Rogers High Fidelity uses yesterday’s technology for audiophile performance by John Townes
In an era of digital technology and compact, ultra-portable audio devices such as cell phones and Bluetooth speakers, Rogers High Fidelity in North Adams produces a more traditional analog alternative. Rather than highly compact miniaturized circuitry, Rogers designs and builds high-end home and business audio equipment, including integrated amplifiers and pre-amps, that utilize vacuum tubes. Rather than highly compact miniaturized circuitry, Rogers designs and builds high-end home and business audio equipment, including integrated amplifiers and pre-amps, that utilize vacuum tubes.
“I’ve always enjoyed working with vacuum tubes, and I appreciate the sound quality they produce,” said Roger Gibboni, founder and owner of Rogers High Fidelity. “The audio industry still has a love affair with vacuum tubes, and they never totally went away.”
Vacuum tubes and analog technology were once the standardized basis of radios, computers, defense and space systems, and other electric products and equipment. They were ubiquitous in everything from home stereo systems to radar and other complex military applications. However, beginning in the 1950s and ’60s, they were phased out and replaced by transistors and related solid-state and digital technology. Transistors served the same function as vacuum tubes, but they are much smaller and flexible. This also affected the evolution of the media that is used to record and reproduce content, and the replacement of vinyl record albums and magnetic tape with digital media including CDs, MP3 files and online streaming music. This led to today’s high-tech electronics in which an iPhone can produce booming sound.
Nevertheless, while many casual listeners are content with the new generation of digital music, audiophiles believe that the difference in sound quality is significant. This has prompted a renewed interest in – and market for – products such as vinyl records and analog audio systems.
“Your ears are analog,” Gibboni said. “Analog media and equipment are able to capture the original qualities of a performance more directly than digital.”
Rogers High Fidelity products are aimed at the high-end market of dedicated audiophiles. The amplifiers range in price from $4,000 to $19,900. (They also have comparable pre-owned products that range from about $2,200 to $7,000.)
“They’re not tabletop radios,” Gibboni said. “Our customers are people who want the best sound possible. They also include serious audio hobbyists who are interested in equipment in the same way some people are serious about high-performance auto-mobiles.”
Gibboni launched the business in 2009 in Orange County, N.Y. He moved the company’s headquarters to 10 Holden St. in North Adams in 2019. The business still has sales offices in Hud-son, N.Y., and produces components in Orange County. Gibboni personally assembles the amplifiers in his North Adams workshop. The site also includes a demonstration listening room for potential buyers.
He said the company sells an average of 10 amplifiers or pre-amps per month. Each amplifier is individually assembled for an order. Rogers High Fidelity equipment (845-987-7744 or rogershighfidelity.com) is primarily sold as a brand through a network of audio retailers.
“If someone calls us and wants to purchase a Rogers amplifier, we refer them to a dealer in their area,” Gibboni said. “We are not retailers, although we will make exceptions if someone lives in an area where that is not possible.”
Gibboni also recently opened an online store for pre-owned equipment.
He said the move of his company to North Adams was primarily driven by the desire of he and his wife to live in the Berkshires. “It was a personal decision,” he said. “We lived in Newburgh and had a summer home on Pontoosuc Lake in Pittsfield. About two years ago we decided to move to the Berkshires full-time, and it was possible to operate the business from here.”
(His wife, Linda Dulye, organizes a millennial leadership program, the DLE Gen Now Retreat, along with other programs that are held locally. Her views on leadership and career development were featured in a Q&A in the September 2019 issue of BERKSHIRE TRADE & COMMERCE.)
Gibboni also believes that North Adams is a perfect symbolic location for his business. In addition to the region’s association with music and culture, he said North Adams has another tradition as the former home of Sprague Electric from the 1930s into the ’80s. Sprague manufactured capacitors used in radios and other technologies and products. Although his one-person workshop and office is on a very different scale than Sprague in its heyday, Gibboni said Rogers High Fidelity is a continuation of that tradition.
“North Adams has a history of manufacturing quality electronic products, and many people from outside the region are familiar with that, “ he said. “I still believe that industry can be profitable, and I’m proud to be making an American product here.”
Like all businesses, Rogers High Fidelity was affected by the COVID crisis. However, Gibboni noted, the nature of his operations did not require a significant closure or curtailment of activities. He added that the demand has remained strong despite an initial jarring.
“When COVID first emerged, the phones immediately stopped ringing,” he said. “However, business gradually started in-creasing again, and now we’re busier than ever. I think as people are staying in more, they’re making investments to improve the environment of their homes.”
Rogers High Fidelity grew out of Gibboni’s combined background in business and technology, as well as manufacturing processes. He said it also reflects his combined interest in audio systems and analog technology. He has bachelor and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Drexel University in Philadelphia. He also completed business studies at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.
For much of his career, he led teams that designed and manufactured high-tech communications and radar equipment for the Department of Defense, NASA and other agencies. He started as a design engineer for satellite communications programs with General Electric. He then moved to RCA, designing and manufacturing satellite ground terminals, Navy Aegis radar, secure communications equipment and the communications and tracking suite for the NASA Space Station. He subsequently spent 11 years as owner and president of New York-based Walden Printing Co.
When he was planning Rogers High Fidelity, his intent was always to work with analog audio technology and vacuum tubes. On a technical level, according to Gibboni, vacuum tube circuits and amplifiers have clipping and saturation characteristics that produce harmonic content differently than transistor solid-state devices. Tubes are also electric field devices rather than current devices and reproduce thermal noise in a truer fashion with more dynamic sound and richer detail. While transistors and solid-state technology have eclipsed vacuum tubes, their continued survival reflects an ongoing dichotomy in the world of audio reproduction.
Despite the convenience and other practical benefits of digital media, it has been a double-edged sword in terms of sound quality of equipment. In addition, the processes that produce digital music often use methods of compressing the audio information to enable it to fit within a reasonable file size or to efficiently travel online for streaming.
Gibboni pointed out that sound quality is a matter of individual preference. “Music is a very subjective experience,” he said. “It’s like wine. You might respond to what you hear in one way, while someone else will respond differently.”
Gibboni said equipment such as Rogers amplifiers are designed to faithfully reproduce the characteristics of whatever audio signals are input to them. In addition to using traditional analog turntables and vinyl albums, people also plug in digital sources such as cell phones and MP3 players.
“Our amplifiers are often used in a situation where Dad has an audio system for his own enjoyment, while his daughter can also hook up her iPhone to hear her favorite song over it,” he said.
The amplifiers also are the center of home theater systems. Gibboni noted that improvements are being made in the quality of digital media.
“For example, there are streaming services, such as Tidal, that have developed high-efficiency analog converters that are intended to recreate the quality of analog media.” From a production standpoint, even though the market for vacuum tubes is much smaller today, they continue to be available, in part because of a historical quirk in the evolution of electronics.
Today, Russia is a primary source of new vacuum tubes.
“As the United States began to move away from vacuum tubes for military and consumer applications, Russia was not able to keep up, and continued to rely on them,” Gibboni said. “As a result, they never stopped making tubes, and became a leader in manufacturing and developing them. For example, when RCA shut down their vacuum tube production, Russia producers bought their tooling.”
While Russia is a major source of tubes today, other countries, including the Czech Republic and China, also manufacture them.
“China has also gotten into it, but their products are less reliable,” he said.
In addition, there continues to be a stock of vacuum tubes that were made in America earlier. “It’s new-old stock,” Gibboni said. “The tubes are older, but they are still capable of quality performance.”
While the technology and dynamics of the audio equipment market are complex, the ultimate goal of his company is straightforward, according to Gibboni. He described its credo as boiling down to two basic principles.
“What you make people feel is as important as what you make,” he said. “Also, we build each amplifier so that your kids will fight over it when you’re gone.”
Following a year-long study of high-end audio buyer preferences, we learned a tremendous amount about how to serve our customers better. Two common themes we heard from all of our correspondents was they desired a more direct line of communication with the designer of the products AND listening to a product in their home was more productive then at a show or a dealer.
After careful consideration, we have decided to begin offering our products direct to you, our valued customers. All our amplifiers can be purchased right here on our website and shipped to you “factory fresh.”
Do you have questions about our products prior to purchasing (or after of course)? GREAT! You can now call and speak to Roger directly so you can make a perfectly educated buying decision, 845-987-7744.
Additionally, all of our products are available with a risk-free 30 day home trial so you can see how the amplifier performs in your system. Learn more about our home trial here.
We are excited to make these changes to serve you better and look forward to a more direct line of communication.
Talk to you soon!
– Roger Gibboni
18 Mar 2020
Listen At Home
We have always known the best way to demo a high-performance audio product is in the comfort of your own home with your own associated equipment, music and room acoustics. Our belief is, once you experience the build-quality and spectacular sound of our amplifiers, you won’t be able to live without them.
For these reasons, we offer a 30 day in-home trial for anything you purchase from our website. If for any reason you are not happy with your purchase, return it and only pay $50 for return shipping (continental United States only, all other call us first).
Still not sure, call us anytime and speak directly to Roger so he can answer all your questions 845-987-7744.
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High-Tech Meets Tubes
Posted on February 21, 2020 by Vade Forrester
Your car is full of computers that make it easier to operate and maintain; why shouldn’t your hi-fi follow suit? Increasingly, that’s what’s happening. One of the more recent computerized hi-fi circuits sets the bias current of the output tubes on tube amplifiers. Those circuits make it feasible to switch easily between different types of tubes. So if an amplifier is shipped with EL34s, you can change them to KT88s and the automatic-bias circuit will adjust the bias to suit the KT88s with no adjustment from the user. Just insert the new tubes and the bias circuitry changes the necessary parameters. Rogers High Fidelity’s new Corona KWM-88 integrated amplifier’s automatic bias circuitry makes it possible to switch between KT88s and KT150s. It’s your choice. Just specify when you buy the amp which output tubes you want. (Both types produce the same power.)
The Corona deliberately leaves out features that can be found on several other integrated amps. There’s no DAC, no phono preamp, no headphone amp. This makes sense to me; if you’re willing to shell out $15,000 for the Corona, you’re probably a very serious listener who wants an advanced stand-alone DAC, phono preamp, and headphone amp. You know exactly which of those units suits your system, and don’t want to waste money on the type of limited or compromised integral DAC, phono preamp, or headphone amp that’s typically included in some integrated amps. Rogers makes a very interesting phono preamp, the PA-2, which is definitely worthwhile considering to match to the Corona, but doesn’t offer a DAC or headphone amp. The Corona has the typical integrated amp advantages: It requires no preamp-to-amp interconnect, and it occupies just a single shelf, albeit a very sturdy, well-ventilated shelf.
The Corona is built on a wide, flat chassis with a silver, brushed-aluminum faceplate in the front, tubes in the central area, and in the rear a transformer that spans the full width of the chassis. In a departure from the norm, the chassis is painted red instead of the usual Boring Black. The red color is not a garish, bright hue, but sort of a candy apple red. I thought the combination of the brushed aluminum faceplate and transformer trim plate with the red paint on the chassis looked quite elegant and attractive. (I’d welcome more color departures from black chassis. Maybe not lime green, though.)
The faceplate has, from left to right, four toggle switches (power on/off, standby, mode, and input) along the lower part, with a blue information window on the upper part. The labels for the switches are engraved in the front panel, which looks nice but in my view is harder to read than painted labels. To the right of the switches and information window is the silver, serrated, single-knob volume control, CNC-machined from aluminum. The right half of the faceplate is reserved for two VU meters. I don’t know that the VU meters serve a functional purpose, but they surely look cool, with their blue illumination matching the status window on the right. There’s no mute control, balance control, mono switch, or phase-inversion switch, either, all of which might have been useful. However, there’s a fair chance none of those controls would ever be used, so leaving them off makes financial sense.
The tube choice is a bit unusual, comprising two output tubes per channel–normally KT88s or KT150s (KT120s will also work)—and one 6SJ7 and one 6SN7 low-level tube per channel. The 6SN7 is a very common dual triode, but the 6SJ7 is rather unusual in current amplifiers. It’s a pentode with a metal rather than a glass envelope. The 6SJ7 tube serves as the input stage and provides all the gain for the amplifier. I asked Rogers’ President and Chief Engineer Roger Gibboni why the 6SJ7 was chosen instead of a traditional triode and he said, “I use the 6SJ7 in the front end for very specific reasons. First, they are still in production. They are available from Sovtek and a Chinese manufacturer. In general, we prefer the Russian versions for reliability. The 6SJ7 was in such frequent use that there are many sources of NOS tubes still available and affordable, and we will use them as long as we can get them. You were supplied with the 5693—a special red version of the 6SJ7. These were designed for the military and are high-reliability versions. They have extra structures inside that allow them to be employed in environments of shock and vibration up to 10Gs. This extra rigidity also gives them much lower noise characteristics than standard 6SJ7s, and we sell them as an upgrade for $125 each.
“I use the 6SJ7, which is a sharp-cutoff pentode, in the front end rather than the traditional triodes because you can achieve much higher gain in a shorter signal path. We get 35dB of gain in one stage that with traditional triodes would require two or three stages of amplification. This yields much lower phase distortion because the gain is achieved in a shorter signal path.
“In almost all cases, the small signal tubes—6SJ7 and 6SN7—have almost infinite lifespans. They run very little current and are not under stress in the amplifier. The user should expect 5000 to 10,000 hours with these tubes.
“The KT88 or KT150 power output tubes on the other hand run significant current—approximately 125mA per tube. This operating condition achieves the dynamic range and transient response you hear in the Corona. These tubes typically last 2000–3000 hours, about two years of normal use. The beauty of the Corona is that the bias condition of these power tubes is managed by the on-board processors. When a tube exceeds its normal self-bias range due to aging or failure, the processors shut down the affected channel and indicate which tube requires replacement on the screen and app. Because the output tubes are auto-biased, the user does not have to replace the power tubes as sets. Only the failed tube requires replacement. We supply tested and burned-in KT88s for $135 each and KT150s for $175 each. While we have very few requests, the Corona will also run the KT120.
“The Transparent power cable you were supplied is a $75 upgrade to the normally supplied power cable.”
The 6SN7s drive the output tubes for a 100Wpc rating in Ultralinear or 80Wpc in triode mode. The output tubes sound different, and since I was provided with a set of each type of tube, I’ll explore the sonic differences. I’ve experimented with both types of tubes in my Audio Research VT80SE amplifier and can see why some people would prefer the KT88 sound. KT88s are popular tubes in production by several manufacturers, so you can pick the ones you like, but, again, Rogers rigorously tests the tubes it provides, so it’s not a bad idea to buy their replacements. The same goes for the 6SN7 tubes, which are in production from several manufacturers. The Corona shipped with Gold Lion tubes, except for the KT150s, which were made by Tung-Sol. Those are all high-quality, current-production Russian tubes.
The signal circuit may use tubes, but the heart of the amplifier, the power supply, is all solid-state. Built around a 30-pound toroidal transformer (that’s half the weight of the entire amplifier), the power supply is rated for 1800W—way overbuilt.! The Corona is burned in for 100 hours to prevent any infant-mortality problems, and get you well on your way to total burn-in.
Rogers emphasizes that the amplifier is constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum with military-spec wiring and electronic parts. I don’t know if such construction makes the amp sound any better, but it certainly does make it more rugged and stable. It’s got to be a factor in longevity—the warranty is transferrable limited lifetime, which is about as good as you’ll find, and far better than most competitors. It even applies to amplifiers that are re-sold by dealers. With the exception of replacement tubes, it sounds as if you’ll have a hard time spending any money on your Rogers amp, unless you do something goofy to it.
On the rear panel you’ll find four unbalanced inputs, an IEC jack for the power cord, and two Furutech solid-copper output jacks for the speakers. Input impedance is 100k ohms, which should work with any conceivable source. Unfortunately, there are no line-level outputs to drive powered subwoofers or other external amplifiers. There is also a connection for an included Bluetooth antenna, which is how the tablet or phone connects to the Corona. The volume graphic on the app drives a motorized control which operates the front-panel volume attenuator.
The remote-control app on my iPad was named Rogers High Fidelity Corona at the Apple App Store. All I had to do was download and install it, and it connected immediately via Bluetooth to the Corona.
The Corona is a very expensive integrated amp designed to provide extremely high-quality sound from a relatively compact unit. The price tag will place it beyond the reach of most readers, but as with any pricey item, the question of value comes into play. In other words, can you attain the same level of performance for the same price or less?
Setup and Use
Normally, when I get a component for review, I first read the owner’s manual, or at least the set-up guide. The Corona’s manual was provided in digital form as a Microsoft Word document on a USB drive. I quickly printed it out and checked out Section 2, Quick Start. It had pretty good step-by-step instructions for installing and setting up the amplifier—except, several items were omitted. For example, there was an antenna in the amplifier box, but no mention of its function (it’s a Bluetooth connection for the remote control). It appeared to screw onto a fitting on the rear panel of the amp, so that’s where I put it. If the manual had contained a photo or drawing of the rear panel, it might have shown me where the antenna should have gone. There was no specific reference to the remote-control app, either. After checking out a few guesses, I asked Rogers and learned that the app is named Rogers High Fidelity Corona. I probably would have guessed that eventually. But why not just put it in the manual? Once installed, the app connected effortlessly (as noted) to the amplifier via Bluetooth. I installed the app on both my iPad and iPhone, and discovered only one device at a time will connect to the Corona. The iPhone screen is necessarily smaller, but still easy to use. I found myself using it most of the time, since I carry my phone with me around the house.
The Corona isn’t a huge amplifier, 17″ x 14″ x 11½”, but its 60-pound weight needs a sturdy shelf or support with plenty of ventilation for the tubes. For me, that meant the top shelf of my equipment rack, and was I ever glad to have help lifting the Corona to eye-level.
I connected the Corona to my DAC via High Fidelity Cables CT-1 Ultimate unbalanced interconnects and to my speakers with Van den Hul Mountain speaker cables. Rogers furnished an accessory power cord manufactured by Transparent. It’s a molded cord, but needless to say, it uses top-quality parts in its construction, and is way better than most stock power cords. Of course, it’s not stock, selling for $75 for a 10-foot length. I normally use the stock power cord when reviewing a component, knowing that using an aftermarket cord could make noticeable differences, but since this aftermarket cord came from the Corona’s manufacturer, I used it. The power cord was plugged directly into the wall, not into the Shunyata Denali power distribution system where the rest of my system is plugged.
When I swapped out the tubes, removing the KT150 and inserting the KT88s, I waited the normal amount of time, 30 seconds, before switching from standby to play, and the new tubes worked without any fuss. The new tubes showed up in the information window and the app as being in good condition. I wished the amplifier had used the computer to track the time the tubes had been in service, so I could replace them when they were worn out, but maybe that feature will appear on a later model.
I found myself indulging in some Old Geezer nostalgia: I remember when tube gear was noisy. Not so much now, though; the only noise I heard from the Corona was a slight pop when the amp turned off and when switching between Ultralinear and triode mode. (Rogers says that this has been fixed in current production.)
Of course, as with any amplifier review, no subwoofer was used. Otherwise, I would be listening to the sound of the 1200-watt subwoofer amplifier instead of the Corona. The Corona took longer than normal to completely warm up.
A thin line is scribed on the volume control to show its setting, but from my listening position about ten feet away it was hard to see. I wished for an LED on the volume knob to show the volume setting better at a distance—or a numeric readout in the computer window. The remote-control app installed on my iPhone 7 worked just fine. There was a bit of latency as the amplifier’s volume setting tracked the input, but I got used to it. The range of the remote control was much further than standard remotes; I could operate the Corona several rooms away from the amplifier. That’s cool and useful.
The Corona impressed me as a highly linear, neutral amp with explosive dynamics at all levels. I noticed one unusual trait, however: The channel balance varied a bit with different recordings. And there was no balance control to adjust that balance. This was not a show-stopper problem, just a perceptible one. (Well, I guess it could be a show-stopper for some listeners, who are ultra-picky about channel-balance adjustment.)
I started my formal listening with the KT88 tubes inserted in the amplifier. Generally, KT88 tubes had good harmonic accuracy and lots of detail. I began the formal audition with old favorite Folia: Rodrigo Martinez 1490, a realization of a truly old piece of music played by Jordi Savall and his band of Renaissance instrumental specialists. In triode mode, this information-rich piece was reproduced with lots of detail, especially in the percussion where leading-edge transients were unusually audible, though the soundstage was skewed to the left. Bass had plenty of rhythmic energy and descended fairly deeply. Band leader Jordi Savall solos on the viola da gamba (an instrument similar to the modern cello), and his tone was just a smidgen less harmonically rich than with some amplifiers. In the Ultralinear setting, the Corona was more explosive, exhibiting taut bass impact, but with the same slight leftward skew in channel balance that I heard in triode. The viola da gamba tone was ever so slightly bleached.
Moving on to “Miserere” from The Tallis Scholars Allegri’s Miserere & Palestrina’s Missa Papae Marcelli, an a capella setting of Psalm 51 performed by a small choral group with a smaller solo group some distance behind the main group. In the triode setting, lots of nuance and shading was delivered with ravishing finesse from the main group; however, the distant solo group was immersed in more reverberant echo than usual. Nonetheless, their lyrics still sounded perfectly enunciated and defined in space with not a hint of bloat or splashing. The solo tenor’s voice had a dense filigreed texture, free from distortion. In the Ultralinear setting there was still some left skewing of the channel balance, though the distant solo group was immersed in less reverberation than in triode.
The song “Snilla Patea” with Bjørn Kåre Odde, the composer, expertly playing a fiddle, backed by the Schola Cantorum chorus under the leadership of Tone Bianca Sparre Dahl, is an MQA-encoded piece. My DAC won’t decode MQA, but the recording still sounds great. In triode setting, the piece seemed better centered than the other pieces. The composer’s solo fiddle was not as harmonically vivid as it is through some amps. The chorus also sounded slightly less detailed than I’ve heard. In the Ultralinear setting, the soundfield was well-centered. The chorus sounded quite lucid, and the fiddle produced a full harmonic tonal envelope. The chorus was remarkably agile.
Next, I replaced the KT88 tubes with KT150 tubes. My first impression was that the KT150s sounded wide open and relaxed. In the Triode setting, Folia: Rodrigo Martinez 1490 enjoyed a well-centered channel balance. The opening cascabels were more distinct—it was easy to distinguish each strike on the bells from the other strikes. The initial transients of percussion instruments were (appropriately) dissimilar. Bass was deep and impactful, and it was easier to tell the pitches of each note. Savall’s viola da gamba sounded harmonically complete and tuneful. In the Ultralinear setting, it was also easy to tell difference between cascabel notes. Likewise, percussion instruments were distinct and realistic. Castanets swarmed like bees. Bass was ever so slightly less impactful. I could even tell the difference between baroque guitar and harp as they repeated the same musical passage, where the two instruments often sound identical. I’ve seldom heard this much detail from an amplifier. Dynamics were also unusually forceful.
In “Miserere,” channel balance in the triode setting was skewed slightly to the right—barely perceptible. The solo group sounded buried in reverberant echo, but was still clear. The Ultralinear setting produce slightly less bright highs, but the solo group was less detailed.
In the triode setting, “Snilla Patea’s” soundstage was well-centered. The fiddle sounded a little bright. On the other hand, the chorus was articulate, airy, and dynamically agile. In the Ultralinear setting, the fiddle exhibited the same very slight brightness.
So which tubes are better, the KT88s or KT150s? I slightly preferred the latter, but several visitors preferred the KT88s. I guess that makes it a personal choice.
You probably wouldn’t use a $15,000 amplifier to drive a $1500 speaker, but I did. In order to see how the Corona drove a different speaker, I connected my KEF Q700 speakers. This three-way cost $1500/pair when last produced, but represents an alternate load for the amp. I’m glad I tried it, as the KEFs have never sounded so good. I was particularly amazed at their bass performance. In the Ultralinear setting with the KT150 tubes, on Folia: Rodrigo Martinez 1490, bass extended quite deeply, with good pitch definition and surprising impact. I haven’t heard such bass from the KEFs before. Surprisingly, their treble performance was equally good; the opening cascabel whacks were extended and harmonically accurate, with just the right amount of impact.
“Miserere” had an agreeable soundstage, possibly a bit left-skewed. There was a slight high-frequency distortion (it’s a characteristic of the recording). The sound of the distant solo group was a lifelike blend of echo and direct sound, which produced realistic separation of the groups.
The “Snilla Patea’” fiddle was spot on, with a full, rich harmonic spread sounding whole and accurate. Choral dynamics were agile, ready to change levels at the drop of a hat.
My Audio Research LS28 linestage and VT80SE are somewhat similar to the Corona in that the VT80SE has a similar automatic bias circuit that allows it to use different output tubes. I’ve tried KT88s in addition to the stock KT150s. It’s only rated at 75Wpc, however, with tube life anticipated at 3000 hours. The 6H30 tube is used as the driver tube. A meter in the rear of the amplifier tells you how much time is on the output tubes. The LS28 linestage uses only 6H30 tubes in a hybrid circuit. Unlike the Rogers amp, the LS28 has many controls, including a channel-balance adjustment, phase-reversal switch, and even a display of hours used on the tubes (a 4000 hour lifespan anticipated). Prices for the VT80SE and LS28 are $9500 and $8500, respectively. Of course, an interconnect is required to connect the two components, and that can be as expensive as you like. I use Van den Hul’s balanced The Mountain interconnects in my system, priced at $1454 for a meter length. So that makes $19,454 for the Audio Research/Van den Hul system, a bit more than the Corona. The Audio Research requires two shelves, and is larger than the Corona amp. So there’s a space cost as well as a monetary one.
The Audio Research LS28 has a normal metal remote which operates smoothly and quickly. All the controls on the linestage are on the remote. Tubes were KT150s, the stock tubes offered with the VT80SE. The amp has no remote.
On Folia: Rodrigo Martinez 1490, cascabels were located in the expected position in the soundstage, a bit to the right of where they appeared with the Corona. Bass was deep and pitch accurate, but less punchy than with the Corona. The viola da gamba tone appeared spot on. Dynamics were forceful, but the Corona’s were even more so.
On “Miserere,” the solo tenor had a bit of the left skewing the Corona had exhibited, but the soundstage was more evenly spread between the speakers. The distant solo group sounded more deeply immersed in reverberant mush, obscuring some of the words. The Corona caught the echo and words pretty close to ideally. Finally, there was some overlaid shatter distortion, which I hadn’t noticed before.
Finally, “Snilla Patea” sounded as realistic as I’ve heard it. The fiddle harmonics were perfect, the chorus sounded like very well-trained vocalists singing together, capable of startling dynamic shifts. Wow!
So does the Corona represent a good value for its high price? Unfortunately, I had no similarly-priced integrated amp for comparison, but the Corona was quite close in performance to the slightly more expensive Audio Research amp and preamp, which are highly regarded, so I think its value must be excellent. And it has some technical features, like the very useful remote control, that surpass the Audio Research duo.
Let’s review the positive and negative factors for the Rogers KWM-88 Corona integrated amplifier. Appearance—outstanding. The red chassis adds a touch of class. Technology—very advanced. Uses cell phone or tablet app for remote, and an automatic bias circuit to manage tube settings. Sound—very high quality. Best bass I’ve heard from a tube amplifier, fantastic dynamics, very good harmonic accuracy. Size and weight—heavy but manageable. (Sooner or later this will be important to you.) Ease of operation—extremely easy to operate. Controls are a piece of cake; the remote app running on a cell phone makes remote operation easier than ever and informative. Someday all remotes will work this way, but the Corona had it first. Build-quality—dreadnought construction. Warranty—best in the industry. In sum, the Corona is expensive but worth it.
Specs & Pricing
Power output: Ultralinear 100W RMS, triode 80W RMS
Tube complement: 2x 6SJ7, 2x 6SN7, 4x KT88 or KT150
Frequency response: ±0.1dB from 20Hz to 20kHz
Input/output impedances: Four unbalanced, 100k ohms/2 ohms to 32 ohms
Weight: 60 lbs.
Dimensions: 17″ x 14″ x 11.5″
ROGERS HIGH FIDELITY
10 Holden Street
North Adams, MA 01247
Speakers: Affirm Audio Lumination speakers
Amplifiers: Audio Research VT80SE stereo amplifier
Preamplifier: Audio Research LS28 linestage Digital sources”Dell Latitude E6330 laptop computer running 64-bit Windows 10 Professional and Roon music server software version 1.6; PS Audio DirectStream DAC
Interconnects: Van den Hul The Mountain balanced interconnects, High Fidelity Cables CT-1 Ultimate interconnects
Speaker cables: Van den Hul The Cloud speaker cables
Power cords: Purist Audio Design Venustas power cords, Blue Marble Audio Blue Lightning power cords, Clarity Cables Vortex power cords, Audience powerChord e, Au24 SE LP powerChord power cord
Digital cables: Paul Pang TZ YUN Red II USB Cable, Audience Au24 SE USB cable
Power conditioners: Shunyata Denali, Audience aR6-T
SkiFi Audio recently posted a video review of our 65V-2 Integrated Amplifier. Watch below.
30 Jul 2019
Come check us out at our new showroom at 10 Holden Street in beautiful North Adams, Massachusetts.
For the past decade our business is to build gear that brings you closer to the music. Well now we’ve moved closer to the music. Nestled in the beautiful Berkshire mountains of western Massachusetts you’ll find some of the best music venues in the world. The home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra at Tanglewood, The Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MOCA) and now….Rogers High Fidelity – our new home!
13 May 2019
Part Time Audiophile recently attended Axpona 2019 and published a Best of Show article which included Roger’s High Fidelity. Below is an excerpt.
Eric’s Best of Show
Posted on May 8, 2019 by Eric Franklin Shook in Axpona 2019
CHICAGO (PTA) — Despite the sometimes overwhelming size that shows like AXPONA 2019 portray, for me this exhibition still represents the largest collection of small businesses I have ever seen under one roof. Most of the exhibitors are indeed “mom-and-pop shops”. Most of these audio companies have only five to seven key employees, and often with a single figurehead wearing five of the most crucial hats within that company. Those being: the money, the designer, the face, the communicator, and the boss. Be these high-end wares and what they are, this is still a small-family-business expo. I say all of this, as a reminder. For as the shows grow bigger these facts will always remain about our industry, its people, and its key players. Act accordingly.
The Best of The Show
For one man to capture the entirety of a show the size of AXPONA 2019 is impossible. Even with a staff of five on hand this year, developing a consensus among the writers proves a challenge. That said, I bring to you one man’s perspective. Of the forty exhibit rooms and booths I covered, these were the standouts. Enjoy!
Best Value Room: KLH, Rogers High Fidelity
Of the new KLH’s twelve in-room loudspeaker models in the product line-up, two were on active display at AXPONA. The new Kendall, a three-way tower loudspeaker — and the new Albany, a two-way monitor loudspeaker. As a nod to the KLH brand’s history, each is named after a street in Cambridge, Massachusetts, the birthplace of KLH. Each was finished in a real-wood veneer as standard. Kevlar mid-bass and mid-range drivers abound, with anodized aluminum tweeters rounding out the top-end. Unheard of is a ten-year warranty on all of their passive loudspeakers. That is an insane amount of security for such a painless investment.
The Kendall tower loudspeaker garnered the most of my attention as it was able to flex all of it’s best attributes with such capable amplification. Bass was deep, solid, tight, and not overblown. Mid-range had a bloom and tone that definitely exceeded the thirteen-hundred dollar asking price. Top-end was a little hot, but that’s to be expected as the loudspeaker line-up is not just geared for two-channel listening, but home theater as well. I could even see myself enacting the often forbidden use of tone controls to tame the top-end during more critical listening.
Part Time Audiophile recently attended Axpona 2019 and published a review of the Paragon Imagination Room, in which Roger’s High Fidelity products were on display.
Posted on May 7, 2019 by Lee Scoggins in Axpona 2019
Paragon Sight & Sound had a second room that kind of caught me off guard. Rogers High Fidelity electronics were featured with Wilson Audio Alexia 2s ($57,900). Here’s the cool part. Everything was red! Paragon mated some gorgeous red Alexias to the red of the Rogers electronics and then Garth Leerer added in a Clearaudio Ovation table ($6,200 and up) with a red plinth! A very distinctive looking system!
The analog rig was really wonderful. It featured a Clearaudio Jubilee moving coil cartridge ($6,000) that uses Panzerholz wood, a product used for things like bulletproofing cars. This cartridge’s body is made from this wood that involved 70 layers of Baltic birch being super compressed. The lend stability to the cartridge. Garth mentioned the resulting low q and broadband phase coherence.
We listened to Shelby Lynne’s “Just a Little Lovin’”. It sounded great with beautiful detail on the cymbal decays. The Ovation and Jubilee combination was dynamite! “Poetry Man” by Phoebe Snow was also terrific with Phoebe’s voice rendered perfectly. This was in fact an overall smooth and natural sounding system. We heard the deep bass plucks on Rickie Lee Jones’ “Show Biz Kids” portrayed with depth and tightness on the two big Alexia woofers. This song is a demo cut for friends that come over to visit and it reminded me a bit of the home system. The Alexias were able to fill a rather large ballroom.
We listened to Malia and Boris Blank’s “I Feel It Like You” from the Convergence album via the always wonderful dCS Bartok DAC. I love the upbeat nature and “bounce” in this cut and the Bartok was capturing everything I have been hearing on the home system. The Alexia 2s are quick and dynamic! The system was described in my notes as having “punch and power.”
But let’s talk gear for a second…Rogers brought out a cool new KWM-88 “Corona” amplifier ($13,999) that can be operated by a remote app. Welcome to tubes in the future! The app can control all the features of the amp and it let’s you go from Triode to Ultralinear mode with a tap. Cool stuff.
The build quality of the Powered by four KT-150s as shown (you can also do KT-88s), it was working the Alexia 2s with precision. In the Rogers’ own words…
The Corona flexes these dynamic features:
- KT-88 or KT-150 tubes—four total/two each channel and four total for stereo operation following a true dual mono design
- Class A operation, military specification components, point to point Teflon wiring all carefully manufactured to the highest specifications
- Control capability via Bluetooth connection to either Apple iPhone or iPad applications, the Corona app displays all control functions of all the amplifiers features: Ultra-linear and triode modes, Volume, Input and the Status of the power tubes in real time operation using visual indicators.
- Toroidal type power supply circuit can easily handle large dynamic transitions in the audio signal being delivered while maintaining a smooth and clear midrange; vocals are presented with a truly rich and warm feel.
- Auto bias circuit for long tube life and ease of operation.
- One piece billet aluminum front panel, aviation-grade quality chassis all made in the USA in Warwick, NY
- Lifetime transferable warranty.
The power transformer on this amp alone was 30 pounds! Now we would not have gotten the sublime analog sound without the Rogers Fidelity Phono Stage PA-2 amplifier. Rogers seems to be operating on a very high plane when it comes to build quality. The PA-2 is all hand wired, point to point. Mil-spec parts quality and it meets mil-spec 2000 soldering quality. It’s a full Class A design and you can tube roll with 12AU7, 12AX7, and 12AV7 vacuum tubes. Gain varies between 50db and 65db. Loading can be varied between 100 ohms and 1 Meg ohm. Signal to noise is 90db and channel isolation is at least 75db. Fit and finish were stellar.
Rogers also had their great sounding 65v2 headphone amplifier ($4,999) on display outside the room with Focal Utopia and Stella headphones. Transparent Cable supplied their Reference series of cables including their power isolator. These cables no doubt matched up well with the Alexias given that Transparent supplies the internal wire for Wilson Audio speakers.
This was simply an excellent-sounding and attractive to look at system. Congratulations to Paragon, Garth and Roger!
AXPONA 2019 Show Coverage brought to you by the LSA Group
22 Apr 2019
Rogers High Fidelity took part in Axpona 2019 and it was a resounding success! The system in the Imagination Room, graciously hosted by Paragon Sight and Sound, won the Positive Feedback Audio Oasis award at the expo.
Imagination Room Setup:
To experience the award winning Corona amplifier for yourself, contact us to locate your nearest dealer.
04 Apr 2019
Come out and see Rogers High Fidelity from April 12-14 at the Renaissance Schaumburg Hotel & Convention Center in Schaumburg, IL and get a first look at our newest product…
The Corona features an aviation grade chassis, aerospace specifications, is completely hand wired in the USA, and comes with a transferrable lifetime warranty.
AXPONA (Audio Expo North America) is the largest high-end audio show in North America. The three-day experience features multiple hotel floors packed with listening rooms, The Expo Hall featuring The Record Fair, a dedicated Ear Gear Expo, seminars and live musical performances. Whether you’re a serious audiophile, a newcomer to high-end audio or simply a music lover, you’ll find everything you need to immerse yourself in your favorite sounds.
The event features over 190 high fidelity listening rooms, providing guests the enviable opportunity to experience the newest technology in high-end consumer audio products. Attendees are encouraged to go from room to room and sit, listen and compare the various systems. The Marketplace and Ear Gear Expo play host to thousands of products and accessories from cables to headphones to LPs and SACDs.
Rogers High Fidelity will be featured in two rooms at Axpona, the Imagination Room and Room 528, alongside these fine brands: