AXPONA 2016: Dan D’Agostino, the god of thunder


axponaIf there’s anyone in high-end audio who’s known for his skill at harnessing raw electricity and bending it to his will, it’s Dan D’Agostino.

The equipment designer made his name a few decades ago with Krell amplifiers. That company’s early pure Class A models attracted both awe and admiration not only for their musicality, but also for their ability to suck prodigious amounts of power from helpless wall receptacles while radiating enough heat to keep even medium-sized rooms toasty in the dead of winter.

Those amps, as well as later models that dispensed with the “space-heater” function, were also prized for outputting massive waves of current that could take merciless control of any speaker.

Today, the industry veteran is building another company — Dan D’Agostino Master Audio Systems — that, if imaginable, takes his work at Krell and injects formidable amounts of steroids. His growing line of gear looks the part as well, resembling something a steampunk novel’s mad scientist might devise to control humanity.

D’Agostino himself is helping show off his products this weekend in one of the Paragon Sight & Sound rooms at AXPONA. I got a chance to take a long listen to the system there and chatted with D’Agostino.

Paragon’s setup included D’Agostino’s Progression mono amplifiers (800 watts into 8 ohms, $39,000 a pair), Momentum preamplifier ($35,000) and Momentum phono stage ($28,000). Source components included a dCS Rossini CD player ($28,499), Brinkmann Audio Spyder ($17,490) and a Brinkmann PI cartridge ($2,490). Speakers were Wilson Audio’s Alexia. Transparent cable tied it all together.

AXPONA coverage brought to you by Underwood HiFi, Exogal and Emerald Physics

On static display was D’Agostino’s new M Life streamer ($50,000) and Classic stereo amp ($13,500). The latter, which sports a more traditional appearance but still outputs 300 watts per channel, is the first D’Agostino product to court listeners who had been hoping for his newest circuit ideas to trickle down to a more affordable price point.

“The Classic is doing well,” he said as I scribbled notes. When I inquired about a possible pre-amp to match, D’Agostino just smiled. “We’re thinking about it,” he said.

Since power has been a hallmark of D’Agostino’s designs, it was no surprise to learn he also has begun distributing an innovative product, the Stromtank S5000 ($30,000).

The unit, which was created by MBL founder Wolfgang Meletzky, is about the size of a dorm-room refrigerator. The Stromtank’s 16 lithium-iron batteries charge on house current and then the device disconnects itself from incoming power while maintaining ground. This allows you to run your system on pristine battery power for about eight hours.

With the Stromtank in use, the system seemed to be free of the usual power ills inherent in a hotel show setting. Paul Simon’s “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” displayed especially tactile African percussion, and a track by Shelby Lynn accurately captured the texture and dynamics of her vocals.

As I left the room, I glanced back. D’Agostino was leaning forward on the back of a chair, head down, listening to what he had wrought. Even for a man who’s accustomed to having his way with electricity, he looked pleased.

About John Stancavage 196 Articles
Contributing Editor for Part-Time Audiophile

1 Comment

  1. Oooh, prices went up, $1500 for the Classic Stereo, $3000 for the Momentum preamp. 🙁

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