Rowlands vs. Levinson Amps.

I was wondering if anyone has some experience on this subject. Rowlands new 501 monoamp vs. ML 436 ?

I also would like to know how JRD's new ICE module based designed amps sound compared to high quality tube amps like CAT JL-2, c-j Premier 140, Cary V12R or Quicksilver triodes (these amps are on my audition list).

I may not be of help here, since my experience have been with the older Rowland amps and ML (1, 2, 8 and 23.5, 27, 20.5 respectively), but anyway... hope it helps.

Rowland amps were more polite and excelent reproducing midrange (voices and string instruments for example), great construction and POO.

Levinson amps were more dynamic and gutsy, also very musical but more "crude" than the forgiving JRDG amps.

Both great chioces.


I currently own the Rowland 201's. They are great amps and for the price a downright steal. Prior to these amps I had a pair of Levinson 33H's. I have heard other Levinson amps as well. I find the Rowland to be slightly tilted to the yin side as HP would say. They tend to tip the scale a bit to the high end side. Their bass is not shabby but to my ears not in the same league as the Levinson amps that I have heard. Rowland amps are much quieter, and tend to resolve inner detail a bit better. I feel the Levinsons are a bit darker and dare I say warmer sounding. Both amps benifit from experimenting with cables so YMMV with different cables.
Both amps soundstage like champions. I could pick no clearcut winner here. The rowlands are lighter and run cooler which is a HUGE plus in South Georgia. With the Levinson gear listening in the summer was downright brutal. As far as Rowlands VS Top tier Tube electronics. I feel JRDG amps can hold their own against any amp out there. Will it be what you want?? who knows?? If you are looking for a Solid state amp that sounds like tubes look elsewhere. If you a looking for an amp that is dead quiet, produces little or no heat, and sounds like a top flight amp then look no further. I am amazed at the sound quality produced by my 201's. I was very sad when I had to sell my prior rig. But the 201's have helped me get over my last system.

Hope this helps,

The Rowlands are ICE based amps. Done right, ICE can sound like the better part of tubes. Having a digital switching power supply, as does the 201, is the wrong way to go about it, IMHO.

For the same money, you can get the best of the Rowland's ICE competitor, the H2O Signature. Unlike the Rowland, H2O amps have the biggest analog power supply to be found on class D amps.

Due to it's analog power supply, the H2O has great energy reserves, depth, body, and smoothness.
Duh! POO = Pride Of Ownership. Yes I have dusted my Rowland 6 mono's more often then any ML 331-336 I owned as I am still in awe over the machined sculpted eye candy construction.
Hey Johnny M. I just checked out your system. My how the mighty have fallen---Didn't see no toobs'.--Still got my 5's.(4 years latter)---You really need the aggravation that only tubes can bring.(Ask me).
One of my audiophile friend has 501 as well as VTL 450 & Classe CA-401 (recently sold). Speakers are Avalon Eidolon, front ends are top notch.

No contest, tube rules, by a big margin especially on classical music. Almost like between digital and analog, he does not use his Rowland for classical music at all. Classe has better bass and comparable quality for the rest of freq spectrum.

There are still lots of life for traditional solid state amp as far as I can "hear". Pass, Edge, Plinius come to mind and they are all very fine.
Semi, The 501, and the 201 Rowlands are much the same amp, with the 501 suitable for heavier loads. According to several owner reports, the two versions sound similar.

The Rowland 300 series amps are of a different cloth. They are a good jump in sonics. Regrettably, they are expensive.

Interesting thing about those amps you mention (Classe, Plinius, VTL, Pass), some owners of these same amps have happily replaced them with H2O amps.

It's analog power supply sets the H2O apart from the Rowland 201, and 501.
levinson's sound crude?! a pioneer receiver might sound "crude", altho' some would argue over that too....
ANYWAY, years ago, there was a difference between the two manufacturers-levinson was crisp and revealing/rowland was "softer". but now, i feel that rowlands are more dynamic than ever and levinsons are more musical than ever. that for me means- which amp do you think looks better/runs cooler/costs less/is a better match for your speakers, etc. either way they're about as transparent as it gets. or you could get a good tube amp and give it the tlc it needs, if that issue should arise, which it might not for 3-5 yrs. i heard a vtl amp recently with careful matching of everything, and it really made me want to get, at the very least, a good tube amp to experiment with.
Muralman1, you state:

"Having a digital switching power supply ... is the wrong way to go about it, IMHO"

What are the technical and performance reasons for your belief?
Man this thread has gotten way off the track! I've heard both Rowland and Levinson amps. You don't have a bad choice here. A freind owned an all Rowland system (pre w/monoamps) and his system was easily one of the best I've heard. The looks of the front panal are killer too. I own Levinson 436s and they sound exceptional also. I never brought my amps over to my friends house buy I did bring my #32 to place in his system when I was thinking of buying it, and there were differences, but more like your favorite flavor of ice cream.
As for solid state vs. tube, I do like the sound of the many tube amps and preamps I've heard, (mostly CJ and Audio Research) but I've witnessed first hand several tube amps self destruct: (tubes arcing, capacitors blowing) and be away for service for months . . . besides the fact that one never knows if those tubes functioning properly or slowly fading away. For these reasons, I give solid state the nod!
I demoed the 201s a few days ago, and again today, since I desperately wanted to like them- their small size and weight are a HUGE plus factor for me. I guess I'm becoming a tube fan, and I enjoyed listening to music much more from the Quad II-45s that the dealer put on afterwards. The Rowlands seemed cold and clinical, not life-like and moving.

I heard a pair of Mark Levinson no.20 monoblock power amplifiers recently, and loved the authority, dynamics and bass resolution which they brought to Norah Jones and Alicia Keys (I didn't like these discs with the Rowlands at all). The used pair was already sold, so I'm still looking for the SS amp for me...
I demoed a Gryphon Callisto 2200 (maybe unfair comparison, as an integrated) last week, but also found it uninviting and fairly standard-sounding. It might have been the setup, but the Cello Encore 50 monoblocks sounded more refined and slightly sweeter in their place, although lacking a little bit of power. Funny, since I thought the Callisto sounded quite full a couple months ago when compared to a Rotel-1090, I think my ears may have changed since being turned on to tube amps.
What setup surrounded the Callisto? - My findings differ a little from yours since the 2200 is almost a updated S100 power amp.
That's a good question, Flg2001. I can't remember, since I tested so many systems last week. I believe there was quite an expensive solid state preamp, a midrange standalone CD player, and Wilson Watt Puppy 5.1 speakers.
You might want to consider comparing the 300 series Rowlands with the 436, not the 501s. I've owned a Rowland 302 for well over a year (actually quite a long time for me to be just satisfied with something in the audio world), and I honestly don't imagine ever upgrading it. For me, that's saying a lot!
Can we throw Pass x.5 series into the mix here? I am a big fan of tubes, but only in the preamp I've had too much down time from the big power tubes in my history! The current Stereophile has a quickie review of the Levinson 431. I want something with loads of speed and impact, but sweet on top. I'm running Nautilus 803s which run a little bright. Is H2O the ticket here?

Has anyone read the 6Moons review on the H2O Signature that is up now? Hold your wallet until you do.
No one yet seems to have been able to compare the sound of H2O with the Rowland 301 or even 302.
Scarcity, I would think, have kept the two apart. The 300 Rowland series are seriously expensive. There are few of them about. There are even fewer H2O Signatures around. I, for one, would be very happy to pit my H2O Signatures against any Rowland.

On my Scintillas, the H2O sounds closer to real than with any other system I've heard.

BTW I don't mind the spartan appearance. I use to place record album covers over the big blue eyes of my X600.