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Rogue Audio Hydra Hybrid Power Amplifier Review Print E-mail
Thursday, 31 May 2012
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Rogue Audio Hydra Hybrid Power Amplifier Review
Set Up and Listening
ImageI have had a fondness for Rogue Audio’s products since I reviewed the Atlas Magnum power amp a while back. I recently reviewed the Perseus Magnum preamplifier.  Rogue products remind of classic muscle cars that came out of Detroit in the 1960’s. Ballsy, well made with pride, and very distinctly American.

Rogue’s products are also a great counterpoint to those audiophiles who complain about no “affordable” high performance components being made in the U.S.A. They often use this excuse to purchase products made in Asia, essentially rewarding manufacturers who take their operations overseas. One look at the Rogue price list on their website and you can see just how affordable their entry point products are. They also have a proven track record of longevity, great customer service, and accessibility.

Rogue is well known for their tubed electronics, which makes the product under review here an eye opener. I received a sample of the brand new Hydra hybrid power amplifier. What kind of hybrid?  A tube and Class D solid state design. This is fascinating for a number of reasons. First, Class D designs have been around from a number of years, but have never been “approved” by purists who complained of flat sounding and uninvolving earlier generations. They were, however, praised for bass performance and other virtues, such as efficiency.

Class D designs have some distinct ergonomic advantages. They are very efficient, run cool, and what you would call “green” amplifiers. Attitudes towards Class D designs have changed recently, with companies like Audio Research, Mark Levinson, bel canto, and Cary Audio bringing Class D products to market. Of course several companies like NuForce, and Channel Islands Audio made their names exclusively selling Class D amps.

To break it down rather simply, a Class D, or ‘switching”, amplifier is based on a high-efficiency circuit designed to boost the power of incoming signals. Its operating principle is very different from other amplifier classes, abruptly switching its output transistors either completely on or off.  The benefits, as stated above (high efficiency, bass, etc), have made them easy choices for many active speakers, powered subwoofers, and Home Theater setups.

Obviously, Mark O’Brien of Rogue Audio saw some unused potential in switching amplifiers and has decided to blend tubes, Rogue Audio’s forte, with this new technology. For the particulars of the design process for the Hydra, and its big sister, the Medusa, see this fascinating and informative O'Brien interview.


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