Aria WT350's Compete With Amplifiers Costing Three, Four Times As Much!

In April 2002, a pair of WT350HS amplifiers were set up in Mr. Francis Yip's home in Chicago. Francis has an extraordinary sound system in a dedicated room built expressly for audio. Francis has been searching for the perfect amplifiers for his system.

Accuphase electronics, Legacy Whisper speakers, dedicated electrical wiring and complete RPG acoustic treatment on all walls, including the ceiling. You can see one of the Aria WT350's just behind the right speaker.

After everything was set up, we settled in for an evening of some of the most spectacular and high-resolution sound we've ever experienced. We could have listened for hours and hours but had a early morning flight to catch the next day so we left Francis to continue his amplifier evaluation. Here is his report:

"I am not very good at describing things such as sound qualities in words. Musicality is more about a feel in whole rather than a checklist of character traits. For the past ten years, I have changed the amps in my system several times: Audio Research, Krell, Pass Labs, and now the Audio Aero Prestige Monos. Each one, in my opinion, is a big improvement over its predecessor. The price tag of equipment has never been an indication of its sound quality, as I have heard a lot very expensive junk out there, as well as some amazingly affordable gems. I must admit that I am spoiled by the Aero. It is a truly amazing amp. It has only 40 watts, but it is very fast and energetic.

"The Aria WT350 ($7,990 / pair) mono amp is quite good, with very good dynamics and soundstage, though in every aspect, it is just a little short of the Aero ($19,900 / pair).

"Comparing the Aria to the Pass Labs X1000 ($24,000 / pair), the Aria is definitely more musical. It has a much more fluent presentation of the music. That much is obvious. The X1000 does seem to have a small edge in the power department. It is more evident in a large listening area such as my music room (20' W x 30' D x13' H or 6 meters by 10 meters by 4 meters), with a somewhat more exciting sound, and a slightly deeper soundstage, but the music itself is not as engaging as with the Aria.

"If one is using a smaller music room, I think the Aria could easily beat the X1000. Now considering the price difference, this is a no-brainer.

"Last weekend, I also auditioned a pair of Tube Research GT 200 watt mono blocks in my house ($19,000 / pair), but the Aria is much better overall. If I were to grade all the amps I have heard recently in my room, I would give Audio Aero: A, Aria WT350HS: B, Pass Labs: B, Tube Research: B-. But in a room smaller than mine, I would give both Aero and Aria a grade of A, while the Pass X1000 and the Tube Research would both get a B-.

"And the Arias cost only about 1/3 of these amps. If price is a factor, the Aero and Aria are both exceptionally good values. You definitely have a winner on hand. I would highly recommend it to anyone I know who is in the market for a new amp. And I would tell them to contact you directly."

Francis Yip, Chicago

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