now, in the other system, I could sense: there is still something there. But now here, in my listening room, with several hundredweights of AC electronics? Clearly a third guitar, where before there were only two. Clear, but without annoying analytics. Everything radiates a naturalness. That's the sound I had been looking for all these years.

At the end of our listening session, Michel asked if I would like to try the Bespoke again for comparison. No! Would I like to try the Concero Signature instead of the Essentia? No!!! I thought only one thing: just leave all the equipment here! We had actually intended the Talos more or less just to try it out. I didn't seriously think that I would replace all the electronics right away. But now to let the Talos make a return trip? After all, it was largely responsible for my beautiful analogue experience! Very, very nice machine. It stays too!

If I could make one more wish: 6 months' holiday!!! :cool:
 

Attachments

  • Verdier II.JPG
    Verdier II.JPG
    88 KB · Views: 47
  • AC Impera & Talos.JPG
    AC Impera & Talos.JPG
    98.1 KB · Views: 54
  • AC Ianus Essentia.JPG
    AC Ianus Essentia.JPG
    73.8 KB · Views: 52
  • AC Essentia AS Prometheus.jpg
    AC Essentia AS Prometheus.jpg
    458.3 KB · Views: 44
  • AC Talos Cabrio.jpg
    AC Talos Cabrio.jpg
    250 KB · Views: 40
Last edited:

Verdier

Well-Known Member
Oct 7, 2018
26
24
68
It happened again: Michel came to see me. In his luggage, besides some cables, he had 2 large, heavy wooden boxes. When I say big, I mean big: two people should carry them. In it was a preamplifier and the corresponding power supply unit.

From now on, I listen with an AC Impera Signature Preamp. Beautiful. Short report there:

AC Preamps: Impera II & Impera Signature | What's Best Audio and Video Forum. The Best High End Audio Forum on the planet! (whatsbestforum.com)

Once again, many thanks to Michel. With his help, I have made another good step forward!
 

Attachments

  • 20210530_160707.jpg
    20210530_160707.jpg
    469.9 KB · Views: 32

oliver

Well-Known Member
Jan 16, 2015
16
16
210
Europe
I see an Aries Cerat Incito S preamplifier review coming soon (more info here)
 

Addicted to hifi

VIP/Donor
Sep 8, 2020
2,707
793
235
50
Australia
It happened again: Michel came to see me. In his luggage, besides some cables, he had 2 large, heavy wooden boxes. When I say big, I mean big: two people should carry them. In it was a preamplifier and the corresponding power supply unit.

From now on, I listen with an AC Impera Signature Preamp. Beautiful. Short report there:

AC Preamps: Impera II & Impera Signature | What's Best Audio and Video Forum. The Best High End Audio Forum on the planet! (whatsbestforum.com)

Once again, many thanks to Michel. With his help, I have made another good step forward!
Very nice.
 

About us

  • What’s Best Forum is THE forum for high end audio, product reviews, advice and sharing experiences on the best of everything else. This is THE place where audiophiles and audio companies discuss vintage, contemporary and new audio products, music servers, music streamers, computer audio, digital-to-analog converters, turntables, phono stages, cartridges, reel-to-reel tape machines, speakers, headphones and tube and solid-state amplification. Founded in 2010 What’s Best Forum invites intelligent and courteous people of all interests and backgrounds to describe and discuss the best of everything. From beginners to life-long hobbyists to industry professionals, we enjoy learning about new things and meeting new people, and participating in spirited debates.

Quick Navigation

User Menu

Steve Williams
Site Founder | Site Owner | Administrator
Ron Resnick
Site Co-Owner | Administrator
Julian (The Fixer)
Website Build | Marketing Managersing