Build quality is solid but not fancy. Knock the top plate with your knuckle and it clonks in a rather uninspiring way, but it’s purpose is to protect you from it and vice versa, nothing more. Lift the amp up, however, and you may be surprised at how heavy it is. The ironwork must be extremely dense, which means that the whole thing is pretty much theft proof. I like the aluminium face plate and the low profile nature of the chassis, but it’s obviously not built to look pretty. You can get an optional cover that makes it look marginally less industrial, but if you want style the Rogue may not be the amp for you. The remote handset on the other hand is rather nice. It’s carved from solid aluminium and equipped with two volume buttons; it’s quite at odds with the aesthetics of the amp.
Connection wise, the Cronus Magnum has three line inputs plus phono for moving magnet cartridges, outputs for a sub or bi-amping, and the speaker outputs connect to four and eight Ohms taps. But whichever tap I chose I couldn’t get this amp to produce solid bass with the first speaker I connected it to, using Townshend Isolda DCT cable. That speaker was the ATC SCM11 – not a brand that’s renowned for its tube friendliness, I’ll grant you, but Rogue does say 100 watts per channel in the spec. The mid and top was a lot more successful however; voices were beautiful and the guitar work righteous on Steely Dan’s ‘Bad Sneakers’ [Katy Lied, MCA]. Winding up the volume on this combo, it became apparent that the IR remote works at some pretty extreme angles, so the handset is not merely a looker.
Moving onto a rather less demanding loudspeaker in the form of PMC’s fact.8 floorstanders, the unvarnished demos on the Denmark Street Sessions partner disc to Fink’s Hard Believer [Ninja Tune] delivered a directness that gave them greater emotional power than the finished versions. The bass lines on ‘Pen on Paper’ were particularly effective, revealing that the Rogue can do bottom end when the speaker is not putting up a fight. More important is the way that the amp lets you hear the intent and feeling in the music, the lyrics are clearer so the meaning of the song is easier to appreciate. It makes for very engaging listening. This much was apparent with Gregory Porter, too; he has a honeyed voice but there’s a sting in its tail, yet it’s not too smooth because there is real feeling behind songs like ‘No Love Dying’ [Liquid Spirit, Blue Note] and clear reverb on the voice and instruments. Reverb is always more obvious with tube amps, either because they have such good midrange resolution or because of the harmonic distortion that these devices introduce. But in this case, it’s subtle enough not to matter; if it’s a distortion it’s a euphonic one.
By transistor standards, the bass is still slightly soft edged, but it has pace, shape, and adequate weight. People like tube amps partly because they don’t like the grain that many transistors add to the mix, but solid state devices do give lower frequencies better definition, so it’s a case of choosing your poison. High frequencies here are not as extended as a good solid-state design but do sound smoother, which can be a benefit with many loudspeakers. Cymbals here are a little thin, but brass is excellent. You get the tonal richness without the glare that is so often evident. The Cronus Magnum also copes with high density material with ease, making the music easy to follow because the rhythms and melodies are never buried in the arrangement.