Of Rowland's current amps, the 201/501 use the ICE amplification circuit and are primarily aimed at home theater and entry-level two channel. At $4k and $7k retail per monoblock pair, they are budget components by traditional Rowland standards. The 300 series also uses the ICE circuit, but is backed by a beefy analog power supply and features the very high parts quality and sophisticated sound one can expect for their retail prices of $15k (302 stereo amp) and $30k monobock pair (301 monos).
Of classic Rowland, the Models 2/6 and 8ti/9ti were very expensive amps featuring super high parts quality and useful and/or innovative features like battery power supplies, input transformers, switchable input impedence and fully differential balanced circuits. They are built like tanks and are very competitive with the current 300 series, just slightly different sounding (they sound remarkably similar to a good tube amp in the midrange). The Model 10/12 are also excellent amps and extremely well built with innovative features (they use switching power supplies that can be retrofitted to the 8ti/9ti), but a bit leaner in the mids as compared to the 6/8ti/9ti.
The amps prior to 1995 (Model 3 and 5) are very well built, but a bit too ripe in the midrange and rolled off in the highs for my tastes. I owned the Model 6 monos with battery power supplies. They are supurb amps that I regret selling (so much so that I may buy them again).
I own a Model 2 with the matching BPS. I've threatened to sell it, but then I hook it up & it just sounds very, very good.
I've heard the new ICE based amps. None of them sound any better than my Model 2.
I've seen Model 2s here for around $2K. If 150 watts into 4 ohms is enough for you, I'd try one.
I own a pair of 201s and have compared the 501s at home. Both sound similar -- tonally well balance with good freq extension, quick and very musical. Although small in size these amps are built solid and look very attractive. They are designed to be left on 24/7 (little current draw) and run very effeciently. I haven't heard the older model JR amps.
Wadia 861>>JR 201s>>B&W804 Spk.
As for the old ones......I would go with the 3s. Not as "rolled off in the highs" as the 5s and 7s are. I mainly prefer it because of the output transistors. And they run cooler.
I won't comment on the ICEpower ones. Some use the ASP series, which has a SMPS on the amp module. Some use a separate SMPS. Vicor, I believe. Not that should matter much to the consumer what the brand is.
i haven't heard the newest rowland amps, but i have m-12's that sounded very similar to my ears like the pass aleph series (with less heat and weight, and able to handle higher speaker loads): (almost) tube sound without the tubes- i personally couldn't ask for much more than that. plus, rowland has undergone some unusual (somewhat rapid) changes in their product lines since the m-12 was discontined. and,
i still have a rowland consumate preamp which has 200 VOLUME STEPS and sounds incredible. the built-in phono sounds good and is QUIET even for moving coil settings. so, in conclusion, i'm (very) happy they have a proud history of making some very good-sounding solid-state. and, i just don't have the overwhelming urge to go out and get a synergy or a 302.
Had my model 8 with the original power supply ( choke) for many years. It's built like a tank and sounds much smoother than some of the newer models IMHO. I have compared choke vs. dual mono supply version and again prefer the choke version. If you can hear one I think you will hear what I mean.
Daveyf,my pal has the single chassis 8t,and I went for the dual chassis 8t,with the battery power supply.I assume you are referring to the single chassis,non switch mode PS,when you infer the orig is superior,to your ears.
I had my battery updated a year or so ago,to the switch mode power supply,which now replaces the battery.Originally,though the battery was quieter,the non battery model,my friend has,was a better performer,in dynamics,and very close in noise floor.Although I liked my model,his was actually the overall better unit,and damn quiet too!To me,the orig battery model,as compared to the higher powered regular model,was not really worth the extra cost.
Yet with the addition of the new switch mode power supply,in my second chassis,the tables,to me,are turned,and BIG TIME!!I,and my friend have identical set-ups,except I run Avalons,and he,Kharma.My Two chassis model(with the new PS)is better at extracting subtle inner voicings,something the stock unit is great at,but not in the class of the two chassis unit,as of now.Thank goodness,as I spent "bucks" for it.The new modded version,I now have is overall capable of blacker backgrounds,and sounds very neutral.To me,with the conversion of A/C to D/C,it is SO neutral,that I cannot detect any transistor/tube colorations,at all.BTW---I try "really hard" to detect any anomolies,like this,yet nothing to indicate any component signature.Now THAT is a good thing!!
sirspeedy, the model I have is the original model 8 with the choke power supply( single chassis).
I have heard the switch mode power supply and still prefer the choke. Jeff once told me that the choke was in his opinion the way to go, but that he had to change it due to the far east market complaining of hum. (Which I do not have any problems with in the US.) I also heard the battery power supply version,and it too seemed to be lacking in dynamics compared to my choke version.
Davey,your one chasis version is a superb amp,as my friend has it.My amp,as I've explained,is the original 8t circuitry,with the second chasis acting as the switch mode.I really don't know about the newer amps,and the ICE units within,but as per two conversations with Jeff Rowland,he stated to me that this configuration(my two chasis model,as upgraded to Switch mode)had 3 advantages,over the single chasis model,and was "logically superior",as it should be.First,the PS is isolated on a separate chasis,a good thing.Second there is NO filtering,due to the switch mode's usage.Thirdly,the A/C coming out of the line is converted to pure D/C,for quieter operation.These are Jeff's words,to me.Believe me,my friend's one chasis unit is superb,but you cannot convince me that I was originally duped into paying so much more for the two chasis model.That was actually the case as compared to the orig battery,which was quiet,yet rather WIMPY.This new version,of 8t circuitry,coupled with the second chasis acting as the external Switch mode PS,is a whole different ballgame.Better frequency extremes,and a much better sense of dynamics,as compared to the battery.Also,it seems STILL quieter than the original battery.That being said,and to be honest,I'd have gone with the single chasis unit,if I'd have known that it was actually superior to the ORIGINAL battery unit.It was,and IS,THAT GOOD!Best regards!
Well, I can not speak for Jeff, but YES! If you can tolerate the weight, the mechanical hum (damn hard to get rid of it), not to mention that you can't place it near the anlog front-end (electrical hum), then I would concur that choke inputs are better.
Lots of reasons.
One, current peaks on the transformer are much lower. This helps to reduce gabage created by the recitifiers switching on and off.
Two, it adds ripple reduction. Back when all we had was tube amps, with wimpy little filter caps, we had to use choke input supplies. Somehow, things still managed to sound good. Right?
Yeah, I know.....only two reasons. Yes, but. There are sublte interactions between transformer VA rating and core utilisation, peak charging curents, filter cap size and ESR/ESL, that can not be easily explained. (Trust me, ok?) You could spend a lifetime building amps, and not be able to explain or predict how it all works.
Anyway, the Far East market is very demanding. If Jeff said that his agents there kvetched about hum, then I would take that as gospel.
As for batteries:
I know it sounds counter-intuitive, but batteries sound noisy. I realise in many circles that is the hot mod of choice, but listen to one long enough, and you will concur. Sure, no 120 Hz ripple, but that may be its only advantage.
I believe the SMPS that Jeff uses employs a technique called "power factor correction". To the user, how it actually works should not be important. What should be important is that it should reduce noise generated in the AC/DC process.
Ar t, that's a good description of the differnces between choke and other power supplies. Oddly, I am not bothered by the weight, of course it helps that my brother helps me lift the darn thing.
Regarding the hum, I have always taken care to support the amp on a good amp stand( zoethecus) and to make sure that it is not close to any analog devices. Also, I know that if i.e. a low powered halogen is on in the house that that will be a major source of hum.
The top plate mod is a very good mod for this amp though, because the choke seems to need an extreemly rigid chassis.
sirspeedy, in truth, I have not heard your version of the amp( only the single chassis version, which as I stated above, the choke is better IMHO) I would think that a dual chassis design with power supply in seperate chassis would be beneficial.
Have you A/B'ed your current amp against the single chassis choke of your friend.Does he have top-plate mod, because if not he should be recommended to get it.
Have any of you guys ever compared something like the 8T or 9T to a current Krell cx amp?
I should qualify my question: Looking at the used market, I have found myself drawn towards larger amps in the 4-5K price range. I want a high current delivery stereo amp, and the only other requirement for me is the ability to turn it on and off remotely via a trigger because of my installation. Currently I am using Legacy Focus 20/20 speakers that seem to thrive on current and the 8t appears to fit that criteria, along with the Krell FBP-300CX and 400CX, and also Levinson and perhaps Pass Labs amps.
Unfortunately I just cannot audition most of these amps, especially the older Rowland amps, so it becomes a bit of a guessing game, and a high dollar one at that.
I have never heard the 8t, that is why I asked the question above.