|I promised John (Jmcgrogan2), that I would share my thoughts on the Jeff Rowland Model 6 amps that I purchased from him. If you are interested...read on!|
Some background: I have always been a tube guy. In fact this Rowland is my first solid state amp. From Conrad Johnson, Cary Audio, VTL, Audio Research, and Sonic Frontiers, I've had some damn fine tube gear in my house! As is so often the case with this hobby, I took a trip on the dreaded audio avalanche; buying, selling, trading, and testing various components. Each time, convincing myself that it just wasn't right. Always, that little voice kept pushing...just buy "Brand X" cable, or "Brand Y" isolation feet, and use "Brand Z" vintage tubes, and the sound will magically transport me to some sort cosmic neverland! Little could I appreciate, that I was probably already there. In short, audio-nervousa was getting the better of me, and I lost site of the goal: enjoying recorded music. I decided to take a step back from this madness and start over...SLOWLY...MORE BUDGET MINDED...NO GIMMICKS. This time I would do a better job of managing, balancing, and accepting compromise. And above all else, I would just enjoy the music.
So for the last five years, my simple and basic system consisted of:
*Conrad Johnson Premier 11A 70W tube amp
*Conrad Johnson PV 10B tube preamp with phono stage
*Electrocompaniet EMC-1 CD Player
*Technics SL1210 MK2 turntable that I've kept as a spare from my DJ years in case I get a hankering for vinyl. I Sold my SOTA, due to lack of use.
*Harbeth 7ES2 speakers
*Kimber Kable PBJ interconnects
*Speltz Anti-Cable speaker wire
A Sam Tellig or Harry Pearson reference system, the above components do not make. However, this time that wasn't my goal...I just wanted to listen to music instead of worrying about $3,000 speaker cables being the weakest link. And to my surprise what glorious music these components produced!!! Oh how I was finally moved. Beautiful imagery and staging. The components just seemed to disappear leaving me with music. In my small listening room, everything sounded good. Silky smooth and so easy on the ears. Several friends who moved from two channel into the home theatre world were astonished at my latest "house sound". Maybe my mindset was different this time; older and wiser? Possibly I was more relaxed and less fussy? Or, maybe this time I didn't listen with my wallet?! Whatever the case, I found my own slice of Nirvana.
HOWEVER, there were occasions when the wife and kids left me alone to my vices, with the opportunity to really "crank the volume knob". Here I thought the Harbeths might like a little more power...more headroom. Not that the CJ was ever clipping...perhaps the tubes were just borrowing from Peter to pay Paul, when asked to work their magic at full tilt with these speakers?!?
Enter Jeff Rowland Design Group. I have ALWAYS had a thing for the JRDG gear!!!! From my perspective, Rowland is a hands-on mad man always pushing the envelope with newer technologies and unusual circuit designs. Doing it a bit different as it were - right, wrong, or indifferent - his way. Show the guts of a Rowland to an Electrical Engineer, and the head scratching begins! All this with a beautiful packing job to boot! Years ago, I auditioned the Rowland Model 2, 75 watt stereo amp with Synergy preamp at a local hi-fi store. I was blown away and had a hard time believing that some tubes weren't being slipped in, some place. I remember that audition being very lively and punchy without annoying. In short, I never forgot it.
Enter the Model 6 monoblocks. Once the decision had been made for more power, I had my amp choices narrowed down to the CJ Premier 12 (140 watt monoblock version of my Premier 11A) or something from JRDG. Deep down, I felt it was time to roll with one of the "better" solid state amps...go for a total change as it were. Remembering my audition with the 75 watt Model 2, the Model 6 with it's 150 watts seemed like just the dish for me. The units I bought from Jmcgrogan2 had the black face plates, which was an added bonus; I felt that the all black would be less "bling bling" than the signature Rowland silver, and less likely to influence anyone that happened to be over for a listening session. The black blends in much better, and is more subtle. However, once you inspect them up close, you quickly realize that you're looking at something special. Black aluminum tanks!
Enter Model 6 sound. For some reason I was expecting more harshness, maybe some grain. Even though I was previously impressed with the Model 2, I just couldn't let go of this notion that solid state was the devil's work and would annoy me with shrill sounds. OH HOW WRONG, I WAS!!! All of that tube-lover smoothness is there. The best imagery I've EVER heard....and this is something my CJ excels at! There are times when I close my eyes and feel like I'm not even listening to a "stereo"!! It's all there only with much greater authority! Much more concert like. More stage like. This sound is very energetic and moving...and that tube like warmness that I'm so fond of is still there with just a touch more detail. And the louder it gets, the better!!!! I'm amazed at how much bass my Harbeths can deliver - these are not large speakers!!! But now I have this punchy bass slam that's accurate and controlled. And here's the clincher: at louder volumes, the Rowlands can present this deep bass without losing any of the mid range or upper registers. No more borrowing...no sacrificing one area to furnish another. They just keep delivering and reproducing what you throw at them until some other component breaks down...in my case it's probably my small room or the monitors! I never thought solid state amplification could give me the same hair raising experiences as my beloved tubes. Time to quickly step off the audio merry-go-round, yet again, and enjoy what I have.
Thanks For Reading,