Rogue Audio 66LSR preamplifier Page 3

Sometime back, when I had my Baron upgraded to its final specs (with the Tri-Tube option), I fooled around with some sets of E34L Teslas from Frank Morris of Gold Aero. Those tubes sure did have a lush, open midrange before they sighed, died, and fried a few resistors and pulled down a channel or two. The Baron's original circuit was optimized for the rugged 5881 output tubes, which in my experience are damn near indestructible. The 5881s don't possess in abundance the lavender-cream midrange of the E34L or EL34, but they have more low-end bark and top-end bite, better focus, and faster transients. In auditioning Patricia Barber's "Yesterdays" with the all-tube combo, I was struck by how well the Rogue 66LSR opened up and articulated the midrange—a smoother, more natural frequency balance, and better resolution from top to bottom—while retaining the best attributes of triode sweetness and pentode slam.

A Smooth Operator
Some of my encounters with "affordable" tube gear have been downers: lack of focus in the bass; overly bloomy, colored mids; indistinct, decidedly soft top ends; and a lack of resolution. But the 66LSR manages to have its cake and eat it, too. While a triode preamp at this price will, in all likelihood, never have the kind of crystalline detail and frequency extension craved by stone solid-state freaks, the 66LSR has a real sense of ease and musicality. This is not slobbering triode my-fi, but tautly focused hi-fi.

I achieved extraordinary layering and soundstaging depth using the $1295 Rogue's second preamp out to the Soliloquy 10S subwoofer ($1200), with the ultra-revealing Joseph RM7si speakers ($1799/pair) driven by either the Nu-Vista 300 power amp ($5600) or its $1500 sibling, the A3CR. The aural evidence suggested that this tubed front-end offers more than enough precision and bass control to please even the most finicky consumers, regardless of their power-amp pedigrees. No reason you couldn't use the Rogue to warm up some of the very fine, heavy-duty, high-current, solid-state amps out there for $2000 or under—without compromising depth, focus, or high-end extension.

Ultimately, you'll have to weigh the tradeoffs based on your own tastes and room anomalies. I'm engaged by the musical merits of any good solid-state or tube design, and have no interest in issuing papal bulls as to which doctrine reigns supreme. The Rogue 66LSR proved a supple, compliant silent partner for every amp I had on hand. It conferred a touch of refinement on the Baron without unduly softening its elemental bark and bite or adding to its noise floor. I was torn between the hybrid Nu-Vista's razor-sharp resolution, frequency extension, detail, and mountain-stream transparency and the Rogue's smooth, sweet clarity, full-bodied natural tone, and extraordinary soundstaging. Sure, the Rogue's top end was comparatively softer than the Nu-Vista's, but it was still sweet and nicely detailed. Then again, in many ways the Rogue's soundstaging exceeded the Nu-Vista's—a real shocker.

If you're in the market for a good, modern, cost-effective tube preamp, the Rogue is a superb team player that can turn the double play with a variety of tubed and solid-state power amps. Rogue Audio's 66LSR preamplifier proves just how accessible and affordable high-end audio can be. It took me by surprise—this is a lot of performance power for the buck.

Rogue Audio
2827 Avery Road
Slatington, PA 18080
(570) 992-9901