Dominic Marsh takes this €4790, chrome plated integrated amplifier from German manufacturer High End GmbH for a whirl to see if its sonic attributes live up to the amps good looks.

Aaron?  Who?  I hear you ask. Let me tell.  Aaron and Sovereign are the two brand names of High End GmbH, a German company owned by Thomas and Marita Hoehne situated in Elze, Lower Saxony and founded some 20-odd years ago under the then name of Neumann Audio Teknik, which was changed to Aaron in 1989.  The Aaron brand represents their value products, while the Sovereign brand represents the very best products this company produces.  All their products are hand built.  I like the way they communicate with people by calling them “Music lovers” and wish you “Happy listening” which sums up their take on their own products.aaron_close_6s

I personally have owned an Aaron product in the past, namely a Millennium Number 3 power amplifier.  Have any of you owned a product then sold it on, only to rue the day you did that ever since?  Yep, that’s me too we are talking about here and if ever there was a truly dumb thing to do, it was selling that amplifier.  I am not very good at running, but if I could have managed even a short sprint I would have chased that courier’s van down the street to get it returned for sure.  You live and learn as they say.

The Chrome One is not simply a variant of the company’s standard No.1.a model wearing a new coat, but is totally different, particularly the preampliier section which is built to be totally novel and totally discrete. The same amplifier and preamplifier section found in The Chrome One is also available in “Let’s Rock” guise which has a cast and polished alloy front panel adorned with skulls, stars, Fleur De Lys and other motifs, a top plate with a large cast skull figure, specially designed by Marita Hoehne and comes in two variants; a Silver Machine which is the bare casting and a catacomb style which has an applied dark relief coating to the casting. If polished chrome and cast alloy figures are not your scene, then the No.1.a. base model sports a brushed aluminium from panel and top plate to match.  At the time of writing, there is also another variant called the “Aaron XX  Anniversary Limited Edition”, with a black anodised front panel,  ‘XX’ being the Roman numerals for 20, representing the number of years the business has been trading.


The two most obvious things that strike you with this amplifier is the chrome frontage which isn’t in the slightest bit blingy and I will tell you why I think that.  The QUALITY of the chrome is exemplary in the flesh and that takes it well away from being tacky or tasteless, because simply put, it isn’t.  The second thing that you notice is the conical control knobs which are similarly attired in high quality chromium plating.  Someone nicknamed it a “Madonna” look, for the star of the same name’s famed stage appearances wearing a brassiere with large conical points.  In actual fact there was a considerable delay in the delivery of The Chrome One for review as Thomas Hoehne wasn’t satisfied with the finish of the plating and he had to source another electroplater who could satisfy his demands for the finish quality he wanted.

That aside, it’s measurements are 440mm wide X 108mm high X 375mm deep and chassis/cover is made from plate steel with a flecked black finish.  Weight is 15.5kg.

The two conical front panel controls are for menu and source selection for the left hand control and the right hand control sets the volume and power standby.  In the centre of the front panel there is a rectangular blue fluorescent display showing the selected source and the volume control setting, doubling up as the menu options display when the left hand control is pressed.  Below the display is the remote sensor window which also houses the standby LED.  Inputs are all line level with CD, MD, TUNER, DAT, TV and AUX inputs via RCA single ended connections, each of which can be level matched by software control in the menu system. To the rear panel we find the corresponding RCA inputs plus a single set of good quality speaker binding posts which will accept bare wire, 4mm banana plugs or spades.  Mains input is via a standard chassis mounted 3 pin IEC plug connection.  An optional Phono module is available at extra cost.aaron_rear_1s

A remote control is supplied which gives direct input to any of the 6 sources, a pair of buttons to adjust volume up/down and a standby button.  Looks almost hewn from a solid billet and the domed metal buttons are fantastic functionally and appear to be able to last a lifetime, although both the remote and the rotary knob were none too precise in setting the level I wanted with up/down fiddling around as it’s a touch too sensitive.  In fact the amplifier also has that similar look, the same way as you admire a 1930s Rolls Royce driving by and you are in awe because it doesn’t belch out clouds of smoke, sound like a rattled bucket of stones and the bodywork looks as pristine as when it left the factory.

Incidentally, the square chamfered metal panel mounted on the lid isn’t just there for show purposes, it is also part of the chassis damping system and it has significant weight to it, as I found out when I popped the lid off for a quick surreptitious peek inside.  Internal layout is superb by the way.Aaron_review_insides


Mercifully, all of High End GmbH’s products are soak tested before leaving the factory, so they are ready to play straight out of the box.  Connect CD player, then my resident Russell K Red 100 speakers, connect the power cord and hit the right hand conical control knob . . . . . . POP!  Wasn’t loud but wasn’t expecting it either, so Dominic here had to R.T.F.M (Read The Flaming Manual) which informed me this is perfectly normal as there is no soft start relay fitted because it degrades the sound, so Aaron say. So a pop when switching on or off is part of the design and to be expected.

In keeping with solid build perception its outward appearance suggests, the sound too can be summed up in one word . . .  SOLID.  This amplifier is unflappable and whatever you throw at it, it just does its job exactly as it should do.  No bells, whistles, or fireworks, it just puts out of the speaker terminals whatever you shove in at the input.  The specifications say it is rated at 100 watts per channel into an 8 Ohms impedance and 180 watts into a 4 Ohms impedance at 0.1% total harmonic distortion and 7 amps current draw continuous, but then Aaron go further by stating it can deliver 360 watts into 2 ohms and 440 watts into 1 ohms on short burst peaks of 100ms duration with a maximum 22 amps of current draw.  This is evidenced by superb and immensely powerful dynamics that are lightning quick and with no hesitation. The leading edges are crisp and clearly defined, so you never think to yourself it is ONLY a 100 watts per channel amp because the sound makes that number entirely irrelevant.  I don’t have any speakers to hand that are deemed to be a difficult load and I couldn’t put Aaron’s claims to the test, but if those figures are accurate then you would be hard pushed to get this amplifier to clip in a normal domestic listening environment.Aaaron_front_2s

So much for the overall picture of the sound, let’s move in to look at the closer details.  Of course, the reference CD went in to the player and it has to be Fink’s “Wheels Beneath My Feet” live album.  From the first bar onwards you can tell the calibre of this amplifier is a stunningly refined act.  Treble is defined in every sense of the word, separated out from the rest of the music as is the midrange and bass for that matter, each having its own space and boundaries within the music, with no clashing or muddling. Soundstage is exemplary, plus the imaging is wide and deep, although not as high as some I have heard.  The intro strikes on the Ride cymbal the drummer plays on track one called “Biscuits For Breakfast” is so convincing and so . . . what’s the word I’m looking for . . . . . tangible, it makes the hairs on the back of your head stand up.   This CD has been recorded in different venues throughout Europe during one of Fink’s many tours so the venue ambience is different for each location and the Aaron amplifier homes in on this like a laser guided Cruise missile and misses none of it.  Each audience reacts differently too and this is the first amplifier I have installed into my system that really does make you feel you are sat in amongst the audience.  No “shooshing” sounds like bacon frying in a pan during the applause, each audience member is an individual, clapping, whistling, cheering and cat calling enthusiastically all around you.  Was it my imagination, or was I actually hearing that annoying person behind me rustling their toffee papers?  Loved it.

You can actually hear each individual string of the guitar playing during chords and riffs, you can even tell what the string is made from and what it was plucked with (Plectrum or fingers) from  Fink’s acoustic guitar playing and it felt rather smug to say “nylon” while the music was playing.  When we talk about this level of fine detail, it might be crossing your mind reading this review that this amplifier is a bit explicit or somehow spot lit in its treble and midrange resolution, but be assured it isn’t, as you can listen to this amplifier for hour after hour and it never fatigues, despite the sheer torrent of fine details and nuances it is feeding you.  If it did, I would have no hesitation at all in saying so, as the Russell K Red 100 speakers take no prisoners in this respect.

I have left the best analysis of this amplifier’s performance until last.  When I listen to this particular album, it is the drums that get the closest scrutiny from me, because there must be a latent hidden aspirational drummer inside me busting to get out and start bashing those skins myself.  Kick drum must have a clearly defined start, middle and end to each strike and you must be able to hear the shell of the drum, not just the actual strike by the beater alone – be it a hard or soft faced beater being used.  Some drummers remove the front skin for a tauter less reverberant sound and that too must be easily deciphered.  Snare drum is a very revealing instrument, full of timbres and resonances, particularly so during rim shots where the rim and the shell has to be clearly heard during each strike, but above all else it must be realistic, similarly so with the tom toms and the floor tom.  I cannot abide any “tish” sort of sound from any of the cymbals, particularly the ride, crash, or riveted cymbals and if you cannot clearly hear that a wooden stick is making contact with a metal cymbal and the resulting shimmer following the strike then something is amiss with your system.  That is a roundabout and long winded way of saying that the Aaron ‘The Chrome One’ amplifier passed all of those benchmark criteria with ease.

Put some funky Jazz music on and this amplifier will soon get you out of your chair and bopping along with the music, it is so infectious.  I was even minded to play some Classical music excerpts too (Yes, but not a full symphony for me I’m afraid!) and the scale and power of the entire orchestra was delivered through the speakers effortlessly with awesome weight and dynamics, even though Classical isn’t featured at all in my regular listening sessions or evaluations as a rule.  Must be a good amplifier then!


I can assume you get the perception that I like if not love the sound of this amplifier and you would be right in thinking that.  But, there are other factors to consider before Dominic starts handing out the plaudits and gongs.  All this eulogising about how great it sounds and the one thing I haven’t mentioned at all is price.  The amplifier featured in this review will set you back 4,790Euros, which equates to GB£3,582 or US$5,238. Uniquely though, Aaron offer payment terms if you so wish with a deposit down and monthly repayments plan of up to 36 months which is available on their website.  Given that this could be the last amplifier you would possibly buy and which will last for many years, it might be worth considering that route as a long term game plan if you don’t have the available reddies.

If you require the matching Phono module, then that will set you back another 1,590 Euros.  That makes it a fairly expensive proposition and sets it above its immediate rivals in the marketplace too, but if the price fazes you not, then go ahead and audition this very fine amplifier.

As much as I greatly appreciate the quality of the Chrome One’s appearance, if I had the money (which I unfortunately don’t!) I would personally forego that luxury finish and head towards it’s cheaper predecessor, the No.1.a. amplifier in brushed aluminium priced at 3590.00 Euros, as it’s performance is on a par with the Millenium No.3 power amplifier that I used to own and I already know that move wouldn’t disappoint me in the slightest.

In my annual letter to Santa Claus I specifically requested a Chrome One to be in my stocking on Christmas Day morning.  I woke very early especially in eager anticipation.  All I got was a Satsuma.
Sound Quality: 9.6/10RECOMMENDED LOGO NEW

Build Quality: 8.9/10

Value For Money: 8.3/10

Overall: 8.93/10

Awesome sound quality that’s hard to find fault with in any area.

Beautiful chromium plated highlights

If pops on switch on or off bother you, then avoid
Price is a tad steep compared to its rivals, but hand built quality never ever comes cheap
No built in phono stage
Remote control and front panel rotary volume control a touch too sensitive

Dominic Marsh

Read more amplifier reviews

Designer’s Notes

The AARON“The Chrome One”was developed to reproduce complex Music events in a live-like sound quality and volume.
It is an integrated amplifier in modular method of construction. Composed with separate monaural output stages, preamplifier and operating sections. The preamplifier section consists of two mono-boards in a discreet design with high precision, for each channel selected components.
The power supply for the preamplifier and control section and the output modules is made by using two separate transformers.
The AARON ” The Chrome One”works very stable and is also for low impedance speakers suitable. The power output stages work in collector follower circuit.
The amplifier is equipped with discrete channel-wise selected and matched parts in a shortest possible signal path layout. This, for a short signal path optimized layout, without the use of any sound damaging capacitors, guarantees a perfect natural and balanced sound.
Six Stereo devices with line outputs, can be connected. The input and output levels of each connected device are high precise adjustable. The high quality metal AARON remote control is included. The amplifier can be used as a pure high-end amplifier in solo mode. Alternatively, the operation of speakers with an additional power amplifier, such as AARON No.3 Millennium, in Bi-amping operation is possible.
A Phono stage is available as an option.


Outputpower continuous sine wave: 100 W/8Ω 180 W/4Ω 0.1%THD

Output power pulsed: 360W/2Ω 440W/1Ω 0.1%THD
Maximum continuous current: 7A
Maximum pulsed current: 22A (100ms burst)
Minimum load 1Ω
DistortionTHD: 0.0115%8Ω –5Watt– 1kHz
DistortionTIM: 0.012% 8Ω –5Watt– 50Hz/7Khz4:1
Humand Noise level: -98dB ref: Max, output level
Bandwidth: 0 – 130kHz -3dB 1W/8Ω
Gainmax: 100x =40dB280mV for max output
Input impedance: 47KΩ
Damping factor: 600
Slewrate 21V/µS
ACvoltage: 115VAC/230V AC internal switch 50/60Hz
+/-10% Power consumption: Idle9VA – Max 550 VA
Power supply: 500VA toroidal transformer and 6×10.000µF
Volumecontrol: 64 step Log digital controlled ladder switch
Features: Each input channel programmable – input gain (-16dB). Each output channel programmable output gain (-16dB). Programmable processor switch 2 channel in/out, Infrared remote control
Protection: Internalfuseon power rail only (no current limiting). Power amp mute on switch off
Inputs: 6 x 2channel lineinput RCA gold plated
Outputs: 2channel preout +2channel proc.out RCA gold plated
Controls: 2x rotary encoder with push button
Loudspeaker outputs: 2 x pairs binding posts gold plated
Dimensions: 440x108x375mm WxHxD
Shipping weight 15,5 KG
EAN / UPC (0)609465757933

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