Roger Alan Modjeski (RAM) 1951 - 2019


It is with great sadness that I announce Roger A. Modjeski passed away peacefully in his home in San Pablo, CA after an 12 month battle with cancer. Roger started Music Reference in 1981 and later RAM Tubes, The Tube Audio Store, and The Berkeley HiFi School. For more than 38 years he tirelessly ran his business and designed some of the most unique and well received audio components in the industry. Right until the near end Roger was working, designing, and teaching until he physically was unable to continue.

The link below will take you my playground where I have posted my tribute to Roger (click ENTER after the page loads):

http://www.electrafidelity.com/

Fare thee well my friend.
clio09
I am shocked to read this. Very sad news. Still trying to take this news in. Condolences to his family and close friends. Oh my.... Sorry for your loss @clio09.




@clio09  What a beautiful tribute you prepared.  I only recently began talking tubes with Roger and found him to be very giving of his time and wisdom.  Very sad news indeed.

Thanks for the notice @clio09, and for your tribute to Roger. What a loss, I’m speechless. I spent considerable time talking to RM when he gave seminars at Brooks Berdan’s shop in Monrovia, as well as on the phone (and in an email back-and-forth only a couple of months back).

There is a great You Tube video of Roger speaking for an hour to the gathering of audio engineers at the annual Burning Amp Festival in San Francisco, and trading thoughts on amplifier design with Nelson Pass at same.

It’s a drag to know we won’t see any more designs from RM, but we at least have the great ones he left behind, two of which I own. Thanks Roger, you will be greatly missed.

Very sad news indeed. He contributed so much to our hobby.
I too am shocked and saddened to learn of Roger's passing. Terrible news.

Right until the near end Roger was working, designing, and teaching until he physically was unable to continue.

And on top of that he was even sharing his knowledge in posts at this very forum as recently as two months ago.

@clio09, my thanks as well for the beautifully written tribute.

And sincerest condolences to Roger's family and friends.

-- Al


Condolences to family and friends, he will be missed
Truly saddened to hear.

Condolences to family and friends.

I will continue to think of Roger, his legacy lives with me; his RM9 and RM10 amps anchor both my music rooms.

Unexpected, and very sad, for sure.....RIP... A truly heartfelt tribute, and loss. My condolences to you, his family, and close friends. Always, MrD.
RIP Roger.  Thanks for the wonderful tribute to Roger.
He was truly one of audio's Good Guys and he'll be missed.
Another one of the audio greats has gone to the listening room in the sky.  Rest In Peace Roger, the high end will not be the same. 
Sad to hear. With every passing of the old guard, the circle gets smaller but hopefully, their achievements are not forgotten, but remembered and passed on to future generations.

All the best,
Nonoise
Nicely said clio09

So sad to hear, had had many PM’s with him, truly one of the best tube guys around, will miss his him dearly. Your Music Reference/Ram-tube legacy will live on to be all time classics Roger.

George
So sad to get this news today.  Thank you clio09 for the wonderful tribute.  I remember when I bought my RM10 from Roger he personally burned it in a few days in his system to make sure I wouldn't have any problems with it.  When I received it I thought the bias was off and I called him and he spent an hour teaching me about electronics.  I will miss him - he was an audio hero to me and others. 
Very sad to hear this. I saw Roger not long ago; I thought he had more time. A sweet person and an audio genius. I will miss him.
Didn't know him but I've owned my RM9 for close to 2 decades, used to also own an RM5.  Inexplicably, the news saddens me.  RIP Roger.
Wow, what a bummer. I had the pleasure of meeting Roger some years back in Davis at a Nor Cal DIY event. He let me use one of his amps to demo a pair of speakers I had designed.

Later, we spoke about his amps and some DIY workshops he was putting together. Super nice guy, I can't believe he is gone. Rest in peace.
Very sad news and a very heartfelt tribute. Rest in peace Roger and thank you @clio09.
RIP to Roger.

Sorry for the great loss to audio industry.

Sincere condolence to the family.

Although I do not have chance to use his amp, I had excellent conversation with him here.

Thomas
So very sad. RIP RAM
A shock to say the least.
Always had time for an email exchange even to people who were well below his knowledge level and never made them feel they were wasting his time.
A true gentleman.
Very sad and my condolences along with everybody else here.
I can see the glow of better tube amps in the heavens tonight.... so very sorry for the loss and condolences to friends and family.....

@clio thank you for the tribute 
Sorry to hear that and condolences to family and friends. 

I always enjoyed his posts here. 
Sad news indeed! I have nothing but pleasant dealings with Roger. 
RIP Roger, you will be missed. 
Clio,
Thanks for the eloquent and touching tribute to Roger.  While I never personally met Roger, he was always generous with his time and advice corresponding on my RM9 MKII.  My condolences for your loss.

Thinking of Roger tonight. Thanks for the thread!

Michael

RIP RAM, you will be missed.
RIP. And thank you for sharing your knowledge so freely with just an anonymous DIYer. I never thought to have such an extended technical discussion with such as yourself.
RIP Roger, a brilliant engineer and educator.
Sad to learn of Roger's passing! A brilliant designer of excellent tube gear! He designed the high-voltage direct-drive amps used in the Beveridge ESL speakers (which I heard in 1977 in CT at Audiocom). The Audio World will miss Roger!
A great loss. Privileged to have known Roger. 
Very sad news indeed. I learned a lot from him through his contributions to this site and his videos. A great designer and teacher. Audio industry will miss such a talent. 
Stunned and saddened by this.

I was fortunate enough to have Roger help me get my Beveridge loudspeakers back to working condition. He was a brilliant engineer in the world of audio. 

Condolences to his family.  
Sorry to hear. Always very sad when someone in the hobby leaves  from this earthly plain. I will learn more of Roger and his work and sharing. My sincere condolences to his loved ones and friends. Godspeed Roger.

Adam
Sad news. I had a long phone call with Roger some years ago and he struck me as extremely knowledgeable and honest. He will be missed. My condolences to his family and friends.
Thank you clio09 for the thoughtful tribute to a great guy.
Roger was a good friend for 25 years.  From the outset, his passion for his products was what struck me the most.  He was always experimenting, questioning, innovating, and as a result he developed a depth of understanding for audio circuits that I doubt has been equaled by anyone.  Transformer design, a black art to most, was his specialty.  By building countless hundreds with his own hands and testing their behavior, he achieved a level of perfection that is clearly evident by listening to the amplifiers he sold.  Most important to him was selling a product that would work flawlessly for a very long time.  In his designs and construction, he considered everything from the operating parameters of the tubes to the quality of the lowly resistors.   Those who own a RM-9, RM-10, or RM-200 possess a masterpiece.
Roger's love of electronics was contagious.  When I hung out with him, I always went home wanting to build something.  I once brought him a design I found for a singled-ended 6L6 stereo amp, and he provided me with many of the parts to build it.  He even let me wind the output transformers on his winder.  He enjoyed teaching and watching the light bulb go off in people's heads.  His favorite question for the newbie: How much current flows in a 100W lamp?  You better have shouted "1 amp!" pretty quickly or he'd be disappointed.
Roger could fix anything electronic.  When he was a teenager, he got a job in a TV repair shop, and was quickly able to diagnose and fix a TV issue in 20 minutes (the requirement for the store technicians).  You could bring him a schematic for just about anything, and he could zero in on the potential problem areas immediately.  You needed to have a lot of time when you visited him, for a simple question about electronics often resulted in a 1 hour answer complete with several pages of handwritten notes!
One of Roger's passions was his computerized tester for matching tubes.  He developed this on an Apple II computer in the mid 80s.  The software was a very lo-o-o-ong BASIC program that he was very adept at tweaking on the fly.  About 5 years ago, his two Apple IIs were failing regularly, and finding replacements on eBay was getting harder, so we set about moving the whole thing to an Arduino microcontroller.  He built the interface between the Arduino and the high voltage circuitry, and I translated that long BASIC program into several dozen C programming language functions.  Roger had a very old dot-matrix printer that he used to print the labels for the tube boxes, and he insisted that the Arduino print the test results on it.  So I had to make the Arduino spit out characters slowly enough so the printer could keep up! What a pleasure it was to work side-by-side with him on that project.  We were both very proud when the first test completed and that printer squealed to life!
And now he's gone.  For those of us who knew him well, this is a staggering loss.  I will remember him as a gifted mind, a perpetual student, a generous teacher, and wonderful friend.
Bless you Roger!
That makes me sick to read.  I feel for the family.
 He really carved out a nice audio Pathway for guys like me     RIP 
Sorry for the loss of your friend. Condolences to his family. I knew someone that loved his RM9 amp and would try other amps and always come back to the 9
Thanks Clio. Lovely tribute to Roger. 

I first crossed paths with Roger as a proud owner of Rm-9 mk I  serial#119 and ultimately had him upgrade with chokes and top plate fuse holders to what he called 1.5. 

Roger was generous with his time and knowledge as was pleased to share. I always regretted selling the Rm-9 mk 1.5 

After running down the OTL rabbit hole for several years, I returned to the MR family in 2011 when I purchased his hand built, cost no object Rm-9 Special Edition and haven't looked back since. EL 34 magic!!  So his legacy lives on each and every time I fire up my rig.

#RIP RM

I don’t know (perhaps clio09 does?) if Roger left behind an assistant who can continue to provide service for the Music Reference products. But Tom Carione at Brooks Berdan Ltd. in Monrovia California knows the amps well (and appreciates their design sophistication and build quality), and can keep your MR gear working the rest of your life. Tom is a maintenance tech at an L.A. radio or TV station, and is in the shop on Wednesdays and Saturdays. He was Brooks’ electronics man for years, and stayed on after Brooks’ wife Sheila took over in Brooks’ (R.I.P.) absence.

It was Brooks who hipped me to Roger and his amps, of which he was a huge fan. He was happy to take more money from the customers of his who wanted to own bragging rights amps from VTL and Jadis, but those who were looking for value were directed to Music Reference.

BB Ltd., last time I was in the shop, had a healthy stock of RAM Tubes on hand, matched in pairs and quads by Roger himself. Best tubes in the business.

In my last email exchange with Roger (which I just reread, from only a month ago), I asked for his advice on installing a capacitor on the input jacks of the RM-10 Mk.2, to create a high pass filter at 80Hz for use with subs and the old Quad ESL, one of the two loudspeakers Roger used as his load in developing the amp (the other was the Vandersteen 1 or 2). Learning that I own a First Watt B4 active x/o, he advised me to instead x/o at 100Hz (the Quad has a nasty resonance in the 80-90Hz region), using Linkwitz/Riley 4th-order filters on both high and low pass. I offer that info for the benefit of other Quad/RM-10 owners, a magical combination.

In that email, Roger apologized for not responding more promptly, saying that he had been dealing with some health issues. Little did I know.

Thank you @bdp24 for providing that information. While we mourn the loss of our founder and friend I will only add at this time Roger did make plans for the future of Music Reference/RAM Tubes. For now, tube sales will continue as normal and can be ordered via the Tube Audio Store website. Prior to his death Roger identified a couple additional vendors to provide service while the company transitioned. He settled on the following:

Scott Frankland Associates in San Jose, CA
Audio Classics in Vestal, NY

Scott has already been performing service work for us and has all relevant schematics and access to parts to do repairs. Audio Classics was referred to Roger by one of his loyal customers who lives in the area. They are quite a busy shop and as such you can expect a lengthy wait time, but Roger was very pleased with how they run their operation and the level of expertise their techs have.

As mentioned Tom at Brooks Berdan performs repair work in an expert and timely manner. We refer most of our SoCal customers there. Roger and Brooks were very good friends and both Sheila and Brian Berdan were shocked and saddened at the news of Roger's passing.
@high mu , Eric and Cleo thanks so much for the heartfelt posts, Roger helped me select study books and test equipment and I regret not attending a Burning Amp he participated in...

good to know RAM will continue!!!

Clio can you post up some of Rogers fave music, I would like to remember him by playing it....
@tomic601 for his service Roger specifically requested Lyle Lovett and Linda Ronstadt songs be performed. He was also a big fan of Billie Holliday, Willie Neslon, Emmy Lou Harris, and Keith Jarrett. He also listened to classical programming on KQED while working.

Here is an interesting story. Roger receives a call from someone who asks him why he made the fuses so hard to access on the RM-9 MkI. Turns out this guy had a couple of them and he had to change the fuse in one and found it to be a pain to have to remove the bottom plate to do so. During the conversation it turns out that it was Keith Jarrett who owned the amps and per Roger he was the influence behind the decision to mount the fuses on the top plate in the MkII edition of the amp.

To read lots of Roger’s thoughts on all things hi-fi (and some musical. I remember him mentioning Emmylou Harris’ and Beethoven’s names, two favorites of mine as well), head over to the Music Reference forum on Audiocircle. His Circle has been closed since 2014 (apparently after a complaint from Ted Denney of Synergistic Research ;-), but is still acessable. Lots of info and ideas to be found there, including Roger’s "informed" opinion on hi-fi reviewing and tweaks. Prepare to have your conceived notions challenged!

For a song I find particularly fitting, give a listen to "No Time To Cry" by Iris Dement. Iris and Emmylou are mutual-admirers, the latter appearing in one of the former’s early music videos. And speaking of videos, let me reiterate that the videos viewable on You Tube of Roger's seminars at a few of the annual Burning Amp Festival events in San Francisco (in 2015 and 2018, iirc) are REALLY something you want to watch. A free education in tubes and tube amp design! Tape them, as you will want to watch them more than once.

Shocked and very saddened to hear of his passing. We were only chatting a few weeks ago but he didn’t mention anything amiss. I’ve known Roger since about 1991 and he has been an inspiration to me ever since. We were always chatting about things like EL84 loadlines, coupling capacitor charge pumping, a good current to run a 6dj8, EI vs toroidal (‘Ugh!’) output transformers, biasing, even automatic biasing, jfet and bipolar linearity, tube noise, etc etc! Having stayed at his in Santa Barbara way back then it was fun to have been driven around in the Jensen Healey and come back to be educated about the tempered tuning of pianos. We had a very close friendship, almost a relationship. He was always keeping an eye on the stock market on a tiny B&W TV. One day we were chatting and he had just received boards for the then new RM200. I sat and looked at it. LM394s for the input stage?, I said, dismayed. He was shocked and a little awed I had worked out the circuit from looking at the unmade circuit board. From then on he didn’t hold back from the engineering aspect of our discussions. Why use heated jfets? he said. One of many discussions about MC headamps. Another... ‘But that’s too much power for the screen grid!’ he retorted, disappointed that I’d neglected to work it out, unfolding a well worn chart of curves for the EL34 he’d made on his computerized valve tester, all written in Basic language. Another year, we went to Borders in SB where he gleefully pulled out a Class A review from Stereophile for the RM200. ‘Yessss!!’, he jolted excitedly. It really meant a lot to him, to be validated for all the hard work that went into it. We had a great time touring the countryside in southern Australia together, and he really considered moving there as he ‘didn’t like the way the US was going’. ‘Those mad Australians!’, a reference from his talk at the Burning Amp 2018 possibly referring to me..? A sad week this week. RIP my friend Roger. I am missing you already.

P.S. I live in the UK now and if you have one of Roger’s amps here I might be able to help service it. I used to service them down under.

Wonderful remembrances @ndevamp, thank you. I would occasionally drive up to Santa Barbara from L.A. for the weekend in the 1980’s and 90’s, before I knew about Roger and Music Reference. I of course now regret missing my opportunity to drop by his place there. Beautiful city, lots of music and record company business honchos have houses there.

Reading your words just reinforces my opinion that Roger understood tubes and amplifier design like few living engineers. Just as a master composer or songwriter sees the weakness in another’s work, so too did Roger in his competitor’s products. His comments about a few of them in his Burning Amp Festival presentations are delightful ;-) .

Yes I think Roger considered it a mild form of entertainment to check out other maker’s products, ARC a specialty. What he mentioned at Burning Amp 2018 we ranted about years earlier in the 90s! I feel he kept his best work from entering production. The RM-5 preamp was ok but I would give him a go over little things like choice of regulators for the power supply. He would come back with measurements to prove it. (If there’s no noise on it, there’s no noise on it!) But I’m not sure if he ever built his all singing, all dancing preamp that was completely direct coupled from input to output, and used 6 6dj8s. Also loved his direct drive amp for electrostatic speakers, a product of his time at Beveridge. Perhaps the RM9 mod to have a self-balancing driver stage came about as one of our talks? I think he wanted to put auto-bias into an amp as well but didn’t get to having it work the way he wanted. Later he loved Emission Labs tubes for their sheer linearity. He was fascinated people preferred single ended to push pull poweramps, but having built some for himself could see their point. He made a few solid state single ended experiments as well, but they never entered production.
Phew. Bit of a hole in the heart here.

My introduction to ARC's build design and parts quality was when I turned on my new SP-3 for the first time. It immediately made a popping sound, and I learned what a burnt resistor smells like ;-) . Years later, Tom Carione showed me the scorched circuit boards inside all the ARC power amps that had been traded in at Brooks Berdan Ltd. for Music Reference, VTL, and Jadis amps. Power tubes mounted on a circuit board?!

I so wish I had been in a position to get myself a pair of Roger's ESL loudspeakers and direct-drive OTL tube amps. 5,000 volts delivered straight from the tubes to the ESL stators. No power amp output transformer, no ESL step-up transformer---ultimate transparency! I suppose that design has died with Roger.

In his final (third) version of the RM-10 (still referred to as Mk.2, but now 25w/ch Class A), Roger DID go to auto-biasing. He told me my RM-10 (original 35w/ch version Mk.2) ran in Class A up to 15 or so watts, which is where the original Quad ESL has it operating most of the time (especially when high-pass filtered at 100Hz). Also owning an RM-200 Mk.2, I just have to get myself an RM-9 ;-) .

Roger stated he found power amps much more interesting than pre-amps, perhaps why he is better known for the former. As does Nelson Pass, Roger felt that whenever possible (system gain structure, impedance matching, etc.), a passive pre is preferable to an active one. He wasn't driven as a businessman to fill a market demand, but rather to create a design that hadn't been done before. 35 watts out of a pair of EL84's, 100 watts out of a pair of KT88/6550's (into both 8 and 4 ohms!), both with around 10,000 hours of tube life, that he certainly did. And with no burnt resistors or scorched circuit boards ;-) .