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Zesto Audio Andros 1.2 Phonostage Preamplifier

04-19-2015 | By Robert H. Levi | Issue 78

zesto audio andros

Zesto Audio is a nearly-new company based and built in Los Angeles, and run by George Counnas, a talented and seasoned designer and electrical engineer who is seriously challenging the established competition. Every Zesto model produced has been gorgeous, and an under-priced over-achiever. What is our audio world coming to when great value invades our sacred over-priced high-end turf?!

The Andros 1.2 Phonostage, at $4700, is extraordinary. Featuring dual mono construction, it brings to the listener a realistic, in-the-room performance of your treasured LPs. Its features are more generous than anything I know of under $10 grand. All of its controls are on the outside of the box for easy tweaking. Plus, Zesto will happily upgrade older models to full 1.2 status, including a new front badge, for a reasonable fee. With two tubes on the input stage and two on the output, transformers are used to boost gain in the MC stage.

New Andros 1.2 specifications:

  • Separate MM and MC inputs
  • MM/MC switch
  • MM impedance switch 47K or 15K Ohms
  • MM capacitance 200pf
  • MC Single Ended RCA with isolated ground or Balanced XLR3F
  • MC ground on/off switch
  • MC load impedance adjustable 1000, 800, 600, 500, 400, 300, 200, 100, 50, 20 Ohms
  • MC Internal step up transformers
  • MC High/Low switch with -6dB gain for high output MC cartridges

My Reference System

1. E.A.R. Disc Master Magnetic Drive Turntable by Tim De Paravicini

2. Two Helius Omega tonearms

3. Kiseki Purpleheart N.S. MC cartridge

4. London Reference Cartridge: MM

5. Kubala-Sosna Elation! interconnect with London

6. Jorma Origo Interconnect with Kiseki

7. Stein DE3 LP/CD Demagnetizer

8. Andros 1.2 to E.A.R. 912 Preamplifier: Kubala-Sosna Emotion Interconnect single-ended connection five meter length.

9. Andros 1.2 power cord is Kubala-Sosna Emotion AC Cable

10. Two E.A.R. 890 power amps in mono mode

11. Marten Bird Speakers with diamond tweeter

12. REL Stadium III sub-woofer with bass crossover at 22 Hz

I experimented with Marigo Mystery feet, Stein Signature Super Natural feet, and various pods and such. All improved the performance of the Andros 1.2 in various ways, so be prepared to provide isolation for the unit. I settled on the Zesto's own feet and the improved 1.2 feet for the review. I found the Kubala-Sosna Emotion AC Cable and Emotion Interconnect to the preamp brought out all the strengths of the Andros 1.2 without any issues. The Andros 1.2 was sublimely neutral and musical with this K-S power cord on board.

zesto audio andros

The unit operates with four 12AX7 tubes with gold pins sourced from JJ in Slovakia and matched by Zesto. Each unit is run 50 hours before shipping. I allowed another 50 hours before serious listening. I always warmed up the unit an hour before reviewing. The unit runs fairly cool, making location a non-issue.


I had a ball with the Andros 1.2, setting the optimum positions for each cartridge so that I could flip between cartridges on the fly without resetting anything. The flexibility of this piece is a cornucopia of delight. You name it, it has it. The only features I could dream up are the future addition of a mono switch and balanced outputs. George Counnas does not recommend a mono switch, by the way. He says you are better off with stereo for mono LPs. He may be right.

The only small pop I heard is if you turn off the entire unit with the gain up. Otherwise, the Andros yields silent operation throughout.

The Andros 1.2 is a powerhouse phonostage. Endowed with tons of gain, and huge reserves, plus a perceived flat frequency response, I tweaked the VTA of both cartridges to get optimum musicality. From then on, I wanted for nothing, but to play more records.

The Andros 1.2 is more neutral and exacting than the original with more definition in all areas. Right-to-left sound staging is exemplary. Depth perspective is superb. Imaging is more rounded and focused. Timbres are realistic and natural. There is a tremendous amount of air and ambiance on the best LPs. Bass response is deeper and tighter. The Andros 1.2 is a sonic triumph! 

The MC section is every bit as quiet as a solid-state unit. The Kiseki bloomed dramatically at 400 ohms input. I tried 300, 400, 500, and 600, but 400 was the ticket. I did not hear the romantic sound of tubes... just a neutral open sound that let the music through. I could quibble about a touch of brightness or a bit of definition, but in this price range the Andros 1.2 is beyond reproach. The Kiseki was a musical wonder with layers and layers of undistorted musical definition. Its unique gigantic sound staging capability for a MC was very obvious with the Andros.

With the 15,000 ohm setting, the London Reference was right at home with the Andros 1.2. In fact, the London was a veritable head banger in the MM section of this unit. Its textural cues were finely rendered. The London appeared to retrieve a broader sound stage as well. Even with its huge output, the Andros never faltered. This is some of the best MM performance I have ever heard. Most folks do not have a MM cartridge, but if you do you will be in for a treat. The Andros 1.2 has generous headroom capability at all frequencies.

I obtained a test pressing of the new Mobile Fidelity Kind of Blue in 45 rpm. We played both the Kiseki and London while I took notes. The Kiseki's reproduction was startling. I clearly heard layers of definition and nuance that were right up there with the best I have heard from this recording. Instrumental focus was perfection. This LP is killer, and so is the power of this Zesto treasure.

The London knocked me nearly speechless. I think Miles' trumpet had even more nuance and definition than the Kiseki. The bass was magnificently rendered and incredibly full bodied. The sax solos were powerful and intense. The Andros 1.2 cut loose with a sonic vigor I will always remember.

For Duke, M&Ks legendary direct-to-disk recording, left me in awe. The Kiseki resolved definition and musicality that was remarkable. The London was alive with power and majesty. What fabulous fun! This unobtainium LP is worth the search and money for a good copy. The Andros 1.2 maximizes the musicality and impact of both cartridges here.

The Speakers Corner Suite Espanola by Albeniz has the majesty to thrill even non-classical lovers. The Kiseki yielded fine violin layering I had not previously recalled. Dynamics were clean, clear, and intense. The bass lines were startlingly realistic and tuneful. The London was, well, the London. I had to fasten my sonic seat belt for this one. You just cannot make the Andros 1.2 stress or strain. Its ease at producing giant crescendos is sure and certain. Its sense of realism is correct if the source is correct. No fakery allowed with the Andros 1.2.

Tube Rolling: The Sport of Audiophile Kings

With four easy to get to 12AX7 tubes right up front, tube rolling seems a great idea. The back pair is the input pair. The front pair is the output pair. I received a pair of smooth plate Telefunkens from Kevin Deal at Upscale Audio in Upland, CA, for the test. On hand were Mullards and GEs. I tried them all and was ultimately disappointed. The JJs were the best of the lot, and were supplied matched by Zesto. I sort of liked the Telefunkens on the output positions, but they reduced dynamics a bit too much. I would not spend a bunch of money on tube rolling with the Andros 1.2. It is most obviously voiced to max out the excellent high output Euro JJs.


The new Zesto Audio Andros 1.2 Phonostage Preamplifier clobbers the original, and may just be the best piece of audio gear designed by George Counnas to date. Combine trend setting flexibility, head turning design, glorious performance, and super competitive pricing and you will understand the impact of this beauty in my reference system. If you are searching for a top performing phono stage, consider the Andros 1.2. It will open a window to the glories of high-end, high-definition sound without your having to take on a second mortgage. Robert H. Levi

My highest recommendation.

Andros 1.2 Phonostage Preamplifier

MSRP USD $4700

Zesto Audio



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Carolyn for Sales and Marketing


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Zesto is located in Thousand Oaks, California, USA.

Factory hours are 9 am until 6 pm PDT