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Zesto Audio Andros II Phono-Stage [Review in English].


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Zesto Audio Andros II Phono-Stage [Review in English]

Review of Tubed Phono MM/MC Stage


by Thanasis Moraitis

I met Zesto Audio and its phono preamps when I came into contact with the company’s biggest phono model, the Andros Deluxe II, for a short but substantial time. During this acquaintance, I was impressed by the delicate but at the same time dynamic performance of the music through it, while it was also very quiet. This matters a lot to me, as I’m used to solid-state phono stages with signal/noise ratios above 80 dB combined with MC (mobile spin) heads.

With the Andros II, the manufacturer offers a more affordable phono stage, which, although it does not reach the very high tier of Deluxe version (something expected), with its performance, as you will read below, covers the needs of virtually any audiophile, even the most demanding, as it plays the music in a very interesting and fun way.

But what is Zesto Audio? As you may have understood, there is a clear relationship between the origin of the owner & designer of the company and Greece. More specifically, you guessed, with the man. The company’s hot name probably has to do with the temperature of its devices, which, due to tube class-A preamplifiers, have and always have a warmer presence. His name is George Counnas, and his company is based in California. His qualifications include deep knowledge of electronics (from England, where he worked on designs and implementations of devices for use in the Royal Air Force), sound recording & production, and music. So his excuse that he was forced to design his own circuits because he was not satisfied with what he found on the market is probably the truth!

The excellent and inspiring model Andros II tubed Phono-Stage (MM/MC) made by Zesto Audio (USA).

The Andros II is a phono preamp designed for both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges. With the separate inputs it has, it can serve an MM and MC cart’ at the same time without the user having to change cables at its input, simply choosing which ‘plays’ with selectors located on the back. It also has great capabilities adjusting the loading of the moving coil cartridge during use to make it easier to choose based on the final sonics also, adjust the gain (-3 dB) of the MC stage and finally have RCA and Balanced (XLR) inputs for this type of cartridges.

The preamplification circuit is based on two JJ ECC83S/12AX7 gold pins tubes per channel, while the signal pass through a pair of Jensen transformers. (JT-44K-DX). Zesto Andros II is implemented with very good materials (metal film resistors, polypropylene capacitors), while the power supply (two separates with their own good sized toroid transformers and very good quality here too) wired separately, away from the main phono circuit. The internal wiring of the signal is made with shielded microphone cable of good quality, as is the quality of the input and output RCAs and XLRs. The chassis is made of thick metal with excellent touches of brushed aluminum and curves that would envy many women. My only complaint (and that’s why I sometimes forget it on) is the lack of indicative light when it’s on (the manufacturer says that the indication is the warm glow from the tubes in front, but this is true for the evenings, with the light out!).

Sound Evaluation and Character

On the Zesto Andros II were attached two Van den Hul cartridges (the famous Grasshopper & Frog both in the gold-spinning version) as well as an Audio Technica ART-7 and a Dynavector DV-20×2. All the carts fit well, after adjusting the load ‘with the ear’ and all showed their abilities and their distinctive character, while neither seemed to be restricted by the phono-stage itself.

Finally, how can I describe the sound of this glowing phono? It is, in general, very-very balanced and highly three-dimensional, exemplary rich also in musical detail and information without sounding analytical, with comfortable gaps between the instruments that enhance the feeling of “you are there”. It also offers unexpectedly muscular and incisive dynamics. Yes, its sound has, in relation to my reference preamp (Bonnec Fono), a slightly thickening in the midrange frequencies (I would actually define it small but existent) from the character of tubes, but this was perceived mainly by direct comparison. But the performance of the bass notes and the mid/low frequencies is practically flawless, i.e. fast, elastic but not dry, extensive and discreet, and so the small amount – I emphasize it – of coloring is perceived more as a pleasant view and a little more body in the voices mainly, rather than as something worthy of criticism. And its highs are beautiful, silky, as fluid as it should be, and most importantly clean and pure. To give a more comprehensive description of its sound character, I must mention that the Andros II preamp tends (yes, we are talking about trend rather than point of view) to analyze the complexity of music rather than decomposing the musical meaning for the sake of a highly analytical view. In this helps the impressive performance of the detail that -yes- exists in the program, but with other devices and phono-stages does not come out so much on the ‘surface’ of our speakers, but also the complete lack of grain.

So… I conclude that this is a very good and balanced preamp (and I don’t give many this rating), with excellent performance in all areas. For this reason, Andros II does not strongly prefer any kind of music, does not sharply prefer any type of cartridge, has no strong preference for any kinds of listeners or music programms. In fact, for the latter I relied on the fact that in four different listeners, the level of satisfaction was practically the same, all were more than satisfied. In other words, I definitely recommend it because, if you can purchase it, it will give you many hours of music fun and enhanced dimensionality!


With this tube phono preampier from Zesto Audio’s (USA) model Andros II, I was often lost in music. It drived the main reviewing system to his own, unique ‘analog stage’ of pleasure. In todays world of top tier high-end offets, is a lovely and effective problem solver.  Also an impressive performer of detail and dynamics without a trace of stress. The level of satisfaction was high. Offering silky, crystal clear highs and a rich midrange picture with ideal doses of liquidity plus complexity without homogenizing, this could be the last audiophile phono preamp you buy (unless you have not heard of the next Andros II Deluxe model or are not planning on a higher price tag). Zesto Audio stands out worldwide and is awarded each year for its newest models, such as this one. A few models of high-end audio phono preamps offer this level of pride and joy to their owners. With Andros II you forget everything except the music on the vinyl, without any special restrictions. I definitely recommend it for listening if you are in search of a very high-performance tubed phono-stage!

Reference System:

Analog Sources : Pro-Ject X2 & X1-B, E.A.T. (European Audio Team) Forte S Turntable, Kuzma Turntables Phono Stages : VTL 2.5, Lejonklou Slipsik 7.1, Musical Fidelity, Conrad-Johnson, EAR-Yoshino PhonoBox MM/MC Cartridges : Van Den Hul (The Frog & Grasshopper Gold Edition), Ortofon 2M Blue & 2M Red,Goldring 1042 & Benz μοντέλο ACE (M), Vertere Mystic, Sumiko (various) κ.α. Digital Sources : Porfyra Audio DAC (Tube & Solid-State Outputs),Metronome Technologies, Audio Primare, RT-Audio Design Orpheus HiRes Battery DAC, Metronome Audio κ.α. Streaming Music Services: Tidal premium, Spotify premium, Preamps : VTL, E.A.R.-Yoshino, Conrad-Johnson (various) Integrated & Power Amplification : Porfyra Audio, VTL Audio, RT-Audio Design Class-A, Musical Fidelity (various), Conrad-Johnson (tube & solid-state various), AudioLab, Tsakiridis Devices κ.α. Transports (CD/SACD/File): Musical Fidelity, MusiChi, Foobar2000, Hysolid, various PC-based others Speakers : ProAc Studio & Response series, Kharma CRM 3.2 FE Black Edition, Klipsch Klipschorn, Club-27 Kurt mk2 Signature Kit, Triangle (Various), ELAC (Various) Cables : Atlas Cables, Silversmith Cables, Nordost Blue Heaven Phono Cable, Nordost ηχείων-interconnect, Neotech interconnects, Esprit Audio ηχείων-interconnects, Nordost USB cables, Alpha Core Goertz Sapphire Silver RCA, Van Den Hul interconnects (RCA) Power Cables: Neotech, IsoTek, Oyaide, Shunyata Research Power Conditioning : Isotek 2023-Line, Shunyata Research Hydra, Nordost Qv2/Qk1, Lab12.

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