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Rogue Audio Atlas Magnum Power Amplifier Review Print E-mail
Thursday, 10 June 2010
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Rogue Audio Atlas Magnum Power Amplifier Review
Listening Continued
Mark OBrien Interview

ImageI've heard many audiophiles complain that there are not enough affordable, excellent sounding and well made components manufactuered in the United States anymore. Yes, it is true that many European and American designers have been contracting out their manufacturing to Asia to cut costs and keep prices within reach of ordinary hifi nuts.  And, yes, there are some American based manufacturers who make very fine gear, but priced for the Maserati crowd.  Yet, to make a blanket statement concerning the demise of fairly priced American products is unfounded, in my opinion.

Rogue Audio is one such company that has been making very fairly priced, wonderfully built and well reviewed components since 1996. They specialize in tubed preamplifiers and amplifiers. Rogue products range in price from $995 for the Metis preamplifier to $9995 for the powerhouse Apollo mono block amplifiers. It is not uncommon today to see new companies come to market with products starting at ten or fifteen grand. So for any of those readers that may have the wrong impression, with the Rogue Metis preamp and the Atlas power amplifier, one can assemble tube separates for around $2500.  In my book that is beyond affordable. The Metis and Atlas are from Rogue's entry level Titan series, which also includes the Cronus integrated tube amp. And by entry level, I don't mean chintzy. The Metis and Atlas are built like tanks and have been very positively reviewed, domestically and internationally. Rogue also offers "Magnum" upgrades to the Titan series, and under review here is the Atlas Magnum, which retails for $1895, a $400 premium over the standard Atlas.

Rogue Front logo

According to Rogue, the Magnum upgrades include:
  • Larger power supply
  • Power supply mods 
  • Polypropylene bypass capacitors 
  • Precision Dale-Vishay resistors in critical spots
  • Upgraded binding posts 
  • Gold tube sockets 
  • Upgraded small signal tubes 
  • KT90 output tubes
  • Magnum logo on faceplate
The standard Atlas is rated at 55 wpc, and uses EL-34 tubes. The Magnum upgraded Atlas is rated at 90 wpc and currently uses KT90 power tubes. The build quality on the Atlas Magnum is off the charts impressive. I just don't see any corner cutting here. It is a very user friendly amp with tube biasing being fool proof as Rogue includes an old fashioned voltage meter built into the top of the chassis. If a tube needs adjustment, there is easy access, and a tool included, clamped to the back of the top cover; a nice touch. The only inconvenience built in, that may be a function of keeping the price low, is the need to open the chassis and manually change the output tap to an 8 ohm or 4 ohm setting; more about that later.


When I first powered up the Atlas Magnum, gave it a bit of a warm up and played some music, I immediately noticed clear differences between the Rogue and my twice as expensive Audio Research VS55 50 WPC amp, which uses 6550 output tubes. First, the bass was heavier, more controlled, and more articulate. It was not even close, much to my surprise. Secondly, the overall presentation was more dynamic, in that images were larger and more lifelike. I don't know if it was the extra power, the KT90 tubes, or the circuit topology of the Rogue, but it was clearly more extended and a bit more transparent than the VS55, especially in the lower mids on down.  The VS55 seems to spotlight the midrange, and what a glorious midrange it is.  ARC gear seduces listeners by playing to its strengths, those holographic mids. Only by comparison does reality hit home and the Audio Research devotee realize that they might be giving up a tiny bit at the frequency extremes. The Atlas Magnum is one of those comparative components.  It seems more evenly balanced across the spectrum. But don’t get me wrong, both amps offer world class sound, but the Rogue offers more weight and overall bigger sound.

Top of Amp

With my Harbeth Compact 7 monitors, the Rogue found a very symbiotic partner. Even though it is classified as a monitor, the Compact 7 is on the large side of that category. It was able to handle the life size images and superb bass performance offered up by the Atlas Magnum. It kind of worked both ways. The Rogue showed me what a truly great speaker the Harbeth is, and the Harbeth was an excellent showcase for the Rogue. I could easily live with this combination for the rest of my days.

I experienced something interesting with the Atlas Magnum. I have always heard that more powerful amplifiers are desirable even at lower listening levels and even in smaller rooms. I had never really understood that from my own experience until now. For the first time, a more powerful amp sounded more relaxed and effortless even at moderate levels. I have had powerful solid state and tube amplifiers in my system, but never really heard the benefit in my small listening room. The Rogue was kind of an eye opener in that regard. I also have no doubt the Rogue will have no trouble in bigger rooms and with more demanding speakers, within reason of course.


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