Help! Trying to choose between 2 integrateds that I haven't heard to pair w/Vandersteens

I think I’ve narrowed my choices to 2 integrated amps, to pair with my new Vandersteen 2CE Sig III speakers (latest generation):

1: Ayre AX-5 Twenty (I found a clean used one @ $7500 --they’re >$12k new)
2: Aesthetix Mimas, $7000 naked, or $8200 with DAC. (review: )

I lean to the Mimas because it does have a headphone stage, and they have a DAC module for $1200 that is said to be excellent. Also because of the tube preamp stage, and I sorta crave some tube in my system.

That said, AYRE is a classic matchup for Vandersteens (it and the Aesthetix use no negative feedback, fwiw) and gets excellent reviews. New vs new, it’s a step up from the Mimas

I did try the Simaudio 600i V2 and it was sweet, and built like a tank with 10 year warranty. I liked it, but wish I could have auditioned it in my home. It didn’t knock me out though.

I currently run an Audio Alchemy DDP-1 preamp/DAC + Odyssey Audio Khartago+++ amp, the best Khartago he builds. I am not unhappy, but want to take things to the next level. With the Ayre I’d need a separate DAC, and am thinking the Denafrips Pontus II or the new Holo Spring 3... OR?

Thanks for any advice, especially Vandersteen folks!

If you are determined to buy an integrated then of your listed choices the Mimas or also look at the Modwright hybrid integrated however Odyssey amps and Vandersteen speakers are a great match.  An alternative would be to keep the Khartago (I ran one with 2CE Sigs for six years) and add a tube preamp like the Supratek Chardonnay and the Spring 3 and still be dollars ahead.  In the past I have owned 2CE Sigs, 3A Sigs and Treo CT's all run with Odyssey or Belles power. 
I have the Aesthetix Pallene and Atlas with my Vandy Quatros the Pallene is the preamp of the MIMAS Aesthetix is a great match with Vandys I had the Ayre in my system when I was waiting for the Pallene  I pick the Aesthetix over the Ayre I felt more connected to the music with the Aesthetix and has a larger soundstage I do have a Arye Codex

Enjoy the Music 
I've been reading up on the Supratek Chardonnay, and it sounds like an amazing preamp and value. He's doing a blog again.
I used my 3A Sigs with Classe, ARC tube and Ayre.  They responded well to better amps but ultimately nothing game changing. With the nice upgrade from $3k separates to $7k+ integrated the Vandersteens should respond.  The improvement will be noticable but incremental and significantly below your systems potential.  If you stay with Vandersteen for future upgrades it may work out.  Otherwise maybe think about end game speakers first and matching the amp later.  
wlutke  I've thought about Vandersteen Treo CTs (I love the Vandy sound), but would miss the bass extension. They are excellent, as are some others in that $8-12k range. That opens a can of worms...bringing up the entire system to the next level! If I only had more money, right? The greatest frustation for me is trying to solve an equation with more than one variable at a time (you can't) and it's impossible in my experience to find dealers that carry a broad range of components and speakers to mix and match while auditioning carefully, without traveling far and wide and spending more time than I have. I'd love to find my dream speaker and work backwards, but not sure how. 1st world problems. That, and 64 year old ears with some tinnitus, so I'm trying to be practical and not spend more $$ than I can practically enjoy, with ears that aren't getting younger. All I want is a system (one as simple as possible) that I can forget about and just enjoy the music with and stop worrying about hardware! Oy.
We have things in common!  I’m 67, tinnitus and recently swapped out my whole system.  I went from ARC REF3, Ayer V-5xe, Vandersteen 3A Sig to  Acoustic Zen Crescendo II (used), Pass Xa-25, Herron 360.  I first upgraded the Vandersteens to Acoustic Zen Crescendo II’s.  Fabulous speakers.  They did not play well with the Ayer.  Bummer.  Hoping you can avoid that.
Ayre amps are often a good match with Vandys, but I’d throw in a third contender to the mix...

With an outboard DAC, you’re in the same ballpark price-wise, and I’d argue that since digital is the one technology that is still evolving, it’s actually an advantage to keep the two components separate. I’ve heard the pairing, and it’s excellent. John at Audio Connection is the guy to talk to about Vandersteen matching (I am in no way affiliated with him or AC, in case that’s unclear).

Thanks, mdemaio
I’ve spoken to John... he’s great. He loves the Mimas, btw. He also love Ayre and Belles, depending on budget.

Congrats on getting the latest Model 2. Well, the Treo CT certainly have bass. Recently I have setup two pair w the Mimas. Jim White’s card based DAC is excellent value. I had a 20 series Ayre ( vxr), so no stranger to that brand sonics. Love it but the Aesthetix will have better “ drive a rod thru the center of the earth bass “. Everything above that is nits and season to taste. Two great choices, three if you add Belles ( i just have not heard David latest Sig series, post pandemic to do list )

on the issue of end game speakers in the Vandy line, either of tge Integrated you mention can ( and have ) been modifed w internal high pass filters for use w the powered bass models ( Quattro and up )

See you on Vandy forum 

best to you

"All I want is a system (one as simple as possible) that I can forget about and just enjoy the music with and stop worrying about hardware! Oy"

@patrickdowns,  based on your  stated criteria ( high quality sound and simplicity)  the Aesthetix Mimas (With DAC option)  is hard to beat in your budget range. 

"That said, AYRE is a classic matchup for Vandersteens (it and the Aesthetix use no negative feedback, fwiw) and gets excellent reviews. New vs new, it’s a step up from the Mimas"

Who/what determined it's a "step up " from the Mimas?

Thanks, Jim tomic601. I recall that you’ve set up 2 systems with the Mimas and Treo CTs (which I still want, and almost got used, a 1 year old mint pair for $6k and then I dawdled and missed it), and that’s one reason I became Mimas-curious. So you’ve heard their DAC? For $1200, to have that built in as a base DAC, while able to experiment with external DACs, seems a great option. QUESTION: Have you tried the Mimas with headphones? I listen with cans about 30% of the time so it’s important to me. The 1/4W output of the standard phones output would I hope drive my Sennheisers, but they’re planning a 1W output phones card, they say, which I would want. I love the idea of the Mimas with the Quatros too ... my pal has them and they are amazing.

charles1dad - I may be unwisely assuming that with an MSRP of $5000 more than the Mimas, that the Ayre integrated is "better" but if I am wrong, that makes the Mimas an excellent value. I would love to audition them side-by-side with Vandys, but the only dealer I know of that carries all 3 brands is John Rutan in NJ (who also carried Belles). If I weren’t as far as one can get from him in CONUS (I live in W. WA state), I would for sure make the pilgrimage.

Yes, the card based DAC is quite good - i could be accused of Aesthetix bias, as i have a Pandora. I have not had the chance to listen to the headphone jack - Ray at Stereo Unlimited in San Diego would know. 

Best to you!
Summers we are in Seattle, where are you ?

Your speakers got a glowing review! Do you love them? I love the Vandy sound, but ponder what I would do if I had $10-20k for speakers? Quatro CT? Or? I also dream of some really efficient (>93db) speakers with which to drive a low powered integrated like the Linear Tube Audio, maybe for a 2nd system.
tomic601 - I live in Port Angeles, 2.5 hours W of Seattle. I used to live in north county San Diego for 10 years (until the mid-80s, then LA for 16 yrs), and have shopped at Stereo Unltd. I talked to Ray not long ago, because my pal in Calsbad/Encinitas shops there sometimes and I learned they were an Aesthetix dealer so I called for info. Nice guy. He’s been in "the biz" for what, 40+ years?

You have the charmed life...PacNW in summer, SoCal in winter!
I thoroughly enjoy the Crescendo 2’s.   With a good sub they come to life.  $8k-$9k used.
OK, a hypothetical for anyone not bored with my questions!

WOULD YOU upgrade to TREO CTs first, and keep the front end I have for now (my Odyssey Khartago amp is well-regarded and sounds good)


Upgrade to the Aesthetix Mimas (for example, or the Ayre integrated) now, and then the Treo CT (or Quatro CT if I was very fortunate) later?

There probably is no wrong answer, but I am looking for the biggest improvement now, with an upgrade path later. THANKS!
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PA is quite the change from LA / SoCal. Bit of a slice of heaven right there. Whacked a lot of big Kings off Ediz Hook… Love the Straits

There was an Aesthetix dealer in Silverdale, is that gone ?

I will look at your system before weighing in on priority, I do have a lot of listening miles in w Klaus amp and 2’s…..

Thanks, Jim tomic601

I lived in MT for 12 years after LA, so the big city is only a place to visit for me now... I've been ruined by smaller towns. I could probably live in parts of San Diego, if I could afford it. Shoulda never left SD :(

There may be a dealer locally...I'll check.

I don't have my room on A'gon. It's 12 X 15 with the speakers on the long wall. 2CE's sound good, and the Treos would too (and might be better, as I can place them closer to the wall). I do have access to a 14 X 24 room downstairs, in a lower level mother-in-law apartment, but it has a separate outside entrance so is less convenient to pop into for short listen sessions. I know it would be a better hi-fi room, but wife for now wants it for guests and her office.