Zesto Andros II with ESP vs Modwright PH 9.0 XT?

About to make a big phono stage upgrade. Has anybody compared these two or have experience with either? Cartridge will be a Soundsmith Carmen II, but I also have a low output Hana that I could use.

The MW with the X upgrade and the tube rectified PS puts it in the same fiscal neighborhood as the Zesto.


I’ve had the Zestos Andros Deluxe 2 (w/ ESP) for a few years now. FYI I have Raytheon 12 AD7 and GE 7247 for tubes, not the stock JJs. The Zestos replaced a Pass XP-15. The Zestos is just as quiet as the solid state Pass (perhaps more?), with greater "texture" to the presentation. Treble decay (e.g. ride cymbal) is spot on and lengthy, while mid range seems effortless and smooth. Bass, e.g. upright bass, is articulate and full. It is just a captivating phono stage that leaves me wanting nothing, yet the Zestos doesn’t call attention to itself. I’ve use various MCs (Benz Wood, Gullwing and LPS, have an Aidas Gala Gold on it now) and vintage MMs (Stanton 980 LZS and HZS) and the Zestos just allows carts to shine. The Andros 2 is close to endgame for me, and I have no plans to move on from the Zestos. Soundstage is wide, albeit somewhat affected by the 12AX7 tubes you have in there. (For this, it’s hard to beat the uber quiet American 12AX7 types, like 12AD7 or AT7 here) . The Zestos is just a satisfying and well rounded phono stage, I’d imagine one would have to spend quite a bit more for audible improvement. I would prefer more loading options for MCs, but 100- 1000 ohms loading is well covered via a dial on the rear panel. Like the Pass, the Zestos is NOT very sensitive to loading, Ralph (Atmasphere) would suggests this is indicative of good phono stage design. Strangely the low impedance MM Stanton 980 is more sensitive to loading than MCs I’ve tried on the Zestos. Also, The Zestos is nice to look at. : ) Sorry, I have no experience with the Modwright, but I would highly recommend the Zestos Andros Deluxe 2. I got a good Agon deal on the Zestos, and paid well less than MSRP.

The 12AT7 is not electrically like the 12AX7, but they will work in a socket wired for the 12AX7.  The 12AT7 will provide noticeably less gain than a 12AX7, assuming you use it in the phono input/voltage gain stage of a phono stage.  And the 12AT7 is likely to sound better with a higher plate current than what is normally used for the 12AX7, in keeping with its much higher transconductance.

I meant 12AD7 and 12DT7, not the AT7. Typo. I wouldn’t think of adding an 12AT7 in place of an 12AX7. The AD7 and DT7 are electrically identical to the 12AX7, just are considered more quiet, and were used in instrumentation and avionics. Same as the 7729 made by CBS. All are excellent, very quiet, dynamic and very wide bandwidth tubes, less "colored" than say a RCA BP 12AX7 for example.

I had a Zesto Leto Preamp.   I sent it to George for new tube sockets and the ESP upgrade while it was there .  I bought it as a demo and  believe someone whacked a tube laterally, damaging a socket.   

I can't say enough about my experience with George and Carolyn. They are some of the nicest people you will encounter in HiFi.   They could have gouged me like many companies would on a product with a $7500 price tag but parts and labor was only around $300 for the repairs.  The ESP upgrade was reasonable too and worthwhile.   

That was a phenomenal product with great support.  Only sold it to fund a DHT pre to compliment my amp.  If I could have funded that and kept the Zesto I would have..  it was the most quiet preamp I have ever owned or had first hand experience with.   Complete black background 


I have the PH9.0.

Probably going to upgrade to the X.

I like the separate PS.  Don't really like that it's a hybrid but the reviews convinced me.

If I had the cash, I might have gone with the Andros II.  Better loading selection, not sure it's an advantage as I use  SUT.  Pure tube.

Sonically, based on what I read, maybe a toss up.  Modwright might be a bit more SS (base upon comparing with my Tavish Adagio).

Maybe take a look at Luxman EQ500 too.

Can't go wrong with either one IMO.

I have the Ph 9.0 with the X upgrade and the tube-rectified PS. Excellent piece, I've had it around 5 years, always dependable and great sound.  Match it with an SME 30/2 and sometimes an LP12.  From the 9.0, it goes to a Modwright KWI200, also excellent.