Jeff Rowland Capri S2 preamp + Esoteric K-01

I finally managed to get a broken-in JR Capri S2 preamp from my friendly local dealer for a home audition.

First off, I have Guido to thank for when he recommended a JR preamp to go with my Esoteric K-01 player. If it is a good match for his system, it should be for mine too, since we share the same speakers, the VA Die Muzik.

The Capri S2 is diminutive next to the K-01. To put that in perspective, it is 3/4 the width, 1/3 the height and 1/2 the depth of the K-01. Can this David be up to the task next to Goliath?

Well, the answer is a resounding yes! It is incredible what the Capri can do to the sound of the whole system. I would say it alone contributes 50% to the overall sonics.

Where the bass is concerned, the Capri adds half an octave lower, adds fullness, body and 3-dimensionality to each note, and improves pitch definition and resolution. Listening to Scott LaFaro in Bill Evans' Waltz for Debbie is a revelation and it all sounds so musical.

The midrange gains in transparency and resolution, especially with female voices where once there was a burr to the edge of female voices, now there is none.

The highs are now airier with less grit, grain and etch, and with greater refinement and delicacy. Cymbal brushes, cymbal crashes, trumpets, piano and sax, all sound more natural with longer decay of notes.

And the soundstage opens up more in width, depth and height.
If the K-01 was ever thought of as dry, lean, analytical, the Capri banishes all of those altogether.

Lastly, I can now see where Guido is coming from with regard to the choice of filters for the K-01. With the Capri in the chain, SDLY_2 is the only one that works, all the other filters sound too tubey, to use his own word.

At retail $US3950, it is the best bang-for-the-buck component in my system. I actually find it better than my old ARC REF 3 preamp. You owe it to yourself to listen to this little wonder if you are in the market for a solid state preamp.

I can attest to all the things you say about the Capri 2. I have about 1000 hours on it now. I purchased this preamplifier to go with my Jeff Rowland 625 amplifier and I think that the combo is even better.
Jon2020, I assume you did this in compare with running your K-01 direct to your brystons?

Yes, you are right as running the K-01 direct to the Brystons was the only thing I did before adding the Capri in the chain.

Marty t,
The Capri S2 has proven to be a good match for the Brystons and I shall keep them for now. If the K-01 and the Brystons were considered "top-down", the Capri can be thought of as "bottom-up", adding just the right amount of warmth, and together they strike a good balance between yin and yang. It's magic! 
Hahaha.... Glad you have found Nirvana with CAPRI S2 and K-01 John.... I have heard that S2 is a significant sonic enhancement over the original Capri, which was very lovely to start with. I will hear Capri S2 for the very first time tomorrow at RMAF... I do believe it might be playing in the Lawrence Audio room (1122). Fed by an Aeris DAC and driving M825. Guido

I am sure you will be amazed by what the S2 is capable of.
Happy listening!
I am curious to know if you have heard the Parasound JC2 which is similarly priced to the Capri S2. If yes, then how do these 2 compare?

Hi Milpai,
Unfortunately, I have never heard the Parasound JC2, so I can't make any comments about it. Apparently it has been well received by the audio press. If I remember correctly and I stand corrected here, the JC2 leans slightly to the cooler side of neutral while the Capri adds just a bit of warmth but not by much. If your system needs a bit of warmth, then go with the Capri.
But that is just one aspect of the Capri. Everything else is just so good. What the Capri brings to the party can be described as notes floating and flowing with a liquidity that I have never heard in my system or any other system in the countless audio showrooms and shows that I have been to through all the years in this hobby. I guess it all boils down to system synergy and I probably just got lucky to have finally nailed it. The Capri pulls everything together for the gestalt that is simply breathtaking.
You have a beautiful system Jon2020 and I am glad the Capri S2 matched in your system. From your description I can only imagine that the Capri S2 will be worth while with my A21 amp.
If you have a friendly local dealer who can loan out a broken-in unit, a home audition in your system is always preferred to an outright purchase. It's all about synergy and your Parasound A21 power amps may or may not sing better with the Capri. Good luck!
I'm glad your dealer was able to assist you. There is a distinct anti-dealer bias here, partially because of the attitude, the prices and the feeling that the dealer is just trying to unload the highest-margin priced item. I'm not saying that certain dealers aren't like this, but some aren't. A good dealer, like the one you have, can guide you through the product maze and help you select a component you may not have thought of to achieve a high degree of musical satisfaction.

Sometimes it's worth paying retail for a product you are happy with for many years, over churning piece after piece on the second-hand market and never really liking what you have. Enjoy.
The parasound is not in the same class as the JR.


Thanks for your kind comments. Yes, I was indeed lucky in so many ways. Before the Capri, I always felt that there was something missing despite my satisfaction with the system. And I was scared as hell to purchase anything new before a home audition. And there has been so much debate over whether adding a preamp would sound better than no preamp. So, I have to answer this question for myself in my own system.

With the Capri in the chain, I am now hearing what I had only read about in the audio press, and merely hinted at previously by my system until now - qualities such as "holographic imaging", "a soundstage with walk-through dimensions", "grainless", "ease and liquidity", "floating images" as opposed to being anchored down by some invisible deadweight, "fleshed out instruments with body", "air around instruments", "rich tonal colors and density" and so on.
Yes, a friendly dealer makes this hobby less foreboding, and sometimes you get lucky when everything put together comes out just "right".

Have you heard them both in your system or in a same system? Can you please share how do they differ in terms of sonic quality?
Neil Gader at TAS had the following to say about the sound of Rowland Aeris + Capri S2 + M825 + Joseph Audio Pearl 3 + Cardas Clear/Beyond at RMAF 2013:

"... I was lured into the room as if by tractor beam by the
rich buoyant and involving sounds of Elvis singing “Peace in the Valley”-one of Acoustic Sounds superb new pressings, naturally. Power was courtesy of
Rowland’s mega, 160 lb,  400Wpc, switch mode, 825 amp ($32,000) with Aeris DAC and Capri preamp ($4300 with phono!) the high contrast sonics conjured up
dark walnut tones, the stunningly warm and discrete chorus images and of course  the effortless highs and top end air that didn’t always appear in such
abundance in early Class D. ..."


Note that class D refers to the M825, which utilizes Ncore technology in the output stage... Conversely, Capri S2 runs in class A, like most every other linestage/pre.

Hi Jon2020, If you do not mind me asking?,, who was the dealership that was so kind to you for an in your home audition?, I would like to get aquaited with this dealership for sure!, Happy listening.

Here's what Jonathan Valin of TAS has to say about the sound of the same system described by Neil Gader above (Joseph Audio + Rowland electronics) in the same room at the RMAF :-

"Jeff Joseph was showing a new version of his classic dual-cabinet Pearl floorstander, the four-driver, three-way, $31.5k Joseph Audio Pearl 3, driven by Rowland electronics and sourced by a VPI ’table. On two vastly different LPs, Kije and L.A. Woman, the sound was fabulous—power, color, detail, staging, everything you could ask for. Another BOS(Best of Sound) contender."
John and all, I did spend time in room 8032 which has been commented above by Gader and Valin.... Not once but twice.... It was one of the few rooms where my test tracks passed with flying colors, including the introduction of the Dvorak string sextet Op. 87(?) with double bass... This is a challenging piece that in most systems generates wild and jarring cross modulation in the multi-part treble sostenuto lines... The electronics, speakers, and cabling in room 8032 instead exposed the treble chords of the introductory cadenzas in a way that was harmonically and musically satisfying, transparent, and with a wealth of detail congruent with reality. G.

Well, it looks like the critics including yourself who were in that room were mightily impressed by the sound and immensely enjoyed their time there.

Hopefully, someone will revisit this thread about the JR Capri S-2 pre-amp/   I recently acquired in August, 2016, a BAT VK 200 (100RMS) and it is excellent. I can see deeper into the music than before just using a Rogue Sphinx hybrid integrated v.1   I use its pre-amp out to connect the BAT amp.

I would like to know if  the Capri-S-2 would be a good match with the BAT amp. One  concern is that its specs indicated a gain of  only14 db.  I need to find out if the input impedance of the Capri-S-2 and the output impedance of the BAT will provide a standard volume level that can then be controlled  or adjusted with the remote, without wide swings in volume up or down

In addition, those members who own Capri S-2, have you used the either MM or MC cards and what level of sound quality did they provide??. I will need both, 

Lastly, Capri S2 looks like a light weight at 10 lbs. I don't see any large  transformers like the BAT pre-amp or Krell  pre-amp  Why is that??