It's almost unreal how the world has changed in 2021. After most high-end audio shows in the Western Hemisphere were canceled, the momentum suddenly shifted to the Internet more than ever. Some experts even claim that we fast-forwarded ten years in the future with online impact, importance, and awareness. 

Because of the circumstances, 2020 was also a year when many people suddenly had the luxury of sitting down, listening to music, and wanting more. Consequently, online sales of all kinds skyrocketed and vinyl records are not exempt. 

Along with the newfound time, many audiophiles and music lovers began to take a closer look at their systems, searching for the weakest link in the chain or a component that could add value sonically. 

Many analog aficionados have remarkable turntable based front ends, for these people, the phono stage along with the cartridge is certainly a key component in delivering the desired result and a lot of them are keen to at least theoretically explore the options of pushing the barrier further. 

For me, the highlight of 2020 related to the analog top-end was the arrival of the Aries Cerat Talos Signature phono preamplifier. I am pretty happy with my high-end audio system (if there even is such a thing), but I am always open and willing to delve deeper into unexplored audio realms. 

My good fortune is that instead of dreaming and speculating about high-end audio gear, I get products like this delivered right to my front door. Make no mistake. I am grateful for it and appreciate it greatly, and this true indulgence is one of the few things that fully enrich my daily life.

When Stavros Danos (CEO and owner of Aries Cerat) asked me if I would be willing to test out his brand new Talos Signature phono stage, I did not think twice or even blink. There is a special connexion to Aries Cerat Talos phono stage as I was the first to hear and experience the original Talos over a decade ago. 

A lot has happened in between. Danos has established himself as one of the most respected audio designers, and Aries Cerat has become synonymous with ultra-high-end audio products that work at the edge of what is possible in terms of the complete system offering and as stand-alone components. 

The memory of the original Talos also brought back memories of my visit to Athens-Greece years ago, where I met Stavros Danos and his premium customer, who at the time has switched from a full Audio Note UK system to the full Aries Cerat system. 

That journey and system had a remarkable impact on my understanding and appreciation for Danos and his proud creations. What now seems like a distant dream in the current climate, a few days in Greece and long conversations about high-end audio, music, and life in general, still resonate. 

This particular, highly enjoyable event has profoundly changed my perception of high-end audio and set core values for my future work. x


The Talos Signature is Stavros Danos' latest analog front-end creation. It refines and utilizes the technology of the top-of-the-line Limited Edition model, as well as improved parts of the smaller Reference model.

By using proprietary tube circuitry, transformer coupling throughout, and multiple rectified ultra-low noise power supplies, Danos and his team have succeeded in creating a unique source that was designed from the ground up to challenge the best analog source on the market, and in the Aries Cerat portfolio is only surpassed by the Limited Edition phono.

With a gain of 64db from the tube stages and an additional gain of 12-26db from the custom step-up transformers, a total gain of 76-90db is possible, with an amazingly high SNR, there is enough headroom to amplify any pickup's signal to its full dynamic range.


The input stage is a proprietary differential tube stage and is derived from the technology used in Aries Cerat top of the line LE phono stage. It uses two E280F super tubes per channel mounted on the special Vibration Isolation sockets. These tubes are loaded with a special transformer, (proprietary blend of MU /Permalloy core) with a fully geometrically and electrically balanced winding.

The differential input stage is fed either directly from the pickup in differential mode (from floating RCA or XLR inputs), or from Aries Cerat custom SUT transformers. 

All of Aries Cerat SUT transformers are also wound with fully geometrically/electrically balanced windings, providing a truly balanced output to take full advantage of our differential tube input stage.

Amplifying the extremely weak signal in differential mode has the advantage of canceling out common-mode noise, which translates to the electrical noise picked up anywhere from the cartridge to the phono stage inputs, resulting in a very high SNR. 

The input stage is the most important stage for retrieving and preserving information from the cartridge. With Talos Signature all necessary steps have been taken to provide the best possible noise canceling and microphony free linear input stage. 


The RIAA filters are implemented around a double T-LCR constant (low) impedance filter. These filters are the most transparent and dynamic filters possible, but since they have a very low impedance, they cannot be driven with a normal gain stage.

Danos has designed a small SET amplifier specifically to drive this constant low impedance filter structure. This small amplifier uses an E280F super tube loaded with a custom step-down transformer. This miniature amp can drive anything down to 50 ohms, and its output impedance is tuned to provide accurate RIAA correction EQ when combined with the LCR filters.


The output stage provides some of the overall gain of the phono system while providing low output impedance to drive any preamp load/capacitive cable etc.

It is also set up like a small independent SE amplifier. Another E280F SET amplifier provides enough drive current and drive, by using a step-down transformer.


All power supplies are located at the second, massive dedicated chassis, while local capacitor banks in the main chassis provide local decoupling.

The input stage power supply is tube rectified with 6D22S high current attenuation diodes and quad filtered with chokes.

The second bank of tube rectifiers with another pair of 6D22S is responsible for supplying the remaining stages. All stages are independently double filtered with chokes and high speed/current capacitors. A total of 10 chokes are used which, combined with the use of low ESR capacitors, provide six independent ultra-low noise power rails for all three X2 stages. 

All six independent power supplies have decoupled return conductors connected only to the single star ground of the main unit. This design along with the separation/filtration topology of the power supplies ensures minimal power crosstalk between stages, which is extremely important when amplifying low-level signals. 

All eight tubes can have their bias voltage adjusted and monitored on the fly. Each of the two differential banks can be monitored and also adjusted on the fly to allow both precise balanced operation and tonal fine-tuning using the two associated monitors.

The other four stages can also be adjusted and monitored via a dedicated monitor/meter/knob system that controls the four independent AC -link proprietary tube bias system. 

The tube heaters of all eight tubes are DC filtered with a five-fold Pi- filter to ensure a completely noise-free environment for all tubes.

The phono stage has no internal loading presets as this would predefine and limit loading combinations. It is done by loading modules, which are made to order depending on the customer's cartridge portfolio. 

Loading modules can be used for both direct and SUT inputs. Loading modules can have any desired value, and the user can load any input independently.


Funny how sometimes history repeats itself. Like with the original Talos review where I've received the ZYX Omega X cartridge at the time of review, the latest ZYX flagship cartridge, the Ultimate Astro X also arrived from Japan. Just at the right time! I still clearly remember the impressive synergy between the two, but as with the original Aries Cerat Talos phono stage, my exploration of the different cartridges did not stop there. 

With this phono preamp, I have used more than a fair variety of cartridges counting Top Wing Blue Dragon and Red Sparrow cartridges, Murasakino Sumile Mono, Gold Note Tuscany Gold, HANA SL and ML, and Etsuro Urushi Bordeaux.

Yes, this is not a modest selection.  These varied evaluations have kept me busy and intoxicated day in and day out for quite some time. But what a colorful journey it was. 

All of the cartridges found more than a happy home with Talos Signature showing their virtues, but something extraordinary happened with the Top Wing Red Sparrow. One of a kind synergy that is undoubtedly related to both phono preamp and cartridge incredible resolution. Red Sparrow responds like an F1 bolid to the track, demanding the utmost attention on all fronts and a superb phono stage that can handle its mojo. 

This powerful combination produced exceptional dynamics that shook all-analog tranquility I've often stumble upon across all price ranges of phono preamps. Red Sparrow allowed Talos Signature, to transcript the music far beyond anything I've expected. Danos promised me an analog ride of a lifetime and Talos Signature delivered an unforgettable experience. 

I have never heard "Help!" By The Brothers Four - Beatles Songbook: The Brothers Four Sing Lennon-McCartney sounding so lucid and eery. The holographic augmentation caught me off guard 

By default, the vocals have a great being-there factor. But Talos Signature took intensification way further. Without pushing forward effect the singers formed an exceedingly sublime three-dimensional scope with instantly captivating forte effect. The notes of the instruments became far clearer and without ever shifting the timbre core, as can often be the case even with more expensive phono stages.

That is not all. With any high-gain-based component, the sibilants of the voice can too easily be pushed into brittleness, and formants are broken down into analytical parts and parcels rather than forming a harmonic whole. Talos Signature did not suffer from such hubris. Nor did it artificially tame energy's nucleus or artificially sharpen attacks. A remarkable achievement, worthy of all the high praise.

Many, if not most, phono stages behave inadequately and maladaptive in the transcription of Ravel - Complete Orchestral Works - Conducted by ANDRÉ CLUYTENS. The Electronic Recording Company's version (ERC061) comes with an extra dose of sharpness and intricacy and can truly shine with the high-octane analog front system. 

Aries Cerat Talos Signature took big orchestral swaths with such a juvenile and dynamic ease that my inner radar sensor immediately lit up and left me in awe. A straightforward impact emerged that bypassed all logical sense guards and facilitates an unforgettable rendezvous. 

On both the micro and macro levels, Talos Signature marveled, the crescendos and sudden attacks were handled without a drop of sweat and at pin drop silence. This particular encounter produced a drama that still resonates greatly and cannot be replicated with any of my digital front ends.

I cannot say I have ever had such an encapsulating momentum as I drifted through the Michael Franks - The Art Of Tea album. Talos Signature acted as a charming, smooth operator without washing out Franks' leitmotif. The all-star musician team with Michael Brecker, David Sanborn, Larry Carlton, etc., who granted a remarkable, unforgettable, sensually playful narrative, were never deterred by Talos Signature. Aries Cerat phono stage also didn't drop the beat at any point. 

Through Aries Cerat Talos Signature analog lenses, a propulsive bass articulation was never skipped. Nor was Mancini-style jazzy pop constricted or robbed of picturesque kinematics. Talos Signature let sonic qualities to pop and crackle rather than blare and burn.

Another fantastic Electronic Recording Company recording recently release is Love's iconic album Forever Changes.

As with the other reference tracks, Aries Cerat Talos Signature has laid down lifelike, nature-drawn sonic metaphors with palpable aural illusion and three-dimensional realism to dream about. 

The svelte resolution was in spades and Talos Signature expertly zoned the instruments without losing the sense of completeness. 

The soothing appeal of Forever Changes was magnificently rendered from "Alone Again Or" to "You Set The Scene." 

It's not easy to replicate all the layers of Forever Changes without sacrificing some of its spatial, dynamic, and tonal qualities. 

The nature of the heart was presented as it must be. With simple joy, heartfelt, and without saturation of any kind. Aries Cerat Talos Signature is a tube phono stage, but do not expect tonal or timbral inking. 

Yes, Talos Signature is at its core a phono equalizer. Yet, as the best contemporary studio gear, without a signature. This was clearly and easily evident with electric guitar grips, acoustic guitars, or vocals. They did not need any artificial accenting or flourishes. This ERC album sounds as good as it gets by capturing the era's spirit and Love's essence and Aries Cerat Talos Signature potency allows the most elegant articulation and one of the kind narrowing of liminal space between reality and the illusion. 

Pierre Bensusan "Heman Dubh" from the album Musiques  was natural sounding and abundant, again with nimbler sonic realism. Aries Cerat chameleon-like nature easily painted the surreal canvas and perform its sonic legerdemain from song to song. 

Bensusan's unique sonic diorama was illuminated without unwanted glitter or unpleasant sonic fumé, which is too often evident with many phono stages.


Like the Aries Cerat Kassandra II Signature DAC, which has long been my faithful daily reference partner, the Talos Signature phono preamp features a unique gain monstrosity and, when handled properly, it becomes a true emperor of analog affairs. 

Both Kassandra II Signature and Talos Signature need a preamp that can handle the high output of both components. The Nagra HD PREAMP HV with its direct tube input was more than up to the task, as was the darTZeel NHB-18NS with its extremely usable input gain flexibility and The Bespoke Audio Company ultimate TVC silver preamplifier, that has already proven as a steady partner with all of the Aries Cerat components.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to get not only the Talos Signature but also the overall system gain right. Without the proper synergy, you only get a glimpse of analog heaven, but once the system can handle the tremendous signal flow from Talos, the true ultra-high-end force is unveiled and Signature's potency can truly be appreciated. 

The Aries Cerat Talos Signature phono preamp comes with unprecedented power and potency to handle the most fragile signal, and the only other phono preamp that could operate to the point with a colossal gain was the Trinity Audio Mic preamp. But this was an even more peculiar device that required an extreme setup, which in the end led me to connect it directly to my Lamm M1.2 Reference hybrid power amps.

The biggest challenge with any phono preamp is achieving low noise while keeping the energy of the music intact. Talos Signature accomplishes both with an unprecedented sonic output, by being simultaneously whisper quiet and full of flow and vibrancy.

While there are many exotic high-end preamplifiers on the market, the reality is that there is only a handful that can deliver low-noise, high-energy music output. 

I can understand all the sympathies (been there, done that) with certain iconic Japanese, legendary American, and high-end European phono preamps. Nevertheless. Aries Certat Talos Signature phono preamp does not belong to any of these designations. It is neither a typical audiophile phono stage nor a typical high-end unit. 

Those who follow Mono and Stereo and the high-end audio market, have already been able to unfold over the years that Stavros Danos is no ordinary high-end audio designer, nor are his proud creations the usual affair. There is no "meh again" sentiments in the way he approaches the design of all his products, and the sound follows exactly his particular modus operandi. 

One has to allow to grasp a more ubiquitous perspective to fully grasp the Aries Cerat universe. Those who have met Danos personally can easily understand and appreciate what makes him tick and why his products are not downsized, even if they are :). 

And as many of us have experienced in person or at the high-end audio shows, a high price is no longer the merit of excellence. But there are worthy examples that beg to differ. Yes, Aries Cerat products are not cheap, but Danos also offers entry-level products at more affordable prices, such as the Helene DAC, which again has nothing to do with entry-level quality.

Like the rest of the Aries Cerat products, the Talos Signature phono preamplifier is not over-designed or intentionally made big to impress with its sheer size. Quite the contrary, the Talos Signature comes in a hefty two-piece chassis, as this was a minimum size to contain everything needed to perform at this level. 

Danos does not want to impress with size, but with sonic performance. The electronic complexity is hidden under the massive, monolithic chassis. Aries Cerat's technical solutions are not simple by all means. Rather, they are refined versions of sophisticated approaches, optimized for the application at hand. This is the point where Danos performs his "miracle": leaving out the unnecessary and finding the right solutions.

Talos Signature is built like a high-class mecha machine, evoking fond memories of top-notch Japanese anime and manga. Like the external esthetics, the inner workings of the Talos Signature reflect the Danos mentality, which on closer inspection reveals work at the fringes of technology. 

For Danos, tubes were never even remotely considered obsolete technology. For him, they represent the fastest transducers that cannot be replicated with silicon. Where necessary, all of Aries Cerat 's devices use contemporary approaches, components, and materials, occasionally even silicon. If something does not exist, Danos makes it his life's work to create something exceptional, like the already widely used propriety Inverted Triode Technology or he approaches manufacturers to have special parts made that do not exist. 

The Aries Cerat Talos Signature is the best phono preamp I have had the pleasure of testing, regardless of whether it's a solid-state or tube design and regardless of the price. The Aries Cerat Talos Signature is everything: spacious, dynamic, transparent, and goes beyond the expected with the intimacy of the music. The music non-stop, as Kraftwerk would say!

So what makes Talos Signature stand out so much!!? The absence of electrical and mechanical hysteresis, followed by the impressive believability factor and unique realism. In general, the absence in its audible presence. 

The Talos Signature simply brings out the best in music by offering a fantastic dynamic range, low noise, and unmatched music flow. 

I concluded the original review of the Aries Cerat Talos phono preamp with a thought that always comes at the surface in connection with high-end audio products with an upper echelon price tag. When you have to pay the high price, the obligatory "Ordnung muß sein",  is, the feel, the physical presence, the sound, and emotional interaction. The aesthetics and the innards should follow the numbers also. And none of these qualities are lacking in the Aries Cerat Talos Signaturenature phono preamp. 

It's a rare thing to discover your design language, but Aries Cerat found its way and succeeded. In our beloved but still niche industry, one of the biggest difficulties for any manufacturer is achieving an instantly recognizable design. No such problem with Aries Cerat. These products cannot be mistaken with any other, both aesthetically and sonic wise. 

Pat Metheny once said that the greatest compliment he can get as a guitarist is that people recognize his playing, no matter what the genre. I feel the same way about the products of Aries Cerat. Nothing sounds quite like these creations and in the best possible way. 

But obtaining your instant recognition without finding your customers is not exactly the most fulfilling achievement and desired outcome. Danos has pushed himself over the edge and far out of the comfort zone to offer its customers standard and custom creations like this system:

A brief glimpse of what a real Aries Cerat heaven looks and sound like. A full-featured, cost no object, take no prisoners ultra-high-end audio system personally built by Stavros Danos. Video by our friend Joshua Masongsong from Believe High Fidelity.

In over ten years, Aries Cerat has carved out a unique position in the high-end audio market by catering and adapting to the most demanding customer needs, as you can see below. I know that for Danos the challenge does not end there, but it's a remarkable achievement what he has done with Aries Cerat and something that any high-end audio designer could be proud of. 

Michael Kromschroeder's (KlangLoft) installation of Aries Cerat Symphonia speakers and 200kg Ianus Geminae amplifiers in the 60m2 first-floor listening room at the city villa in Germany.

For what it represents technically and, more importantly, musically, I wholeheartedly grant Aries Cerat Talos Signature the first 2021 Mono & Stereo Award. And it's not just any award, it's the very first 2021 Editors Choice Award!

Yes, never a dull moment with Stavros Danos's restless and adventurous spirit. I cannot wait to see what the audio genius from Cyprus comes up with next. 

Then again, I'll let a secret slip, because I know what is coming next in a few days. The Aries Cerat Ianus Essentia power amplifier!!! So stay tuned.•

Matej Isak


- 45.000 EUR (including VAT)


  • Tube compliment: 8x E280F  4x 6d22s
  • Total system gain: 64db + 12~26 db (custom SUT for each cart) 76-90db max gain
  • Noise floor: -80db
  • Max SNR:106db 
  • RIAA accuracy: +-0.2db
  • Inputs: 2x floating RCA/XLR differential inputs  (64db)
  • 1x Step up transformer input (+12~26db custom)
  • Max Output: 20Vrms @ 200ohm 
  • Loading Resistance/capacitance: Unlimited combinations.(use of extenal custom built loading modules)
  • Weight: 85kg total


Aries Cerat LTD

52 Vasileos Pavlou A’

Limassol, 3052


Fax: +357 25565916
Mobile: +357 99307099