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General Asylum: REVIEW: Aronov Audio 960i Integrated Amplifier (Tube) by Q_bert

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REVIEW: Aronov Audio 960i Integrated Amplifier (Tube) Review by Q_bert at Audio Asylum

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First off, I have not compared this integrated to any other tube amps, so I am not qualified to make any comparisons. I had previously owned a Bryston 3B-ST and AI Mod 3A, so I can gauge the Aronov against those components. Recently, I have replaced the stock power and input tubes with EI KT90 and GE 5751. Contrary to what some say, switching over to the KT90 completely transformed my amp into a different creature. From what I have read, the KT90 is around 25% more powerful than the 6550C, so this probably has alot to do with it. The Aronov runs tubes very cool. I can pull a 5751 less than 2 minutes after turning the amp off, and it's just warm. I can hold my hand within millimeters of the KT90 while the amp is on and not get burnt. Hopefully, this will translate into long tube life.

In the remote control age that we live in, the most annoying thing about this tube integrated is the dual mono volume controls. I was told by Aronov that he tried stepped mono controls, but that they sounded inferior. Without steps like the AI Mod 3A's, adjusting volume can be a hassle. Since I keep my Aronov on the top of my rack, it's not as bad as it could potentially be.

Everyone who has listened to the Aronov comes away impressed with the bass. This is one tube amp that does not live up to the 'mushy bass' stereotype. Bass sounds fast, full and natural. With the EI KT90, bass is all of the former, plus capable of explosive dynamics and transients, thanks to the extra power.

The midrange with the Svetlana 6550C was extremely seductive, but once I installed the KT90, I realized that it leaned away from reality to the point of being syrupy. I am now making out lyrics that I had trouble deciphering with the Svetlana. Some may argue that the midrange with the KT90 is more analytical, but to my ears, it sounds as smooth and natural as the 6550C, yet far more palpable. I tried using Tesla 12AX7 recently instead of the GE 5751, but came away with the impression that they overemphasized the frequency extremes.

The treble is smooth with both power tubes, with cymbals and strings sounding like the real thing. The extra power of the KT90 also improved treble detail, with violin strings sounding more fleshed out.

Overall, this integrated would be hard to beat at the $2,000 price I paid before the $200 price hike. While it now sells for $3,000, since Aronov is not a household name like C-J or ARC, discounts are not hard to find. I heard that VTL will be coming out with an integrated soon, so that is another viable option, as is the Manley Stingray (see review @ soundstage.com) or C-J CAV50 (see review here). The latter two amps will not have the bass output of the Aronov though. While I have not done any measurements on how much more power the Aronov produces with the EI KT90, it now sounds a hell of a lot more powerful than my Bryston 3B-ST did! The same could not be said when I was using the 6550C.

For all you techies:

Preamplifier Section: dual monaural, and consists of two triode voltage amplifiers with overall negative feedback network.

Predriver Stage: triode voltage amplifier with overall negative feedback coupled to its cathode from the output circuits. The output of the predriver is direct-coupled to driver invertor.

Invertor stage: is also a triode. The outputs of the invertor are 180 degrees out-of-phase with each other, providing the required push-pull signal.

Output Stage: push-pull output powered off 2 6550 beam pentodes in ultralinear configuration. The output stage has a fixed bias in Class AB1 operation.

Power Supply: consists of 3 main sections. Hi voltage DC power supply for plate potentials. Low voltage DC power supply for heaters in the preamplifier section. DC voltage for the bias of the output stage.

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Topic - REVIEW: Aronov Audio 960i Integrated Amplifier (Tube) Review by Q_bert at Audio Asylum - Q_bert 10:07:05 04/17/99 ( 0)