Aragon 8008 power amplifier

Like most audiophiles, I salivate over the latest Jurassic, second-mortgage-inducing power amplifier. Whether it's about the music itself, or simply "my amp is bigger than your amp" one-upmanship, we all know that those who risk a hernia in pursuit of the ultimate in sound invariably come out winners.

Or do they? There are many superb-sounding super-amps, to be sure, but once you reach a certain point, the cost/weight ratio begins to spiral upward much faster than the sound quality. Increase the size and weight of anything, and the manufacturing costs—and retail price—inevitably increase. Increase the final price, and you have to increase the size and weight to retain a high perceived value. And on and on. The cycle ends only when the manufacturer judges that the market for the product can no longer justify a higher price.

But there is another way. Mondial Designs was not the first company to realize that they could prosper with a Build it Good, Make it Affordable and They Will Come attitude. But from the beginning, they built on that foundation, and are still one of the best at making the concept work in a marketplace that goes ga-ga over big and expensive. The truth, of course, is that more people can afford—and accommodate—a $2000, 70 lb amplifier than a $10,000, 200 lb one. But can the smaller amp compete sonically? The original Mondial design, the Aragon 4004, proved that it could, and the follow-up to that design, the 4004 Mk.II, built on that initial success (footnote 1). The subject of this review is the new 8008, which is a significant refinement of that earlier model.

Eight double-o eight
The Aragon 8008 is manufactured by the same Connecticut-based facility which built the earlier Aragon amplifiers, a factory which also manufactures industrial, medical, and military components. The 8008's heatsinks are significantly larger than those in the 4004, and now form a basic structural element in the redesigned chassis. The changes are visibly evident in the reconfigured ventilation slot (the "V" slot above the internal heatsinks which has become an Aragon trademark) and the front panel. The cosmetic alterations are subtle at first glance, but they give the new amplifier a more substantial appearance compared with the 4004.

The new heatsinks are designed to keep the operating temperatures of each of the output devices as close to identical as possible. The 8008 runs hot in operation, even in idle, which suggests the output stage is biased well into class-A. (Like most amplifiers, it switches to class-AB at higher output powers.)

The power supply is based on a single 2000VA toroidal transformer. There are separate transformer windings for each channel, along with separate rectification and filter capacitance. The input stages are fully discrete, running in class-A, and each channel has its own circuit board for improved isolation. A new DC servo circuit allows the 8008 to operate down to 5Hz. This circuit disconnects the loudspeakers if any energy—including DC—is sensed below that frequency.

In other respects the 8008 continues the design philosophy of the 4004. The power supply is claimed to be the largest which can make full use of a domestic, 15A, 120V power line. The amplifier is designed to drive low impedance loads. Precision matching is performed on all transistors, and gold, silver, or palladium is used on all contacts. Mil-spec or medical-spec parts are used throughout, including silver-composite, Teflon-insulated wiring. All resistors are epoxy-sealed, which according to Mondial, ensures a consistent 1% tolerance in all climatic conditions.

The rear panel of the 8008 has plenty of room for the unbalanced RCA input jacks, detachable power cord, and two pairs of five-way loudspeaker binding posts (for bi-wiring, if desired). The parts quality touted for the 8008 falls down, however, with these posts; three of the eight plastic hex-heads on the review sample stripped in normal use. It was still possible to tighten down spade lugs on the stripped posts, but less snugly than with unstripped terminals.

Our 8008 sample was single-ended only, but a version with balanced inputs is available for an added $500. My experience with balanced audio gear suggests that the difference in sound can be small to nonexistent, unless you use long leads in an EMI-riddled environment. Since I was unable to compare balanced and unbalanced inputs in our sample, any opinions on the two with this design would be mere extrapolation from my prior experiences. Nevertheless, I would listen long and hard before paying the 25% premium for balanced inputs.

Sound
While I have not heard the Aragon 4004 Mk.II for two or three years, the 8008 appears ready to sustain the earlier amplifier's reputation—and then some. Its treble was full of detail both subtle and obvious—whichever was musically appropriate. In the reference system, my first reaction to the Aragon was that it produced one of the best-sounding top ends, overall, that I have heard from the Veritas v2.8—and I've tied a lot of pricey amplifiers to those loudspeakers.



Footnote 1: The earlier Aragon amplifiers were reviewed in December 1987, Vol.10 No.9, (4004) and September 1992, Vol.15 No.9, and April 1993, Vol.16 No.4 (4004 Mk.II).
COMPANY INFO
Aragon
Mondial Division of Klipsch
3502 Woodview Trace, Suite 200
Indianapolis, IN 46268
(866) 781-7284
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COMMENTS
bengal_finch's picture

my father brought our aragon 8008BB on 1995 dec and still its running with no problem.

recently one year back i brought one MBL9007 amplifire and surprizingly aragon is very fast compare with MBL9007. simply DIO- holy driver plays well on aragon compare with mbl9007. but please note 9007 is 130w per channel 8ohm, where as argon BB pushing stagring 200w per channel. and honestly argon is a magnificent amplifire with ample of power, those who have this amplifire running till to date, please try cardas clear power beyond ac power cord, you will be amazed with its acuastic performance. trust me aragon have the guts to chase mbl 9007 sterio. but the sweetness and channel separetion of MBL9007 is uncomparable to aragon. i just want to mention my MBL9007 is in short of power, i am strongly planning to consider MBL9008A to replace my MBL9007, i belive MBL power amps performs well in sterio block than mono. 

about my speaker i am useing polkaudio tsi500, i know its a cheap speaker but i proved my self on audiotin its performs better than rtia of polk. i also have tsi400, played buy onkiyo reciver. our old speaker was Phase techknology pc 10.5. speaker cable is wireworld polaris, planning to upgrade to cardas clear speaker cable.

my pree is MLn0.326s and playing MBL9007 and aragon8008 amazingly, i am very happy with this ML pre, trust me its a good pree, my privious pree was RESTEK consence.

anyway aragon 8008BB is a amazing amp, those who came across this amp please have a audiotion, its worth a try. i always use my arogon bb on XLR mode.

Schurkey's picture

Too bad this article does not contain the "Manufacturer's Comments" that appeared in the print magazine.  Mondial provided a justification of the additional cost of the "Balanced" version of this amplifier, the 8008BB.  The BB uses two, separate 1.1kVA toroidial transformers rather than a single, dual-wound 2000VA transformer, twice the  power supply filter capacitance, and additional output transistors (four more per channel, two positive and two negative) in addition to adding the balanced XLR jacks.

While the power rating is identical, low-impedance drive capacity is improved in the BB over the already-fabulous ST.  In fact, the BB version uses higher-rated internal fuses than the ST: 10 amps per line rail instead of 8 amps .

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