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Product Review - Aragon 8008BB Power Amplifier - October, 1997

John E. Johnson, Jr.

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Aragon Amplifier

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Aragon 8008BB Power Amplifier; Two channel power amplifier; 200 watts rms/ch into 8 Ohms, both channels driven, 5 Hz - 20 kHz; 400 watts rms/ch into 4 Ohms; Input impedance 22 kOhms (44 kOhms balanced); Sensitivity 0.12V rms for 1 watt output into 8 Ohms; THD 0.06%; S/N 110 dB; Damping factor 500; Size 6 1/2"H x 19"W x 14"D; Weight 77 pounds; Black sheet metal chassis; $2,500; Mondial Designs, Ltd., 20 Livingstone Avenue, Dobbs Ferry, New York 10522; Phone 914-693-8008; Fax 914-693-7199; E-Mail MondialLTD@aol.com; Web site http://www.mondialdesigns.com.

It has been said that a power amplifier can be measured by its weight, meaning the power supply. If that is true, then Aragon certainly meets the qualifications. The 8008BB weighs in at 77 pounds, for a two channel, 200 w/ch amplifier. Its cousin, the 8008ST is rated the same, even to the doubling of power into 4 Ohms, but the power supply is different. The BB has two toroidal transformers instead of one, each rated at 1.1 kVa, and there is twice the power supply capacitance as the ST. The ST's single toroid is 2 kVa, which is not a lot of difference, but having twice the capacitance is a BIG difference. Each channel has two power supply capacitors, rated at 35,000 , with a 70 V rail. This represents 171.5 Joules of energy storage per channel (that's a lot!) The BB has 12 bipolar output devices per channel. So, why do the two amplifiers have the same output rating? Impulse power. The BB will deliver a lot more than 200 watts/ch on a short term basis. In our listening tests, it sounded more like a 500 watt/ch amplifier. The BB and ST both double their output from 8 Ohms to 4 Ohms, another indicator of massive power supplies.

The inside of the BB looks like one huge power supply, with the two toroids sitting one on top of the other [click here to see inside of amp]. The amplifier stages are at the other end of the chassis from the power supply. The front panel has a toggle on/off, and the rear has five-way speaker binding posts as well as the single-ended (unbalanced) and balanced input jacks. One unusual feature of the chassis is the V-shaped notch along the top. This allows heat to escape from the heat sinks even if something were sitting on top of the amp, but it also adds elegance to the appearance.

We tested the Aragon 8008BB using our McCormack CD transport and DAC, Balanced Audio VK-5i preamplifier, and various speakers, including Carver Mark IV Platinums. Nordost SPM Reference balanced interconnects and speaker cables were used throughout. Music included numerous classical and popular CDs. We used the balanced inputs on the 8008, and as a result, there was absolute silence during pause mode. Also, the amount of detail that could be heard increased due to the lower noise floor. So, even though the amplifier is not fully balanced (balanced from input to output), the availability of the balanced inputs made a nice difference.

One of the most noticeable characteristics of the 8008BB is its tremendous capability of delivering high power when the music demands it. The CD I use to separate the "I am" from the "I wanna be" amps and speakers is the Telarc version of Copland's Fanfare to the Common Man. The opening bass drum thuds practically took the roof off the listening lab, with no audible distortion. The Mark IVs have four 12" low frequency drivers per channel, and they are difficult loads, but the Aragon handled them with ease. We have some 750 w/ch monoblocks in the lab, and the Aragon approached them, not in continuous output, but in impulse capability. That's what a monster power supply can do. When we turned the Aragon up even more, then of course, we could hear the clipping with the brass instruments in the Telarc recording, but only at SPL that a person shouldn't be listening to anyway.

With popular recordings, electronic music, and classical chamber music, the Aragon just sailed. The sound of this amplifier is characterized by detailed highs, full bodied mid-range, and thundering, tight bass. It reminds me of the Bryston sound, meaning that careful matching to the rest of the system is very important. Otherwise, the amplifier accuracy [click here to see 10 kHz, 10 V square wave response] could be mistaken for an overly "bright" sound. The 8008BB also has a very wide power bandwidth of 550 kHz (one of the widest we have ever measured). The VK-5i tube preamp was a very nice partner to the 8008BB, but the Mark IV ribbons showed any edginess present in some of the CDs. I would consider cone speakers with, perhaps, silk dome tweeters to be the appropriate speakers for this amplifier, unless you have a CD player with a very laid back high end.

In summary, had I looked inside the amplifier chassis before I listened to the Aragon 8008BB, I would not have been surprised at the tremendous power that this product has, and all with detail and clarity. As it was, the amplifier literally blew us away (I hate platitudes, but this one applies). I have said before that there is no substitute for raw power, and the designers have gone all out to make the 8008BB one extraordinary component. Highly recommended for an audition.

John E. Johnson, Jr.

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Copyright 1997 Secrets of Home Theater & High Fidelity

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