I use an aeris myself with 725 monos (and Halcro pre) so Rowland lover as well here.
Jeff Rowland Daemon – Reviewing The JRDG Superintegrated Flagship Amplifier
Could a no holds barred integrated amplifier rival the performance and flexibility of a stack of top reference-level components: streamer, DAC, phono stage, preamplifier, and monoblock power amplifier pair? Or does the system simplification and space-saving of integrated amps inherently compromise overall sonic performance and I/O configurability?
Jeff Rowland would opine that the design and implementation of his integrated flagship have yielded a performance level and flexibility that rivals the most sophisticated stack of separates. He would point at Daemon, a $43,840 technological tour de force, conceived in partnership with Thomas Holm. The gleaming 99LBs single-chassis–, measuring 17.5” wide, 15.25” deep, and 9.5” high, is milled from solid aircraft-grade Aluminum ingots in the hallmark Rowland tradition. Sporting over 20 I/O ports, the device packs a dual mono amplification subsystem running in class D which delivers 1500W/8 (2500W/4) Watts per channel, fed by what Jeff Rowland asserts to be the most advanced DAC circuit and preamplifier stage he ever created. Vinyl is served by the included High Performance (HP) phono subsystem. A Wi-Fi/Bluetooth streamer is upcoming (pending ROON certification. Daemon is also available without phono module for $42, 00.
Eschewing the traditional performance compromise imposed on integrated amps by the use of a single bulk power supply, Daemon features multiple regulated Switch Mode Power Supplies (SMPS): each subsystem is served by its own dedicated SMPS, except for the power amplification section, which incorporates a separate SMPS per each channel.
The Daemon ship group includes a full-featured Bluetooth remote milled from an Aluminum block, as well as a hefty power cord. Apple iOS users can also control Daemon with the JRDG Remote app, which is free to download from the Apple App Store.
Mr. Rowland explained that Daemon’s DAC and preamplifier stages are not old wine in a new bottle. In other words, they are far from being repackaged Aeris and Corus circuits. On the contrary, the DAC and preamplifier sections are entirely unique to Daemon. They were designed by Jeff and Thomas Holm from the ground up to be statement-level performers. While the Corus linestage, and the Aeris+PSU DAC in particular, remain superb at their price points even after so many years, Daemon’s DAC and preamplifier sub-systems are said by Jeff Rowland to comfortably exceed the older separates. Similarly, the High Performance phono module was created by Holm and Rowland specifically for Daemon. While it is also plug-compatible with the older Continuum S2 integrated, HP Phono has been designed to vastly outperform the original Continuum S2 phono card.
With Daemon now having just crossed the break-in half-way mark, at approximately 500 hours of making music 24/7, if I may be allowed to jump the gun, I am starting to share Jeff’s confidence. Just as an example, on several break-in CDs, such as the 1967 recording of Mahler’s Symphony #1 (Titan) with Rafael Kubelik conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony (Deutsche Grammophon 429 042-2
- CD Box Set), Daemon’s authority and power reserve are staggering. Yet, these do not emerge as simple-minded muscle, but as the binding force of an incredibly layered presentation, where finely graven instrumental voices emerge as solid images from a vast stage which well exceeds the 11 feet speaker’s outer boundaries. Instruments bristle with spicules of rippling harmonics that shimmer in the interplay of crisp attacks merging into the complexity of iridescent decay. There is already an almost magic sense of “living space” between the notes, so unexpected from a young component, extracted from such an old recording – 53 years old, to be exact. In the first movement, I discovered a sudden delicate tintinnabulation of small bells which I had never known existed in the score. And that infamous tonal hardness, which is ever the bane of new components, is quite simply… Missing in action.
Will Daemon overtake my Rowland + PSU + M925 trio? Future will tell. Yet, what I have heard in the last three weeks intrigues me to no end. But I am getting ahead of myself; Let us return to an orderly narrative.
I had been aching to evaluate Daemon in my own system for quite a spell. The long wait ended on Thursday, February 27th, when UPS delivered a 121LBs package to my music room -- a fully carpeted open area with fine acoustics, measuring approximately 20’ by 34, where Cardas-connected audio components are aligned along the outer 20’ wall, and a thick 12’ by 9’ woolen rug sits in front of the Vienna Die Muzik speakers.
Cocooned by the Protective matryoshka of a triple box shipping carton, a Daemon review unit was securely braced by two generously-sized Urethane foam inserts. Gripping Daemon through the oval vents of its machined cooling fins, I lifted the factory-fresh device, and rested it on top of my component bench: a 60 year-old, two inch thick solid slab of exotic African Mansonia wood, cut from a single plank, and largely acoustically inert. For further mechanical isolation, one last minor *Gulps!* lift effort, and Three Nordost Titanium Sort Kones slid and clicked into place in the dedicated divots milled under Daemon’s bottom plate.
I connected the hefty new baby to the system with my amazing reference Cardas loom, which has proven to me time and again to be phenomenally synergistic with Rowland electronics. Cardas is profoundly integral to the goldielockian musicality and superb resolution of my music reproduction environment: Cardas Clear digital coax from Esoteric X-01 transport into one of Daemon’s BNC inputs; Cardas Clear Reflection Speaker wires from Daemon to Vienna Die Muzik; Cardas Clear 15A power cord feeding Esoteric X-01 from a dedicated 20A AC line. Finally, a 20A Cardas Clear Beyond XL PC powers Daemon from its own 20A mains circuit.
The next sections cover:
2. Physical Description
3. Music And Sound – Part 1
4. Music And Sound – Part 2
5. Thoughts And Photos
6. Further Information
So, without further ado, here is:
2. Physical Description
Before we plunge into the more or less chronological narrative of my break-in adventure, here is some more information about this power-beast:
Daemon is hardly a featherweight: at 99LBS in its machined aircraft-grade Aluminum birthday-suit, the single-chassis looks and feels impressive as much as it is solid. The massive construction features the elegant signature Rowland styling and meticulous attention to detail that it shares with M925, M825, M625 S2, and the M725 S2 amplifiers. Yet, a simple glance distinguishes Daemon from its relatives: Daemon’s machined heat dissipating fins are just slightly smaller, as larger internal real estate is allocated to accommodate all multi-layer ceramic boards, circuits, and multiple regulated SMPS power supplies for DAC subsystem, linestage, one SMPS per each power amplifier channel, as well as one each for the phono stage and for Daemon’s future streamer.
The elegant faceplate is slightly convex and subtly prismatic, measuring 1.5” at its thickest middle point. The whole gleams with the classic Rowland spiraling diamond-cut pattern. A large 7” by 5” color touch display is top center: it provides status information, lets the user select inputs, and control other operations, either by direct finger-taps, or with the iOS JRDG Remote app or with Daemon’s own Bluetooth remote control handset. Consistent with Daemon’s construction, the multi-function remote is a premium-quality device, milled from a solid Aluminum block, very much alike the remotes of Corus and Aeris.
Continuing with the front plate, below the display are three physical momentary-contact push-buttons for standby, mute, and for activating the display menu. Just under these, the half-inch thick rim of a large prismatic volume flywheel emerges from a horizontal slot milled into the fascia. Its faces are half as wide as those on the fascia. The friction-dampened wheel is mounted on ball-bearings. Its fine resolution action controls volume through an optical encoder – a hallmark of Rowland line stages for more than two decades.
Below the fascia, a quarter inch headphone output socket peeks from the front of a slightly recessed Delrin® bottom plate, which houses the Bluetooth transmitter/receiver serving the JRDG Remote control app for Apple iOS and Daemon’s Bluetooth remote hand-set.
Now let us look at the connection-rich and well organized back-panel. It bristles with 27 individual connection points. These are flanked by two removable machined cover-plates: one conceals the port for the Streaming Module; the other accesses the USB firmware update port.
All inputs are transformer-coupled to minimize common mode noise and other distortion artifacts. Distortions are further controlled by use of multi-layer ceramic circuit boards in all subsystems. Consistent with all Rowland products, RCA connectors are by Cardas: they are rhodium plated over copper with Teflon dielectrics. Neutrix is instead the supplier of all silver-plated XLR’s, also standard on Rowland products.
The complement of transformer-coupled digital DAC inputs is impressive:
· 2 BNC coax SPDIF ports
· 2 RCA SPDIF ports
· 1 USB D connector
· 1 AES/EBU input connector
3 optical TOSLINK ports
Lundahl transformers couple all Analog line-level XLR and RCA inputs directly to the preamplifier subsystem:
· 2 XLR balanced input pairs
· 3 RCA single-ended input pairs
Want to feed an external analog line-level source into Daemon? DAC and preamplifier subsystems can be bypassed by connecting an analog-line-level signal directly to the Lundahl-transformer-coupled inputs of the power amplification section:
· 1 Balanced XLR input pair
· 1 single-ended input RCA pair
Is your system bi-amped? Daemon’s line-level outputs provide connectivity from the pre-amplifier sub-system to external amplifiers:
· 1 balanced XLR output pair
· 1 Single-ended RCA output pair
Like all Rowland amplifiers, except for the entry-level M125, Daemon supports Speaker bi-wiring with a row of double pairs of output terminals:
· 1 inner horizontal pair of CARDAS output terminals
· 1 outer vertically-oriented pair of Cardas output terminals
Remember that quarter inch socket below the bottom of the front plate? That one is for you stereo headphone lovers. But if your headset has an eight inch jack instead, you will find a 3.5mm to quarter inch converter jack inside Daemon’s accessory box.
The High Performance Phono module can be purchased separately for $1140, and can be easily installed in a basic Daemon after removing the chassis’ top plate.
Pining for a streamer? An optional dedicated wireless streamer module is in the works. Supporting both Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, It will be released pending Roon certification.
Daemon’s back plate is completed by a power inlet compatible with power cords terminated with 20A IECs, a remote trigger jack for standby /control from a home theater processor, and a grounding post to facilitate star-grounding, as well as grounding of a phono turntable.
Moving now to operating Daemon with the JRDG Remote Bluetooth app: after downloading the app from the Apple App Store, I quickly paired the integrated to my iPhone. Pairing is simple: turn on Bluetooth on the iOS device, launch the app, and then press the mute button on Daemon for five to ten seconds, until the app asked confirmation that I wanted to establish connection. After responding in the affirmative, an icon at the bottom of the app panel confirmed that connection was live.
Typically, the connection remains active all the while the app is running. If connection had been lost because I took the iOS device out of Bluetooth range, or I terminated the app, I simply pressed Daemon’s mute button for 5 to 30 seconds to reconnect. With the app, I control volume, mute, and input selection from anywhere in my home.
As mentioned earlier, Daemon is supplied with a dedicated multi-function Bluetooth remote unit, but I have not explored this control option yet.
· 3. Music And Sound – Part One
So, here is:
3. Music And Sound – Part One
Daemon's output power rating of 1500W/8 and 2500W/4 per channel exceeds a pair of M925 monoblocks by a factor slightly greater than 3. By the time of this writing, I can already tell that music flows with even greater ease than from my M925 pair. But this incredible power reserve does not emerge from a Daemon fresh from the factory. Rather, it manifests and grows gradually as break-in progresses.
Below is an outline of the surprisingly rapid tonal evolution that Daemon undertook during the first few days of break-in. Yes, this means that this initial post is not intended as a classic component review after-the-fact. Rather, the whole thread will eventually form a diary of sorts, -- the narration of my experience with Daemon’s progressive tonal and musical evolution throughout its break-in process, which I expect may extend to a couple months.
On Friday 02/28 at 6:00 PM, break-in commenced with Sergei Rachmaninoff’s Symphonic Dances for 2 Pianos performed by Emanuel Ax and Yefim Bronfman (Sony Classical SK61767). I put the CD on repeat on X-01.
I was immediately surprised: What I did not hear at all was the expected early breaking tonal dullness, hardness, and paucity of harmonic exposure, so common to brand new equipment. Instead, within the first two hours, Daemon managed to flabbergast me. As hard as I tried, I perceived no trace of intermodulative harshness at all. Just a feathery treble and ringing harmonics throughout
The audible range: from high treble to deep bass. A sense of crisp articulation of each note in every track, even in the fastest runs, every note distinct, bearing its own individual transient attack, and shimmering decay: a stunning example of agility.
The bass, while showing some blanchness, was never the less articulate and complex. Deep bass notes, though marginally shy of the fundamental harmonic, generated a kaleidoscope of ringing overtones, resonating up to the high treble region, just as if I were putting my ear to the live piano board.
Typically, in very rapid treble runs, recorded piano notes tend to amalgamate together into a semi-homogeneous sound mass, lacking clearly defined inter-note boundaries. Not so on this still very young Daemon, where superfast treble notes were tinkling and shimmering like cascading sonic beads, each with its own attack, sustain, and structure of decaying harmonics.
What about low level information? Suffice to say that I could extract from the whole presentation the woody clunks of the piano mechanics: key presses and releases, hammers operating, while Bronfman and Ax could be heard softly breathing and sub-vocalizing. Note that such extra-musical low level information usually starts appearing after a few weeks of break-in -- if at all, not on a factory-fresh component. Yes, in case you asked, Jeff Rowland had completed construction of this Daemon unit just days earlier.
I could detect no obvious intermodulation distortion. With loud piano passages, intermodulation takes form of an unnatural harshness or excessive sound pressure which turns the articulate transparency of energetic transients into brittle opacity. None of which I heard.
If I were to make a mild criticism, in the earliest hours, the tonal color had assumed a slight tilt towards the treble, with a certain modesty of image sizes, and a stage which was relatively flat and well delimited inside the 11 foot distance between the speakers. Furthermore, while the presentation was refined and utterly enjoyable, it had not yet achieved the grandeur, gravitas, and transient authority of the mature Rowland PSU+Aeris+M925 combination.
Quite predictably, the first round of doldrums landed the following morning. By hour 15, the harmonic shimmer had receded. The tone underwent a couple cycles of being rather closed in and extension-limited, with little low-level information and a marginal veil, followed by a slightly more open phase. At about hour 30, cycling had accelerated to shallower swings of just a couple hours each, averaging a minorly more open tone, but with a bass which seemed still recessed. I should point out that this seemingly erratic behavior is totally normal. I expect cycling performance fluctuations to persist for a few hundred hours, until the fluctuating troughs will gradually taper off starting around the 400 hours mark, and the device should gradually transition to a more even upswing, which may last for some 1,000 hours until full stabilization.
On Sunday, around the 50 hours mark, the presentation was once again different: most of the haze had dissipated. Yet, while still pleasing to the ear, music was once again a little trebly and bass-shy, with a relatively flat stage, well contained inside the distance between the speakers. On my standard test CD, Diana Krall’s voice sounded, ahem… Juvenile, while her virtual head size seemed to have shrunk. The English Horn thematic solo in the 2nd movement of Dvorak New World Symphony under the baton of Leonard Bernstein conducting the Israel Philharmonic (Deutsche Grammophon
– 4790361) was uncharacteristically light and non-denominational. On the other hand, the distortion-prone cadenzas in the introduction to Dvorak’s String Quintet Opus 77 performed by the Stamitz Quartet with Jiri Hudec on double bass (Dvorak Chamber Music - Brilliant Classics 92181 box set) were sweet, and clear as bells, without a trace of intermodulative harshness.
70 hours marked a distinct turning point, where all parameters opened up and an early form of tonal maturity emerged for the first time. The stage extended laterally to the outer edge of the speakers, a moderate stage depth appeared, instrumental images assumed more concreteness and more realistic proportions, bass became more vigorous, while some authority and gravitas entered the scene. Thus Krall’s virtual head returned to accustomed proportions, and her voice reverted to full adultness. What’s more interesting is that for the first time I enjoyed listening to Temptation, and realized that the song is scored in the form of an all be it elusive tango structure.
Daemon’s upwards evolution was progressing around the 100 hours mark, when the closing low brass fanfare in the Dvorak New World Symphony second movement found me unprepared to the emotional wave that this young integrated generated on the soaring fanfare of horns and trombones: a low brass Chorus which rose gradually from pianissimo into a sweeping crescendo, finally erupting into the fortissimo resolution of the cadence. I felt I was witness to the majesty hallmark of a mature chain of reference separates, not to the tentative authority of a very young integrated: growling bass trombones and French Horns in full cuivre’ were punctuated by the thunderous yet crisp transient of timpani. The stage, still of moderate depth, seemed never the less to exceed speaker boundaries. In the background, Bernstein was not-so-quietly sub-vocalizing the bass line as if he were throat-singing. The entire passage was almost overwhelming in its emotional grandness, yet totally transparent and effortless, without a trace of harshness.
· 4. Music And Sound – Part Two
So, here is:
4. Music And Sound – Part Two
Thinking further back, for the first 24 to 48 hours of operation, the integrated felt somewhat shy of power reserve and authority. Center-stage was actually affected by a marginal image suck-out. Things evolved rather rapidly, al be it with cyclical fluctuations. Thus, around the 100 hours break-in mark, I was a little, ahem… Trigger happy J I mashed the volume-up button of the JRDG Remote app a little too long, and Dvorak's 9th symphony was thundering out of the speakers like the proverbial four horsemen of the apocalypse: awesome transients with Great fluidity and No distortion artifacts in a grand wall of sound that now evenly filled the virtual space without weak spots… Unfortunately, my wife had quite enough of my… I meant Daemon's sonic exuberance, and asked me kindly to pipe it down… Life ain’t fair to suffering audiophiles L Yet, I had doubts that the integrated had already unveiled the full might of its 1500W power reserve.
At about 160 hours, Daemon dipped anew into a shallow doldrums cycle… Still transparent, still filled with overtones and ever sweet, Stage had narrowed a little, and bass, while unfailingly clean, had receded somewhat and blanched. As I mentioned, these periodic performance fluctuations are expected for the first 400 to 500 hours of break-in, and compared to other devices in my present and past, they are remarkably mild.
With break-in just crossing the 260 hours mark, Daemon sounded extremely promising. While I expected further cycling of doldrums, this is the first time that I have encountered an amplifier of any topology which has been this musically enjoyable so soon.
Approximately half way into the estimated break-in time of 1000 hours, Daemon’s periodic performance doldrums have attenuated significantly. The integrated has entered a much smoother rising phase.
Depending on recordings, with the on-display volume indicator showing between 49db and 59dB -- that is some 25 to 35dB below its 85dB unity gain, music reaches realistic concert levels, without a hint of fatigue or distortion. The presentation is grand, instrumental virtual images reaching real-life sizes, and rippling harmonics seem to be rivaling anything I experienced elsewhere. The stage is vast, deep, and solid, without traces of mid-stage suck-outs. It extends from left to right comfortably beyond the 20 foot lateral boundaries of my listening space.
I am starting to think of the word "iridescence" as an apt descriptor of Daemon’s tonal signature.... It first popped to mind when I loaded Alfred Brendel's 1992 recording of Beethoven's Waldstein Piano Sonata No.21 Op. 53 , (Philips 438 472-2). It is difficult for me to explain precisely, but the combination of staggering macro-dynamic swings, minutest micro-detail, fast authoritative yet natural transients from deep bass upwards, crisp treble runs, dense harmonic shimmer cross-spectrum, graceful evenness of frequency response from the articulate rumble of deepest bass up to the stratospheric harmonics of orchestral violins in 7th position, and total sweetness and effortlessness feels, well… Iridescent.
I can’t help reminding myself how this musical magic is not happening in a vacuum… My trusty Cardas loom keeps demonstrating to me again and again how the synergy generated by a superior match between components and cables is paramount to further elevating the performance of even the most refined component till it takes wing and, well… Soars, and Sings its song of musical Nirvana.
Coming up next:
· 5. Thoughts And Photos
Which means that below you will find:
5. Thoughts And Photos
Daemon has been playing 24/7 since unboxing… It continues to be barely lukewarm to the touch. Surface temperature feels the same across the top plate, front plate, and side cooling fins. This bespeaks the 1500W power-house’s superior energy efficiency, and excellent heat dissipation management.
I am incredibly excited about what I have heard so far. I will continue to post updates to my Daemon Break-in adventure. This might eventually include separate play-tests of individual subsystems.
Meantime, here are several Dropbox links to Daemon pics, photos kindly provided by Lucien Pichette at the Rowland factory:
· Daemon faceplate:
· Daemon front panel:
· Daemon face detail:
· Back-panel, including upcoming streamer:
· Input names screen:
· Input screen:
· iOS JRDG Remote app screen:
· Hand-held remote hand-set:
· Standby button detail:
Coming up next:
· Further Information
So, last but not least, here is:
6. Further Information
Below is the link to Daemon’s homepage:
To find your local Rowland dealer, click on your region next to “distribution” on the Rowland homepage:
Once the COVIT19 pandemic ebbs, you will be able to audition Damon live at Sunny Components near Los Angeles (CA). They have a Daemon unit in stock. Give Sunil a call:
Sunil Merchant (Proprietor)
Phone 2: 626-966-2630
For complete information on the wonderful Cardas products, including Clear Beyond XL PCs and Clear Reflection signal cables, visit the Cardas home page at:
PS. Needless to say, feel free to PM me.
This is going to be one great thread. Very informative review, props. I look forward to your updates as I sit in front of my TAD Evolution system, which you may know is Class D. The amp is admittedly 95 lbs, so also not the typical form factor. But it just makes the E-1 speakers sing. Class D done right is a joy.
Hello all, thank you for your kind words. While I am working on my next planned instalment of scribblings, I’d like to provide a couple of Daemon tidbits which arose from questions posed by a friend of mine…
In case you were wondering, Daemon’s DAC and preamplifier stages are far from being old wine in a new bottle. In other words, they are not repackaged Aeris and Corus circuits. The DAC and preamplifier sections are entirely unique to Daemon, and were designed by Jeff and Thomas Holm from the ground up to be statement-level performers. While Corus, and my own Aeris DAC in particular, remain phenomenal music makers for their price points, Daemon’s DAC and preamplifier sub-systems are said by Jeff Rowland to comfortably exceed the older separates, and for what I have heard this far, I share Jeff’s opinion without reservations.
Daemon's output power of 1500W/8 and 2500W/4 is indeed a little greater than three times that of a pair of Rowland monoblocks. By now I can already tell that music flows with even greater ease than from my M925 pair. But this incredible power reserve does not emerge on Daemon fresh from the factory, but manifests gradually as break-in progresses... Last night I might have been a little, ahem… Trigger happy J I mashed the volume-up button of the JRDG Remote app a little too long, and Dvorak's 9th symphony was thundering out of the speakers like the proverbial four horsemen of the apocalypse... Awesome transients with Great fluidity and still No distortion artifacts… But my wife had quite enough of Daemon's sonic exuberance, and asked me kindly to pipe it down *Grins!*
There are 150 hours of playing time on the unit right now, and I have doubts that the integrated has unveiled all its power reserve.
Ah yes, before I forget: Daemon has been playing 24/7 since unboxing… It feels barely lukewarm to the touch. Surface temperature seems the same across the top plate, front plate, and side cooling fins. This points to the device’s power efficiency, and excellent heat dissipation management.
Thank you so much Johnd! Actually, paragraphing saves me from going into total mental confusion *Grins!*
Tubes can be wonderful for their sweetnes and air around the notes... Daemon, in some ways, makes me think of the grace of some idealized tube, but with a power reserve that is rare in any topology.
Hope you will continue to follow my scribblings... And please ask me questions... There is so much that otherwise I will forget to tell about this critter!
Hi all, here is a minor update:
Yesterday evening, at about 160 hours, Daemon dipped into a shallow doldrums cycle… Still transparent, still filled with overtones and ever sweet, Stage had narrowed a little, and bass and authority, while unfailingly clean, had somewhat receded. As I mentioned, these periodic performance cycles are expected for the first 400 to 500 hours of break-in, and compared to other devices in my present and past, they are remarkably mild.
All, while Daemon continues to steep and break-in 24/7, here is some more information about this statement-level power-beast:
Daemon is hardly a featherweight: at 99LBS in its machined aircraft-grade Aluminum birthday-suit, the single-chassis looks and feels impressive and solid. The massive construction features the elegant signature Rowland styling and meticulous attention to detail that it shares with M925, M625 S2, and the M725 S2 amplifiers. Yet, a simple glance distinguishes Daemon from its relatives, Daemon’s machined heat dissipating fins are just slightly smaller, as larger internal real estate is required to accommodate all multi-layer ceramic boards, circuits, and multiple regulated power supplies for DAC subsystem, linestage, power amplifier, as well as for the optional phono stage and Daemon’s future streamer.
The elegant faceplate is slightly convex and subtly prismatic, measuring 1.5” at the thickest middle point. The whole gleams with the classic Rowland spiraling diamond-cut pattern. A large 7” by 5” color touch display is top center: it provides status information, lets the user select inputs, and control other operations, either by direct finger-taps, or with the iOS JRDG Remote app or with Daemon’s own Bluetooth remote control handset. Consistent with Daemon’s construction, the multi-function remote is a premium-quality device, milled from a solid Aluminum block, very much like the remotes of Corus and Aeris.
Continuing with the front plate, below the display are the physical momentary-contact push-buttons for standby, mute, and for activating the display menu. Just under these, the half-inch thick rim of a large volume flywheel emerges from a horizontal slot milled into the fascia.
Below the bottom edge of the fascia, a quarter inch headphone output socket peeks from the middle front of a slightly recessed Delrin® bottom plate, which houses the Bluetooth transmitter/receiver serving the JRDG Remote control app for Apple iOS and Daemon’s Bluetooth remote control hand-set.
Now let us look at the connection-rich and well organized back-panel. It bristles with 27 individual connection points, flanked by two removable machined cover plates concealing one port which accepts the Streaming Module, and the other for accessing the USB firmware update port.
All audio inputs are transformer-coupled to minimize common mode noise and other distortion artifacts. Distortions are further controlled by use of multi-layer ceramic circuit boards in each subsystem. Consistent with all Rowland products, RCA connectors are Cardas rhodium plated over copper with Teflon insulation, while XLR’s are Neutrix with silver plated contacts, also standard on all Rowland offerings.
The complement of transformer-coupled digital DAC inputs is impressive:
3 optical TOSLINK ports
Lundahl coupling transformers connect all Analog line-level XLR and RCA inputs directly to the preamplifier subsystem:
Want to feed an external analog line-level source into Daemon? Daemon’s DAC and preamplifier subsystems can be bypassed by connecting an analog-line-level signal directly to the Lundahl-transformer-coupled inputs of the power amplification section:
Is your system bi-amped? Daemon’s line-level outputs provide connectivity from the pre-amplifier sub-system to an external amplifier:
Like all Rowland amplifiers, except for the entry-level M125, Daemon supports Speaker bi-wiring with a row of 2 pairs of output terminals. For greater convenience, these are arranged in a mixed horizontal/vertical layout:
Remember that quarter inch socket below the bottom of the front plate? That one is for you stereo headphone lovers… And if your headset has an eight inch jack instead, you will find a 3.5mm to quarter inch converter inside Daemon’s accessory box.
For you vinyl lovers, there are two optional phono cards, standard and high performance (HP) versions. They can be easily installed after removing Daemon’s top cover. Note that as my system does not include a turntable, no phono module is included in my review unit.
Want a streamer? Daemon’s optional wireless streamer module is in the works. It will be released pending Roon certification.
Daemon’s power inlet supports 20A IECs. The back plate is completed by a remote trigger jack for standby /control from a home theater processor, and a grounding post to facilitate star-grounding, as well as grounding of a phono turntable.
Moving now to operating Daemon with the JRDG Remote app… I paired Daemon to my iPhone for control with the JRDG Remote Bluetooth app. Pairing is simple: turn on Bluetooth on the iOS device, launch the JRDG Remote app, and then press the mute button on Daemon for five to ten seconds, until the app asks confirmation that you wish to establish connection.
Typically, the connection remains active all the while the app is running. If connection is lost because you temporarily took your iOS device out of Bluetooth range, or the app has been closed, press the Daemon mute button for 5 to 30 seconds to reconnect. With the app, I can control volume, mute, and input selection from anywhere in my home.
As mentioned earlier, Daemon is supplied with a dedicated multi-function Bluetooth remote control handheld unit, but I have not explored this device yet.
That’s enough for now… And do not forget to ask questions. I will either respond directly, or find out from the factory, and then post the answer to the thread!
Hi @Erik_squires, yes Daemon’s power amplification subsystem runs in class D. Up to now, I have left Daemon running 24/7…. So I am not 100% sure how fast it will return to full performance after, for example a 24 hours or a full week vacation from full power… I will perform this test before long.
To @MRPaul, DSD is supported on the USB port. I am trying to get information as of digital bandwidth, upsampling rates, etc.… What I know for now is that the Daemon DAC is of the “launch&forget” type, very much like the older Aeris, as well as the DAC on the Esoteric K1 CDP, where optimal filters and upsampling are preset by the factory and are not user-selectable.
I am playing now Mahler’s Symphony #1 conducted by Kubelik. It’s a CD reissue from an original analog recording…. It is simply glorious…. The layering of instrumental images, stage, bristling of harmonics, majesty and authority, and sheer clarity are of a degree that I do not remember hearing from my trusty separates… I even discovered that a couple of minutes into the 1st movement, Mahler had scored some small bells… I never heard those before. I was not expection this magnificent sound from a 60 years old recording!
Things are suggesting that the DAC section may comfortably be exceeding the Aeris+PSU combination, and the linestage not filtering out even the tiniest micro-detail. Hearing the breadth and ease of dynamic swings, I am also having the impression that Daemon’s power reserve generated by its amplification is staggering.
The fun continues!
To clarify some of the above, at some point of this project, I would like to:
* Contrast the full Daemon output into the speakers to Daemon line-level output into M925 and these into the speakers. Will there be a perceivable difference between the two configurations?
* I am currently using an RCA2BNC adapter on the output side of a Cardas Clear digital coax to feed the digital output of the Esoteric X-01 onto a BNC coaxial input of Daemon... Eventually, I will remove the RCA2BNC adapter, and will connect the Cardas Clear digital cable via RCA to one of the two RCA digital inputs of Daemon.... I am curious to find out if the direct connection without adapter further enhances system performance in an even tiny perceivable way.
Nice review. One thing I have noticed is that Jeff's gear is very susceptible to what power cord and ic that is utilized. The pc is perhaps more important with Jeff's larger amps than with any other amp i have experienced. You can hear immense changes with a pc change. So, while i see that you like Cardas ( which I was also using for many years) I can tell you that IME it is actually not the best for these amps ( not by a long stretch, again IMO). Having tried a number of different cables, at varying price points, the best I have experienced so far is by Black Cat. The amp gains a lot of precision in imaging when utilizing the Black Cat pc's and ic's. Before, when I was using Cardas, and a number of other cables, the imaging seemed fine, ( like I am sure you are experiencing)..BUT..and here's the thing, once you change out the Cardas and go with a more able pc, or ic ( ie Black Cat) the difference is actually striking...and very obvious at that point. If you get a chance to try one of Chris's cables...your Daemon ( or 925's) will really thank you!
G.. Over the years I used everything from Hexlink Golden 5C to Clear, and most of the cables in between. IMO, all of the Cardas looms have a similar 'house' sound. None of these, even the latest Clear Reflection ( I used this for a short time, as it was borrowed from a friend) was up to the SQ of the new Black Cat cables.
Thank you @Daveyf for sharing your Black Cat adventure.
At my end, Cardas Rweflection signal wires, as well as Cardas Clear Beyond XL create a consistently exceptional synergy with all Rowland components with which I have matched them over the last couple years: M925 monos, M535 monos, Aeris DAC, and Power Storage unit, and for the last two and half weeks the Daemon integrated.
With Daemon at only about 400 hours (about 35% into break-in), it is premature to test the impact of other wires on Daemon’s sonic output. But at some later time, I might be tempted to explore up the Cardas signal wires line, and might look into Clear or the top of the lline Clear Beyond analog ICs and speaker wires... I am quite keen in determining the degree of audible enhancement, given that Clear is one level above Reflection, and Clear Beyond sit two levels above Reflection.
May I ask what Rowland components you have recently used with current Cardas wires such as Reflection and the original Clear?
@klh007 At the moment I am using the latest pc from Chris...his Silverstar pc and I am also using the Silverstar ic’s. Additionally, I have his Coppertone ic’s...and they are superb as well. The Silverstar is slightly more specific in its imaging capabilities than the Coppertone, but we are talking small differences here. All of these cables are far more resolving and precise in their imaging ability than the Cardas cables ( which i always felt had a specific family sound...somewhat soft and ill defined...particularly if you compare it to the upper end Nordost cabling ( which I also utilize) )
G, I only have experience with my custom modded model 8T, which does tend to draw a fair amount of juice out of the wall. The Cardas cables were all utilized with this amp, the Black Cat is truly in a different league with this amp...and I would strongly suspect with your Daemon as well. BTW, i also have had the pleasure of using Nordost with the JR, it too is far more resolving and IME, accurate sounding, than Cardas.
Agree, you should get to really break in the integrated before you see what other cables can do, but I do suggest you try other brands besides Cardas ( this is what I did- and the results really speak for themselves).
@klh007 Nordost is what I use for speaker cabling. I went from Cardas to Nordost and never looked back. Since i run two amp set ups ( one tube and one ss (Rowland)) but not at the same time, I utilize the Nordost cabling on my tube mono blocks and the Black Cat for the Rowland. Albeit, for the Rowland I still utilize Nordost speaker cabling ( which is far far quicker sounding to my ears than Cardas). I may experiment with Black Cat speaker cables there too, but the Nordost is excellent at the moment.
You are right, b_limo... Daemon is beautiful besides sounding divine.
I will post today Dropbox links to several photos of the handsome critter courtesy of Lucien Pichette at the Rowland factory.
And were it not for the COVIT19 emergent situation, friends in driving distance from Los Angeles (CA) could visit with Sunil at Sunny Components, and listen to Daemon live... Sunil is feturing Daemon in one of his showroons... I believe this unit might be complete with a streamer, and is ready to go to a new music-loving home :)
Here is Sunil's contact info
BTW, B_limo, this being a family-friendly site, and all of that good stuff... How about trimming out your understandingly-enthusiastic verbal bio-hazzard *Grins!*
As promised, here are several links to Daemon pics on my Dropbox -- photos kindly provided by Lucien Pichette at the Rowland factory:
That’s it for now. Enjoy!
Thanks so much for digging deep in your passion well to truly salute this Integrated Amplifier. Being in the business now for quite some time, I can tell you this Integrated is special.We at Sunny's can offer some very fine products for audition.
@Egglestonworks Viginti speakerVivid Audio Giya SpiritMartin Logan Expression 15AStenheim Alumine SEAmphion Krypton
Please call me if you have any other questions at 626-966-6259www.sunnyaudiovideo.comThanks,Sunil Merchant.
G.. are you using a dedicated line with the Daemon? I think that all of Jeff's power amps really benefit tremendously from a dedicated line...and a decent after market power outlet. The Oyaide R1 that I installed in my room really works like a charm with my amp. Jeff once told me not to use a power conditioner with his amps, which i totally agree with. I tried an Audience with my 8T a few months back...and sure enough everything sounded worse.
The Daemon probably sucks a good amount of juice out of the wall, even at idle, so the best power you can give it would make sense.
Hi again @Daveyf, Daemon's power efficiency is extremely high.... Regardless whether it is idling, at medium volume, or playing at concert SPL, its outer temperature remains barely luke-warm across the whole chassis... This has not changed since I turned on the device on 02/28, and it has been playing music 24/7 since then. Never the less, as mentioned in my previous post, Daemon is plugged into its own dedicated line.... Good for an instant response on those power-sucking transients.
I have no power conditioners in my system... Neither for power amps nor for the X-01 transport. All components are plugged directly into the AC mains.
Hello KLH, my apologies for the delay in responding to you... yes you are absolutely right... I will not try any cable changes until Daemon has stabilized, lest results would be rather meaningless.
Nordost is a fine brand. I very much enjoyed the Valhalla V2 line a few years ago. Yet, I have found that my loom of the current crop of Cardas products are magical with current Rowland offerings in my arsenal, such as the M925 monos, M535 monos, Aeris DAC fed by PSU, and more recently the Daemon integrated. At RMAF I heard M825 fed by Clear Beyond, which was equally impressive. I have heard third-party reports of excellent results also with M625 S2, M725S2, and Continuum S2.
G. It makes perfect sense that the Daemon runs cool, it is after all a class D amp! I sometimes wonder why Jeff needs all of the heat cooling exterior work that his chassis exhibits, as Class D amps really don't need that-- they inherently run cool. Looks great, but from a functionality aspect...never mind additional cost??
Hi Davey, yes class D amps are efficient and run much cooler than class A/B, never mind class A furnaces. Never the less, some entropic heat is released. Some smaller class D amps, such as the M535 do not need heat sinks at all. However, larger amps such as Daemon, and even more so M925 and M825 do benefit from heat sinks in order to maintain internal temperatures within optimal operating values.
All, time for a performance update…
Now approximately half way into the estimated break-in time of 1000 hours, Daemon’s periodic performance dips have attenuated significantly. The integrated has entered a much smoother rising phase.
Depending on recordings, with the on-display volume indicator showing between 49db and 59dB -- that is some 25 to 35dB below 85dB unity gain, music reaches realistic concert levels, without a hint of fatigue or distortion. The presentation is grand, instrumental virtual images reaching real-life sizes, and rippling harmonics seem to be rivaling anything I experienced before.
Slightly expanding on what I might have already touched upon a few days ago, playing the 1967 recording of Mahler’s Symphony #1 (Titan) with Rafael Kubelik conducting the Bavarian Radio Symphony (Deutsche Grammophon 429 042-2
G great to hear that the new Daemon is delivering the goods. This is no surprise to me. Last night i had a long listening session with my modded 8T and once again confirmed that it really is a very special amp. I have heard a number of ss amps in the last year or so, from Soolution to D’Ag to CH..all good, BUT not superior to Rowland, IME!
Jeff’s amps have a way of ’lighting’ up the stage ( as you are stating) that is truly enticing, and they are consistent in their performance. Listening again to Doug Macleod’s amazing Reference Recording release(s) brought home the exactitude and accuracy of timbre and imaging that his amps can deliver. Here’s the thing, i don’t think you even need the power of the Daemon to get this kind of SQ, just a great match up of one of Jeff’s amps with the rest of your gear...once the synergy is right, all else follows. While it is nice to have power to spare, Jeff’s amps are so flexible in this regard, that i would suspect that most folks will be able to garner this tremendous performance with their ancillary gear.
Do keep us informed as to your interesting journey with this integrated...and perhaps mention how it compares more to your model 925. I would suspect ( strongly) that it isn’t quite as encompassing in the imaging department as the 925’s...simply because IME mono blocks tend to have more imaging capability ( slightly in the case of a great amp like the Daemon) over the stereo amp.
Hello Davey, you are Right about Rowland amps lighting up the stage… So far, Daemon does this in droves.
Of course, while my Die Muzik speakers appear to be loving Daemon’s power reserve, not all speakers are born the same, and many speakers may benefit from more moderate power. Most brands are wise to the fact… Rowland for example has currently amps delivering 125W, 250W, 330W, 400W, 430W, 900W, and 1500W per channel.
As I already mentioned, once Daemon is well broken-in, I will feed its linestage output into the M925 monos…. It will be fascinating to assess the differences in stage and imaging, but also all other parameters. It’s far to early for me to make an even half reliable guess… As I might have said at the beginning of this journey… This is a voyage of discovery, and I am fully open to the unexpected in all its nunaces.
G.. I will wait with anticipation as you your findings of 925 vs Daemon.
I suspect i already know the differences, but will wait for you to confirm.
Another thing that I have found with Jeff's amps, is that they also benefit greatly from having a decent amp stand. I presume you have that taken care of as well.
BTW, there is rumor that Jeff will be going back to his more classic designs with an amp based on the ' Class AB' technology, have you also heard that?
Hi DaveyF, as I had touched upon in my root post, Daemon sits on Nordost Titanium Sort Kones, on top of a two inch thick slab of an exotic African hardwood called Mansonia. The slab forms the upper shelf of a two tier structure, where the lower shelf is identical to the top shelf.
M925 monos rest on 2 inch thick granite slabs instead.
I also have heard some vague rumors that Rowland might have a new product under development. As soon as information is released, I will post it here.
All, the root post has been updated today with all the break-in narrative I posted in fragments until now. Also, I made a number of spelling corrections, and trimmed down some clunky passages. Correct the bit about the Phono Stage... The High Performance (HP) phono stage is actually part of the standard Daemon configuration listed at $43,840. What I received instead is the basic stripped down version without phono, made for users of only digital sources.
All, here is an update…
At about the 630 hours mark, I seemed to hear a very slight increase in harmonics pressure in the treble region, accompanied by a hardening of transients, perhaps caused by minor intermodulation. The phenomenon seemed to persist for 36 to 48 hours, and then started to abate on its own. I am not sure of its origin. This might very well have been a transitory break-in artifact, but it might instead have been caused by the entire system being active and playing music without a pause for a month. In fact I remember noticing that my standard system configuration of M925 + Aeris + X-01 can start to sound a little hard if it is active for more than one week without break.
Thankfully, at the 700 hours mark the sound was 80% back to normal. Remembering Jeff Rowland recommendation to let capacitors discharge periodically, I then decided to turn off and unplug the system from the AC and give it a full day of rest. I reactivated it after 26 hours, and within a couple hours of re-warm-up, all odd artifacts had disappeared and wonderful music was flowing once again.
At the 720 hours mark I made an experiment. I replaced the Cardas Clear PC on Esoteric X-01 with Clear Beyond XL. The result was quite captivating: a subtly glowing romanticism suffused the entire presentation, combined with a distinct broadening and solidification of stage and images. On the other hand, some minutest detail of treble harmonics and some extra-musical information might have attenuated. I am still undecided on which of the two PCs I prefer on X-01 when the transport digital signal feeds Daemon’s SPDIF BNC coax. They both excel, if in subtly different ways. For the time being, I have temporarily reinserted the Cardas Clear PC on X-01 because of its capture of minutest information.
However, this is by no means the last word on the comparison of Cardas Clear vs Cardas Clear Beyond XL PCs on X-01. I plan to repeat this A/B test a few more times during the coming weeks. The system-wide effect of Clear PC on X-01 after Daemon has fully matured might very well be different than today’s, and I might discover the Clear Beyond XL PC to be optimum instead. Time and patience will tell.
G, Thanks for the update. I did not know that Jeff recommends letting caps discharge periodically. Although this makes a lot of sense, IMO.
BTW, you may want to try another brand of cabling besides Cardas...as I had mentioned before. Cardas has a house sound that is pretty consistent from one cable to another as you go through the line. While I understand that you like that house sound, it would be instructive to get another cable from a different manufacture in the equation.
Thank you Daveyf for the recurring suggestion... My current scribblling project is predicated on a modicum of methodology and system consistency.
Hence, for the first basic phase, until Daemon has stabilized completely, I intend to keep system configuration intact... Only exception being a temporary -- and possibly periodic swap of Clear PC on X-01 to Clear Beyond XL, and then back to Clear.
After stabilization, I am likely to experiment with feeding Daemon's line level signal output into the M925 monos, using Cardas Clear Reflection XLR ICs.
Following that, I might try Aeris+PSU into Daemon's line level input using the same Reflection ICs... Daemon's output terminal going into Die Muzik speakers.
In a hypothetical second phase, I am intrigued by the idea of possibly utilizing Clear Beyond XLR ICs and Speaker wires instead of ReflectionXLR ICs and speaker wires, and how the change might affect the output.
As I might have mentioned already, the current Cardas loom is the set of cables which I have found to be the most synergistic in my system over the years. Yet, Cardas is by no means the sole brand I have experienced. Duringthe the last several decades, I have used looms and single cables from a number of manufacturers, and many more I have auditioned in stores and at the RMAF show. A few of them I have been extremely fond of -- Shunyata Z-Tron and Nordost Valhalla V2 in particular have proven to be exceedingly fine wires for my gear; others have ranged from quite good to fair, while some have missed the mark in various spectacular ways, ranging from sheer tonal dullness, to acridity, to... Shorting their IEC connector with smoke and delicate waft of singed plastics at first power-up.
Nor this is my first application of Cardas. Time ago, and for several years, I used Golden Ref speaker wires and power cords, as well as Neutral reference XLR ICs... Yes, those lovely old wires had a unique "house sound" combined with a marginal propensity to intermodulate and harden the treble: I did comfortably prefer the already mentioned Shunyata and Nordost over them. But Cardas Reflection, Clear, and Clear Beyond are very different and superior creatures compared to legacy Cardas wires.
Will I ever scribble about other cable brands? Possibly, but not in this project.
Saluti and be safe, G.
G. Glad that you got hear what Nordost can do. Albeit with other gear. Nonetheless, the Valhalla V2 is a very fine cable and certainly capable of resolving what the Jeff Rowland products can do.
BTW, I may have missed this, but are you planning on installing the phono module at some point and listening to analog?
actually I used the lovely Valhalla II and the equally lovely Shunyata Z-tron looms with a variety of Rowland gear, although not on Daemon.
I sold my vinyl collection to a work colleague four years ago, and I have owned no LP playback equipment for a spell before that.. So, no I will not install the High Performance phono module in Daemon.
G..SOLD your Vinyl collection and table...yikes! I have a lot of friends who also did this, some never looked back...and some...cried. I'm hoping you fall into the former category.
This thread reminded me of the last time I heard Daemon...it was matched up with a Nordost Odin 2 loom ( hellaciously pricey!) and a pair of Magico S7 Mk2's. The SQ was really good, although the system price could make one question the sanity.