The Progressions’ virtues also came with a minimum of coloration in other areas. One key test of a preamp and amplifier is that they transparently pass along the rest of the system’s colorations. You cannot compensate for the coloration of any component in your system with some form of counter-coloration. You give up at least as much in sound quality as you can possibly get back, and the right solution has to be to replace the most-colored component first. In the case of the Progression preamp and amp, they were good enough so that all the relatively minor colorations in my cartridges, DACs, reference phono preamps, and cables came through with minimal change, as did the colorations in my reference speakers—but so did all their sonic strengths.
I was also impressed by the sound quality of the optional DAC in the preamp. No DAC is perfect, any more than any phono preamp or cartridge is, but the Progression DAC was very clean, and worked very well with both my digital transports and a Roon-based server. It also became clear that there are real advantages to a built-in DAC. Its nuances can be voiced to match the analog sound of the preamp as closely as possible, and the analog stages of every external DAC that I tried had a slightly different voicing from the Progression preamp.
Like all of the better DACs I’ve reviewed recently, the optional DAC for the Progression preamp did a better job of reproducing regular CDs—and 16-bit/44.1kHz recordings and streaming—than did previous generations of DACs. There is still a case for real 24-bit/48kHz and DSD recordings. However, I could hear little or no case for some of the so-called “high-resolution” recordings that simply transfer analog or 16-bit/44.1kHz originals into higher bit and sampling rates.
Both the Progression preamp and amplifier should work well in any system than does not have a hard upper midrange or excessive upper-midrange energy. I have to confess, however, that these are my particular bêtes noires in terms of musical coloration, and I wouldn’t want to own a system with such front-end components or speakers in the first place. Any system that sounds worse when you improve the preamp and amplifier—particularly in the cases of upper string, brass, and woodwind music—isn’t high end. It’s a form of audio torture.
I’ve been listening to D’Agostino products since the earliest days of Krell—so far back that I can even remember the link between “Krell,” Forbidden Planet, and Altair IV. What I can’t remember is ever hearing any product associated with Dan D’Agostino failing to be at least competitive with the best, and finding most to be exceptional. The sound quality of the Progression preamplifier and stereo power amp are exceptional, as well.
Specs & Pricing
Distortion: <0.018% THD+N, 20Hz to 20kHz
Signal-to-noise ratio: >95dB, unweighted
Gain: +9.8 or +15.4dB, switchable
Analog inputs: Four pairs balanced XLR stereo, two pairs single-ended RCA stereo
Digital inputs (w/DAC module installed): One (each) USB A type, optical TosLink, SPDIF coaxial
Outputs: Two pairs balanced XLR stereo
Dimensions: 18" x 4.3" x 12"
Weight (with power supply): 40 lbs.
Price: $22,00 ($26,500 with DAC module)
Progression Stereo Power Amplifier
Power output: 300Wpc into 8 ohms, 600Wpc into 4 ohms, 1200Wpc into 2 ohms
Frequency response: 1Hz to 200kHz, -1dB
Distortion: 0.15% @ 1kHz (500W 8 ohms)
Signal-to-noise ratio: 105dB, unweighted
Inputs: Two balanced XLR
Dimensions: 20" x 18" x 7.5"
Weight: 125 lbs.
DAN D’AGOSTINO MASTER AUDIO SYSTEMS
5855 E. Surrey Drive
Cave Creek, AZ 85331