The answer to your question is simple, the Hegel is a better sounding amplifier than the A 21, the A 21 is a fantastic amplifier for the price, the issue is resolution, the Hegel is a more dimensional amplifier with greater clarity and speed as it should be for almost three times the price.
You are mistaking design talent with implementation, sure John Curl is a circuit design genius, but so is Brent Holder and Damien Martin, and Nelson Pass, many other talented equipment designers, all of these amplifiers are good and they all sound different.
I was a Hegel dealer and I am a Parasound dealer, I will tell you there is a new amplifier on the market that I like better than the Hegel and it outperforms the Parasound and that amplifier is the new Aragoon 8008, which costs $4,400.00 which is considerable less than the $5,800.00 Hegel.
The Hegel is still slightly more dynamic, but the Aragon has a stunning midrange quality which is warmer and more musical than the Hegel, which is more analytical, the Aragon has a similar tight punchy bass and is quite open in the top, this is the most amazing amplifier I have heard under $5k and it is a monster in terms of power delivery and build quality.
We used it at the New York Audio Show to glowing accolades our system was one of the best at the show, and it was made up of all reasonably priced components.
So to answer your question, don't just look at the design, the specs or the technology go out and listen.
I tried asking a similar (but not the same) question in 2009. I do not have the answer, but have heard nice things about the Hegel. But I am very happy with the A21. I did get one email from a dealer that the A21 is too much analytical (detailed, airy) compared to the H-20. He said this quality is required for home theater and not 2-channel audio. I was perplexed, since I am looking for more details.
Here is the link to my thread:Hegel Amplifiers
Audiooracle...is their a new MKII of the 8008? I read reviews on the 8008 ten years ago. That version was not considered warm, but neutral and analytical according to the reviews. I'll check it out. Bent Holter at Hegel appears to be taking Europe by storm in recent years. The word around Europe is that Hegel is the poor man's FM Acoustics. Regarding Demian Martin, co-founder of Spectral.
I have been pissed off for twenty years when Keith Johnson took over as chief designer at Spectral, starting with the DMC-12 Pre and after. He's no Demian Martin. The Spectral DMC-10 that Demian designed in the late eighties was the best sounding Spectral Pre ever made. Warm, rich, lush, relaxed organic sound with excellent detail and dynamics. Smooth as silk. Keith Johnson changed the Spectral sound forever, for the worst.
Figured it out. Went to the Aragon website. The original 8008 was part of their Palladium series. This new one is a beast. 64 pounds. I'll explore further...
I sold Aragon in the ninties the new amps are way better then any of their original amplifiers.
The Hegel products are way over rated, their new Dacs are good but their $2,500.00 HD 25 is not even close in terms of sound quality or features than the Auralic Vega which is only $1K more.
The new Chord Qute HD at $1,800.00 is also way better than the Hegel dacs, way too much marketing on their website rather than real innovation.
So with Hegel it depends on the product, not every thing they make is great.
Damn you Audiooracle!! You got me frozen like a deer in the headlights over the Aragon 8008. Checked out many internal pic's and went into forums with over fifty opinions by many owners.
What a piece of work for $4400.00. Four high quality 35K microfarad Cornell Dubilier capacitors made in the U.S.A. and two large toroidal transformers. Phew!! I have never seen an amp in twenty years with what this has to offer for the price. Would be interesting to hook up the Halo JC-2 Pre-amp to the Aragon.
What Pre did you use at the show?
It appears that Aragon as well as Acurus are owned by Indy Audio Labs who bought them out in recent years and the Aragon website looks pretty crappy. I'll stick with Parasound and Hegel. Since 1990, I have owned three Parasound Pre-amps and two of their amps.
Never owned Hegel but have friends that have purchased Hegel and take their opinion seriously. Over thirty years later Parasound is still owned by Richard Schram and holding strong. That says a lot.
And Bent Holter is still the original owner of Hegel
which has been in business for twenty five years.
I attended the 2013 NY Audio Show and I agree with Audiooracle's description of the Aragon 8008 sound. The room featuring this amp had lots of people visiting multiple times. That room, along with the Martin Logan/Krell room, had the best sound by far on that floor. The sound performance easily surpasses the price tag of this amp and the entire system. The rest of the system was the Neo-Classic 300B RC Preamplifier, Waterfall's Victoria Evo glass speakers with Wireworld 7 cables.
AudioZen, that's not the complete story. Acurus and Aragon's parent company was Mondial. Mondial was sold to the Klipsch Group in 2001 and they never did anything with the brands. Rick Santiago left Klipsch and founded Indy Audio Labs, which acquired Aragon and Acurus from the Klipsch Group. The brands were dormant for years, but it seems that the person leading the two brands now has always been involved with these amps.
Closer examination of the Aragon 8008 MKII interior shows that the parts placement and layout looks like somebody stuffed the trunk of a '56 Buick blindfolded. Sloppy work the way things are stacked on each other. If Aragon would get rid of that ugly "V" metal cut on the faceplate and heat sink would make for a better cavity interior for more layout room. Never did like that 1930's retro Sci-Fi look. The layout in the Parasound and Hegel is very nice.
First of all are you judging a company by their history or sound quality? The new Aragon amplifiers are very well built and very well designed and constructed, I don't think you saw a current picture of the amplifier.
The look of the Aragon is quite stunning and in a rack looks far more beautiful than a Parasound or Hegel.
I never said Hegel products don't sound good they do, but they are not the end all and be all that they are being purported to be, they do have a great website full of technical ramblings that speak more of marketing than of actual circuit design.
You are right the website of Indy is terrible but they are a new company and they are working on it.
I have been comparing digital front ends and the Hegel stuff gets creamed by the other brands that I sell, namely the new Chord Qute HD and the Auralic Vega.
I am not saying that the Hegel stuff isn't very good sounding and well made, I am saying I have found the new Aragon to be a really fantastic amplifier and a best buy for costing $1,400.00 less and having a more beautiful midrange to boot, caveat emptor.
Isanchez..thanks for the very informative historical background on Aragon and Acurus. I remember when they were part of Mondial and I assume their amps have improved sonically since then. The reviews back in the 90's were a mixed bag. The main criticism at the time was their amps had a cold, hard upper treble that was overbearing and the amps lacked warmth.
Audiooracle..the interior pictures of the 8008 were taken within the past year on Google images. You can tell they are current since the faceplate is current compared to the previous fronts which have gone through some changes and also they have changed out the binding posts which look like good quality WBT's. The previous posts were not that impressive. Have you compared the current 8008 to models from 10 years ago, and does the current 8008 have a more refined, smoother sound, and has Aragon corrected the treble region that was constantly criticized years ago? I'm curious why Aragon makes only two products which are amps and will they go back to making Pre-amps?
The new amps are not even in the same ballpark as the old, I used to sell the originals and they were good not great.
I sell some incredible amplifiers from Chord, BAT, Bryston, and Hegel, and the new Aragon 8008 sounds like a way more expensive amplifier than it has the right to be, and it is a best buy in its price range.
AudioZen, other than I could not get a very clear picture of where the instruments were placed in the soundstage (like I get in my system), I didn't detect any of the symptoms you described. I would say the sound had some warmth, although it was most likely due to the tube preamp the 8008 was paired with. The sound was as crystal clear as the much more expensive ML/Krell room.
The only thing that raised a flag is this statement from the 8008 manual:
2. Using higher-efficiency loudspeakers (87dB/W/m or greater) will reduce the average amount of amplifier power consumed to produce a target listening loud-ness. This effectively helps reserve greater peak amplifier power when loud musical transient passages are reproduced.
This value seems to be at the threshold level of Magnepan speakers (86dB/500Hz /2.83v) and other low sensitivity speakers. So, I wonder if the amp is stable below 4ohms.
You are not understanding what the manual is saying, they are saying that the amount of electricity consumed with lower sensitivity speakers will increase, and this amplifier is a beast based on original Krell Class Designs, think KSA 250, the amp was designed by Dan D'agostino originally and has no problem with less efficient speakers.
Audiooracle..Had a long conversation today with Rick, co-owner of Indy Audio Labs, who provided further history on the new Aragon 8008 amp that was released last August. He is aware of the earlier amps that did not sound that good that were designed by Mike Kusiak, head designer who took over in the 90's. The first Aragon Pre-Amp and the their first amp, the 4004 was designed by Dan D'agostino. Mike designed the 4004 MKII. The current 8008 is designed by Indy engineers and Kusiak was not involved in the design and is not employed by Indy. The very high quality Cornell Dubilier capacitors are only made for Aragon. Indy Audio Labs purchased Aragon in 2009. It appears that the new 8008 can be added to the great performance value list such as Parasound, Hegel and others.
My last post was not on the subject of sensitivity. Rick did point out the new 8008 will drive 4 or 3 ohm speakers. I was just relaying info from my conversation with him. Your added info is appreciated. So what you are saying is that the earlier Aragon amps were built on the Krell platform. Early Krell amps were cold and shrill and were mocked by Audiophiles and Dan was kicked out of Krell. Makes sense that the early Aragon amps were cold and shrill as well.Thank God Aragon/Indy has better Engineers that have turned things around. D'agostino is way overrated but is very good at marketing himself and Engineers such as Demian Martin, Nelson Pass, Eric Lauchli and John Curl blow Dan out of the water.
You are not understanding what the manual is saying
Oh, I do understand what the manual is saying. I raised a very valid point: is this amp stable below 4 ohms? You should know that 4ohms is not an absolute fixed value.
they are saying that the amount of electricity consumed with lower sensitivity speakers will increase
This is just common sense.
and this amplifier is a beast based on original Krell Class Designs, think KSA 250, the amp was designed by Dan D'agostino originally and has no problem with less efficient speakers
This is irrelevant concerning the 8008 amp's behavior since they are not the same design.
Hegels are in a very different level altogether - Parasound, is very much inferior both in sound and engineering - just my opinion.
I owned the Parsound A-21 it was very well balanced I put in
4of the aftermarket fuses in there, as well as a good $600 power cord
Then it had a bit of warmth and nice detail.
The Hegel 20 is a better amp in every respect, with a warmer character
But images are much more palpable, and front to back layering is much denser micro dynamics are more distinct,and bass is just as fast but better
Articulated and formed .that is why you rarely see a H-20 up for sale.
Is this a special, dealers only p*ss*ng match?
I mean thread?
An Aragon 4004 was one of the best amps I have ever had, and was left on 24/7 for 8 years and never give me a moment of trouble.
Great midrange, bass, musicality and no hardness in the treble at all.
If the new amps are anything like the old ones (not to mention better) I will also take a look
I have a Parasound PLD/1100 preamp and am interested in looking for a parallel replacement. Any ideas would be welcome.
Charles, San Francisco