I definitely fall into the category of music listener rather than gear-head and like to stick with hi-fi equipment I enjoy rather than keep changing in the hopes of potentially improved sound. Most of my equipment has stayed unchanged for five years or more, but recently I decided it was time to start finding out what would give me an appreciable improvement in sound. One visit to Jeff Whitlock at A/V Solutions in Pleasanton, California to audition the Zesto Andros phono stage convinced me that the first thing to be upgraded needed to be my phono stage. I had to keep the radar detector on high sensitivity on the way back home from Jeff’s store in order to avoid the CHP in my rush to get the Zesto plugged into my system and playing music.
My current Preamp, the BAT VK with 6 pack, has a pretty decent built-in phono stage, so I was not prepared for what a quantum leap forward the Zesto would be. Fresh out of the box it was noticeably better in many areas such musical timbre, resolution, soundstage width and depth, the sheer attack of notes, silence, lack of tube rush and more.
You won’t find many of my favorite LPs on reference lists of any sort-they have to have one trait in common over all else; great music. The fact that the ones I mention here also have great sound is an added bonus. OK, so on Baden Powell’s Quartet Vol. “Batuque no. B” right at the start someone in the quartet says something very softly in Portuguese (I had never heard this before the Zesto came along) before they break into this 6 minute tour-de-force of Brazilian percussion, and boy is this an amazing recording which will really test any system’s resolving power. On the very difficult to track down Dimitre Kozev “Repertoire Pour Les Jeunes Violioncellistes” I had never heard the room boundaries so clearly on this wondrous solo cello recording, or what a gorgeous tone Kozev wrings from his instrument. On the audiophile staple “Winds Of War And Peace” the first drum thwacks on “Liberty Fanfare” almost blew me clean out of my seat. You know they are coming, but you just aren’t prepared for how immediate, forceful and deep they will be. On Patrice Caratini and Marc Fosset’s “Boite A Musique” the sound of Patrice Caratini bowing his double bass and hitting the sound board with his thumb is incredibly lifelike through the Zesto. Ditto Marc Fosset’s plucked guitar. One of the most noticeable things I have heard through the Zesto Andros is the way fingers, thumbs and palms hitting various percussion instruments sound so real. It is just so much easier to discern the fleshy pads of the fingers hitting on drum skins and the like. Listening to Setrak Sarkissian playing the Darabukka on Rabi Abou-Khalil’s “Nafas” through the Zesto definitely removes a veil and brings me one step closer to nirvana on this 5 star ECM album. On the tough to find Decca SXL 2221 Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestral suite from the Tale Of Tsar Sultan, the spread of the orchestra across the sound stage is truly voluminous, while the string tone is oh, so sweet punctuated by a beautifully hit triangle that decays as only analogue recordings can resolve. We have LPs playing here all day at the office, but I can’t wait to get home and listen through the Zesto.