With the Janus Signature (and later the Calypso) driving it, the Atlas exhibited no trace of timing confusion, no blunted attacks, no bass bloat, and no fuzzy imaging. Indeed, its resolution, timing, and imaging were beyond reproach. Tonally, the amp was still on the sweet side—gold to my reference’s silver—but this was an appealing character, and one that was consistent across the musical spectrum, making the amp fully coherent. The Atlas was slightly less incisive dynamically than the reference, but so is pretty much everything. In any case, I suspect this would only be noticeable in a direct comparison and with extremely revealing ancillary gear. In sum, the Atlas ultimately proved to be a joy—both sonically and musically—to listen to, living up to the promise it displayed at CES.
At this point, I turned to the Janus Signature, trying, as I had with the Atlas, to isolate its sound. To do so, I connected it to my Goldmund amp. I was not too concerned about this arrangement because the Calypso, years earlier, had always been a fine match for the Goldmund. As it turned out, the Janus proved equally amenable. This setup allowed me to get a clear handle on the Janus’ sound. However, the preamp was clearly happier when paired with the Atlas; when I reunited these two components, I could almost hear them cry out a “Thank you!”
Through either amp, the Janus Signature sounds a lot like the wonderful Calypso linestage on which it is based, and a lot like the Atlas, too. Fast and detailed without being analytical; extended highs without a glint of shrillness; a low noise floor that makes it easy to listen “into” the music; precise, pulsating rhythms; dynamics that are only a skosh less lively than the reference; and a laid-back (Row J versus Row C) perspective. The quiet background, freedom from in-your-face dramatics, and smooth highs add up to long hours of glorious, fatigue-free listening.
Of course, there are differences between the original and upgraded linestages. The normal Calypso/Janus soundstage is big, but not huge; it stops just shy of the speakers’ inner edge. Moving up to the Signature version, the soundstage enlarges to fully equal that of my far more expensive reference preamp, extending to the outer edge of the speakers and beyond. The Signature also delivers a richer portfolio of instrumental timbres, making the original seem slightly pale in comparison (but only in comparison). The Sig also offers more air, and decays with longer tails. And just as Robert Harley found in comparing the Rhea phonostage to its Signature iteration, opting for the Signature linestage reaps bass that is distinctly more defined and fleshed out.
However, I found one characteristic of the Signature that not everyone will deem an improvement. Unlike the Atlas, the Janus really does have an upper-bass bump, one that is entirely absent in the non-Signature version. This narrow spectral exaggeration is partially responsible for the Signature’s pleasantly warmer cast, but it also imbues the sound with a thickness that affects both timing and timbre. For instance, the Water Musik overture through the non-Signature Aesthetix is appropriate bouncy, but through the Signature it feels slightly bogged down. Further, on tracks with strong bass to begin with, such as the Mary Gauthier, the Signature can gild the lily.
I believe the choice between the Signature and non-Signature model will come down to personal preference. The regular version is more strictly neutral and “lighter on its feet” though not as timbrally rich or complex. At $4500, the original Calypso remains a steal. The Signature will appeal to those who favor a more euphonic sound, a bigger soundstage, and significantly fuller bass. Both units offer superior performance, quality, and value. Hearing the Calypso again reminded me why my anticipation for the Janus Signature had run so high. Happily, the Janus, like the Atlas, handily met those lofty expectations.