|Rogue Audio Ninety Nine Preamplifier Review|
|Home Theater Preamplifiers Stereo Preamps|
|Written by Andre Marc|
|Tuesday, 12 February 2013|
Page 1 of 2
I’ve enjoyed reviewing several Rogue products over the last few years. The Brodheadsville, PA based company makes beautifully built, excellent sounding tube preamps, power amps, and integrated amps. They have products that fit the budget of every audiophile, and have a reputation as a customer oriented company. I also especially like the fact that they market their products based on solid engineering, without any false bravado.
In for review is the Rogue Ninety Nine tube preamplifier. The Ninety Nine has been in the lineup for a few years now, but I felt it maybe had not gotten as much exposure as some other recent Rogue products. This is the second Rogue preamp I have gotten in for review. Previously, I wrote very positively about the Rogue Audio Perseus Magnum. The Ninety Nine retails for $2595, with a $600 optional phono stage. There is also a Super Magnum upgrade available, which brings the price to $2995.
The Ninety Nine uses four 6NS7 tubes, comes equipped with an outboard power supply, a motorized volume control knob, five RCA inputs, a Mono switch, and a Record output. There is also a five-position selectable gain knob for amplifier and source matching. The chassis is superbly built, with a retro cool appearance. The unit weighs a whopping 27 Lbs, and the overall feel of the knobs and connectors is top notch. According to Rogue, additional features of the Ninety Nine include:
Set Up & Listening:
Setting up the Ninety Nine was straightforward but required a bit of planning, as the external power supply is connected to the preamp via two high quality umbilical cords. The power supply itself is about the size of a cigar box, with an IEC inlet to plug your AC cable into. It just so happens I took delivery of a brand new Sanus rack that offers more shelf space than my previous rack, and situating the power supply a good distance from the preamp, as Rogue suggests, was easy. Other than that, since the tubes come preinstalled, it is just a matter of connecting your sources. My sources were the Bryston BDA-1 DAC and the brand new Marantz SA-11S3 SACD player/DAC (review forthcoming).
The Ninety Nine comes with a chunky, impressive remote that has two buttons, volume up and volume down. All other preamp functions are done manually. The five inputs, volume, and gain setting are selectable by solid precision-machined knobs. The mono, record, and mute functions are activated by metal push buttons.
I let the Ninety Nine burn in for about a week before I did anything more than casual listening. When I did sit down for a serious listening session, I came with away with some specific impressions that did not change at all during my time with the preamp. The attributes I initially assigned to the unit, in my mind, proved to be spot on. I heard organic, natural tone colors, a wide soundstage, precise imaging, and extremely quiet operation.
Natural timbres and a holographic sense of space are the hallmarks of great tube preamps, and the Ninety Nine had all of this in spades. Compared to my Audio Research SP16L, $2995 when last available, bass was better controlled, and there was a bit more transparency in the upper midrange. Ergonomically, there were many volume steps available on the Rogue with its motorized volume knob. The Rogue was also a bit quieter than the SP16L.