Everybody likes a good comeback story. Well, they don’t write them any better than the Aragon 8008 amplifier. The company that immortalized the offbeat, V-notch heat sink has returned. Dating back to the distant 1990s, Aragon and its more budget-oriented sister-company Acurus were originally brands of Mondial Designs and, more recently, Klipsch. They have since been absorbed by Indy Audio Labs and given a thorough updating prior to a relaunch in 2013. In addition to the 8008, IAL also offers the Aragon Iridium monoblocks—direct descendants of the Mondial Palladium monos ($9000 per pair).
In resuscitating the brand, Indy Audio Labs has stayed mostly true to the originals but used the opportunity to apply modern materials and technologies where they would benefit most. The 8008 remains the familiar 200Wpc, dual-mono design with fully decoupled power supplies and independent amplifier circuitry. No ICs are used in the signal path. Instead, some of the latest low-noise, high-voltage discrete semiconductors are implemented throughout. Components are hand-selected for quality and reliability.
Like its predecessor, the 8008 uses two large 0.5kVA toroidal transformers to feed pairs of 35A bridge diode rectifiers. These supply signals are then filtered by more than 140,000uF of capacitance to deliver +/-70 volt power rails to each channel. The 8008 output section is built around 12 transistors per channel. The 8008 is DC-coupled input-to-output and also features several advancements in thermal management and fault protection over previous designs.
The hefty front panel is machined from solid 0.75-inch extruded aluminum billet. The Aragon name is CNC-milled directly into the aluminum, which is then bead-blasted. One of the more distinctive design elements ever applied to a high-end amp, that V-notch aluminum-alloy heatsink is still there in improved form, enhancing vertical convective airflow due to its broad fin-spacing, and allowing for front-to-back airflow on an equipment shelf (albeit a very sturdy shelf since the amp weighs in at 63 pounds). All the machining and finishing is performed at the same Indianapolis plant that provides critical chassis parts for a number of motor racing teams based nearby. The back panel houses 60-amp gold-plated binding posts, insulated gold-plated RCA inputs, and pro-grade XLR connectors.
Who says you can’t teach an “old” amp new tricks? The 8008 has added integrated Ethernet, RS232, and 12V trigger control—capabilities that afford the owner or installer the option to monitor diagnostics either at home or remotely over a home network via a computer or a smart device. IAL states that since all functions occur over Ethernet, signal-path integrity is uncompromised.
Modern solid-state amplifiers have largely purged the sonic colorations and artifacts that once prompted descriptors like gritty or grainy, ice-cold or analytical. That doesn’t mean that today’s breed all sound alike, but distinctions are no longer glaringly obvious either. Such is the case with the 8008. While it does project a subtle character, its performance is unerringly musical top-to-bottom. And by doubling its 200Wpc (8 ohms) specification into 4 ohms and opting for a dual-mono configuration, the Aragon has the reserves and dynamic headroom to meet the demands of speaker systems that present a difficult load.
Sonically, the 8008 possesses an almost supernatural degree of tonal and harmonic smoothness, a feature easily observable in orchestral string sections. Each bowed or plucked note seems to glide effortlessly from one to the next. Even during the most dramatic moments of the Tchaikovsky Violin Concerto, violinist Anne Sophie Mutter’s dynamic and aggressive performance possessed a startling smoothness in the way notes seem to pour off the strings.