News: Meet My New Separates System

As regular readers know, I’m a fan of the integrated amplifier. The thing of it is, an integrated amplifier, even one as lovely as my Leben CS600, does not accommodate reviewing separates.  You know, your basic amplifiers and preamplifiers. And that’s just not right.

Seeing we cover everything hifi at Twittering Machines, it made perfect sense for me to get a second system consisting of separates so I could review, everything. So that’s what I’ve gone and done and I’d like to introduce you to them. But first, a little background and a peek into my decision process.

How I Went About Deciding What To Get: Criteria

Here are my criteria for deciding what hifi components to include in my separates system (in descending order):

  1. The Company
  2. Specifications
  3. Price
  4. Sound quality
  5. Value
  6. Aesthetics

Is #1 a bit of a surprise? Perhaps it is so allow me to explain. I enjoy buying things from companies I like so whenever possible, that’s what I do. My hifi consists of components, speakers, cables, and accessories from companies I like. 100%. In nearly every case, with the exception of the Leben CS600, I know the people behind the products. While it may be the case that bad people make good products, there’s plenty of gear out there made by good people so I can avoid supporting companies and people I do not like. Plain & simple.

When I say specifications, I really mean functionality and specifications. But when I say specifications again, what I really mean, when it comes to the amplifier, is output power, size, and weight.

Price is an obvious factor in any purchase decision and it certainly was in terms of the components I considered for this separates system.

Of course, these things had to sound good, really good. The fact of the matter is, even with the #1 – #3 filters applied, there’s still a shit ton of choices. This, is a good thing.

Value is in the eye of the beholder and it’s something I value (wink). Also known as bang for the buck, I wanted a lot of bang for my buck with this separates system.

I care about what the things I buy look like.

Meet My New Separates System Components

Without further ado, here’s the team.

The Rogue Audio RP-1 Preamplifier ($1699)

I told this story before in my recent Rogue Audio Road Tour but I’ll repeat it here—I first met Rogue Audio in 1997 when my father and I visited John Rutan’s Audio Connection on Bloomfield Ave in Verona, NJ. Mick, that’s what my father was called, and I wanted to hear the then-new YGA CD 1 Blue Laser CD Player. This is what we told John so he escorted us to the back room so we could hear Rogue Audio gear on Vandersteen speakers.

Fast forward from 1997 to September 2006 which is when I reviewed the Rogue Audio Cronus integrated amplifier, I’ve been a fan of integrated amplifiers for a while, for 6moons. Here’s what I said:

And while I’m all for value, I think in some ways the “affordable” and “value” tags so often applied to Rogue gear can cover up a more important fact. These things make some great music. No, not “for the money” or “given the price”. The Rogue Cronus doesn’t need any qualifiers. It’s simply damn good.

You could say Rogue Audio and I have history, and I wouldn’t argue the point. So when it came time to pick a preamp, Rogue Audio was at the top of my list—they fit perfectly into my criteria. Then I read my friend Herb Reichert’s review of RP-1. Herb Reichert, along with Art Dudley, are the reason I decided to write about hifi. Blame them. I starting reading their writing back in the Sound Practices / Listener magazine days and I never stopped.

Here’s what Herb said about the Rogue RP-1 in his review for Stereophile:

I believe that Rogue Audio’s RP-1 will join the ranks of such preamp folk heroes as the Dynaco PAS, the Hafler DH101, the Conrad-Johnson PV3, and the NAD 1020—and the Apt Holman, the Supraphon Revelation Basic, and the Audible Illusions Modulus. All of these are moderately priced, high-performance models that countless audiophiles have used to step up from receivers or integrateds to separates.

However, the RP-1 was more effective than any of those classics at preserving a recording’s vital energies. I believe that the RP-1 is not necessarily a stepping stone on the way to something better: I see it as a fully worthy final destination.

One last Rogue story—It was 2013 and my first time covering the High End Munich Show. I arrived early in the the morning a day before show-time so after I unpacked, I took the U-Bahn downtown to visit the Alte Pinakothek. As I was strolling through early Italian paintings, I heard a voice I thought I recognized coming from around the corner. Can’t be, I thought, seeing as I’m in Munich for a hifi show. It turned out to Mark O’Brien, Mr. Rogue Audio. It turns out that Mark loves Baroque and Renaissance art and he knows a crap-ton about it. Bonus points.

Mytek Brooklyn Amps ($2495/each)

I needed to get an amplifier with a lot of power so I could review most any speaker. That being said, I’m not a fan of the stupidly heavy and I was on a budget.

AudioStream launched back in 2011(!) with yours truly as Editor, right before RMAF, which I covered. The Big News back then was DSD and part of that News was Mytek offered a DSD-capable DAC, the Stereo 192-DSD DAC, for $1695. This was news because prior to the Mytek, your next choice in a DSD-capable DAC ran you a hefty multiple of the Stereo 192’s asking price. I also met Michal Jurewicz and Chebon Littlefield of Mytek at the same time and we have since spent some real time talking about many things, including hifi, MQA, music, and art (Michal’s wife is the artist Hrafnhildur Arnardóttir who recently represented her native Iceland at the Venice Biennale). Bonus points.

I ended up using the Stereo 192-DSD DAC as part of my system for all of the reasons I use things in my system (see my Criteria). I’ve also reviewed their Brooklyn and Manhattan DACs, have covered Mytek at nearly every hifi show I’ve covered since 2011, and I have the new Brooklyn Bridge Preamp/Streamer/DAC/Headphone amp in for review. My experience with Mytek’s products is they offer great performance at a great price. And I mean great.

We talk. At hifi  shows, we, meaning industry peoples, talk. And we talk about all kinds of things including things we’re excited about. One of the things a few industry people and I talked about at the last few hifi shows was the Mytek Brooklyn Amp. The gist of the chatter was about a) how good it was, b) how much it cost, and c) how these 2 things added up to a screaming bargain. I also heard the Brooklyn Amp at a few hifi shows in systems from, among others, Zu Audio and these systems always sounded really good.

When it came time to look for some power, I had one, OK two, amplifiers in mind—a pair of the Mytek Brooklyn Amps. With two, I could run them in bi-amp mode for 300 Watts a side. Here are the rest of the relevant Brooklyn specs—8.5 x 9.5 x 1.74”, 6lbs, 3kg.

Preliminary Thoughts On My Decision

I do not have a lot of time on this new separates system, just about a week or so, so I can’t get into too much detail about performance. What I can say, even at this point, is I am very, very pleased with my choices.