I want to share with everyone that I have experienced a true revolution
in SET tube amplifier design. And I am very, very excited about it.
All of us have become very good friends over the past few years.
Sharing our thoughts, insights and discoveries with each other. I want
to share an experience I had yesterday with Roger Modjeski, of Music
Reference, who DMason rightly calls the “Merlin of Tubedom”.
A little background will help to create a necessary context for
my excursion into the Santa Barbara hinterlands where Roger’s
I have been researching Single Ended Triode tube amplification
for quite some time to see what magic, if any, these classic tubes which
go back to the beginnings of audio's evolution, could bring to my
Visaton B200’s in Open Baffle configuration.
Many of you will remember the thread DMason started several
months ago entitled Gravity Well of a Dark Star...http://www.audiocircle.com/index.php?board=78&topicdays=0&start=40
started in Red Wine Audio’s forum, in which Dan shared with all of us
his findings that a pair of B200’s set in a simple plywood panel constitutes
an entirely new paradigm in audio reproduction. Those of us who took
Dan at his word went ahead and ordered the B200’s and designed our
own baffles based on information Dan shared with us. The result has been
nothing less than a transformational shift in everything I thought I
understood about speaker design. And the beginning of a totally new
relationship with what is possible in reproducing the pulsating musical
life within the live event of music.
My interest in SET tube design has lead me to appreciate the
individual genius of each person who has undertaken the challenge of
creating their unique designs in amplifiers built around the potential of
such classic Single Ended Tubes as the 45, 2A3, and 300B.
Some of these designers are legendary innovators who have
brought their considerable genius to problems and challenges of
advancing the potential of SET amplifier design using these tubes.
The drawback for many music lovers in exploring SET amplifier design
has always been the low watts generated by these tubes. Roger Modjeski
is one of these legendary geniuses who has now developed an entirely
new circuit that does what no other designer has been able to do...until now...
he has developed a circuit that can actually allow the 45 tube to play at
twice its usual watt power rating, bringing it within reach of highly efficient
speakers like the B200’s with their 96db sensitivity. That means that the
usual range of 1.5 to 2 watts, which is the only range that all of the existing
45 SET tube amps can generate, is doubled in his extraordinary revolutionary
SET amplifiers. The result is a 45 SET that can generate 5 watts of clean,
highly detailed and explosive power!!!! And his circuit innovations do not
stop with the 45, but he is able to double the power output of 2A3’s and
300B’s as well. Roger’s circuit in no way “pushes” the tube to perform
past its safe range. This "Merlin of Tubedom" does his magic purely with
circuit innovation that does not affect the life of the tube. In fact Roger is
the only one in the business that guarantees his tubes performance for
a period of 12 months or 2,000 hours (whatever comes first).
When I first entered Rogers home/laboratory (Picasso once said
that “every room of my house is a laboratory”...and that is certainly true
of Roger as well) he was playing an older pair of AR3’s with his new
State-of-the-Art “Flagship” (Rogers word) RM-245. If I say that this amp
looks gorgeous in person, most of you will think I have gone over the edge
and lost all control of my mind. Well maybe I have. I love the looks of this
thing...with every control...and there are lots and lots of controls...placed on
top of a large polished black surface. The sides are a lovely dark wood.
Take a look at it on Rogers web page...http://www.ramlabs-musicreference.com/index.html
Roger designed this amp to allow for dialed in negative feedback (or no feedback)
and variable biasing adjustments. What this does is to allow the amp to play
any kind of 45 tube out there and any speaker that is designed to play driven
by 5 giant voluptuous 45 SET watts. The RM-245 cost $6000.00...a price most
of us are not able to afford. But the good news is this. Roger has also designed
a much less expensive version that will sell for less than $2000.00. And there is
another even more powerful 2A3/45 SET amp that has even more power for
less than $3000.00. Both these amps are a steal considering the doubling of
power and the versitility of both amps being able to play 45 and 2A3 tubes.
We listened to the AR 3 for a while and then Roger asked me to bring
in my B200’s and set them up. We moved the AR3 out of the way and I set up
my 3/4 inch plywood panels with the B200’s mounted somewhere near the top
and flush to the front surface of the wood. A friend of Roger’s, named John,
walked in and he and John admired the look of these simple yet elegant panels.
Roger hooked up wires to them and we listened. The first thing I noticed was
that there was nothing happening below say 200 Hz. This came as a shock
to me because at home, driven by my 9 year old Single Ended Pentode
integrated amp I had never missed that frequency range before. But then
my SEP integrated has tone controls and I usually dial the bass in to
somewhere around 2 or 3 o’clock. For the record, when I was auditioning
Louis Chochos’s new Aperiodic 8’s at home recently, it became obvious
that these tone controls are C-R-U-D-E. The Aperiodic 8’s are so revealing
that the tremendous distortion my tone controls produced made it impossible
to listen to the A8’s without taking them out of the equation. Which suggests
the B200 in OB configuration are much more forgiving and less detailed then
the A8’s in absolute terms. Roger explained to me that the bass tone control
of my SEP was forcing the B200’s into an excursion that moved it out of its
natural linear range...which was not good for the B200...even if it was
able to produce some of the lower frequencies.
John was immediately taken by the sound of the B200’s which
filled Rogers room with a penetrating realism that was captivating.
Roger listened intently for awhile.
Let me digress by saying that I really like Roger. He is funny and
very serious at the same time. He waxes quite eloquently about every
detail related to circuitry, tubes, speakers, power, you name it, and all
the while Roger speaks in a staccato stream of fascinating ideas that
opened up, what for me, has always been the cloaked mystery behind
audio’s real science. Additionally he is warm, sincere, friendly and very
enthusiastic. Suddenly Roger jumped up and pulled a small sub woofer
from behind a pair of his own electrostatic speakers that he has been
working on. He also pulled out a small amp with its guts exposed
(“...I call it my Saturday amp because I threw it together one Saturday
to play my new subwoofer...”) and a slim device Roger identified as a
“active crossover”. He ripped the back open from the active crossover
and pulled out what looked like a pair of computer sound cards and
then fished in a shoebox full of similar devices until...“There!...that should
create the perfect crossover for these speakers”. He popped them in
rerouted the wires here and there, placed the subwoofer in front of the
2 OB panels and turned everything back on again. He moved with such
speed and certainty that I could barely follow everything he was doing.
When the sound came back on something very strange happened.
The sound field of the B200’s in OB, played by Rogers RM-245 with
the huge EmissionLabs 45 tubes, sounded like we were listening in a
huge theater with vast spaces. I could here to the back wall of the
recording venue. Every detail that was present in the music appeared
from a spatial field so dense with musical information that I was truly
astounded. Is this what DMason has been talking about all this time?
I wondered to myself. My god! John and Roger were as mystified as
I was. The marriage of Roger's 45 SET amp generating 5 powerful
watts and the B200’s in OB cannot be believed. Roger put on one CD
then another and the response was always he same. Voices were to
die for. Rich, resonant, really there in the room with you, palpable, you
could hear the humanity, the aching emotion, the reflective ebbing and
commencing of the voice as it wound its way around the heart strings.
Instrumentals were rich in timbre, detailed, layered. The B200 sounded
like HUGE horn speakers. I should know. I had just returned from the VTV
show and heard the humongous Cogent speakers that you could crawl
into and live in...no kidding! And Rogers amp and the B200’s sounded
THAT GOOD...THAT LARGE...THAT SPATIAL...
John was a very nice chap and listened most intently. He was
easily in his sixties if not older and has a pair of Apogges and amplifiers
modified by Roger. He was really impressed and kept saying how incredible
they sounded. Roger took copious measurements of my baffles. He has
every intention of experimenting with his own pair of OB’s using the
Finally Roger put on a CD of Bach’s organ works...and turned up
the RM-245 all the way. He placed an oscilloscope on the floor hooked
up to the amp and speakers...and we listened to a full organ emit sounds
that were comparable to what I heard in Chartres Cathedral in France.
But with a clarity of tone that must be experienced to be believed.
The bottom line is I am purchasing one of Rogers lesser expensive
amps. Probably the 2A3/45 which is a smaller version of the RM-245 45
SET but larger than the scaled down 45. Both amps will play both tubes.
Before I left I asked Roger to put the EmissionLabs 2A3 tube in
place of the 45. In Rogers amp the usual 3 watts of the 2A3 actually
generates 8 watts of SET power! What I heard was revelatory. The 2A3
was actually more detailed and perhaps even smoother than the 45.
Something that is supposed go against popular wisdom. But both tubes
sound so incredible that I am still shaking my head in disbelief.
Something happened to me at Rogers house/laboratory. I heard
music reproduced as I have never heard it before; alive, rich, layered, spatial
and detailed, with a natural warmth and dynamics that was revelatory.
Anyone who has ever wondered about what a well executed 45 or
2A3 amp can sound like on their speakers...assuming their speakers have
the necessary sensitivity...will be truly amazed by what Roger Modjeski
has done with his new SET amplifiers. I was thinking about the Yamamoto
A08S because of the raves Srajan and Jeff Day said about it.
MOVE OVER Yamamoto. Here is a true legend of American audio,
Roger Modjeski, who has developed a SET amp that delivers TWICE THE
POWER from the same tubes and gives enormous control over biasing and
even negative feedback, or no feedback, as desired...for less than the Yamamoto...
and does not use a rectifier tube. And Roger’s circuit design has good control
over damping which means good control of the speaker and a very low noise floor.
It is important to point out that the Yamamoto uses the 717A tube
which will become increasingly hard to find. The 80 which is their rectifier
tube, it is already expensive and becoming rare. This constitutes built-in
obsolescence. And I like the design of Roger’s new SET’s much better.
Thanks Roger for teaching me more about amplifier circuit design
in a few hours than I have been able to learn in months and months of
reading. Thanks for letting me listen to your magical amps and sharing
all of your insights with me.
I will be putting in my order for Rogers 2A3/45 amp...and...for his subwoofer...
which is small, fast as hell and is hardly noticeable...but which fleshed out the
B200’s perfectly...keeping up with their tremendous speed with perfect aplomb
that never called attention to itself. Roger is thinking that the subwoofer with
amp and active crossover should sell for around $1000.00.
I shall be reporting back to everyone as soon as I have Roger’s
new 2A3/45 amp and subwoofer in hand and playing at home.
I strongly urge anyone who is even remotely interested in Single
Ended Triode tube designs to get in touch with Roger or his assistant
Roger thinks he will have photos of his new less expensive versions
of this 45 SET and 2a3/45 SET up on his web site before the end of January.
Real revolutions do not happen very often. These Revolutionary
new SET’s are the real thing.
I want to wish everyone at Audio Circle a Very Merry Holiday. Peace on Earth.
Warm regards -Richard-