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RMAF 2018: Jeff Rowland Design Group and the Ultimate Phono Pre for Multiple Tonearms

KEF R Series

Lucien Pichette of the Jeff Rowland Design Group is an old friend of ours. He grew up in Montrose, Colorado, where Colleen and I lived for a few years, and I used to drive past his boyhood home nearly every day. I was happy to visit with him in the Rowland room at the 2018 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest and talk about Colorado, but I kept getting distracted by the beautiful shiny faceplates of the gear in the room.

If you’ve ever seen a Rowland product, you know exactly what I mean—even though this was just a static display of the current Rowland models, attendees were wandering in, mesmerized by these shimmering amplifiers and preamplifiers.

An Input for Every Tonearm

After just a few minutes the Tall Man himself, Jeff Rowland, walked into the room. He was eager to talk about his new phono stage, the Conductor ($8,500-$13,600, depending on options such as number of inputs, or the availability of amorphous cores for the transformers). The Rowland Conductor can be ordered with up to four separate inputs for audiophiles who use multiple tonearms or multiple analog rigs. If there’s one trend I’m seeing this year when it comes to analog playback, it’s that a lot of people are using more than one tonearm on their turntables.

The Rowland Conductor is the ultimate phono pre for those vinyl lovers. Sure, there have been phono stages that offer more than a single input, but the two-chassis Conductor (the second box is one of two power supplies—the stock Aeris and the optional PSU) goes to great lengths to isolate each one of those inputs from the other ones. Each input is highly configurable and easily accessed on the back panel.

Pay As You Go

While the Rowland Conductor is a statement product for serious vinyl lovers, you can start off with just one input—even just an MM—and add as you go. In other words, you pay for what you need, and if you decide to jump down the analog rabbit hole, the Conductor will jump with you. The fit and finish of the Rowland products are simply stunning, and the sound quality, from my limited experience, is superb as well.

Now that I’m officially the owner of more than one tonearm—I added a second arm just a few weeks ago—the Rowland Conductor phono preamplifier is an extremely attractive alternative.

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