I visited a local dealership just a little while back and asked to lead an ear to the Rowland Concerto that was setup in the main room.
I looked forward to this as I had not heard a modern digital/switching amp. I had developed some expectations based upon the comments of a friend whose sonic impression I generally trust. Basically my friends' report was on his exposure to one of the Nuforce amplifiers and it was characterized as having real "get up and go", a report that could easily be mistaken for the description of a Naim amp (not that I've heard one of those either).
Anyway such was my expectation so I expected much the same; incidently the "PRATish" (to coin a phrase) reports I seen of Nuforce amplifiers lead me to suspect that they are "colored", i.e. any pervasive sonic characteristic I considered "colored".
Well the Concerto didn't fit the expected bill, far from it in fact. Instead of propulsive driving/bouncy bass I was immediatly struck by lethargic, ill-defined almost "one note" bass. How anyone could consider the bass to be good is beyond me (especially at the price point for the Concerto).
The highs were another obviously flawed area. There seemed to be a pervasive nasty sheen, the sort of thing that harkens back to early nasty digital (although not bad enough to make you run screaming from the room still bad enough to wonder why anyone would lay down $$$ for it).
Other than projecting pretty convincving imaging, e.g. separation of sonic images, there was little to admire. On Keith Jarrett's Kolm Concert the many stage noises and volcalization that lend to the sense of realism on a decent system almost sounded like "atrifacts"; I'm not sure I'd even recognize some were I not so familiar with the recording.
Overall pretty sad, a real disappointment to say the very least.
I was not told initially but it turns out the shop was evaluating the unit. When I disclosed my mostly negative findings the flood gates were opened you might say and I heard a tale of speaker swaps and other attempts to get the thing to sound decent. Some of the guys there are familiar with Rowland amps and stated the Concerto bore little relationship to the "Rowland sound". They were to have a go at cables the following day in the continuing effort but I have not followed up to hear of the outcome... Hey I'm a cable guy myself but I doubt very much that switching from
Nordost Heimdall (with bananas and so not suited to the lugs/bare wire only Cardas connectors on the amplifer) to something else (with lugs) would make a silk purse out of that sow's ear!