Aragon and Acurus Revived

After four years of virtual inactivity, new and updated Aragon and Acurus high-end amplifiers, preamplifiers, and processors are slated to return to the marketplace. The long-established brands, which have been the property of Klipsch since 2001, are now in the hands of two enthusiastic veteran Klipsch electronics engineers, Rick Santiago and Ted Moore of Indy Audio Labs, LLC.

"We saw this as a great opportunity to pursue," Santiago told Stereophile by phone. "We realized that Klipsch had another focus, core loudspeaker development, while Ted and I are pretty much straight audio and electronics to the core. We love the mystical aspects of sound waves being manipulated in electronic circuits."

Indy Audio Labs intends to develop a complete line of Aragon and Acurus amplifier and processing products that they will announce early in 2010. The solid-state amplifiers, which will run their output stages in class-A for lower signal levels before gradually shifting into class-AB, are projected to deliver between 125Wpc and 400Wpc. Aragon will remain the higher-priced line, and Acurus the "value" line.

"We believe that the Aragon and Acurus brands represent not only a good history of product, but also a great potential for future products," said Santiago. "When it comes to audio performance, there were and still are very good value."

With the help of some additional engineers, Santiago and Moore's goal is to maintain the Aragon and Acurus sound as unfettered as possible, and bring it up to date. "There are a lot of connectivity pieces that were missing from the previous generation," says Santiago. "When they're updated, the products will become popular again, because the core audio performance is fantastic. We really don't want to mess with it. Our approach has always been achieving transparency through elegant simplicity. That sounds like hyperbole, I suppose, but it's really how we view our mission."

Mondial, the original parent company of Aragon and Acurus, was co-founded by Paul Rosenberg and Tony Federici. Dan D'Agostino, now CEO and Chief Designer of Krell, confirmed by phone that he served as primary designer of the very first Aragon amplifiers, the 4004 (which came out in 1987) and the 2002, as well as the first preamp, the 24K. [Damn, I wish I hadn't sold my 4004 back when.] Mike Kusiak took over design honors, and continued until shortly after Klipsch purchased select assets of Mondial Designs Ltd., including Aragon and Acurus, in 2001.

Klipsch's goal was to enhance its line of loudspeakers with a line of high-quality, matched electronics from Aragon and Acurus. Four years later, Klipsch abandoned the project, and chose to keep loudspeakers as their sole focus. Although the company continued to honor warranties and provide customer support, as Indy Audio Labs will continue to do, Aragon and Acurus were essentially dead in the water—not a good place for electronics to rest—until Santiago and Moore founded their new company in December, 2008, less than two months after they left Klipsch.

As explained on the Indy Audio Labs website, Moore is a semiconductor physicist. His experience reaches down to what happens on the silicon level, which knowledge Santiago says "helps you extract the nuances of performances." Santiago, who until 2006 ran the digital design group at Shure as well as the engineering arm of a Shure automotive start-up, considers analog preamps and signal processing his fortes. He is also semi-professional jazz saxophonist with an ear for natural acoustic sound. While Santiago shamefully admits that, in a weaker moment, he played on some loop library recordings for Sony, he plans to make amends by issuing even finer Aragon and Acurus products than in the past.