Rogue is a small but well known American audio company that is known for building affordable all-tube components. They have grown into a true high end company with products like the Apollo dual mono tube amplifiers that retail for $10,995 for the pair. Now Rogue also offers hybrid amplifiers, the newest being the Sphinx which use tubes and Class D outputs. I should confess at the start that I have not been a fan of Class D amps when sold as high end amps, but I have been impressed with them in bargain components and as subwoofer amps. So, I was intrigued by the concept of a hybrid tube/Class D for such a bargain price. The Sphinx integrated amplifier is a one hundred watts per channel hybrid amp built and designed in the U.S.A for $1,300. These days it’s hard to really get your head around that statement. Every Rogue component is hand-built in Pennsylvania with what appears to be excellent build quality.
The hybrid Rogue Audio Sphinx integrated uses two matched JJ/12AU7 triode tubes for the preamplifier tube circuit. The tubes form a mu follower design that is coupled to an OEM version of a pair of Hypex UCD180HG Class D amplifier modules for the output stage, and an oversized toroidal transformer supplying the amplifier power. It has an output of 100 watts into 8 ohms and 200 watts into 4 ohms, plenty of current here. It has a damping factor of greater than 1,000 which means the bass should be very tight, fast, and powerful. We know how important power supplies are in amplifiers and the Sphinx uses a hefty, that is for this price range, toroidal transformer.
Fit and finish is very nice for this price point also, and I like the way it looks, especially in silver. The Sphinx has three line source inputs and a moving-magnet phono input. I think the balance control on the Sphinx is a great feature that is missing on most modern line stages. The Emia Autoformer line stage I am using in my reference system at this time has an ingenious balance control and I have come to find it a feature that I would not be without. There is also an optional motorized remote volume control which I think most people would think is worth the additional $100.
For an entry level integrated it has another well thought out features in addition to the balance control — a moving magnet or hi-output moving coil phono stage that has 40 dB gain. Also included is a discrete headphone amplifier. The optional remote is a motor driven Alps volume control, which is the way my unit came. I should mention the remote only changes the volume.
The front panel is made of a 0.25-inch thick-brushed aluminum or anodized black plate. From left to right, you find an opening for the remote control receiver, then the POWER On/Off button. On either side of the POWER button, there are two LED’s. The one on the left is a blue LED that indicates the power is on. The one on the right is a yellow colored LED indicating the amplifier is in standby mode; to the right of that is a socket for a 1/4″ headphone jack. Then there are three nice knobs, the first is the SELECTOR switch, the second is the BALANCE control, and last, the VOLUME control.
On the back panel you find an IEC power socket, the main power switch, and three-way binding posts nicely placed on the far side of the back panel with enough space to use decent speaker cable. In the center moving from the left, the first pair of RCAs are the phono inputs and the next three pairs of RCA inputs are for line 1, 2, and 3. There is also a pair of fixed and variable line-level outputs to use with a power amp, a subwoofer, or maybe with the popularity of headphones, an external headphone amplifier.
This is a $1,300 integrated amp so there have to be some cost savings. The speaker binding posts are the less expensive plastic type with 3/4″ spacing. The RCA female connections are cost saving board mounted and not individual sockets mounted on the back panel, and the phono ground connection is just a Phillips head screw. Also all of the graphics are simply silkscreen printed on the case work.
Still, while it will never be called eye candy, neither does it feel cheap, light, or plasticky like so many things at this price point. I have two other integrated amps, the $4,000 Electrocompaniet PI 2D Prelude and the $1,000 Peachtree Audio Decco. Both of these have built in DACs and in fact, the Electrocompaniet has two DACs, although neither has a phono section. They both look more stylish on the outside than the Sphinx which looks a little dated in appearance by comparison. To me, that says that Rogue spent more on the unseen parts than most amps at this price range.
What the Sphinx lacks in stylish looks it makes up for in some really great, if somewhat old fashioned features. To start with, as mentioned above, it has a built in phono stage. This provides 40dB of gain which is more than enough for a MM or Hi-output MC cartridge. Next, it has a discrete headphone amplifier that works in a pretty neat way. You put it in the standby mode and the speakers don’t play but the head phone amp does and you can adjust the volume with the volume knob on the front panel. The remote is made of solid aluminum, and feels good in the hand. As mentioned previously, the remote does only two things, up and down volume; I wish it also controlled the balance. Speaking of balance, the inclusion of a balance control is a nice old fashion feature as well.
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