New Rowland Criterion 2-chassis battery pre

Jeff Rowland Design has just created a page for its upcoming statement-level, twin chassis, battery powered full function preamplifier. Detail is still scant, but a little bit of info is already available, in addition to front and rear view pics. Here’s the page:
And here’s the front view:
And here’s the rear view:

You will find a few specs already on the site. JRDG should be publishing more info in the next few weeks. I will post here as I receive it. in addition to the published specs that you can read on the page above, here are a very few additional tidbits that I have learned this far:

. Uses Burr Brown TI OPA1632 high speed fully differentially balanced modules.
. Includes phono stage.
. Uses standard NiMH D-cell batteries available in most electronics stores, loaded in 2 rear-inserted tubes of power supply chassis.
. Capable of AC/DC operation . . . will recharge batteries on independent circuit during AC operation.
. Full remote control
. Target price $18K (not sure yet)
. Availability: probably early Fall 2008.
. Will be featured at RMAF in Soundings Hifi suite Marriott 503 or 505 from Oct 10th to 12th in Denver.

And sorry folks, I have not heard this device yet. Nor I have any good third party reports on its sound. Any speculations on Sonics from my part would be just. . . pure speculations. I’ll keep everyone posted as I learn more.

Looks like I already goofed and posted incorrect URLS for the images. . . so here they are again:
Front view:
Rear view:
Guido you and Dcstep have me curious about JRDG component sound. That's because I'm open to learning about new components and innovation. If your going to spend some serious "coin" on components at least give the customer some innovation. I will check out the ICEPower technology (OEM Bang&Olufsen)and new preamp from JRDG at RMAF.

But you know, I'm in that other social community...tubes man.
I'm going to be running a Rowland Capri with Tubes (VAC). Should be an interesting experiment.
Here is one more tidbit, extracted directly from the specs published this far. . . the output impedance of Criterion is 60Ohms for both balanced and SE operations. This may imply that the device will be fully compatible with almost any amp you connect downstream, including tube amps with low input impedance.

LaPierre, I deem myself a social misfit when it comes to audio. I cheerfully object to the sound of most electronics for variety of reasons. . . tubed, SS, and switching alike. And when I conversely like a device or a product line, I do so independently from underlying technology.

As you may have read elsewhere, I am very partial to the current JRDG Capri, which in so many ways -- after a very long and patient 800 hrs of breakin -- has taken what I dearly love in my Ref 3 in authority, lenearity, extension, detail, and harmonic texture, and pushed it a notch forward. What the Capri however does not do is to add an upper-bass-2-lower-treble euphonic glow to the whole. . . and for that I am grateful. If anyone is looking for this additive euphonic warm glow, characteristic of some tube designs, he may be disappointed by the pristine musical rendering of the Capri.

Knowing Jeff Rowland's mind set just a little bit, I can only venture to guess that the Criterion may very well push further in this direction of graceful sonic sculpting, and remain congruent with my own experience of live unamplified music. True or not? Difficult to say until I listen to it. . . but now I realize I am doing exactly what I promised not to do: speculating.

Please note that I use the term 'congruent' very deliberately, rather than 'faithful reproduction' or other facile platitude.

i love jeff rowland's products starting from way back. my 1st "real" preamp was a consonance with phono built in. the phono stage was, for an extra $300, dead silent with MC. i "complained" to the dealer that it should not have sounded nearly so good for the money. and this was "old technology".
so this new preamp really gets my juices flowing. unfortunately, i had to go and read the excessive self-congradulatory description. "it's SO good that..." if the SYNERGY preamp had a battery option (which has never been reviewed so i wonder what THAT might have sounded like), then NOW, i frankly don't know how much more "whipped cream" you can fit on the pie-plate. i do like the easy availability of the nicads though, instead of the hard-to-get batteries he used to use. BUT i am really glad for the heads-up on this beautiful component.
The comparison that will matter is how it stacks up to the Coherence-II.

Exactly Ed. The Coherence and Capri are Jeff's reference, which are high standards indeed. Talking to him, there's no way this will be a step backward, although I find it hard to imagine how he'll surpass the Capri.

Ed, have you compared the Capri and the Coherence-II?? I be really interested to hear about that.

Lapierre, please don't confuse JRDG's implementation of ICEPower with B&O's. The B&O base unit is just that, a starting point. Jeff improves on that in almost every way imagineable. It is indeed the foundation of his amplifier designs.

Also remember, the Criterion and the Capri are pre-amps, so there's no ICEPower unit in either.

Absolutely. I was referring to the ICEPower Power Amp technology but did need specify the pre-amps Criterion and Capri.

This is fascinating stuff to me...and I don't own JRDG components.
Lapierre said:

"This is fascinating stuff to me...and I don't own JRDG components."

You probably will....
any reason why we have a thread a day on Jeff Rowland products?

i know he makes great stuff, but just posting specs doesn't tell a whole lot.
Hi Keith, you are right, specs tell very little. As soon as I have some better info I will post it, as I already said above. Reason I created this thread is that as I am extremely fond of the extant little Capri pre, I can't wait to listen to a much more ambitious device that harnesses the same ideas in an all out assault. Yet, it looks like I may still have to be a little patient. G.
Clio09: Running a good solid-state preamp with a tube amp is no experiment, as solid-state pre's have none of the impedance matching issues or problems driving long runs on interconnects that tube preamps have.

My personal belief is that an elite solid-state preamp run with an equally good tube amp is very hard to beat. I have been running a Coherence II with VAC Renaissance 140's and 70/70's for five years (although my main amp is now solid-state).
the capri is the low man on the totem pole according to JRDG own product descriptions. the synergy was the std. preamp after the coherence "mysteriously" stopped being made (frankly my guess is that there was very little interest in the product). BUT with added battery power, the synergy was supposed to be elevated even further, closing whatever gap might have existed between it and the coherence. now i am happy that some here feel the capri is a great preamp, but i don't see valid comparisons being made here, except with audio research, which is another animal altogether. and what about the concerto preamp...?
With regard to the Coherence, this is what Hi-Fi+ had to say in the context of a review of the Ayre MX-R:

"It’s a shame that Roland have already used (sullied?) the Coherence moniker, because it could have been coined for these amps."
Hi French_fries, I agree with you. . . direct comparisons of older Concerto, Synergy and Coherence pres with current Capri are missing. If anyone in the greater Austin area has any of these legacy devices on hand, I'd love to get together and do some a/b listening. I have heard the Concerto pre once and loved it, but have not had the opportunity of doing a direct comparison with current production Capri nor with my ARC Ref 3. And if anyone else has the opportunity of making such direct comparison with units having at least 800 hours of recent play on them, please post your findings.
Why are there no reviews of Jeff Rowland products in the US/Canada press ? Is Jeff no longer interested in having his products reviewed ?
Hi Pinkus, I am also among those who would like to see reviews of some of the current crop of JRDG gear appearing in North America print/online publications. Guido
I've been enjoying the 201's and Concerto preamp for about 3 years. Given Jeff Rowland's reputation and seniority in high end audio, I've been surprised that there have been virtually no reviews and little mention of Rowland in the major websites and magazines during that time. Lesser known (and less innovative) brands seem to get reviewed repetitively (I'm thinking of a certain tube amp with an Italian-sounding name). Could it be that the amount of press is related to the amount of advertising?
SAG, there is probably some amount of positive correlation between advertising presence and review coverage in most magazines. . . after all. . . somewhat got to pay the bills, and even unbiased reviewers and editors need to eat at least once per day. . . . or so their doctors tend to tell them. so, in the end, manufacturers that do not advertise, may end up being reviewed a little bit less than some other ones that do. 'Tis Life! G.
That's not the only thing. It also has a lot to do with availability of units to review magazines. There are plenty of good products that get no coverage due to the manufacturer refusing to provide units for review (e.g., Spectral, Ayre in TAS, etc.)
It's a chicken and egg situation involving both manufacturers and magazines. . . difficult to say where it starts. . . but end result is that there are little reviews and little advertising. . . and everyone loses, manufacturers, magazines, and consumers. . . . until things change. G.
I've learned a lot from postings at this site, and I thank you and all the regular posters for that. Would be great to hear Jeff weigh in on this subject. I was disappointed with the way Jeff and Class D were handled a few months ago in TAS. The fact that Rowland has been so successful despite the lack of advertising and the "media blackout" says great things about his product. Personally, I usually try to steer clear of heavy advertisers, or products that are pushed by the media.
Switching amplification is a relatively new technology as applied to the high end. . . as it gains more ground on the North American marketplace, it is inevitable that it will also garner more coverage by online and print publications. . . . and what's in the past will eventually become material for erudite historical marketing analysis. G.
As for the press, I'd love to see a review of the Criterion (or the 312 for that matter) by an entity that wasn't being paid to advertise the product, but I'm not holding my breath. Reviewing audio components well is difficult enough, and probably just about impossible if there is a financial conflict of interest.
Until then I'll just have to rely on this forum.
Psag, A'gon isn't all that bad a resouce. Just like with the printed mags and online mags, you have to learn to read the reviewers. Generally I don't think that advertising "buys" good reviews, but the advertisers probably do tend to get reviewed more often.

Anyone in business knows those that smooze and those that don't. Jeff doesn't. To hear him tell it, he tries to be courteous to all comers at shows, but he's not into buying a potential reviewer a fancy meal or "entertaining" such people. If they want to visit his shop they'll be welcomed and shown all the same stuff he'll show others. He's about running his business conservatively and trying to design the best products that he knows how. I doubt you'll ever see him here or on any forum defending his equipment or touting it. He likes the way his web site looks and that ain't achangin', etc., etc.

That makes it a little harder for us to find him, but you can be pretty comfortable that any fame or notice he receives is well earned. I have nothing at stake and only comment about JRDG because I want others to find out the "secret" that I've found. I paid full retail and could have just as easily spent that $9000+ on some other brand.

rowland gear is two things- really really excellent (tube sound without the tubes), but also, JRDG is a line of products that is in constant evolution. if you're disappointed that your very-expensive Model-8 amp has been dropped from the line, i sympathize with you 100%. i bought a consonance preamp years ago, and for $450 (!) you could buy a re-designed line stage (and/or phono stage) MODULE which simply plugged into a slot inside the box- something anyone could do. the sonic improvement was more than just obvious- it was dramatic. but sadly, after that the consonance and consummate were made obsolete by the introduction of the coherence and the synergy. AND NOW, THEY ARE GONE. this can get irritating, as these are NOT cheapo components. SO, although you do get factory upgrades for awhile, sooner than you think your very expensive SOTA preamp or amp
ain't SOTA no more... now, if you're smart, you KEEP the piece you bought and enjoy it. it still delivers over 90% of anything Jeff is ever going to come out with in the future.
but he does tirelessly find ways to improve the SOUND, not just the cosmetics, of his gear. and the other neat stuff, like more efficient power supplies, better displays, customized settings, modernization, etc. can be very compelling reasons to sell your consonance for $1000 (what an insult!) to raise the cash for the new, exotic preamp.
but don't be surprised to find out in 2011 that the jaw-dropping sound that you opted for now sounds "veiled"
and mechanical- a still newer technology will make you feel "part of the orchestra" or some silly thing like that. it's all good, but the newest technology still hasn't invented a way to get money to grow on trees...
"but don't be surprised to find out in 2011 that the jaw-dropping sound that you opted for now sounds "veiled""

Absolutely French_Fries! happened to me on a regular basis since 1967, when Dad 'upgraded' our home system for the 1st time since 1953. . . can't see why the 'veiling' of the past should stop any time soon, JRDG or not. . . . only my wife claims my stereo is good enough right now and for good! G.
Yeah, French_fries got it right. SOTA is somewhat like buying a computer or CDP, if you wait until things "settle down" you'll never buy. You just need to pick something near the top of the heap and jump in, then plan to go with it for a few years no matter what comes along.

Well,my approach is to "attempt" to acquire the best possible component choice to fit my sonic tastes,and pocketbook....

Then,as time goes by(if I really like the component)I see if it can be updated,to further improve something I already know is excellent,and works well,in my set-up!

I have done this with much of my stuff....but in the case of Rowland,I have been very successful!!

Mainly because Jeff is a superb fellow,who supports his products.No matter what the vintage!!

I have a two chassis 8T amp...Originally with the battery P/S...I've had the amp updated three times,by Jeff.He is very reasonable in the cost to update,based on the sonic return,IMO!

The latest update was to have two seperate "power factor correction modules" placed in the second chassis.No longer the battery anymore,which though very quiet,was slightly defficient in dynamics(but I still was quite satisfied)......

NO contest!!....The new P/S update absolutely blows away my previous battery P/S....Also,actually,the battery P/S has been gone for a few years.

I had originally had a "single" P/S module put in the second chassis(to replace the battery,and "it" was definitely quieter,if you can believe that,and "way more" dynamic),by Jeff(one of the audio Gods)....Even this basic P/S "single seperate module"(I now have a "dual module" configuration) significantly outperformed the battery,but the battery was "much better" than many would think....

Because I have a friend,with the single chassis 8t,who's system is almost identical to mine(lucky for me,in the long run)...I always felt the battery was quieter,and better able to allow depth/tone to develop.Yet his amp definitely could swing more dynamic punch....Not anymore.

This NEW double mudule,that I now have,is SO good,that even my "only tubes can do it" friends are "amazed"!!...THAT is BIG,since these guys truly believe SS is a non factor,in music....Of course I am laughing!..

Why,because though I have had superb tube set-ups in the past(and love tube sound),I now "know for certain" that the magic can be had,without the "significant" weakness of excessive heat!!...

My amp runs almost "cold",sounds embarrassingly great(if you think "only" tubes can do "it"),looks like a million bucks(it wasn't cheap),and keeps my room nice and comfy.

Of course,you have the "way relaxed personality,but amazingly knowledgable" back up of Jeff Rowland,here.So as I see it,my investment will keep me happy for a LONG time!

Just some thoughts.
I love your passion Sirspeedy. ;-)

i take it all back! that is to say, i will wait for a Criterion to appear on audiogon for 33% (or more?) off- some flavor-of-the-month guy will want to try tubes- and then, THEN i will POUNCE, like the audiophilic demento that i am, upon the 6 month old model, which probably hasn't even been broken in yet... it is after all a VERY nice preamp. let's just hope it doen't have any unforseen bugs with the batteries, or whatever.
batteries are nice, but the unit has to recharge them, use them up to a point and/or switch back to the wall, etc. i wouldn't mind if it just had a dead-quiet outboard power supply, period. and possibly THAT version would probably cost $5k less to build.
Hi French_Fries, my immediate goal is to be able to listen to a Criterion live. . . and to compare it with the Capri, and hopefully with a Ref 3. Perhaps at RMAF I'll be able to do some a/b listening with Criterion and Capri. . . . should be fun! G.
My Concerto pre- with onboard phonostage is dead quiet.
Until recently it was JR's top of the line preamp. So this Criterion must have something else to offer at over triple the price tag. True, there are some nice new features (adjustable gain, recording mode). But sound is what we really care about, and I wonder how the sound is going to be significantly improved.
Yes Psag, absolutely. . . products must justify themselves on sound first and foremost. . . I am incredibly curious about its musical performance. G.
I'll be pleasantly surprised if the new Criterion elevates very far beyond the Capri, mainly adding flexibility to the Capri's limited switching possibilities. The ability to use the Capri in DC mode by placing the PC1 power factor correction unit in front of it makes me wonder about the value of a battery power supply. We shall see. There's surely a market for two-box, battery powered high-end units, but I think that Rowland may have made most of the performance available at a much lower price in the Capri and Continuum.

Dave, we will hopefully have an opportunity of putting a Criterion and a Capri side by side in October during RMAF in Denver, and we'll find out what the real story is. G.
Yes Guido, I think that will happen soon. I also very much want to compare a Continuum 500 with a Capri/312/PC1 combination. I really don't feel like lugging both my MPS-5 and C-5 to Austin, but...

Huh? I thought you had 2 arms. . . you'd look so dapper carrying one component under each [snickers!]
i can literally guarantee one thing regarding this new preamp.
the system you insert it into will have to resolve extremely fine detail, as in speakers that take no prisoners through the midrange, not to mention other components and some really decent interconnects as well. only then will you benefit from
some audio purity not found in the synergy or concerto, capri, etc. then the issue of the preamp being too "soft" or not dynamic enough (which if you care about stereophile, this is their common beef with rowland pre's) will have to be reversed by their "lofty" evaluations or simply ignored- the latter is my preference. they loved the levinson 32 ($17k), then a few years later decided that it now sounded "distant" and mechanical compared to halcro, bat, and VTL.
isn't it ironic that there are extremely simple preamp circuits and then there are massive 50 pound monsters (like the new BAT); both are considered class-A. a friend of mine bought a pass ALEPH-P awhile ago ($4k), and it was quietly considered almost as good as a PASSIVE preamp it was compared to (stereophile). the aleph-p is simple, pure class A, bal. or se inputs and outputs.
i will hypothetically put it up against anything you can use as an example of "so pure, so clean, etc." for 20, 30, 60 grand plus. maybe someone someday will go back to basics and perform such a test. yeah, there might be some diffeences, i'll concede that much. but how much? perhaps with the system cranked up really loud over monster speakers playing the 1812 overture...
Hi French_Fries. Point well taken. If I ever have the fortune of evaluating the Criterion in my own system, it may be fed by TEAC X-01 Limited; it may be feeding Rowland 312, Rowland 7M monos, NuForce 9; speakers will be Vienna Mahlers; It may be A/Bd to Capri, ARC Ref 3; ICS are AudioQuest Sky XLR; current speaker wires are Cardas Golden Refs. Hopefully system will be resolving enough. Of course, I have no idea if the eval will ever happen. G.
I have just heard that JRDG has started shipping the Criterion. First production units are being used to fulfill an apparently considerable order backlog. If anyone has had the opportunity of listening to Criterion already, please post here.
Well good. I guess it's safe to assume that it'll be at the RMAF since Rowland will be sharing the room with Soundings.

Yes, Rod Toms confirmed that he will receive a Criterion and will be able to break it in by the time RMAF starts. It will be on a system together with JRDG 312, Vienna Die Muzick, and. . . your very own PD MPS-5 I believe. G.
That should be very nice. I hope that I don't "need" a Criterion...
Dave, if you fear you may develop a new case of 'insurmountable need', we should consider an in depth counselling session in front of a bottle of Barolo next month. G
Yes, by Friday night I'll probably be head over heels. I look into the Barolo, but if that's not available the Querceto Reserva Classico is amazing. I think we'll need more than one bottle...
Looks very good. 18K is a bit much though. 9K ....maybe.

Anyway - looking forward to compare it to my RWA Isabella.
I just hope that- it is that much better.....until then, Dodd and RWA Isabella are IMHO one of the best values. No....not cheap, but if getting off the grid, simplicity and sound quality are your goals, it might be worthy investment.

The proof is in the listening, but generally speaking series-connected NiMH batteries are a poor choice for SOTA. They have up to several ohms of impedance, as compared to several milliohms for large SLA batteries. You can hear these differences, though adding massive capacitance may ameliorate the situation somewhat.

Why would a designer choose NiMH over SLA? Convenience, ROHS issues concerning lead content, gassing issues, transportation issues. But not for SOTA.
My personal opinion is: every "reference" preamplifier will give you excellent sound, even the older ones. Examples: CAT SL-1, Accuphase C-290V, Mark Levinson No. 26S/No. 32, BAT REX, Conrad-Johnson ART, Goldmund, FM Acoustics, JDRG Consummate/Coherence II, WAVAC, Cello Audio Suite, Jadis JP-80, VAC Renaissance, etc. If you own one of the abovementioned preamps, there is really no reason to replace this unit with another unit from different brand. Unless you have too much money...

Dgarretson, I will ask JRDG about the relative high impedance issue with NiMH that you report. As for SLAs. . . I was burnt once -- and not metaphorically speaking as there were fine flames involved.

Marius, I am looking forward to listening to the Dod and RWA Isabella, although I am more and more leaning toward SS devices for reason of upkeep and sonic preference.

Chris, fab attempt at raising one more hornets nest!