Question for Rowland aficionados

I've been playing with an old Rowland Model One. In my system, it sounds dark and closed in on top, a bit grainy, but it also reproduces the most extraordinary intrumental tone, so lifelike that it oftens fools me in the "that sounds just like a real saxophone" way. My Pass 150 never does this, nor does my CJ 11a (to the same extent that the Rowland does). This could be just great system synergy that's going on, but I'm betting it's a characteristic of the Rowland.

So here's my question: is this a quality of other Rowland amps? As the line has evolved since the Model One, how has the sound changed? I want that lifelike tone with, of course, a bit more extension on top and so forth.

I might as well also ask: which other amplifiers (other brands) do you think can deliver this uncanny lifelike quality?

Ag insider logo xs@2xdrubin
For several years I had a Model 1 and thought it was a wonderful amp, but I then auditioned a Pass Aleph 5 and suddenly the Rowland wasn't so satisfying. To some extent it's just a question of personal taste. The Rowland is a very good product, particularly at it's current used price (around $1,100). What you describe as instrumental tone I would describe as a coloration. For some types of music it's very, very positive and for others it's a slightly veiling of the sound. To the amp' s credit I never thought of this characteristic as amusical. By comparison the Pass offered a far clearer picture of the music with much less of a sonic signature. At the time I used the Model 1 with Monitor Audio Studio 20s, Rowland Coherence II (the original) and the Well Tempered TT.

I'm currently using a Rowland Concentra (version 1) and a Model 112. They are much less closed in sounding at the top than the Model 1 and are far less grainy, but at the same time they don't have the clarity of the Pass Aleph. I'd characterize them as richer sounding than the Pass, but they don't go so far that I would call it a coloration. Again, this type of characterization is heavily dependent on a person's sonic taste.
Thanks, great response Onhwy61. Not sure I would agree with your conclusion that what I like about the Model One is a coloration, but I do agree that other amps are clearer sounding. Funny, I owned an Aleph 5 for a few years, but not with most of my current system.
This brings up the great debate: Does one piece of electronics produce more of the musical reality? Or, is this just an enrichment of fatter-sounding harmonics, or some type of additive, that lead our ears to hear it was more real?

A tough question, and one that probably can't be answered definitively. In my own audiophile quest, I don't care any more. If it sounds more like music to me, even if it is added harmonics, etc. ---- I'll take it.

No electronic piece reproduces accuracy. They all miss the mark and have their individual sonic thumbprint. If a piece of electronics makes 90% of my music collection sound more real, involves me in the music more, that is the litmus test for me.
I am a fan of Rowland stuff. Currently using a pair of Model 3 monos, and a Consonance preamp in my system. Yes it sounds very natural, a Rowland signature. It may not jump out at you like some other amps would at first impression but it's a sound that will only grow on you. I belong to a local audio society and have many opportunities to listen to other "very expensive" systems, but always have found that I much prefer the naturalness of my system. If you like to listen to music rather than sounds, you can't go wrong with Rowland. Another thing, they have excellent service. I sent it my preamp when it has a minor problem (I bought it used) and Jeff Rowland worked on it himself. He even spent time trouble-shooting with me on the phone, and when it was in for service, upgraded it to current specs for a very minimal charge. Great folks to deal with.
Maybe I can ask this question without hijacking Drubin's thread(!) :-

Re. the new Model 201 monos: are they class-D power amps?? They are very light for 250W/ch! Plus, I don't see much heat-sinking fins on the chassis.

Has any one of you JRDG aficionados heard the Model 201 &/or the Model 302?? How do they sound compared to some of the other models. BTW, I have just a little experience with the Model 10. Thanks!
Just a quick update: I searched these archives & found some info on the 302 & 201. I should have done that 1st before posting. Sorry!
However, if anyone has any new updates on these 2 new models, I'd be interested in reading them. Thanks!
I am using a Concentra II as phono and preamp with a pair of the 201 amps. Relative to my Concentra alone, this is much faster, more dynamic and quiet. My wife says it sounds livelier.
There is no heat sink anywhere. They weigh only 13 lbs. apiece and they never get warmer than body temperature.
Mine are still breaking in as I've only had them about 10 days and rumor has it that they don't come into their own for about 500 hrs, of use.
I would encourage anyone who is curious to investigate these new amps. They appear to be a groundbreaking design.
Am I right that the Concentra II's power amp section is very similar to a Model 112? Can you say more about how the Concentra and 201's differ? Thanks.
I believe the Concentra I was based on the Model 2 and you are correct that the Concentra II was adapted from the 112.Both units owe a lot to the Synergy preamp as well although I read on Rowland's site that some of the Synergy upgrades were first developed for the Concentras.
Don't let anyone kid you........there is no integrated that comes close.

The Model 201 is derived from the 302 using a module developed by European students under the direction of Bang and Olufsen. Beyond that all I know is that Jeff told me his digital has an analog front end and is utterly different from any other digital design. I use my 201s with Goldmund Dialogue speakers which are a 4 ohm load with 96 db efficiency so I'm sure that I don't work them very hard. If you are familiar with the Concentra, you know that the chassis gets very warm during normal operation. I have my cute little monos on the floor behind my speakers and I keep towels over them to protect them from dog and kids and vacuum and the like. Even under towels they don't get warm.
If you want sound comparisons I don't feel I know how to do that. The 201 seems much more open, has a much quieter background and suggests effortless speed and phenomenal articulation. Every voice in harmony can be isolated by the listener. Wooden sounds are more realistic. Cymbals ring longer. Bass is more defined, snarling, growling, reverberating. There is overall less sense of an equipment presence. I thought my Concentra was as good as it gets; now I'm pestering Jeff to create a preamp as good as the 201.
If you are considering the upgrade, just jump in with both feet. You won't regret it.

Thanks for the insightful post! You've whetted my appetite for more info!

Can you please tell us:
(1) which module the European students designed under B&O's direction?? &

can you please elaborate on:
"that Jeff told me his digital has an analog front end and is utterly different from any other digital design".

This statement from you seems to indicate that the 201 is a class-D/digital amp?

Its the ICE power unit as i recall...

i saw one at the B&O store over the weekend...about the size of a cigarette pack
Jeff Rowland doesn't say much. What I told you is all I could get out of him and I'm not altogether certain I repeated what he told me with unfailing accuracy. The amps are a wonder, however. On that point I can be very clear.
You might try calling the factory and asking some questions yourself if you are sufficiently intrigued. Rich Maez can probably answer your questions and if he is stumped, Jeff may well jump in.
I can also tell you that Rowland delivers the goods and avoids the whole hype and review circus that so taints our hobby. Over the years I have come to believe he is among a handful of the most innovative manufacturer/designers.
His products stand the test of time and throughout the rest of the world, he is considered to be a genius or a god. Only in the U.S. does he struggle for an audience.
I don't have any idea about what you saw but I believe you must be correct concerning the size of the power supply. Nothing much larger could be contained in these chassis.
Someday I may be overcome by curiosity enough to open one of my amps to see what's in it. Right now I just play records and shake my head in awe. You will too if you take the plunge.

I wonder if your amp may need rebiasing? I have a Model One as well, and I hear no grain whatsoever. Due to the minimum age of the unit, I would contact Rich @ Rowland and see what he thinks. He has been timely, helpful and friendly in all dealings I've had with him.

I am so pleased with the Model One that if/when I do make a move, it could only be up the Rowland line. I've heard much more expensive amps fail to produce music like this one. Best of luck.

Happy Holidays.
I realize I'm a little off topic... but to answer the question "what's in the box" of the Model 201, the answer is, the ICEpower 500ASP. This module has the digital amp and switch-mode power supply integrated on the same circuit board. There is also a small circuit board by Rowland which has the surface mount XLR input, jumper for gain selection, leads for the lamp and 12v trigger, line level input transformer, and a bunch of miniature components (resistors etc.). The Rowland board then feeds the inputs of the 500ASP. For more info on ICEpower follow this link:
Interesting. Sounds like JRDG took the ICE engine, dressed it up Rowland style, and that's about it. Not much added value. Am I right?

Which other manufacturers are using the ICE modules?
Other manufacturers using the ICEpower modules include Acoustic Reality in their eAR amps. Others have tried them and chose to go discrete... Tkheem has shed some light on what's in the Rowlands...the 302 and others in the 300 series also use the ICEpower modules.

Interesting site for ICEpower. Someone else has pointed me toward the B&O Beolab 5, a very intriguing speaker. B&O has always been innovative but they are suddenly looking very cutting edge.
The 201 is a wonderful amplifier as you will eventually come to realize. I was not aware of what was in the 201 until Tkheem revealed it but I had heard it was Danish.

Drubin, I would not dismiss these amps too readily but I suppose someone else may be selling the same module in a different package for less. What have you found?
OK Why only XLR inputs and no RCAs what do I do with my RCA only preamp?

You use RCA to XLR adapters. Rowland sells them, Cardas, etc. Rowland claims no sonic penalty for going RCA via adapters vs. going balanced XLR, but who knows?
I have been into hifi for 40 years and have not enjoyed it, truly, as much since I have heard (and purchased) Jeff Rowland gear.   
I can't ever see myself replacing my Rowland gear: 625 S2 amp, Corus preamp, Aeris DAC.
Rumor has it Model 7 mono and Model 5 stereo are great, same "character" as Model 1 but better all the way.

Macrojak....I think the Ayre integrated units are not only excellent but at the top rung of what is available.