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REVIEW: Jeff Rowland Model 10 Amplifier (SS)

Model: Model 10
Category: Amplifier (SS)
Suggested Retail Price: $7500
Description: 150W Solid State Amp
Manufacturer URL: Jeff Rowland
Model Picture: View

Review by Sala (A) on December 21, 2002 at 19:03:50
IP Address: 192.169.41.42
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Hi guys. I have been going through a round of upgrades to my amplification over the past six months and maybe its time for me to give a review for the benefit of all. I should mention that the first component I changed was actually my pre-amp. It used to be the CJ Premier 14. Although it was a fine pre-amp, I wanted to go for balanced operation (CJ does not quite agree with balanced operation, as do some of the inmates as I have noticed.... lets not go into that please). I actually home auditioned the Rowland Synergy 2s and the BAT VK 40SE against the CJ (both demo amps running balanced of course). I don't want to go into details as it was the first of my upgrades and I can't remember the details very well. Suffice to say, between the BAT and the CJ, I was likely to keep the CJ on account of musicality. I should also mention that the BAT seemed to lack air and was rather dark sounding IMHO. It also seemed to lack drive and energy. Maybe I got a lemon, I don't know, maybe bad system matching. I'm sure its a good pre in many systems. The Rowland synergy 2s were something else. These amps majored on transparency and musicality. These are Jeff Rowland suits, I was to learn over the course of my auditions. It also had that certain magic in the mid-range (the CJ had it to) that is hard to define. The bass was also well defined and extended. It was just a bit slower in pace compared to the CJ but even my PRAT devotee brother (a naimee) liked it. Needless to say, I grabbed it.

Now to the component I wish to review, the Rowland Model 10s, an amp that is in the middle of their present product line (300 series only just released), between the model 112 and model 12s. A 150 watter, it seemed the natural choice to replace my bryston 7b-st monoblocks, now that I had the rowland pre. I wasn't totally unhappy with my present combi of bryston amp and rowland pre. The 7Bs controlled my speakers excellently and gave the kind of slam I craved. However, the 7Bs had always imparted a hard sheen to the upper midrange and above. This led to vocals not being totally natural and the highs to be a bit bright. I was looking for an amp that could give me the grip and slam of the 7Bs while also providing the smoothness and musicality I needed in the midrange.

The initial contenders: Jeff Rowland Model 10s, Pass Labs X-250 and PS Audio Classic 250. I was lucky enough to be able to audition these amps side-by-side at home against my 7Bs. Firstly, the 250 watt PSA Classic 250s. I was hoping they would do the trick but strangely enough, they were a complete mismatch for my system. I'm still not sure why, although impedance matching was brought up by my dealer. They did all the hifi things right, slam, imaging, soundstaging, but the soul of the music seemed missing. After further listening, I narrowed it down to a lack of high end extension. There was no air and energy in the highs at all. The mids were also rather flat, maybe because of the lack of highs. I'm not running down this amp, it sounded great at my dealer. It just did not work in my system.

Next, the Rowland Model 10s. This was more like it. Tremendous transparency. Excellent musicality.... vocals were ooh so natural. Dynamics, I wasn't expecting this but these amps were really dynamic. Transient response was top-class, the snap of percussion was as good as I've heard in my (any?) system. Yes, even better than the 7Bs. Drawbacks? Although it had an excellent grip on my speakers, it tended to get just a touch muddled on tracks that had a lot of low-end material (compared to the 7Bs). Note that this only ever happended but a few times and is definitely a function of my speakers (IMO). Other than that, I couldn't really fault it.

Finally, the pass labs X-250. Against the rowlands, it was neck to neck. Tranparency, about the same, maybe just a bit better through the rowlands. Musicality, the rowlands shaded it. The pass labs was more neutral but just as bewitching. Control and grip, definitely a pass lab forte. This meant that I did not have the slight problems with the bass that I was getting with the rowlands. It also had more slam (not by much but noticeable). Tough decision, very tough decision. Which would I choose? To be honest, I would have chosen the Pass. I'm a sucker for slam and control unfortunately. Disaster struck though when my wife saw the pass labs..... no way is that ugly brute entering our living room! (she said to my abject horror). Personally, I felt the blue lights and the tank-like construction was way cool. Turns out she doesn't like tanks. As you might expect, she loved the look of the rowlands. So it was the rowlands by default.

In desperation, I then decided to give the 7B-SSTs a chance. The dealer wouldn't let me bring it home, so I auditioned it side-by-side with the rowlands in the dealers set-up. It was hard to judge in an unfamiliar system but the rowlands clearly did vocals better that the SSTs and I wouldn't really say it lost out in any other parameter. To be fair to the SSTs, a home audition would have done it more justice.

After thinking it through, I took home the rowlands. The more I listen to it, the happier I am with my decision. It was an amp that transported me to the core of the music. It spoke to my heart rather than my head. Absolutely no regrets. And you know what, I no longer have that problem with the bass. Why, you ask? I changed my cabling. But I'll talk about that another time as I must have outstayed my welcome with such a long ramble. If you are looking for an amp in this price range, or even above, you must give the model 10s a try. Take Care folks.



Product Weakness: Maybe slam and bass control with certain speakers. Not a real weakness with the right cabling.
Product Strengths: Transparency, Dynamics, Musicality


Associated Equipment for this Review:
Amplifier: Bryston 7B-ST (incumbent), Pass Labs X-250, PS Audio Classic 250, Bryston 7B-SST
Preamplifier (or None if Integrated): Jeff Rowland Synergy 2
Sources (CDP/Turntable): Electrocompaniet EMC-1 (24/192)
Speakers: Sonus Faber Electa Amator 2
Cables/Interconnects: Nordost SPM Inter Interconnects/Nordost Red Dawn Shotgun Biwired SpeakerCables
Music Used (Genre/Selections): Various contemporary pop/rock/jazz/vocals
Type of Audition/Review: Product Owner




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Topic - REVIEW: Jeff Rowland Model 10 Amplifier (SS) - Sala 19:03:50 12/21/02 (5)


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