Rowland Amps with MBL Speakers vs. All MBL System

My reference is the Jeff Rowland Synergy IIi Pre & Model 302 Power Amp.

I recently heard MBL's omni-directional speakers for the 1st time, and was absolutely blown away by their amazing life-like performance. They were in an all MBL system.

Regarding this, I am looking for input from folks who are familiar with both of these lines, or have done some head to head comparrisons of Rowland vs. MBL electronics.

1) In general, how would you decribe the sonic differences between these Rowland components in comparrison to MBL's "Noble" pre and power amps?

2) Do the MBL speakers need to be in an all MBL system to do their magic, or could the MBL speakers be a good match with my Rowland gear?

Any feedback from personal experience would be appreciated.

You raise a good question, as the mbl speakers pose special problems for amps due to their unusually low sensitivity, at +/-81 db./watt.

If you look at the threads, you'll see that there is much support for CAT amps with the mbl omnidirectional speakers, particularly the JL-1 monoblocks (discontinued) or JL-3 monoblocks. Michael Gindi, formerly editor of the hi-fi magazine Fi, evidently ran JL-1's with his mbl's. Here is one such thread:

If you are committed to a using Rowland 302, they do have excellent power supplies and current delivery, and would thus presumably be as good a match as any solid-state amp, power-wise, with a speaker like the mbl's (I do not have personal experience with this combo, however -- I am speculating). My only concern is that this combo might produce an overly detailed sound, as both the mbl speakers and Rowland 300 series amps excel at detail retrieval. This is mere speculation, however.

PS - I own a Coherence II and Cadence, and ran Model 6's w/ batteries in one of my systems for several years.
I can only attest to the fact that I have heard MBLs also sound magical with both Jadis JA500s (though a little lightweight in the bass) and Gryphon's big Class A stereo amp from the early 90s, so the magic is not exclusively due to their (admittedly very good) electronics. As Raquel says, though, they present a very difficult load, and seem to demand a lot of current. I'd probably check with Rowland, they may know of customers driving mbls with their amps.

I'm a big fan of these speakers--I'm going to a wedding in Berlin next week and noticed that the factory seems to be there, maybe I can convince my wife to let me take a factory tour while she's visiting with the bride!!
Feel free to contact me as I work for mbl and can answer any of your questions:

The speakers we played at the Hilton for HEE were the new 116 and 121 ($18,000 and $10,000), which share tweeter, midrange driver, and omni-directional radiation pattern with the famed radialstrahler mbl 101. The impedance load from all the mbl speakers is a relatively flat 4 Ohms, therefore not a difficult load for many amps. The speakers do like a large current delivery, but the 121, 116, and 111 are far easier to drive than the 101.

A note on the "sensitivity" issue; the standard measurement is for sound pressure with 1 watt of amplifier power at 1 meter from the speaker in a vacuum; no one listens to 1 watt amps and no one listens in a point is that the omni directional radiation pattern of the mbl radial speakers puts the sound pressure in room at a much higher level than conventional speakers can, hence their ease with dynamics and "live music" -esque presentation.

We have customers using the Rowland amps, both older and the ICE power amps, to good effect. We recommend 250 watts at 4 Ohms for the 121, 116, 111, and 300 watts or more at 4 Ohms for the 101.

The new mbl amp 9007 on display at the HEE show is a fully discrete diferentially balanced design...this is what accounts for it's large size, weight, price tag, and soundstage. It is the little brother to the massive 9011 and the 9008 amplifiers.

The MBLs deserve the reputation of sounding VERY life like. Dynamics are delivered in spades. MBLs have the most realistic soundstage I have heard to date. I can walk almost anywhere in my room and the relationship between the instruments changes very little. The speakers themselves just plain disapear!

MBLs (at least the 111Es) do NOT deserve the hard to drive tag they seem to have aquired. Jeremy is right, they do need an ample supply of current, which can be found in many quality amps like the Rowlands. My 111Es are much easier to drive than my Revel Salons and seem to be easier to drive than Wilson WP 7s.

To answer your question, the MBL speakers can make magic without MBL amps. I have proven that with my Berning tube mono block amps (140 watts a side but high current). I do not have much experiance with the MBL amps, but with what I did hear, I doubt that the Rowlands can match the MBLs in dynamics, especially with percussion instruments, but I am sure the Rowlands would give you a very musical experience that would be a little smoother on top and most enjoyable. I expect to have some MBL amps here to try soon and I will update my thoughts at that time.
To Jeremy:
I'm driving my MBL 111 with Pass Labs X-350, and considering changing to the new 350.5. Have you compared it to the new 9007s. The price difference is BIG, and I'm wondering if at all justified.
I am running 101E's with a Rowland 302 on top and a pair of 501"s on the bottom. I love the way they sound but have no way of knowing if they might sound better with the Cat L3's or the MBL 9011.
Dear Barrelchief: The MBL speakers are a great ones and their electronics, too.
I think that Vetterone put on target: +++++ " To answer your question, the MBL speakers can make magic without MBL amps. " +++++, and like Husk01 tell you: your Rowland will be fine.

Regards and enjoy the music.
After listening to the all MBL system at HE2005, if in the budget, I would keep it all MBL. Why change anything that can sound this terrific. The 116 speakers were absolutely more musical than any speaker I have auditioned in it's price range (in fact way above it's price range). It was in my opinion (and many others I spoke with) the best sounding music at the show. This was the only system I heard that demonstrated the dynamics and pace of live music. I tried numerous cd's I am intimately familiar with and I was simply amazed. I returned to this room 5 times and I never heard anything but great music (although I could pass on the Sheffield drums cd demo, who listens to this stuff in their home! Not me!). In all fairness I did not attend any of the Singer rooms as they seem to be more interested in their demo schedule than their customers (another opinion shared by many).
I appreciate everyone's input regrading the MBL speakers matching with my Rowland amp.

Having very little exposure to MBL, I now would like feedback on the sonic qualities of the MBL "Noble" amplifiers.

I have experienced solid state amps that (to my ears) offer very different sonic atributes.

For example, I will compare Krell to Rowland. Though at first the Krell FPB amps sounded impressive, to my ears, they eventually sounded sterile and ultimately fatiguing. Moving from Krell to Rowland brough in a lushy "warmer" rich midrange that really pulls me into the music.

Though Krell's bass "slam" was more powerful, Rowland goes just as low with lots of energy & offers a more "refined" sound that may not hit as hard, but is much more natural in its detail.

Another atribute that I like about Rowland's midrange is the presentation when listening to 70's/80's rock recordings that have a crappy recording quality. These were much harsher on the ears through the Krell the point that I could only enjoy them in the car.

Given that comparison, based on your experience, how would you describe the sound of MBL's amps?

Would the MBL amps lean towards a "warm" sound, like the Rowland amps?

How would they compare to the Rowland 302 in: frequency extension, quiet operation/self noise, speed, bass control & slam, etc?

Again, I appreciate whatever experience you can share.

I recently upgraded to MBL 7008 (int. amp in Noble line). I previously had McIntosh C46/MC402 and still have Chord components. I think the MBL amp is very, very good. I've found it to have a somewhat lush midrange, great slam and bottom end kick, very extended, somewhat analytical treble, high pace and rythm - it's definitely a high current design. It is dead silent and build quality is very high. I've been told that it would be a good match for the MBL 121 speaker, but if you go further up the MBL speaker chain, it would be best to go to the 8011 or above.
I currently am driving a full compliment of Mbl speakers with Chord Electronics equipment and I think they sound fantastic together on anything/everything I have thrown at them! I have 101E's on the front L&R, 111RC center channel and 121's on the rear surrounds. I have a Chord DSP 8000 7.1 processor, Chord PM 6000 mono-amps on the front L&R and two Chord SPM 1200c's for the center and surrounds. I was lucky enough to audition the MBL 9008's and new Pass Labs X350.5's at home in my actual system in place of the two Chord 6000's and they both also sounded very good, but I preferred the sound with all the Chord pieces working together. Please understand the Mbl and Pass Labs amps are extrememly good pieces also and I can't think of 1 negative thing to say about them based on the performance in my system! FYI, I rated the X350.5's next best followed by the Mbl 9008's. It is hard to put my finger on exactly why or what caused the Chord amps to sound better to me in my system/room but maybe it is because I am also using a Chord processor and/or the combo with the my Esoteric UX-1.? The Chord pieces are really pretty amazing though in my viewpoint as the 6000's seem to very easily throw out a clean and quiet 1500 w/channel at 4 ohms without even breating hard or getting very hot!

One thing I have found that you probably already know, is that you have to have some pretty serious power/current at 4 ohms to really let the Mbl's, especially the 101E's, perform up to their capability.
I own Rowland 201's and plan on using them on the mbl 111E's.
My friend is using the mbl 5011 pre with his 201's and it's spectacular drving his Avalons.
I just took delivery of the mbl 6010D pre and hope to ultimately get the 101E spks. when I do, I will first try using two sets of 201's in a bi-amp configuration on the 101E's. There should be more than enough power and the cost compated to the mbl 9006's is so much less.