Mark O’brien has been building quality amplifiers for over 20 years. Rogue Audio is located in the Lehigh Valley in Pennsylvania where their entire product line is manufactured. Mark’s approach has always been to build products that have superior sonic quality while using hi-end parts throughout the design and then offering them to the public at affordable prices. Prior to starting Rogue Audio he worked doing research for Bell Labs. Rogue originally was started when Mark designed his first preamplifier mainly because he did not want to spend the money to buy what he felt were overpriced preamplifiers. The idea of owning his own business appealed to Mark and the rest is history. Rogue philosophy has been to keep their overhead low and have maintained good relationships with their suppliers over the years and have been making quality amplifiers that have excellent sound and are affordable. .
The Rogue Cronus Magnum 11 is an all tube design. The 100W per channel integrated uses 4 New Sensor KT120, 2 12AX7 and 3 12Au7 JJ new production tubes. The Cronus has 4 gold plated RCA inputs that include a phono-stage and three line level inputs. Included in the unit is a separate 1W solid state headphone amplifier, It also has active outputs for a subwoofer or can be used for bi-amping is desired.
The Cronus uses a triode preamplifier that is coupled to the companies Atlas Magnum amplifier. The oversized linear power supply gives the user exceptional dynamic headroom. The circuitry all designed by Rogue Audio, has short paths and is low in noise. The chassis is a high quality and the weight of the amplifier is 60 lbs. The tubes have to be biased individually and the excellent instructions in the owner’s manual made this a breeze. Simply turning the screw clockwise with the supplied wand and looking at the built in meter while setting each power tube and to the correct bias, took a few short minutes. The simple procedure is designed so any novice user can adjust bias easily and trouble free. Once completing the easy to follow instructions I double checked the bias and it was dialed in to the correct setting for the KT120 tube.
The Rogue Cronus Magnum has developed a legendary status over the years. Rarely coming up on the used market, the Cronus amplifiers are known for high quality sound and packed with features. The Cronus updates included a newly redesigned phono-stage with a lot of attention to making it perform optimally. The headphone amplifier in the unit was also upgraded with better parts. The upgrades were enough for Rogue to designate the 11 status after Cronus Magnum. The addition of the KT 120 New Sensor tube increased the power of the amplifier to 100 watts per channel. The KT120 added thunderous bass and added more power while maintaining the Cronus’s magical liquid midrange. The additional power increased headroom and gave the amplifier a wider soundstage with increased depth. The KT120 is a powerful tube that will handle large scale recordings easily and will satisfy any classical music lover with lighting fast transients and speed. The quickness of the Cronus also makes recording with deep bass a treat to listen too. If you a headbanger who loves the growling bass the Magnum 11 produces and not be disappointed.
The Fritz Carbon 7 speakers are efficient and an easy load to drive. The Cronus Magnum using the KT 120 stock tubes was a synergistic match for them. The Rogue was able to deliver ample wattage and expanded the headroom of the Carbon 7 over previous lower wattage amplifiers used previously in my room. Patricia Barber’s “Company” track from “Modern Cool” had thunderous bass with extension and detail. The Cronus was able to effortlessly reproduce the deep bass while giving it the proper texture necessary to make the track believable.
Daft Punk’s album “Random Access Memories also offers great bass and the Rogue Cronus Magnum 11 was able to deliver musicality with excellent tonality The bass on the Fritz Carbon 7 SE goes down to 32Hz, incredible for a small monitor, and the Cronus captured all that the Fritz was capable of producing. Never did I feel a need for a subwoofer or wish for any more bass. Midrange and treble extension were also well portrayed using the Cronus. The tonalities of instruments were lifelike and accurate. The soundstage was beyond the speakers and easily filled the room with musicality. Tube amplifiers in my opinion deliver some of the best sound staging and tonality and have a more natural musical sound than solid-state amplifiers. The Cronus delivered everything you expect from well-designed tube amplification. The midrange was liquid on vocal recordings and created a soundstage that was wide and deep and appeared to be well outside of the speakers.
Listening to Madeline Peyroux “Bird on the Wire’ from her Blue Room album is quite special. The musicality the Cronus was delivering led to many fatigue free listening sessions into early morning hours. The Cronus was able to capture the vocals in a realistic and captivating live setting. I felt the performance as if I was there at the session and Madeline’s singing had my complete attention. Never did I lose interest listening and kept finding myself not wanting the music to end. The Cronus was able to deliver all the magic of the recording and the vocal delivery was fabulous.
The sound of instruments coming from Jane Monheit’s new album “The Songbook Sessions: Ella Fitzgerald “ has excellent acoustic bass and the Cronus captured the instrument plus all of the finer details in the recording and had the correct the instrument tonality exceptionally realistic. The vocal on “All too Soon” had terrific presence and imaging was focused without ever sounding harsh and highlighted Jane’s sultry vocal. The trumpet in the song never sounded strident and was suspended in its own space with air and the spacing between the musician and Jane’s performance was incredibly believable. The Cronus was excellent at creating a wide and deep soundstage with excellent spacing between the performers. The treble was clean and extended and portrayed the upper registers with clarity, definition and musicality. The tonality of instruments is what I have come to expect from well thought out tube designs, and the Cronus Magnum 11 delivered a satisfying performance of Monheit’s sexy and seductive vocal.
Drum cymbals with high-hat had excellent space and with my eyes closed I could envision the space between the high hats on “Something Loves Me ” from the same album. The rhythm section was all spaced individually with air and space around the vocalist. Using the $13K Chord Dave as a source, the Cronus Magnum 11 scaled up significantly over the excellent Oppo BDP 105. Noticeable was increased bass with much better spacing in the soundstage and the sound had more musicality. The differences were not subtle and the Cronus was able to easily distinguish differences in the upgraded DAVE.
The vinyl resurgence in the hobby got me back into vinyl in a big way. Purchasing a large classical collection and buying albums has been consistent for the past year. Accumulating over 1200 albums created a need for a musical and quiet phono stage. The VPI Scout using the excellent Ortofon 2M Black cartridge is revealing and the Cronus Magnum 11 phono stage was up to the task. The Cronus had terrific musicality playing vinyl. The sound coming from the phono-stage was musical and quiet. The Cronus playing vinyl never made me feel as if I needed to add a separate phono stage. The musicality and dead silent background always kept me focused and the sound of the vinyl records was musical and had me spinning record after record for hours on end, many times into the next day.
Mark O’brien spent lot of time in redesigning the Cronus 11 phono stage and the end result is noticeable. The Cronus never faltered while playing vinyl. It had terrific soundstaging with excellent treble extension and was able to deliver thunderous bass extension. The many hours listening to the Cronus with vinyl never left me feeling as if something was missing. The detailed sessions always left me satisfied with the performance and continuously amazed at how quiet the Cronus Magnum 11 was delivering the musicality.
The headphone amplifier is a solid-state separate amplifier built into the unit. Since it is a separate amplifier you do not get the full advantage of using the tube section . Audeze, MrSpeakers and Hifiman headphones were used during the evaluation. The 1W solid-state amplifier was able to drive all the headphones easily. The sound coming from the LCD X and XC using the single ended Nordost Heimdall cable was musically satisfying on all recordings I listened too. The Ether C and the Sennheiser HD800 were driven easily with good sound coming from both of these flagship models. Never did any of the headphones struggle. The amplifier was able to drive all headphones and was musically satisfying but never as engaging as any of the separate more expensive amplifiers in my listening room. The internal amplifier could not compete with dedicated stand-alone amplifiers. The Liquid Gold is a $3950 headphone amplifier and the VPI 229D integrated cost $4000. The Cronus is priced significantly less that the other units and still a good amplifier but it had some drawbacks. Namely the tubes were still running while in use and you unable to shut off the tube amplifier thus putting unwanted hours on the tubes. The sound coming from the amplifier while sounding good did not have the headroom of the Liquid Gold, nor the musicality of the all tube VPI 229D which were able to keep me involved for long listening sessions.
Not every system needs 100W- so what do you do if you want to drive a different system where 100 watts of tube power could be overkill. Easy-simply use the magical Gold Lion KT77. Curious on how well the Rogue would perform with different tubes, I moved the Cronus upstairs into another system in my 10×10 dedicated listening room. The Omega Super 5 Alnico floor stander is in the dedicated room with Rega RB3 turntable and a Marantz DV6001 universal player. The sound from the Omega single driver when using amplification of low wattage is exemplary. Using 300B amplifiers or 2A3 low wattage and flea flicker amps of 2 watts had been my normal amplification in this room and at times a classic Pioneer SX 650 35 watt amp from the 70’’s gets some time driving the Alnico Super 5 .The KT 77 in the Cronus Magnum 11 dropped the power of the Cronus to 55W. Mark uses Rega tables in the factory to voice the Cronus Magnum 11 and other Rogue products so it was a natural and synergistic match for the Cronus. The Cronus easily drove the floor standers and the sound coming from the Omega Alnico Super V was spectacular.
The soundstage is wall to wall in the dedicated room with pinpoint imaging with definition and the speakers completely disappeared. The performers were all in a focused soundstage with unbelievable inner detail and presence. The amplifier was dead quiet and delivered a black background. I could hear only the music that the system was delivering. The Omega came to life and the Cronus was able to get the most out of the bass that the Super 5 was able to deliver. The midrange with the KT77 was magnificent. Treble extension had terrific shimmer and never was harsh or splashy on jazz recordings and the Rega RB3 is a fantastic pairing with the Elys 11 cartridge delivering big sound with exceptional musicality. The system never faltered with the Omega speakers and was musically engaging. The Cronus feels right at home driving the Omega’s and the sound coming from the system was outstanding and made the system sound complete.
The reputation that Rogue Audio has developed through the years with the Cronus Magnum series of products has been well earned. Spending months with the Cronus Magnum 11 made me realize how good Mark O’Brien designs and builds products. The Cronus Magnum 11 is built in the US and sold for $2500 making it truly one of the greatest value tube amplifiers in production today . The Cronus 11 offers world class amplification with a excellent phono stage and can deliver 100W of tube magic . The amplifier has sufficient power to drive most any floor standing or monitor speaker easily. The Magnum 11 offers outstanding musicality and one of the most quiet tube amplifiers I have experienced. It offers the buyer a musical instrument designed to provide years of trouble free musicality. Using two different systems the Cronus Magnum 11 never disappointed or faltered and always delivered exceptional sound.
The amplifier can use KT120, KT88, KT77 and 6550 tubes. The design allows for easy biasing so any non-engineer can easily adjust the biasing. The hardest thing to do with the Rogue Cronus Magnum 11 is to lift the amplifier off the ground with its 60 pounds (that’s right folks) of pure atomic build quality. Built and designed by Mark O’Brien the Cronus Magnum 11 always delivers musicality and more important terrific engineering with outstanding value. The Cronus Magnum 11 sounded excellent in both of my systems with different sources and speakers.The sound was so captivating, I purchased the review sample. High praise indeed for a company dedicated to providing the best products in the marketplace that anyone who loves music can easily buy and enjoy. The Cronus Magnum 11 is designed for music lovers and never disappoints in performance, sound or value. Recommended for anyone needing a world-class tube amplifier that just plays music.
– General Features and Specifications:
– 100 WPC – 20Hz-30KHz bandwidth – 4 and 8 ohm transformer taps – Slow start turn on sequencing
– Massive high storage linear (!) power supply – (2) 12AX7, (3) 12AU7, (4) KT120 output tubes – Gold plated RCA inputs – Gold plated binding posts – Machined aluminum faceplate – 4 inputs (phono, line 1,2,3) – 44 dB gain phono input +/- 0.1 dB 20Hz – 20KHz – 1W Headphone amplifier – Remote with volume and mute – Buffered variable outputs (great for subwoofers)! – Active outputs for subwoofer or biamping – 4 RCA inputs (phono, line1, line 2, line3) – All precision components – Heavy (2 ounce) copper circuit board – Full tube cage/cover (optional) – Fully tested, burned-in, and auditioned – Detachable IEC power cord – 18″ W x 17″D X 5.5″ H (actual) – 25″ W x22″D X 11″ H x 55 LBs (shipping dimensions) – power requirements: 120V/240V – 50/60Hz – Entirely designed and hand built in the USA
Frank started his journey in high-end audio in 1978 and was quickly hooked. Frank’s passion for music and great sound reproduction is stronger than ever. His main focus is with high-end headphones and portable related gear. He is a regular Head-Fi.org contributor and is a co-founder of Headphone.Guru.