Review: Jeff Rowland Design Concentra phono Amplifier
Over the course of many years and more changes, I bi-amped,
used subwoofers, employed electronic crossovers, mono amps, tubes and transistors, cables and traps, magic dots and silver bullets. I pondered and prayed, listened and inquired and read, read, read. My house was full of equipment, some in use and some sitting but I never felt like I was finding what I wanted. The carrot kept moving in front of me. And the damn carrot was getting too expensive. Then, two weeks ago I bought a used Concentra, the integrated amp made by the Jeff Rowland Design Group and since then I've been holding that carrot in my hand. I've arrived.
As products go, this one is obviously distinct and special. The face plate is cut in such a way that it appears to feature deep, broad convolutions and light diffracting texture but upon touching it you discover that it is mirror smooth and finished with clearcoat from the most prestigious of German car makers. In low light, during late night listening it glistens and shifts, changes colors, seems to move with the music. It is reminiscent.
This same faceplate, while fascinating and fun, also functions as an isolation pocket for the preamp section, keeping it isolated from the big juice of the amplifier.
Construction is pure Rowland throughout. Everypiece of the chassis is machined like the faceplate and every piece is calibrated in its topology to eliminate any mechanical vibration. Individual pieces overlap each other to make the interior dust proof forever and the entire chassis functions as a heat sink.
Now, about the sound. There isn't any. This amplifier is dead silent. I noticed, however, that if I remove it from my system I get no music, so it must be doing something while it's in there. But you can't tell. The appearance of music is out of nothingness. Everything your amp does, this amp does better. I've used most of the brands you cherish or envy and nothing as yet approaches my Concentra. I'm sure Rowland separates are superior but I can't imagine how. In addition to it's sublime, easy, natural presentation, casual convenience, and transfixing appearance, the Concentra is practical. I bought mine for $3K with phono, a reasonable price for amp, preamp, phono section and 2 pair of interconnects, all of which it displaces in a compact, elegant, timeless package. At 50 lbs. and 17.5 x 14.35 x 5.75 inches, it brings a wallop to the WAF issue. My own wife was thrilled with the looks and felt as if the heavens had opened when she learned how much stuff was leaving the room.
Do yourself a favor and look into acquiring one of these.When I purchased mine recently there werte 6 of them for sale on Audiogon concurrently. Some had cosmetically compromised faceplates which severely impair their marketability but they all have the Rowland sound and function. If you've moved beyond a roomful (houseful?) of macho iron or have a desire to do so there is no better alternative than the "World's Best Integrated".
Well-Tempered Reference Table
Audioquest 7000 cartridge
NHT 2.9 speakers
Monster M 1.4 speaker cable
Wicked Cable Interconnects
Timbre Technology DAC
I know of no similar product!