This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

Reviewer: Paul Candy
Source: CEC TL51X transport [on loan for review], Audio Zone DAC-1, Pro-Ject RPM 5 turntable, Pro-Ject Speed Box, Ortofon Rondo Blue cartridge.
Preamp/Integrated: Audio Zone PRE-A1 [on loan for review]), Manley Labs Shrimp, Pro-Ject Tube Box phono stage.
Amp: Audio Zone AMP-D2 monoblocks & D1 stereo amp [on loan for review], Manley Labs Mahi monoblocks.
Speakers: Green Mountain Audio Callisto (on sand filled Skylan stands), (2) REL Q108 Mk II subwoofers.
Cables: Dynamic Designs Lotus Series [on loan for review].
Power Cables: Dynamic Designs Lotus Series [on loan for review], Audience, GutWire, Harmonic Technology.
Stands: Grand Prix Audio Monaco four-tier rack.
Powerline conditioning: BPT Pure Power Center w/Wattgate 381 outlets, Bybee Quantum Purifiers and ERS cloth, GutWire MaxCon, Blue Circle BC86.
Sundry accessories: Grand Prix Audio APEX footers, Isoclean fuses, Caig Pro Gold, Auric Illuminator, Audio Magic/Quantum Physics Noise Disruptors, dedicated AC line with Wattgate 381 outlet, Echo Busters acoustic room treatments.
Room size: 11' x 18' x 8', long wall setup, suspended hardwood floors with large area rug, walls are yer standard canuck drywall over Fiberglass insulation.
Review component retail (in CDN funds): $5,195/pr for the Aragorn Monitors, $1,765/pr for the Bass-Extenders, $990/pr for the Omni-Harmonizers or $7,595 for the complete Aragorn system. Prices are for white models. Other colors are available at additional cost.

Loudspeakers are probably the most difficult audio components to shop for - let alone evaluate. They are arguably the least perfect component as they generally create more phase shift and distortion than any other component. And since they are at the end of the signal chain, they ultimately determine the basic character of a system. Due to the unique drivers used, the Mark & Daniel Aragorns took longer than any other speaker I've reviewed before I could get a sense of what they were about and to identify the sort of listener who might enjoy them.

The Mark & Daniel brand is well known to regular 6moons readers and rather than rehash what David and Srajan have so eloquently written about regarding design background of the brand, I'll merely suggest you read their articles for the full Monty while I get down to what the Aragorns did and didn't do for me.

The Aragorn Monitor is a two-way bookshelf sized speaker which has built-in links to couple with two additional components; the Omni-Harmonizer and the Bass-Extender stand. Together, all three comprise the Aragorn System. Each Aragorn Monitor features M&D's proprietary DM-1 Dreams (Directly Responding Emitter by Air Motion Structure) wide band driver that covers a solid 800Hz to 22kHz range. This pleated driver essentially covers the entire midband and treble range of the speaker and does so without "acoustic crossovers, phase variation or any LC compensation network". The DM-1, based on Dr. Oscar Heil's Air Motion Transformer, squeezes air rather than pushing it like conventional cones 'n' domes. Mounted below the DM-1 is an 8" woofer unlike any I've seen before, with an impressive motor assembly and 15mm of linear excursion (most modern 8" woofers apparently have only 3.5 to 5mm). This woofer uses Mark & Daniel's patented SX or Super Xmax technology that yields 7 to 10dB higher output (5 to 10 times greater acoustic power) than conventional 8" woofers. Since this woofer is relieved from covering frequencies above 800Hz unlike just about every 2-way woofer on the market, it focuses entirely on bass reproduction with improved control under large dynamic output.

The Aragorn is hand-fabricated from a compound marble material and as a result, the cabinet is quite rigid and relatively inert. Each monitor weighs 57 lbs and the shape supposedly eliminates internal reflections and acoustic diffraction along the outside of the enclosure. Dimensions are 16.5" H x 10.5" W x 13.8" D. Average sensitivity is 85 dB/2.83V/1m with a flat 3.2 Ohm impedance curve from 100Hz to 40kHz.

On the rear panel there are three pairs of speaker binding posts; the lower pair connects to the woofer; the middle pair to the Dreams driver and the upper pair (internally connected to the middle pair) to the optional Omni-Harmonizer which sits inside a specially designed slot on the cabinet top.

M&D strongly recommends biwiring with a minimum 100-watt high-current amp with low impedance drive capability. For optimum results, M&D recommends bi-amping with two 45-60 watt amps. On the bottom of the Aragorn there is a tightly secured yet removable circular steel plate for mating this speaker to M&D's Bass-Enclosure stand.

The Bass-Extender, like the Monitor, is constructed of marble compound, weighs 55 lbs. and measures 27.6" H x 12.6" W x 16.1" D. To employ the Bass Extender with the Aragorn Monitor, first remove the steel plate from the bottom of the Monitor, then insert the included silicon rubber ring around the port of the Bass-Extender (you may need to keep it in place with some tape). Place the Monitor on the ring and then secure snugly for an airtight seal with the included plastic screws. When assembled, the Bass-Extender lowers the Aragorn Monitor's bass response from 36 to 28Hz. You could buy the Aragorn Monitor and use it on your existing stands and when funds permit, purchase the Bass-Extender and transform the Aragorn Monitors into a floor-standing system with even greater bass extension. Très cool.

The Omni-Harmonizer covers high frequency harmonics from 7 up to 35kHz. The Omni-Harmonizer is not just a super tweeter for bat-eared audiophiles. Its primary function is to present a more vivid and dimensional performance. A top mounted DM-2 Dreams tweeter fires up to a marble cone that disperses sound waves across 360 degrees. Not only should you hear improved high frequency harmonic performance, you'll hear a more immersive and life-like presentation. The Omni-Harmonizer weighs 5.5 lbs and measures 5.4" H x 5.5" W x 5.5" D. The Omni-Harmonizer connects to the top pair of binding post of the Aragorn with short jumper cables. The Omni's trio of binding posts provides three levels of attenuation from 0 dB to -6 dB. Simply move the positive lead from one to the other and observe their effects. Newer units feature a single pair of binding posts and a 25-watt attenuator with the same 0 dB to -6 dB range in click stops.

Fit and finish of the Aragorns was mostly excellent if a little blocky and bland in appearance. However, several vibrant color finishes are available. I should point out that while the marble cabinets are quite inert, they are also fragile and will chip and crack easily not unlike mom's fine china if exposed to enough force. I found this out the hard way when I inadvertently dropped one of the Omni-Harmonizers and split one of the corners clean off. Furthermore, a couple of the binding posts were stripped loose and wouldn't tighten properly. I suggest M&D look at replacing their cheesy plastic-shrouded posts with something more substantial.

All in all, the Aragorn system impresses on paper but with its low impedance and 85dB sensitivity, more powerful amplification than my Manley Labs Mahi was required. It turns out that one of the principals behind M&D's Canadian distribution is none other than George Tordai of Audio Zone. George's opamp based AMP-1 and AMP-2 amplifiers plus his PRE-T1 passive preamp have garnered plenty of positive press at 6moons and elsewhere.