Country of Origin
This review first appeared in April 2020 on fairaudio.de. By request of the manufacturer and permission of the author, it is hereby translated and syndicated to reach a broader audience. All images contained in this piece are the property of fairaudio or Argon Audio – Ed.
Reviewer: Michael Bruss
Analog sources: J. Sikora Initial, Kuzma Stogi Reference S12 VAT, Transrotor Figaro
Digital sources: LinnenberG Telemann, Norma Audio Revo + DAC, Auralic Aries, MacBook Pro
Integrated amplifier: Linn Classik Movie II
Preamps: Norma Audio Revo SC-2, phono Linnenberg Bizet, Neukomm MCA112S
Power amps: LinnenberG Liszt stereo
Loudspeakers: Qln Prestige Three, Nubert NuPro A100
Cabling: Gutwire Chime 3, Fastaudio Black Science, Gutwire EON-Z, Gutwire Synchrony 2 SE, Audioquest Yukon, fastaudio Black Science Phono), Graditech Kide 3 & 1, JIB Boaacoustic Silver Digital Xeno USB, AudioQuest Vodka und Cinnamon Ethernet, AudioQuest Carbon RCA, Graditech Kide Digital RCA, Audioquest Tornado, Gutwire SV-8, Gutwire G Clef 2, AudioQuest NRG-2, Gutwire Ultimate Ground
Equipment rack: Roterring Belmaro 33 Customized
Power delivery: Tsakiridis Super Athina
Other: Ydol Relax 60 and fastaudio Absorber, Acoustic System resonators, The Gryphon De-Magnetizer
Room: 24.5m² w. 2.7m ceiling
Review component retail: amp €329, speakers €459/pr
I get it. The quest for audiophile perfection is inextricably intertwined with sacrificing convenience and simplicity. It's just that sometimes, one needs a relaxing vacation to go easy on it all. One wants simple fun and no holes in the wallet. Which segues into Argon Audio's class D SA1 integrated and Forte A5 class D-powered active monitor speakers. With a lot of functional overlap, they're obviously not meant to work together. They're two standalone solutions for specific applications. And one of them is the hammer.
Shouldn't us high-enders question our myopia or snobbery over ever more specialized 'purist' gear? True, all-in-ones exist even in the upper echelons but to the collective consciousness, king makers remain separates, ideally with off-board power supplies, master clocks and tons of cables, conditioners and specialty racks.
Make no mistake, it's all based on sound reasons of tech and ear results. It would simply be sad if it led to disdain for kit that costs less than the rhodium-plated locking bananas on certain speaker cables. And I don't mean €60 turn-key turntables with DAC, Bluetooth and USB. Obviously there are limits where minimal end-user prices will no longer support quality R&D and parts plus marketing, logistics and necessary profits.
Offering a fresh alternative to these extremes is a new Danish brand with ties to history and tradition. And yes, at first Denmark and cost efficiency don't seem the most passionate of bed fellows. But here Argon Audio—named not for the rare gas but as the winning bid of a naming competition—is the house brand of Scandinavia's dealer/online chain Hifiklubben. According to a manifesto, their new brand is about servicing clients who can't invest thousands of euro into a hifi. Considering Hifiklubben's market penetration and points of sale, we see their scale of operations, larger order volumes and concomitant benefits to per-unit pricing. Into the same beneficial picture flows Argon Audio's second distribution channel, a dedicated online shop for similar direct sales. On e-sales, anything above €49 includes free shipping, a generous 30-day test period and even free returns if one isn't pleased. Whether this can fully compensate for the absence of hands-on advice in the dealer showroom is up to the buyer.
Appearance and featurization alone make for sunny work considering today's modest stickers. With Danish design, one expects and gets timeless simple chic that'll work pretty much anywhere. Danish too is a central warehouse for direct shipments and quick turnarounds. Production meanwhile takes place elsewhere without getting any more specific. [Actually, it says "custom manufactured to Argon specifications in China" right on the back panel – Ed]. But that neither hurts the looks nor a physical inspection. My white samples (also available in black) were flawlessly finished and felt properly solid. Whilst adding a display and controls to the front, my small €570/pr Nubert nuPro A100 actives book no real advantages. The casework of the integrated combines dense plastic with a metal bottom. The speakers are standard MDF, albeit with five coats of lacquer to "offer a smooth surface".
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