ARC Ref 3, Rowland Concerto, or Capri line stage?

Has anyone had the opportunity of comparing the ARC Reference 3 side-by-side with the Rowland Concerto linestage or the Rowland Capri? If you have, please post your comparative findings. I own and love the Ref 3, but I have heard the Concerto at RMAF and found it to be wonderful. I have also heard rumours that the little Capri may even exceed the Concerto's performance.

My current system is balanced and consists of TEAC X-01 Limited, ARC Ref 3, Rowland 7M monos, Vienna Mahler speakers. I listen mostly to classical--80% of it chamber music.
take a SL1 from CAT - one of the best in this price range !
Thank you Davidri and my apologies; I should have been more specific. I am not seeking open ended suggestion about linestages in absolute terms or 'for the money'. My interest is very specific and purely about audible differences between ARC Ref 3, Rowland Concerto, and Rowland Capri, while ignoring the obvious price differences.

I'm going to ignore your request for information regarding the Rowland vs ARC Ref3 and just tell you there is nothing better than a CAT....... smiles!


PS how are you doing, BTW
I owned the Concerto for about two years paired with Parasound JC1 amps and Magnepan MG3.6r speakers. It is a nice linestage, but it is likely not comparable to the Ref-3. I did not compare them directly, but I did compare the Concerto to the BAT VK31SE and VK51SE in my dedicated room. Both BAT preamps were significantly better in almost all respects, save one...the Concerto was a little "smoother". The Concerto also masked low-level detail, was less dynamice in both micro and macro senses, and was not as extended compared to the BATS. Tonally the BATS were more correct to my ears as well. I did love the Concerto remote...solidly built and simple.

I know this wasn't a direct answer to your post, but we are getting closer me thinks? ;-)
Thank you Germanboxers, your answer is actually very useful. I do admit that a Ref 3 vs Concerto/Capri comparison is unusual to say the least. Guido
Ooops... I meant to say "better than the final H-CAT"...
I switched from BAT 51SE to Ref 3 and I can def say that it is miles better.
Elberoth2, I have had the opportunity of comparing the REF 3 with the BAT VK51SE side by side and I concur with your findings. It is also worth pointing out that when I heard the concerto I did not perceive any fuzziness in the bass or obvious lack of detail at the top. What I heard was instead extremely articulated from top to bottom with extremely good detail, harmonic development and staging. . . but how would this compare to my Ref 3 is anyone's guess.
JR Concerto Pre and Int are discontinued AFAIK. So, if Jeff Rowland then you can choose between Capri S(Diamond polished finish version) or new Criterion. Or you can go for new Continuum Int(two versions-one 350w/ch, other 500w/ch).

Or simply go for ARC REF3...
Thank you Branimir. I will ask JRDG about the new preamps. I knew that an announcement was imminent, but wasn't sure if it would be in time for CES. Guido
Except the Capri and the cost no object Criterion in my last conversation with Jeff I know that since Criterion will be in limited quantity (200 pcs) an intermediate pre-amp will replace the Synergy IIi and most probably will look like the one chassis of the Criterion with the VFD display.
The price will be near 9.000US,so I believe its worth waiting.
Except the Capri and the cost no object Criterion in my last conversation with Jeff I know that since Criterion will be in limited quantity (200 pcs) an intermediate pre-amp will replace the Synergy IIi and most probably will look like the one chassis of the Criterion with the VFD display.
The price will be near 9.000US,so I believe its worth waiting.
Thank you Periklis, very intriguing indeed! A few additional questions: what does the acronym VFD stand for? Does Criterion employ video-bandwidth op-amps derived from Capri design? I am still curious about Capri, as I have not heard it directly, but it has been said to be a surprising performer.
Sorry for the delay mate, the acronym I believe its for Vacum Fluosend Display or something like that and its the very impressive blue display that shows everything not as the previous displays with Jeff equipment anly the volume but everything you need to known from volume, balance, phase etc.
The Criterion of course in a sense incorporates a lot from Capri but of course better, I am a Coherence owner and Jeff has assured me that in terms of mesurments this will be one of the top 3 preamps in the world.
For the Capri now I have the chance to listen vs the Concerto which is more expensive and to my surprise the Capri was much better and this reflects the new age technology that Jeff now is design.
Wait for few months and I will tell more about the Criterion since I have already order one.
Thank you Periklis, I also have received confirmation from Jeff this week that the Capri was the first product where he experimented with extremely fast op-amps originally designed for video applications. He then added that he is employing derivative technology in the new Criterion. . . . which truly intrigues me. Please do let us know about the sound of the Criterion as soon as you receive it. . . but in its own thread, given the calibre of the device. In the meantime, could you comment more about the sonic differences you have perceived between the Capri and the Concerto?

Thanks, Guido

you and I know all too well that their are many terrific preamps out there BUT IMO "all" pale in comparison to the Ref3
Hi Doc, as you know, when I auditioned pres to replace my LS2B, the only linestage that satisfied me was the ARC Ref 3. . . and I soon became a very happy Ref 3 owner. Since that time, I have auditioned a few more line stages, and in most cases I still prefer the Ref 3. However, I have been very favorably impressed by at least 2 devices, one of which the now discontinued Rowland Concerto, which I heard at RMAF on a jaw-dropping system. . . hence this thread. I have not heard the newer little Capri -- less expensive than the Concerto -- but it is said by mpore than one to outperform the older Concerto. . . In the meantime, no one has really heard the new JRDG Criterion flagship under field conditions. . . it will start deliveries later in the Spring. . . but Criterion is said to be an all out assault to the state of the art. . . and I sure would love to conduct a comparative analysis with it and the Ref 3.
Hi Guido, indeed the new capri outperforms the older Concerto at least in the hearings I have done.
The capri in all hearings sounded more clear a little more dynamic and same musical as the Concerto.
The Capri is power factor corrected as Jeff told me and all the new products are (312,102 etc).
If you put the factor price when the Capri seems a bargain in this money.
I believe that you must hear it in order to have an personnal opinion for the new age sound of Rowland gear.
Very interesting Periklis, I did not realize that PFC was already implemented on Capri and 102. I agree completely that 1st hand audition of current JRDG gear on own system is in order.
Based on a conversation I had with Jeff, I don't believe the Capri is already power factor corrected.

that is my understanding also. You can buy an outboard unit, the PC1, that can add power factor correction to the Capri.
Yesterday I had Rod Thomson of Soundings Hifi (Denver, Co.) over at my place for a Master Set of my Vienna Mahler speakers, and he brought along a JRDG Capri for the ride. This was a unit without the external PC1 power factor Correction box. The rest of the system consisted of Esoteric X-01 Limited, JRDG 312 amp. We performed the initial two thirds of the setup using the Ref 3, then switched to the Capri. The line stages were powered by a Purist Anniversary PC. After work was complete we performed some further comparative listening of the two line stages. Here are my preliminary impressions of these two wonderful devices: The Ref 3 slightly outperformed the Capri in mid-bass linearity while the Capri appeared to generate a very slight 'bump' in some mid bass areas. The Ref 3 sounded perhaps slightly more 'neutral' than the Capri and got my nod in the area of airiness. However I experienced with the Capri a wider top to bottom frequency extension, a more revealing harmonic texturing, a unique propensity for unmasking the fallacy of the myth of 'black backround' by exposing some very low level decaying detail, a faster rendering of transients, and a remarkable musicality. I wish I also had a PC1 to play with: according to Jeff, several Capri users have experienced the application of the new PC1 device to the Capri to be quite synergistic.
Thanks for your fascinating comments. I hope you continue to let us know about your thoughts on the Capri vs. Ref 3. For my part, once I heard the Capri in my system, I sold off my more than 2 times expensive CJ Premier 17LS2. Now I have a Capri in my HT system, and am eagerly awaiting the Synergy 2i to replace the CJ. Most people will tell you that you cannot really compare a SS preamp with a top notch tube preamp, but the proof is in the pudding (oops...listening).
Hi Pinkus, I should add that the aforementioned pudding can be quite surprisingly delish! Will you A/B the Capri and the Synergy II? Will you add the PC1 to the Capri? Capri is based on chip technology originally created for fast video circuits, which did not exist at the time the Synergy was developed.
All, my latest extremely preliminary Capri vs Ref 3 observations are at:
They are in my first post dated 03-28-2008. G.
I am now feeding the JRDG Capri a steady diet of 384V DC through the JRDG PC1 PFC unit with very intriguing initial results. I have just started a new didicated thread if anyone were interested. . .

Visited with my friend (Gayle) in Austin and did some more informal a/b comparisons of JRDG Capri with the ARC Ref 3. Capri was powered through a Shunyata Anaconda Helix Alpha. No PC1 external PFC device was used, as I prefer the Capri without PC1. ARC Ref 3 used a Purist Anniversary PC. Mismatch was intentional. . . I do not like Anniversary on Capri but much prefer Anaconda. . . conversely we all agreed that Anniversary works better than Anaconda on Ref 3. Rest of system consisted of the latest DCS megastack, Lam hybrid monos, B&W 801s. ICs were PAD Anniversary. We tried as much as possible to warm up Capri before playing time. . . this typically succeeds only partially. . . Capri really needs some playing time to achieve optimum performance and that was clear for the first 20 minutes of playing where wecouldn't help noticing some congestion. For test tracks we used my usual Dvorak 9th Symph 2nd movement with Bernstein and the Israel, and Edgar Meyer on Bass playing the Prelude and Allemande from Bach's 5th cello suite. Gayle supplied 2 excellent jazz tracks.
In Dvorak, the Capri appeared to supply a larger/deeper and more transparent sound stage than the Ref 3. There was a delicacy and sense of ease to the presentation that I personally preferred over Ref 3. Bass was of course better defined and controlled than in Ref 3. Overall authority was very similar. I suspect that harmonic development during the initial brass fanfare was better defined on Capri. Those familiar with this recording know that there is some raggedness in the recording during FFF, and I still give the nod on Capri for controlling the same. Macro dynamics is comparable, but I may give the not in microdynamics to Capri. It is worth mentioning that both Capri and Ref 3 are relatively neutral devices that are somewhat atypical of their SS and tube underlying technology. . . while Capri is slightly more 'neutral' sounding, Ref 3 is slightly warmer and perhaps darker sounding. . . . but neither of them epytomizes the stereotypical sound of their heritage.
Edgar Meyer on Capri was incredibly 'nimble' and open with rosyn noise and harmonic complexity galore; bass was deep, musical, and always tight; overall presentation was both expansive and emotional. If I can make a criticism to the rendition, is that I felt the high harmonics made perhaps the track slightly 'too open' for my personal taste. . . however I am not in a position to decide on the actual 'correctness' of the reproduction. Definitely darker and somewhat warmer was the Ref 3, with a clear sense of the majestic. Bass was deep, but somewhat more flaring than that of the Capri. Overtones were also in evidence, if with a darker hue than on Capri. Microdynamics was also clearly evident like on Capri. Both devices show excellent ability to reproduce decay--perhaps more muscular in Ref 3, while Capri was perhaps slightly more filegreed.

In the end, these are both magnificent linestages, Capri just slightly to the SS side of neutrality, while Ref 3 leaning slightly towards the warmer side of a tube neutrality. While I personally prefer the overall sound of the Capri, I notice occasional marginal blemishes, such as the upper overtones in Meyer, and some similar minor quibbles I have had with some piano recordings. Yet, if the little Capri is this good, I can only wonder at the performance of the upcoming JRDG Criterion

In fairness though, if you prefer the slightly warmer sound of tubes, you would more likely prefer the Ref 3 over the Capri. Scott O. who was also present at our little extravaganza, will likely express his preference for Ref 3.

Gayle will hopefully add his own comments to the listening session.
Nice update Guido. Thanks for taking the time. I'm glad that you used truly hi rez digital source to get as neutral a comparison as possible. I assume that the ICs were balanced both in from the DCS and out to the Lamms.

Hi Dave, yes, I believe ICs were twin sets of balanced PAD Anniversaries. . . used the same on Ref 3 and Capri. they were a real 'drag' to connect them to the Capri without the poor thing toppling over from the weight of them.