D'Agostino is as close to a household name as there is in the world of high-performance audio. Dan D'Agostino has been an established force in the audiophile world for over three decades now, and while he may have started in the speaker category by founding Great White Whale speaker company, he is best known for founding and running Krell for 29 years. Over the years, he built amplifiers that earned the reputation as being among the best in the industry, with tons of power and deep, controlled bass.
Close to a decade ago, Dan D'Agostino left Krell and shortly thereafter formed Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems. Gone were the home theater and lower-level products. Instead, the focus was on uber-performing, very high-priced two-channel electronics for the ultimate audiophile connoisseur. The first product to market were the Momentum series of compact amplifiers with gorgeous steampunk inspired copper case work and a sloped face dominated by a large, backlit dial. In an industry full of wow-factor, these products set a new high bar, not just for audio performance but for visual design, as well.
Fast-forward a few years and D'Agostino Master Audio Systems came to market with the Progression line, which is slotted below the Momentum series pricewise but is still pretty spendy. One glance at the Progression Preamplifier and its D'Agostino heritage is immediately apparent. The top of the front panel is radiused back into the top panel. The finish of the top panel is a more matte and brushed than the front panel and is solid, with the exception of two rows of small, rectangular vent holes that run down the center of the top panel.
At the center of the front panel, where the Momentum had a large backlit meter, the Progression Preamplifier has a large, copper-trimmed volume knob. A pair of round meters on the right side of the panel is backlit in the same shade of green as the rest of the D'Agostino line. Besides being attractive, with a design that D'Agostino says was inspired by classic tourbillon watches, the meters are used to convey a variety of information, including signal level, volume, balance, and mute status.
The left side of the panel has source and "zone" selection buttons, as well as the standby button. I placed the word "zone" in quotes, as this is not really a multi-zone unit. There are two outputs, but each has the same signal. While that is quirky, each source has a different colored LED light that illuminates when that source is selected. That is a clever solution. The front panel of the bottom chassis simply has "Dan D'Agostino Master Audio Systems" engraved on it.
Wait! Did I say bottom chassis?
Yes. The Progression Preamplifier has two chassis. The bottom chassis contains a sophisticated power supply and the top chassis holds the audio circuitry. A single DC power cord connects the two chassis. You may note the power supply chassis has two DC outputs; one is for future capabilities. D'Agostino is not saying what they have in mind, but one could guess some sort of source component or phono stage. Despite the use of two chassis, the overall dimensions of 7.5 inches high by eighteen inches wide and twelve inches deep are rather modest, although the package weighs in at a solid forty pounds.
The top chassis has two analog audio boards, one for each channel. There are two pairs of single-ended inputs, four pairs of balanced inputs, and two pairs of balanced outputs. Interestingly, one of the pairs of single ended-inputs is labeled "phono," but there is no phono stage. Maybe another hint at future plans?
Adding the DAC to the equation also gives you one USB Type A port, one optical input, and one coaxial digital input.
All of this engineering and nicely finished chassis do not come cheap. The Progression Preamplifier can be ordered as an analog only model for $22,000. The DAC is an additional $4,500 and can be added at time of purchase or at a later date.
At forty pounds, the Progression Preamplifier was still easy enough to install by myself, especially since the weight was spread out to two chassis. The unit came nicely packed in foam cut to support each chassis separately and protect the finishes from damage. I placed the power supply chassis on my stand; the built-in soft feet are designed to dampen vibrations. Coned feet were supplied for the top chassis and fit into impressions on the top panel of the bottom chassis. The bottom chassis was plugged directly into the wall as suggested in the owner's manual. The included DC power cord connects the two units and the Bluetooth antenna simply screws into the back of the unit.
The rest of the review system components included a PS Audio DirectStream DAC and Network player, an Oppo BDP-95, D'Agostino Progression Stereo Amplifier (review forthcoming), and a Halcro dm38 amplifier. In addition to using two different amplifiers, I also used two pairs of speakers: my MartinLogan Summits, as well as a pair of Vivid Audio Kaya 90s. Kimber Select cabling was used throughout.
Click over to Page Two for Performance, The Downside, Comparison & Competition, and Conclusion...