IMHO, Jeff Rowland hit the sweet spot between musicality and transparency in the mid to late 90's with the Model 2/6/8/9 amplifiers. Earlier designs tended to be warmer, while later designs tended to be more transparent. The best JRDG preamp I've ever heard was a Coherence II, which I think also went back to the late 90's. As for preamps, well, though Jeff's designs are good for solid state, I don't know that I can listen to a solid state preamp anymore, I gotta have tubes in my preamp.
That's just my $0.02.
Previously used the Synergy IIi, and now the Corus. I like both preamplifiers a lot - both musical, low noise and fairly neutral. The Corus was a surprisingly step-up in detail, frequency extension and bass articulation.
Had the Synergy IIi for years and now the Criterion. Huge jump up in all the good stuff
i owned both a Consonance with Phono and later on a Consummate. i couldn't detect a really big difference between the two but enjoyed them very much. my bias for the Consonance is due to upgrading the line-stage module- a plug in box about the size of a pack of playing cards- for $450; the sound opened up considerably from that modest investment. the phono stage was quite good also and was fully adjustable for MM or MC with a variety of load settings.
the Consummate had one annoying drawback- the balanced input connectors didn't "lock" onto the cords- requiring the user to be careful when moving the preamp less your wires fall out. i got a lame response when i asked tech support at the company about this. but it did sound quite good as well (i checked to make sure it ALSO had the line stage upgrade).
i am quite sure Rowland didn't stop improving their line after that just to make me happy, but the lack of SE inputs on the Synergy plus the inability to upgrade from one to the next iteration made me think twice about that piece.
the Coherence-II was a very elegant component but needed a special battery-pack that petered out every few years. it didn't last very long in the market for any number of reasons- the batteries? too expensive to produce? technical issues?
well now we have the Corus and the Criterion, both VERY beautiful preamps and both VERY expensive. No longer are you looking at $5K-$8K to get a clean, full featured preamp from JRDG. this is still a huge amount of money and it won't get you even close (exception was a recent very-rare used Corus for sale). i won't say you shouldn't wait until you have the money for one of these pre's, but i can also say "look around" at Ayre, Pass, Levinson, etc. for a very quiet line stage.
OTOH, if someone would like to sell a "tiny-scratch near the back" Criterion to me for $12K i would have to bang my head against the wall for a couple of days thinking about it. right now i am using a Levinson 326S with Phono which i can
find little to complain about (other than the lack of a diamond-etched aircraft aluminum faceplate). and i am still waiting for someone to comment on the 725 Monoblocks due to go on sale "someday"...
"the Coherence-II was a very elegant component but needed a special battery-pack that petered out every few years. it didn't last very long in the market for any number of reasons- the batteries? too expensive to produce? technical issues?"
It was actually sold for four years, which is a respectable life span for a high-end component. And the comment demonstrates a misunderstanding of the batteries. The battery power supply requires a pair of Panasonic marine batteries. Rowland replaces them for about $100, plus shipping. I've had my Coherence II since the Spring of 2003 and averaged 5 years of use out of a set of batteries. Rowland replaced them the first time, and the second time I used my local guy - it was easy and cheap. The Coherence II has a few issues, but the batteries are not one of them. On the contrary, they're a big reason that the unit has such a low noise floor, which is critical for a top-shelf preamp.
The Coherence II has a few issues, but the batteries are not one of them...
Never read something about it, but info about the Coherence II seems rare anyway. But I saw a few serial numbers, so I guess a few hundred units were sold...maybe mainly Asia?
Synergy was common I think, the Criterion / Corus is probably also quite rare, not many user comments in the web ... where are those?
i was curious on this very subject as to what happened to the Coherence-2, and i was once told by a company rep over the phone that the coherence-2 was "too expensive/complicated to produce". I personally don't take issue with the piece- it's brilliant imho, but i would have to disagree that 4 years in the market is a bit short for a niche product, and the Synergy seemed (to me) to be a place- holder rather than a sonic advancement.
Well FWIW Jeff will be releasing a "break through"power supply upgrade for current units late this year. You can even power an Aeris and Corus off the same unit. Prototype looked to be Aeris sized and machined aluminum chassis. The man doesn't rest!
What is the best sounding amp before SMPS were introduced?
Did the The Coherence II preamp give you the option where you can plug it into the wall, or you could only run the
The Coherence II preamp from the batteries.
The Coherence II offers both options. Normally it is plugged into the wall and that charges the Batteries (while playing or Standby). Plugged in, the Coherence II uses the mains from the wall but you can also push a button that it runs on Batteries only ( BATT or AC ).
I just recently replaced my Consumate with the new Capri 2. This preamp is playing through the 625 amplifier. Big improvement in sound especially in the treble region. I am using the Parasound JC3 phono preamp playing through the Capri for my analog source, also an excellent match.
Hi Syntax, I have been using the Rowland Criterion linestage for a few years now.... Feeding Rowland M312, M625, M725, and now Rowland M925 as of last week. After all this time I am still in love with Criterion for its exquisite resolution and musicality without any inherent granularity. TO make a very long story short, Criterion replaced a Rowland Capri, which in turn I prefered over the ARC REF 3.
There is a relatively hefty thread here on Audiogon that discusses Criterion and some of my observations on its sound:
If anyone is interested in following my new break-in adventure of the Rowland M925 monos driven by Criterion, I am keeping a diary of sort at:
Regarding the upcoming supercapacitor-based external Rowland power supply, it will be compatible with Corus and Aeris, but not with Criterion.... Availability is expected by the end of 2013... Yes, the product is late.
Hi Marty, interesting that you mentioned the treble region of the new Capri 2. I am also interested in this preamp but hesitant as reviews generally conclude that Rowland treble is a bit reticent rather than wide open (my Model 112 exhibits this tendency as well, though mitigated somewhat with various tweaks). Since I'm now an old(ish) audiogeek (when did that happen?) my upper range hearing is not what it used to be, and reticent is not what I need. So, when you talk about the treble being a big improvement in sound, can you explain that a bit more and perhaps lessen my concern?
Butler, My hearing has also droped off through the years, I listen to classical music often and the lower treble region is where I notice treble to be slightly fuzzy or grainy, and sometimes even aggresive, in most recordings. The addition of the Capri 2 has improved this region, the combination of the 625 amplifier and the Capri 2 are one of the best sounds I have had in this room that I have been in for 20 years, that includes some very expensive components.
Thanks for the input Marty. Looking at your systems page, you certainly have experience with some VERY expensive and well-thought of components, so it is high praise that the Capri 2 holds it's own in that company. I was going to wait till the RMAF this fall to check it out (along with the new 525 and 625/725), but now anxious to do so over the long hot summer.