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Rogue Audio Perseus Tube Preamplifier Review

Watch how Doug Schroeder unravels the myth behind the $1,795 tube preamplifier

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While enjoying Benoit’s Every Step of the Way, particularly “The Key to You” and “No Worries,” what struck me was the quick and punchy sound of the Persesus/M-70 Pro combo. The presentation was quick, lithe and energetic. The analogy that came to mind to differentiate the difference between this set up and the Pathos Classic Ones was that of an a younger athlete still moving into his prime. Bursting with raw physical talent, there is a sense of power and agility to their movement. As great athletes age, some of the speed and quickness is transformed into experience and skill. In the same way, the Perseus strikes me as the younger athlete, and the Pathos as the older athlete. The Perseus is “lighter on its feet,” while the Pathos is very sure footed. The Perseus is very energetic, while the Pathos is a bit more reserved.

In keeping with the younger/older analogy, the Perseus tailors a signal much in the way that a younger person might pursue the “naked truth,” unadorned accuracy. Conversely, a well seasoned individual knows there are usually levels of intricacy in “truth” and that complications can arise, so a more tempered approach is utilized. Truth is still sought, but with a less pressing urgency. In terms of ultimate smoothness and extension, the Perseus is not in the league of the best to be had. No one seriously entertaining purchase of the Perseus should delude themselves that his preamp will conquer units multiple times its price. It plays well for the level of component offered.

Rogue Audio Perseus Tube Preamplifier

In terms of articulation, the Perseus delivered sharply defined and clearly accentuated piano notes. One could hear that Benoit was a younger, more animated pianist. Benoit’s seeming impatience with melody came through on the Perseus. Much of this detail was the result of hearing the venue and the ambient information on the recording quite clearly. If you are a “background” person, who loves to hear the setting as the music is playing, the Perseus can retrieve it for you. It will not be at the level of preamps in the $2.5k and up range, but it will be far more revealing than even very pricey surround receivers. This is the Perseus’s greatest advantage; at its price point it will yield verifiably audiophile quality sound, versus the schlock that so often is schlepped on the public.

One of my most enjoyable concert memories was seeing Dave Sanborn at an outdoor venue while torrential rains and tornado warnings had been issued! With all the lightning strikes in the vicinity, to say the concert was electric would be an understatement. While many other artists might have bailed, Dave stayed under the canopy and was rippin’ his songs with abandon! One of the aspects of the Perseus I enjoy is the way it makes older discs pick up “rotational speed,” like a tornado. On a turntable with adjustable speed control, one can bump the setting to ever so slightly increase the speed – and the pitch jumps a tad higher, the pace increases ever so slightly.

The Perseus reminds me of that pitch and speed change effect. Don’t misunderstand, the unit is not altering anything it’s not supposed to, but it conveys the excitement of a livelier presentation than the “same old same old”. I have heard Sanborn on plenty of rigs where he sounds as old as he is today, not the hot-blooded sax player he was in the early 1980’s. The Perseus restored his youth and vigor to that fresh, feisty, fiery musician he was when the song was recorded.

The one sonic nit to pick with the Perseus was an issue with humming from a ground loop in the signal. Initially, I thought it was due to noisy tubes, and Mark worked with me to try three sets. The final set was marked for dummies with “front, right” etc. on each tube wrapping. It was set up correctly, and initially the hum all but disappeared. However, it was not long and it reared its head again. It was not so harsh or loud that it distracted me while listening, so I decided to carry on and not pursue a replacement unit.

This was not the first time I had experienced a hum from a Rogue product. Prior to reviewing, I had used a Rogue 66 Magnum preamp with separate power supply. The power supply also had a hum that was just a bit louder than I wanted, faintly audible at the listening position ten feet away. These kinds of issues do not bother some, but drive others crazy. It makes me think that the Perseus might be more sensitive to such issues, as it is the only piece among my system and review components which has the hum.

It may be that the Perseus is sensitive to my remote lighting system. I tried turning off all lighting, but the hum persisted. Surprisingly, the Jeff Rowland 501 Mono Block amps had built in noise elimination circuitry, and they did the trick – the hum of the Perseus, routed through the Rowlands, fell silent instantly. If an individual has experienced ground loop problems in their listening location they may want to carefully investigate this issue if they are considering the Perseus.

The only mechanical quibble I had with the unit was the rapidity of the volume control when using the remote. Especially with powerful amps, the usable range between whisper and wailing was between 8:00 and 10:00 on the dial. I found myself having to jab as quickly as possible to get the volume knob to jiggle a bit and increase the volume slightly. If I held the button down any length of time the exponential explosion of the listening level made me scramble to turn it down. A slower moving motor for the level adjustment should be considered by Rogue.

I had said previously that the Perseus has a light, crisp sound, so I determined to pair it with the ultimate light and crispy (sounds like a Crispy Crème Doughnut! Who can resist!) component selection. The Jeff Rowlands played a part as well as the Tannoy Glenair speakers. The Glenairs have what are called Dual Concentric drivers – basically a tweeter melded with a full range driver. They need a clean signal not to sound convoluted. While the audiophile on a budget may have to content themselves with amps more akin to the Monarchy SM-70 Pros, reviewers can push the envelope and see how high-end a budget component can reach.

Having 1000Wpc to work with, the Rowlands are capable of revealing if the signal fed from the preamp has the “right stuff.” I usually listen first for two things, robust and well-defined bass, and crystalline and extended top-end, both of which are difficult to produce for a realistically priced preamp. The Perseus was respectable in both regards. I was impressed by the fact that the bass was never so hollow as to produce the classic popping sound of a poorly defined bass note. With the Perseus, if you don’t get all the weight of the bass, you will at least get the proper tone, which is more than many components can offer.

The higher-end reach of the Perseus is limited, and it sounds like it’s been designed to be friendly as opposed to exacting. It seems that in lieu of edging beyond the warmth of tubes and stepping into solid-state clarity and stiffness, Rogue has chosen to let the vague haze of undefined sound rest just beyond reach, but not beyond sight. When I hear the depth of the soundstage, it is in the immediate vicinity but not the long distance. Paired with Vandersteen-like warm speakers the result is intimacy. This preamp is for music lovers, not equipment analyzers. It’s for people who want to play an entire disc or album, not put on tracks for scrutiny to see if every last iota of effect is identifiable.

While the Perseus did not slaughter performance-wise pricier equipment, neither did it turn tail and run. It never left me with a feeling, “Is this all you get for the money,” which I have felt at times with some pricier components. It costs a reasonable sum, performs solidly and reliably and looks like a serious audio component. It’s a reasonable choice for a novice to intermediate HT enthusiast who wants better than mass market sound for stereo.

One Response to Rogue Audio Perseus Tube Preamplifier Review


  1. Djordje Milinkovic says:

    Hi Doug,
    I am in the market for a new pre and power amp. My considerations were the Rogue Perseus and Monarchy SM 100 mono blocks. I was very happy to that you reviewed the amps from both of these companies. In your opinion, is the Magnum version that much better than the standard Perseus? Also, what did you use as the interconect cable. I am considering the JPS Labs Superconductor Q. I am into electronic and new wave music.
    Thank you,
    Djordje

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