I have heard it a couple of times powering the Vienna Acoustic Straus speakers and it sounded very good. Excellent sound, plenty of bass and a big soundstage.
38 responses Add your response
Sorry, forgot to add that the other option I am considering is a Bel Canto S300iu. Any opinions of it vs the Concerto would be welcomed.
And while I'm at it, has anyone successfully used an Apple TV's optical out with the S300iu's on board DAC? Does a toslink to USB converter cable exist?
The Capri has a much newer design than the pre in the concerto. In Capri JRDG applied some very high speed chips originally developed for the video industry. I had the Capri in my system last Monday and found it to be staggeringly musical and extended. . . my current linestage is the ARC Ref 3. The 102 and Capri can be also powered through the new JRDG PC1 Power Factor Correction module from which they are said to benefit significantly. I am not sure if the PC1 can be applied to the older Concerto. If I remember correctly, you would power the PC1+102+Capri conbo with a single PC into the PC1 and with JRDG-supplied ombelicals feeding the other two devices.
Hi Rkny, PFC stands for Power Factor Correction. It is a miniaturized form of the line conditioning technology apparently used by power utility companies to control voltage fluctuation at the source. Jeff Rowland has scaled it down for use in high end audio gear. I will write more about it once I bone up on the subject. . . . which is going to be fun because I am not an EE by any stretch.
Well PFC or no PFC, I went for a lightly used Rowland Capri. It just didn't make sense to lose money by selling the existing 102 amp.
Now then, while I await shipment of the Capri, can anyone enlighten me as to what sonic improvements I might enjoy with it? I'm not expecting a huge difference, but I really haven't auditioned the Capri. I just know I like the sound of the102, even as it was being preamped by an Arcam Solo (odd combo that it was).
It's interesting that there are audiophile glossaries on the web, but not much in the way of basic primers for budding enthusiasts. I Googled for ages looking for some simple pre-amp FAQs, or answers to basic questions like, what should a good pre-amp do to improve your sound? What differences should you be able to hear in a $1500 power amp vs. a $200 Best Buy closeout receiver? The best I could do was browse myriad discussion threads and look for sage-sounding advice.
Some of these audio manufacturers could probably sell a lot more gear if they spelled out, in not quite so technical, and in not such an assuming way, exactly why it is one should want their products over an old Sony dorm stereo.
Rkny, I have learned a little more about the Power Factor Correction device called PFC. Rather than feeding a 110V 60Hz AC signal, the PFC uses a microprocessor controlled circuit containing both inductors and capacitors to feed a PC1-compatible amplifier or preamplifier a 384V steady DC current. The current is then stepped down to approx 30v in the power supply of the amplifying device, and in turn is expected to facilitate a much smoother charging rate of capacitors in the circuit. In turns, smoothly charged capacitors are expected to contribute to reduce distortions and maximize reproduction of low level detail, etc. . . .
Interesting. Thanks. Will keep my eye out for it.
I got the Capri today. Paired with the 102, the sound is nothing short of magical. My sole source is an Apple TV with medium to high bitrate mp3s and AACs, and a smattering of Apple Lossless files. I can only imagine what it would sound like with a nice CD player (my CD days are over). The 102 combined with the Arcam Solo was nice, but the Capri is on a whole different level.
Karmapolice, the only direct comparison I had the opportunity to make is of the Capri with my own ARC Ref 3. See:
I realize this may not be terribly helpful. . . Unfortunately extrapolative comparisons in this hobby are a tricky business at best.
I'm not compressing music anymore. I started my digital music collection in 1998, when I didn't know any better. Much of the collection was from those dark days. And I stupidly sold off most of my CDs, so re-ripping is not an option.
On a side note, I experienced something odd today. I have the Apple TV hooked up to my TV via HDMI. I also run RCAs direct from the Apple TV to input 2 on my Capri. My TV is also connected to the Capri via RCA at input 1.
Apple TV simultaneously outputs sound via HDMI and RCA; this I knew. But by accident, after setting things up, I listened to a few tracks with the Capri set to input 1 (the TV). The sound was great. When I realized I was listening to the Apple TV via TV to Capri, I switched over to input 2 (Apple TV direct to Capri) and the sound was identical. No noise. No loss of signal. Identical. I A/B'd multiple times.
Does this mean the Apple TV's output is so bad that it doesn't matter what I pipe it through? Could the HDMI possibly render an identical signal as RCAs direct from the Apple TV? It seems so odd not to hear any difference, even after the signal has passed from an HDMI cable, thru a Samsung TV, out via cheapo Samung RCA ports, into the Capri with some lower end (but nice sounding) ICs.
Hi - I'm starting a system from scratch, was impressed with Rowland's equipment, and looking at a used Rowland Concerto without ever having heard one. Any thoughts on the Concerto? What speakers and interconnects do you like with Rowland - I've heard the Concerto is 'warm' and 'brite'. - Hope I'm not hi-jacking your topic here but any advise would be interesting. I'm probably looking in the used 3-4K range. I've heard some B&W 804s on other equipment that I thought I liked pretty well - also plan to check out Paradigm Signature S6. Rock/Jazz/Classical - soft to very loud.
I have heard the Concerto pre but not the integrated, and it is not at all too bright, at least on the Vienna Acoustics gear I listened it on. . . but yest it did have just a hint of warmth. But for just about the same investment, why not get a pair of used 201 monos and a Capri? Both of these are compatible with the external PC1 device that you can add at a later time. It seems Vienna Acoustics speakers work particularly well with Rowland. I would suggest the Beethoven Baby Grands or the larger Beethoven Grands with either the 201 monos or the Concerto.
Thanks for the tip. I'll try to check out the Vienna Acoustics.
I'm getting the Concerto integrated for $3200. On Audiogon, there's a pair of 201 mono's that just went for $2795. There's a Capri pre-amp up for $2200. $3200 << $4995
Could have gotten a Capri with two 102's for $3300 - but I wanted the 250 watts/channel.
I would have prefered separates I think for flexibility (e.g. perhaps might want to upgrade pre-amp at some point) and the Capri is their latest pre-amp. I've heard the Concerto Integrated is discontinued right now and a new Capri integrated is coming out in April. I've actually talked to Jeff Rowland about whether the integrated would have any different performance than the separates and his answer was more or less - not really.
Capri vs Concerto pre-amp - I'm not sure. There's always the next thing coming out so if your buying used, you're not going to always end up with the latest thing if your hunting for a bargin (whatever that means in this hobby). I'll probably never get a chance to compare them, but I'm really excited to see what this amp does.
BTW - I'm amazed that the owner of the company takes the time to talk on the phone to some no one (me) who sent an email with some questions. I felt almost guilty taking his time.
Relative to power factor - What a watt meter (like the one on your house) will determine your power usage to be is the sum over time of Volts X Amps X cosine(Phase difference between Voltage and Current); were cos(Phase Difference) is the 'power factor'. A load who's voltage and current are in phase has a power factor of 1.0. If your load causes voltage and current to be 90 degrees out of phase, the power factor is 0, a watt meter detects 0 watts, and you get your power for free. A resistive load has a power factor of 1.0. For inductive loads, the current lags the voltage (+phase) and for capacitive loads, the current leads the voltage (-phase).
The power company generally charges customers with bad power factors a premium for their power because the meter reading is not going to reflect the power they are actually using. You can correct the power factor on an inductive load by adding capacitance or on a capacitive load by adding inductance.
None of this really makes much of a difference relative to the device that Rowland is making since an amplifier is not going to have enough of a capacitive load to affect the power factor of your house's power draw - which is mostly resistive (light bulbs, toasters, and heaters are resistors).
The device you describe that converts AC power to DC power will convert the amplifier's load into a resistive load and as such it does correct any power factor that the amplifier may have been presenting to the power company - which maybe why Roland calls it a PFC. However, I think you are also correct that the benefit here is that the amplifier is getting DC power input such that the power supply does not have to filter a half-wave rectified sinusoid to feed its capacitors and has voltage/current to charge the capacitors all the time (rather than only about 1/2 the AC cycle). I would think this should improve 60 Hz ripple noise within the power system and consequently, perhaps reduce the noise floor in the pre-amp and power amp sections. My guess is that it their PFC should work on any of their equipment, but that remains for them to indicate.
The real questions here are - what does it cost and how much better does it make things sound. I don't have any information.
Thank you Ric982 for the additional info on PFC. The PC1 PFC device from JRDG retails for $1500. The 201, 501, 102, Capri, and the new Continuum 250 integrated are pre-wired to accept the PC1. the 301 monos, 302, 312, Continuum 500 integrated already have PFC built in. I am not sure if PC1 can be applied to the Concerto. . perhaps you can ask Jeff on Monday and post the answer here?
Clip from a Soundbytes Newsletter on CES (Winter/2008? - sounds like already happened in the review so maybe last Winter):
JEFF ROWLAND: Several new goodies here; first up, the new Continuum integrated amplifier. The new design will be available in two versions, one with 250 watts per channel (at 8 Ohms), the other pushing 500 watts a side (both double into 4 Ohms). Built into the larger amp will be Jeffs new PC-1 line conditioner (see below). Both models ought to be fantastic - were impatiently awaiting their arrival. Prices will be $7995 and $9995 respectively.
Long awaited and finally a reality, Rowlands new upscale preamplifier, the Criterion, was debuted. The two chassis stunner offers four balanced and two single ended inputs. Outputs include both balanced and RCA connections. The Criterion features battery power with an internal, self charging NiMh pack. Rowland gear is known for its total absence of background noise, but the battery power on the Criterion pushes the signal to noise ratio into oblivion with a quoted rating of >100dB. Channel separation is an astonishing >100dB. Estimated price is $18k with an anticipated release in February.
Looking to compete in a new area, Jeff introduced the PC-1 line conditioner, designed exclusively for use with Rowland products (Capri, Continuum Integrated, Model 102, Model 201 and Model 501). What sets this unit apart from the competition (in an admittedly crowed field) is power factor correction (PFC).
PFC explained in brief: In an ideal world, an audio component would present a purely resistive load where the current and voltage are in synch. In practice, audio gear presents a more complex load where the voltage and current dont follow one another and are therefore considered reactive (inductive or capacitive). The more complex the load, the worse the devices power factor will be. In the most simple terms, PFC is a way to correct for differences (bring into synch) the voltage and current waveforms. Jeff tells me that the sonic benefit of PFC emulates the performance advantages of battery power.
Frankly the details of this design philosophy are a bit over my head, so I wont attempt a complete explanation, leaving the more technically minded among you to research on your own. I will however, be happy to report what my ears tell me when our unit arrives. PFC-1 $1200
I have asked JRDG about compatibility of the PC1 with the Concerto integrated amp. While out of the box the Concerto is not compatible with the PC1 because it is preset for 110V operation, it can be switched to 220V operations by changing the position of 2 internal jumpers and replacing 1 fuse. After this change the Concerto will accept the PC1, but can no longer be fed 110V AC until the voltage change is reversed. According to Jeff, Concerto will benefit from PC1. I suggest that anyone interested in matching the Concerto and the PC1 consult JRDG directly at (719) 473-1181 before attempting the input voltage modification. G.
Guido, I'm hanging on to hear the new integrated replacement for the Concerto. It's like a Capri plus 501s in one box, then I could add the PC1 in front of it.
Our man Rod will get all that together for audition in the near future me thinks.
BTW, are you still enjoying that speaker set? Rod seemed very pleased with how it turned out.
Dave, me man. . . you's talkin' 'bout the Continuum 500, which has PFC circuit built right into it. PC1's needed only for li'le brother Continuum 250. Not sure if Continuum integrated have the circuit of the Capri inside, or a derivative design. Rod at Soundings might receive a unit in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, my Mahlers after the Master Set sound tremendous.
Yeah, as soon as Rod gets his Continuum burned in I'll take it for a loaner-Sunday outing.
I'm also looking forward to hearing the Vienna Acoustic Reference before the year's out. Hopefully that'll be a success, but, if not, the Mahlers will still be there for my next upgrade (after I move into a larger space).
03-26-08: Guidocorona said:
By the way, I spoke to JRDG today. . . they confirm that the Continuum 250 and 500 have just started to ship..."
and I thought my wallet was going to have a rest. :-)
Hopefully I'll have a stout 1st quarter bonus...more POWER...
I need to wangle a factory tour out of this. After all, they're only about 40-miles away.
RKny and Pinkus, I will leave the PC1 on the Capri at least until the end of next week. Then I will take it out and will repeat listening of some key tracks. For the time being my observations are still tentative and, and need to be validated with more rigor, because they also involved an amp change, and the tracks I played were not the same.
On configuration A, consisting of X-01 Limited, Rowland 312, Mahler v1.5 I listened for a fiew hours ARC Ref 3 and pure Capri. Capri appeared to yield a somewhat more defined harmonic content, extension and overall authority than Ref 3, at the cost of perhaps an almost umperceptible excess of energy in the mid lower bass (plucked double bass).
On configuration B, consisting of X-01 Limited, Nuforce Ref 9 V2, Mahler v1.5, I used a CD of Monteverdi madrigals with 2 female mezzo sopranos, countertenor and positif organ to listen to Ref 3 and Capri+PC1. Findings are similar to configuration A, except that I would replace the term 'somewhat' with 'unmistakable'.
Or in other words, I perceived a greater delta in favor of Capri when PC1 was included.
Please note that my observation are purely relative at this point, I am not at all implying that I preferred the sound of configuration B over configuration A; only that -- according to my initial very unscientific observations -- Capri+PC1 may be affecting my own system positively to a greater extent than Capri by itself.
Good stuff Guido. Ultimately you'll need to explore the Continuum vs. the 312/Capri setup. Hopefully I'll be able to do that for myself very soon.
I've now heard the Capri driving Mahlers through a 312 and the DALI Helicon 400.Mk2 through the 501s. It's a stunningly open, transparent and smooth preamp in those applications. In neither case did we have a PC1 in the loop. Still, it's wonderful to hear your comparison to a reference like the Ref 3.
The DALI in particular could be hard on a preamp, given its very extended top end. You really hear the fingers on strings and breath-taking of singers and any edge on a voice or instrument with the DALIs. (The tweeter module has both a ribbon and dome drivers). Never was I uncomfortable with any material, even played at pretty high levels. With the Capri I heard these high extensions as delicacy, not hardness.
All, I am now feeding the JRDG Capri a steady diet of 384V DC through the JRDG PC1 PFC unit with very intriguing initial results. I have just started a new didicated thread if anyone were interested. . .
If anyone were interested in some of my latest a/b comparison between JRDG Capri and ARC Ref 3, see:
Please note that in the end, after several hundreds hrs of breakin, I do prefer Capri fed directly from AC through a Shunyata Anaconda Helix Alpha. . . sans PC1 that is. In my opinion PC1 should be used only for certain JRDG amps, and not on Capri pre.