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You can't go wrong with the Ayre K5. I can't think of anything else I would pick at that price point. If you can go a little more, the Aesthetix is excellent as well. You won't regret either one. For me personally, I feel Ayre makes the best solid state gear.
What do you think of the 102? I've always wanted to hear one. I have an old 112 that I put in my system every once in a while because it does certain things I like. I was wondering how different they sound from each other.
The 102 needed some break-in before it started to warm up. Out of the box there was good detail in each instrument but they all seemed to be at the same volume or fighting to stand out or stomping on each other, I was getting really fatigued listening to it. After a week of constant use, there was much better separation, the soundstage opened up, and cybals/bells/triangles were now trailing off nicely. No fatigue at this point, quite the opposite, I find myself looking for recordings to extend my listening sessions.
I leave it turned on all of the time as suggested for Class D amps. I'm not sure if this is true because I haven't tried it yet, but I read that if one powers off a Class D amp for an extended period, the break-in period starts all over again. I have briefly powered it off to swap cables and relocate the amp, and it didn't seem to affect anything.
I read the reviews on the Aesthetix but it's a bit out of my price range. I'm hoping with luck I could score a good used Capri or K5xe (maybe even MP) or Klyne.
The funny thing is in three months of looking on A'gon, I haven't seen a single Klyne up for sale. I'm guess it's because people don't want to let go of them.
I'm also curious how a Cary SLP03 and Vincent SA-31MK (both tube/hybrid preamps) would sound with a Class D amp.
Fed, I have had extensive experience with Rowland Capri. It bested my ARC REF 3 in harmonic development, control of treble intermodulation in complex passages (think of multipart violins), bass control, and general authority and transients. Staging and imaging were comparable between the two devices. The only aspect of Capri that I thought might have benefitted from improvement was the lowest octave in the bass that could sound slightly blanched compared to REF3.
Note that a new Capri will take approximately 700 hours of operation before stabilizing and giving you its best. Like M102, it is perfectly safe to leave it on all the time, because power consumption is negligible, in spite of it operating in class-A.
You can significantly enhance the performance of your M102 by powering it through a Rowland PC-1 rectifier.
Technically, you can also connect PC-1 to both M-102 and Capri through a "Y" cord.... But I do not recommend it. PC-1 is great for M-102, M-201, M-501, and COntinuum 250, but makes the sound of Capri slightly pinched and throaty.
There is a significant amount of information on all these devices, and how they interact, on the Rowland knowledge base:
All manuals, including Capri and M102:
Capri FAQ (25 articles):
M102 FAQ (25 articles:
PC-1 FAQ :
I'm using Power Factor correcting conditioner Furman Elite 20 PFi with Rowland 102. It does not affect dynamics but makes everything cleaner. The strange thing is that bass became cleaner - more even and musical. Very good non-sacrificial over/under voltage protection is another benefit. I don't have to worry about leaving it ON 24/7. 102 is plugged into high current outlets while Benchmark DAC1, I use as pre, is plugged into lower current preamp dedicated outlets.
Guido, I don't have Capri. Furman made it cleaner. They claim large peak current available (large capacitor behind large inductor) but it did not improve dynamics (other than removing bass resonances). Furman made big difference on my previous digital (DLP) TV, making colors more clean and saturated. I know it doesn't sound plausible in digital domain but removing jitter can do it. One thing that made huge difference was speaker cable (Acoustic Zen Satori) that enhanced lower midrange (Cello, male voice chestiness etc.) where 102 seemed to be a little thin. In addition it has this "silky" quality (but I'm rather new to high end cables).
ZD, I only "measure" things with my ears, thus I apologize in advance for the unscientific and somewhat subjective nature of the following....
On the subject of treble intermodulation.... Frequently, on multipart string music, you may notice that there is a range of chorded notes, approximately in the 3rd treble octave, that have the habit of sounding rather harsh, distorted, and metallic. What I always look for is ways to make those notes sound like "music", without resorting to filtering effects.
On the subject of harmonic development.... if you listen carefully to piano music for example, you may hear the fundamental frequency, but also a set of harmonic frequencies that rise, sustain, and decay on their own terms.... this complex and evolving harmonic resonance is what gives an instrument some of its individual richness, or.... palpability.
My experience is that a PFC-based DC front end for an autoranging SMPS can increase an amplifier's ability to expose the complex behavior of independently decaying harmonics, and control a fair amount of treble harshness, without ever being perceived as a band-pass filter.
For example, integrated PFC rectification is one of the main differences between the class-D Rowland M501 monoblocks and the class-D M312 stereo.... Yes I know, there are other factors involved, such as higher quality transformer coupling etc... but.... M501 is a fun amp with a lot of power that sounds a little "matter of fact", while M312 sounds much more musical and emotional.... M312 Was my very favorite power amp prior to my adoption of the Rowland M725 monos, which while being based on class A/B design, are still fed by a PFC-based DC front end. Back to M501, the monoblocks can be front ended by a PC-1 PFC-based rectifier on each... Owners that have used M501 in such configuration claim that they rival the overall musicality of M312.
Warning, unlike Furman Elite, PC-1 transforms 120V AC into a 220V DC current... So do not feed it into any device unless the target component has an autoranging power supply, or it has been switched to 240V operations, lest.... you will be regaled by a cute puff of blue smoke and a slagged component.
Thanks for the answer. No need to apologize for being unscientific, this isn't a classroom. Just to clarify, your description of treble IM, to me, sounds like its a matter of getting timbre correct. Not an easy thing to do but its extremely important.
The above comments make me think what it is that I like about my Rowland 112. When I first got it, I definitely thought it was rolled off in the HF's. The more time I spent with the amp, however, made me change my opinion. All the information is there. Cymbals sound like cymbals and not like you took a piece of metal dropped it on a hard floor. I'm pretty sure I was mistaking the amp being rolled off, when it was just doing a very good job of making the HF's sound like what they are supposed to be, instead of noise. The amp does have some flaws, though. Thats why I was curious about your 102.
Thank you for the info, I had read your feedback on the PC1 a few weeks back. I think the PC1 (or a simple DIY OPS-U500-385 conditioner) would be a nice upgrade. Have you had a chance to compare the 201s with Lundahl transformers to the 102?
For now I'll keep looking for a used Capri or Klyne. The K5xe also a possibility.
Hi Feds, regretably, I have not had the opportunity of listening to M102. Looking at published specs, I suspect that M201 may yield a somewhat greater staging and imaging, and perhaps a bit more authority... M102 yields 100W over 8 Ohms and 200W over 4 Ohms with 11 Amperes of peak output current; M201 is rated at 250W over 8 Ohms and 500W over 4 Ohms with peak output current of 35W. On the other hand, specs alone may not tell the whole story: I have heard a few times M201 running out of steam On MagnePan 1.6 and Vienna Beethoven Grands. G.
Rowland has just announced at CES the Capri Series 2 preamp, which will replace the original Capri, and should share the same form factor. Like the original Capri, Capri S2 supports an optional phono card.... but will also be available preconfigured with an optional DAC card. Apparently the Capri S2 circuit, as well as the DAC card, have been designed by Jeff Rowland in collaboration with Holm Acoustics of Denmark. Unless I am wrong, shipment should start Q2 2013.
Oh yes, and just to make things even more fun, there is now a slightly heftier new brother of M102, called the M125.... Same form factor, with a Newer ICEpower module, with power rating of 125W over 8 Ohm, and 250W over 4 Ohm.
Hi Feds, I have heard that M125 may in fact be based on the ICEpower 125ASX2 power conversion module, but I have not read a written confirmation yet. M125 appears to have the following power ratings:
125 watts @ 8 ohms/250 watts @ 4 ohms
The Rowland 2013 product brochure lists some more M125 specs, but not all is known about this amp yet: