Aragon 8008 power amplifier Page 3
Stacking the 8008 up against the Carver Lightstar Reference, the result was the same. Not that the Carver and the Aragon sound the same—far from it. The Carver has a more forward nature, a greater immediacy through the midrange. Vocals sounded more palpable on the Lightstar, with a little more detail and texture through the midrange and low treble. The top end of the Aragon was a little dryer-sounding, particularly on sibilants.
But the Aragon had the tighter, more detailed bass. While the bass of the Carver sounded a shade more "powerful," the Aragon had greater clarity. The shudder of air in the organ pipes in Sinfonia Antartica was better defined on the 8008.
I listened to the Aragon 8008 side-by-side with the Sumo Andromeda III which I reviewed in the May '96 issue of Stereophile. Again, a slightly different sound, but now from two comparably-priced amplifiers, either of which can give much more expensive designs a run for the money. The Sumo is a little cheaper, and provides both balanced and unbalanced inputs standard for those who need them. Add balanced inputs to the Aragon and that amplifier becomes $800 more expensive than the Sumo.
The Andromeda had a little more snap and detail in the low- to mid-treble than did the 8008. As noted above, the Aragon was a little dark-sounding in this region. The situation changed in the top octave, where the Aragon was more energetic. On some recordings, it sounded more detailed and transparent: The snap of the guitar strings on Gypsy Flamenco (Chesky WO126), for example, was clearer and "faster" on the Aragon. But on other recordings, the Aragon's extreme top could sound a little fizzy—for example, on closely miked pop vocals. Playing the Holly Cole Trio's Temptation (Metro Blue/Capitol 31653, auditioned on Sound as a Performance Art, a not-for-sale Energy sampler), neither amp hid the sibilance in Holly's voice, but it seemed to stand out just a little more with the 8008.
Bass on the Sumo was tight, or even slightly lean, the balance proving to be an excellent match for the sometimes too-full Energy Veritas v2.8s. The Aragon had a slightly warmer, fuller bottom, with more vocal warmth. Mids were, as I have already noted, a little laid-back; though the Sumo is a little more forward further up the scale, the Aragon's inherent warmth lent an appealing and not unnatural fullness to the lower mids.
These are two good-sounding amplifiers that will not necessarily appeal to the same audiophile or work their magic equally well on all speakers. I suspect that the added fullness I hear from the Aragon indicates that it is perhaps a little more neutral overall, merely letting the Energy Veritas loudspeakers be themselves. The Andromeda, inherently a little lean perhaps, works a bit better with the Energys for just that reason. The same could well be true with other rich-sounding loudspeakers.
However, when I listened briefly to both amplifiers on another Energy loudspeaker, the C-2—a relatively inexpensive model with no excess weight in the midbass (review to appear soon)—I definitely preferred the Aragon; its open, spacious top end put it a step or two ahead of the Sumo. The same was true, to a degree, with the Hales Concept Two, though the Hales' slightly more energetic top (or perhaps just its lean, tight balance in my room) made the occasional top-octave aftertaste of the 8008 more evident more often. Here, the Sumo was softer and sweeter, but less detailed.
Both the Aragon and the Sumo are superb amplifiers, easily class B, and I could live happily with either. Which amp will ultimately prove to be "better" will depend very much on system matching. The Andromeda will definitely not appeal to tube fans and those who feel that sweetness should prevail over detail. It is a cool, detailed-sounding amplifier, but definitely not hard or bright. The Aragon is warmer, sweeter-sounding (leavened only by a little zip in the top-octave on some material—which will probably also make it less than Nirvana for tubeaholics), with a less tight but somewhat more potent bass.
Kinergetics Comparisons (from March 1998, Vol.21 No.3)
While the Aragon 8008ST is less expensive than the Kinergetics KBA-280, the two amplifiers are naturals to square off against each other, not least because the Aragon remains my long-term reference for a relatively affordable high-end amplifier. Directly compared, it sounded more laid-back through the midrange and lower treble than the Kinergetics. Its midbass was less rich than the KBA-280's, and it sounded less liquid overall. These qualities gave the Kinergetics a greater presence, and more rounded dimensionality on vocals.
On the other hand, the Aragon was more open on top, with a greater sense of air and unrestricted extension. Its imaging was a little more tightly focused, its overall bass tighter. And while more sparkling on top than the Kinergetics, it was also a little more forgiving of excesses in the mid-treble. The Kinergetics was a little more subtle in its rendition of detail, warmer, and more forward-sounding. The Aragon, however, perhaps because of the latter quality in the KBA-280, rendered soundstage depth a bit more convincingly.
Even if you have the spare change in your checkbook to go out and buy that dream $10,000 amplifier without any hesitation, you should listen to the Aragon 8008. You may still buy your dream, but you might just find that the choice is not as obvious as you thought it would be. And if, like most of us, you don't have that option, you should still make the comparison. It just might make you feel a lot better about your budget and the amplifier you buy.