D'Agostino Relentless Mono Power Amplifier Page 2

Yes, the Relentless paints an astonishing musical picture – one bursting with ripe detail, with unprecedented grip and slam, and with a seemingly limitless palette of colours that depict every twist and turn in harmonic accent. And that sense of latent power that hangs over every piece of music is so palpable that I'd hesitate to define its dynamic envelope, its untapped reserve, as merely 'unburstable'.

The Relentless represents a crushing force deployed with exquisite delicacy – a 15lb hammer wielded with the precision of a micrometer. HFN readers will surely grasp this idea, but only when you hear the Relentless in action does the penny truly drop. For the Relentless amplifier is a game-changer and proof-positive that (almost) limitless power brings with it limitless musical possibilities.

The Relentless is the culmination of Dan's life work, a 40-year drive to build an amplifier without compromise – a period during which I've also been lucky enough to audition and lab test amplifiers from every corner of the globe. So when I was finally face-to-face with the green glow from a pair of these toasty-warm monoblocks it was impossible not to hear the man's life-long voyage, his ambition and his personality expressed in every note played.

There's a little of Dan in every one of these hand-assembled amplifiers. So you are not just invited to audition a sound – rather, you are treated to an experience where once-familiar albums are transformed as you are chaperoned along their musical journey.

Dark Desert Highway
And by familiar, I mean very familiar. I dialled up the 2001 remix of The Eagles' Hotel California [192kHz rip from DVD-A] and with only the slightest hesitation from Melco's music library, that iconic opening chord progression rang into the room, heard countless times before but somehow fresher now, more vibrant, intense and beguiling. This is music taking form, achieving a physicality that is not just reaching out to touch you (or pound you in the case of Massive Attack or Yello) but take you by the arm, embrace you and gently draw you from the audience to the stage. So there I was, admiring the layered sound of Walsh and Felder's guitar solos while the faint draft from Henley's cymbals raised the hairs on the back of my neck.


Channel Classics' DSD release of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring [Iván Fischer/BFO; CCS SA32112, DSD64] provided another, entirely separate journey as, once again, the orchestra crafted sound shapes of breathtaking earthly beauty, with fresh timbres and structures of unlikely physicality. As befits the work of this composer, the musicians interlocked to create a single, huge percussion instrument, from the resonant might of the tympani to the shrill interjection of the piccolo. And the silence! Breathtaking – as the vital, rhythmic contortions of brass, winds and strings lapsed into moments of reflection, so the ambience of Budapest's Millennium City Palace of Arts was revealed. Caught in the moment, the urge to lift my head towards the invisible ceiling was irresistible.

By now the Relentless was straining at the leash, urging me to order up some fireworks from the Melco's menu. The 2014 remaster of Deep Purple's 1972 Made In Japan [Universal 0602537719365; 96kHz FLAC] features the band's legendary 'mkII' lineup recorded live in Osaka with, famously, 'everything louder than everything else'. The Relentless thrusts you perilously close to the action as 'Machine Head', 'Highway Star' and 'Space Truckin'' are all thrashed out with casual disregard to both hearing and syncopation.

Heavy Metal Amp
Blackmore is gunning his Stratocaster like a man possessed while Jon Lord's organ is a frenzy of feedback – the perfect backdrop to Ian Gillan's barely-controlled screaming. They don't make 'em like this any more, but with the Relentless in tow and my trusty B&W 800 D3s [HFN Oct '16] being warmed to within an inch of their voice coils, I was back to my youth, with denim, hair – lots of hair – inhaling the heady atmosphere of the Hammy Odeon. Over to you, Ken...

sqnote Ken On Relentless
In any field, writes Ken Kessler, on rare and therefore memorable occasions, we get to experience what are close-to-once-in-a-lifetime events. For a golfer, it's that first hole-in-one. A fisherman? Landing a massive swordfish. Mine have included driving the Bugatti Veyron and seeing The Kinks play live. They may be superseded some day – I await the Bugatti Chiron with as much hope as expectation – but the D'Agostino Relentless amplifier will be a tough act to follow.

For me, the Relentless also represents a sort of continuity if not closure, as the very first time I ever heard what Dan D'Agostino could do was another memorable event: listening to the original Apogee Full Range Loudspeaker System, driven by his massive Krells [HFN Sept '85].


Simplified mechanical drawing indicates the complexity of the clockface meter and the scale of the faceplate and 45kg alloy/copper heatsinks. Note the Delrin clamp into which drop the six PSU reservoir capacitors [immediate right]

Nothing, however, prepared me for one specific element of the Relentless, which may come to define both the amplifier's signature sound and what it represents in the evolution of high-end audio. And it has everything to do with unbridled power.

Manufacturers, marketing types and, yes, reviewers, bandy about terms like 'cost-no-object' and 'zero-compromise' with abandon. We should leave that to the likes of Ferrari and Lamborghini, as rarely has it ever been realised in audio. Aside from some unfeasible, never-to-be produced designs with €1m price tags that turn up at shows, I can think of no other amplifier in my half-century-plus in audio which even approaches the sheer chutzpah demonstrated by Dan's Relentless monoblocks.

No Compromise
Dan has been threatening to produce a true, no-limits amplifier for as long as I have known him. This is it. What I heard the Relentless amps do was – without any notion of hyperbole – demonstrate what sound without power limitations can be. This is not to suggest for a moment that one cannot live with less; neither is it to insinuate that there are no other systems so blissfully free of constraint. That said, they are few in number, and must be built around the most sensitive of speakers. The Relentless needs no such accommodation.

D'Agostino LLC
Connecticut, USA
Supplied by: Absolute Sounds Ltd
0208 971 3909