Lesson Learned


I've been an audiophile and music lover for over 30 years. It has taken me a very long time to get to the point where I'm totally satisfied with my system. I've made foolish statements declaring I will never upgrade/sell my current amplifier or preamplifier. Recently I succumb to four individuals telling me to sell my Jeff Rowland 625 S2 amplifier. Of the four, two were dealers(one dealer sold both amplifiers), one owned one of the amplifiers, and finally, my friend recommended the change. My friend all but guaranteed I was making a significant step forward. I was intrigued because both amplifiers were below 20K. So, I put my amplifier up for sale and decided to listen to their recommendations.
I auditioned the first amplifier at a retail store. Although the system was different than mine, I was familiar with a couple of the components. I listened for several hours and decided that amplifier wasn't for me. I listened to the second amplifier at my very good friend's house. All four of the aforementioned individuals recommended the second amplifier. My initial listening session showed a lot of promise. I was convinced that it indeed may be a step-up from my 625 S2 in some categories. In particular, the bass seemed more powerful. I was unsure about the midrange and highs, but I was interested in listening again. A couple days later I returned and listened with music that I was very familiar with. The second session had me confused. I told my friend the only way to really be sure about which one I preferred was with an home audition.
So, it was show time. I disconnected my Jeff Rowland 625 S2 and connected the mono-amplifiers. From the first note I was almost certain of the outcome. I began by playing Kirk Whalum's For You CD. Although the amplifier was broken in with several hundred hours on it, something just didn't sound correct. I decided to let the music play in the background for awhile prior to doing any serious listening. I played song after song. It's funny that this amplifier was praised for its outstanding midrange and bass, but the 625 S2's midrange was more detailed, had more air, and just had a more convincing "illusion" of live sound. The bass on the other amplifier had slightly louder bass, but it lacked the articulation and realism of the 625 S2's bass. Of course I'm keeping my Jeff Rowland 625 S2. The 625 S2 may not be everyone's preference, but I submit it's much better than I ever expected. More than any individual component, I believe my system has synergy. Having synergy will make it very hard to improve upon without spending a significant amount of money or going in a drastically different direction. 
I refused to name the other amplifiers, because it's about my journey and my lesson learned. I don't want my posting to turn into an argument about product "X" against product "Y". I sincerely hope my story will provide "food for thought" for anyone contemplating changing any component because someone else suggested to do so. Trust you own ears! No matter what anyone recommends, if your "ears" don't recommend it, trust your own ears! Finally, just because I preferred the 625 S2 in my system doesn't invalidate the recommendations. Audiophiles hear differently, have different preferences and expectations. In addition, it's more about the "system" than an individual component. This has truly reinforced that there are no absolutes in audio, only preferences.
ricred1
Amen brother... I've had the same thing happen to me several times.  Its all about the system synergy.  
ricred1,

You tried some other gear but you trusted your own ears to ultimately decide for yourself and you discovered that it's all about system synergy and each individuals sonic presentation preferences.

I've been in this hobby a little longer than you and here is my outlook,

I look at myself traveling down this audiophile road and I know It's a journey and my ears are in the drivers seat while the rest of my body just kicks back and enjoys the music,because all of this gear we buy and or talk about is really just the "Means to the enjoyment of music playback in our homes"and for me It's all about the music.

Kenny.
Smart man for not actually selling 625 S2 before you were able to figure out if the new ones were right for you.

Congratulations.
Why not list your entire set-up and those other amps you listened to ? This would interesting to us.
In any case, yeah, smart move, especially so at this already high level of sound reproduction.
Besides other points, different amps may require different cables to sound their best, I understand that you used the same cables for all of them.
One aspect that we tend to overlook or not give enough weight to is our 'relationship' to the system and it's sound. Once connected, it can be difficult to walk away...yet there are others who like to 'date' a lot of equipment and have difficulty committing. : )
inna,
You said, "different amps may require different cables to sound their best." Yes Sir, you are correct, that's why I said my finding doesn't mean their recommendations are invalid. My conclusion just means that I prefer a different sound and/or the amplifier wasn't a good match for the rest of my system. 
david_ten,
"One aspect that we tend to overlook or not give enough weight to is our 'relationship' to the system and it's sound. Once connected, it can be difficult to walk away...yet there are others who like to 'date' a lot of equipment and have difficulty committing."
I would agree with that, but I've changed several things over the years. As a matter of fact I recently replaced my Bryston BDP2 music server with a Antipodes DS GT music server. From the very first note, "my jaw dropped"! I immediately sold my BDP2. So, if I hear something that I prefer more, I have no problem keeping it!
I agree, trust your own ears and don't put too much weight on what others say because after all, it's only their opinion...
Thanks for posting your experiences and opinion, but I think you could be misreading what's happening.  You've put together an extremely fine sounding system that satisfies you and at the same time you're constantly thinking about changing parts of it (at least it appears that way based on your posts).  Rather than doing piecemeal substitutions, is it possible that you need to go back and start from ground zero?
I became entranced with an amp and preamp I had read about on various audio websites on the net some many years ago. Both components had received tremendous and rave reviews. Once I had saved the appropriate cash I took the leap and bought the pair. I will not name the audio company.

These components development spurious low level noise and hum problems. After searching deeper into forum websites I had found many other people had very similar issues. I had contacted the main guy from the company and after many months of telling me it was my AC? that was causing the problem, he agreed to look at and fix the issues. Sent the components back to him TWICE over many more months. He never fixed it correctly and was more concerned with selling more of his audio gear to new customers. BTW I had been fixing tactical radios in the US Army for many years and I know my way around cables, transistors, capacitors, and transformers. I suspect this company put very cheap transformers in the gear.

Turns out his stuff was just junk. And he did not want to admit either a design flaw or bad components. I will never believe all the hype and hoopla about any ABC audio manufacturer any longer.

Turns out I lost a great deal of money, since this guy did not want to give a full refund for the gear and when I did buy some other company’s audio components I did NOT experience any hum or noise from my AC or elsewhere..... just superior sound!

Lesson Learned the hard way... I feel your pain.
onhwy61,
I'm satisfied with my system, but I think out loud. I've had my Rowland components for almost two years. I will tinker with power cords and other tweaks. My speakers, music server, and Rowland components are here to stay for the foreseeable future. 

Lessons learned:
I have been doing this for awhile too and finally learned - don't sell something before trying the potential replacement in your own system.  This is particularly true once you have your system mostly dialed in.  You were smart not to sell the Rowland amp too soon.  Last year I had four pretty good amplifiers here for audition at the same time.  All were good but having them here together made it much easier to determine which of the amplifiers suited my system and listening preferences best.
BTW, based on your descriptions, I suspect the monos you tried were a pair of well-reviewed Class D amplifiers...been there done that. 
mitch2,
They weren't Class D amplifiers. 

Fair enough, my experience not yours.
Your lesson learned is a very good reminder for those whose purchases are heavily influenced by opinions from  reviews and forum posts.  The only person to satisfy is yourself and there is no substitute for hearing something in your own system.
My other message is to hopefully get "us" to stop talking "at each other " and arguing about individual opinions. We want what we like to be the end all best and God forbid, someone prefers something else, they can't hear or they're crazy. We should be able to share our findings without being ridiculed. 

@ricred1  The takeaway of course always audition a new component in your system before making a change! You are lucky to have had the chance to do this many don't and are forced to take a gamble on new gear. And of course no one's opinion matters but your own. Congratulations on your decision and enjoy your system!
Clearly, everybody should do what I do and have the same taste as I do. The fact that few or no people do is a disturbing mystery to me, and simply defies reason. For example: Why don't more women (or men, but really women) ride motorcycles? Why doesn't everybody surf? Why do only .001% of my friends give a rat's patootie about high resolution audio? I'll never know.
Wolf--"Why do only .001% of my friends give a rat's patootie about high resolution audio?"  You have a LOT of friends!
Good One. @stfoth
Hi Ricred1, 
Thank you for sharing your experiences.  Your post displays wisdom, intelligence and truth. I agree wholeheartedly your conclusions and perspective. You must trust what you hear and choose what satisfies "your" preferences and not those of someone else. 

The undeniable fact is that this is such a personal endeavor that people's choices will by necessity vary widely across the spectrum.  This is what makes developing your own audio system a challenge yet at the same time fun and fulfilling. 
Charles  
Still, as you didn't try those other amps with your speakers and different cables, you can't really know how they could sound with your speakers. The result of your experiment is inconclusive. I know that you know it. The question is why you bothered with all this at all when you were not ready to sufficiently experiment with at least a few other cable brands.
@ricred1 

I could not agree with you more. In fact, if and when, I will just build a new system and am hoping to by retirement. Synergy is EVERYTHING. It is not about "which" component is best, but much more critical which components sound best together.

You said " My other message is to hopefully get "us" to stop talking "at each other " and arguing about individual opinions. We want what we like to be the end all best and God forbid, someone prefers something else, they can't hear or they're crazy. We should be able to share our findings without being ridiculed". Thank you very much for having the courage to say that. As Charles noted, there is "wisdom, intelligence and truth" in your statements and logic. I  salute you sir.

@inna 

In all due respect, your post is not adding to this very fine discussion.
inna,

There are an infinite amount of combinations that we can come up with; how many cable manufactures are there?  My post wasn't about a component being good or bad or trying every conceivable combination in the world. My post is about taking every opinion with a grain of salt and letting your own ears decide. I know it's in the context of my system/room and that's part of my point. In another system/room the amplifier in question may be preferred over my 625 S2. I submit you limit the variables when a component is being evaluate. If not, how can you identify the sonic signature of the new component?
.......as I too found out - the ROOM makes a huge difference in the sound of ANY equipment

Hi Richard, ultimately, trusting our own ears is the way to go... We enjoy music through our own ears, our own brains, our own feelings, our own conception of music and beauty.... This principle has served you and me well.


Eventually, we might discover a component or cable that will enchant you, and survive the flash of a fleeting honeymoon.... Or this might never happens... Meantime, we will continue to enjoy the music from our systems.


Saluti, G.

    

G.
You would be right to post: I TOLD YOU DON'T DO IT OR I TOLD YOU SO! I really appreciate all of your advice, but it's reassuring to hear something and let your own ears determine the outcome. I'm looking at a few options regarding power cords and the Rowland PSU. I just want to do a few tweaks. Thanks again!

Thanks or the reminder if anything that's what your post is, like a good kick in the butt to remind us to listen with our own ears...
+1 glennewdick. It's funny how we humans have to periodically be reminded of such simple truths. 
Charles 

The biggest problem is there are few high end audio salons. When they were available in my area, I went to them often and always wanted to upgrade something, but it's been a long time since I heard anything other than what I got.

As much as I liked the look of the Rowland, I'm sure I would have owned one by now if I had the chance to review one.

One of the present problems is that we become so accustomed to what we have, that it becomes a standard that we have set; if that standard is quirky, even if something else is better, it might not sound so. Be happy and enjoy your Rowland,
I agree that we are limited to what we have access to. I'm lucky to have a very good friend that happens to be a dealer. That being said, he doesn't carry much of what I prefer, but it still gives me an opportunity to hear a lot more gear that most people.   
Excellent post!  Great story!  Well said!  
I know that I have experienced  the same conundrum on several occasions.
In my case, I repair audio components and do modifications.  I get to see how things are made, and what their potential is after modification and I get to hear so many different components in my system.  While I agree that you have to hear something in your own system and while cables, etc., can make a difference, I find that I can get a pretty good understanding of the sonic signature of a component in most cases, Yep there are some that can maybe fool you, but in most cases I get what the component does.  I can also change the sound of any component by replacing a few resistors or caps.  In ricred1's case hey he liked what he had and also he never mentioned if any of the people were familiar with his amp to know what they were recommending against.  As long as you are happy, that is all that matters.  Now he has to wait until S3 version comes out!!  Happy Listening. 
Thanks! for sharing your story- ricred1

Happy Listening!
bigkidz,

I'm 100% positive the dealer was the only one of the four that actually heard the Jeff Rowland 625 S2. That shouldn't surprise anyone. I would guess that upwards of 75%, give or take a few percentage points, have never listened to the component that they condemn.  
Post removed 

Just for the record, there is no Rowland M625 S3 in development... Nor there is one somewhere in the ether of the 4th dimension... #fake-news... *Rolls Eyes!*



G.

Ya know, this hobby of ours (or sickness if you will), can be so funny sometimes. I remember a friend of mine (definitely non audiophile) called me one day to tell me about his new fine and incredible deal. Seems he got these new speakers that he put in his system that were outrageous! Now he was an audiophile, like me. Btw I've never presented myself as an audiophile but what are you going to do. Frankly I'm not even sure exactly what an audiophile IS! Anyway he also proceeded to tell me the incredible deal he got, like 90% off. Well at that point I was pretty sure which drain this was going down as I'm sure you guys are as well. Telling him about the "white van scam" nearly killed me but I had to do it. I should have known better though. Before he was "informed" he was telling me about the glorious highs, subterranean lows and the cavernous soundstage. Well I went over there and confirmed my worst fears (for him). All of a sudden he could "hear" how bad the speakers were and he started really beating himself up. I cheered her m up as best I could and told him not to fret that a lot of smarter folks than him fell for the scam. It was time to just "take stock and move on". Funny how a system can go from being gods greatest cathedral to awful Derek in less than 24 hours. The mind believes what it chooses....
30 years in the hobby and finally learned to buy with YOUR ear?   I guess better late than never. 
it is all so personal and you hit the nail on the head it is about building a synergistic system that appeals to your ears no matter what else you listen to.  Does the journey ever end, i don't think so but the resting points on the way can be so enjoyable.
People evolve over time so taste changes.  It ends when 3' under.
David Ten said "One aspect that we tend to overlook or not give enough weight to is our 'relationship' to the system and it's sound. Once connected, it can be difficult to walk away...yet there are others who like to 'date' a lot of equipment and have difficulty committing."  

I think I got an STD (Stereo Transmitted Disease) from one of my ex flames! I think it was the used Linn. It could have been the cheap NAD receiver I spent one night with in 2009.
I started using an SEP lower watt amp and assumed a pair of efficient (or at least more efficient than what I’ve been using) speakers were needed. I bought the new, highly regarded but somewhat under reviewed new speakers but after a while noticed they were reticent in the high frequencies, and tried new and possibly better cables here and there to no avail. Damn. Did an A/B with my previous speakers and the combo of the new amp and the old speakers turned out to be a great match with a clarity and coherence that blew my little mind. Now I’m trying different resistors in the more efficient new speakers to wake up the treble, thus far to no avail. Oh well…but otherwise YAY for the amp/speaker synergy I get to enjoy now, and the newer speakers might be moving on (more resistors to experiment with so we’ll see).
@jpsrenoa
a big +1
I think that there are a few lessons to learned by the collective wisdom of our audiophile brethren (and sistren?).  The one that hits close to home for me is about getting a home audition for our next possible upgrade.  I own a Cary 306 SACD Professional disc player which is now about 8 years old.  I thought that there must be something newer out there that would sound better.  I bought a very well-reviewed DAC/transport ("best digital ever heard") pair on a 30 day trial.  Even after break-in and cable swapping, I felt it could not best my old player.  Thank goodness for the extended home audition or I would have been a very unhappy camper!
Sometimes I feel like "we" are partly responsible for hyping the differences between components. As I mature in this hobby, I'm trying hard to identify differences without exaggerating them. After all, small improvements can equate to thousands of dollars.