• Criterion Preamplifier

    Ground-breaking dual AC/battery power management, fully isolated transformer-coupled balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs, and military-grade 4-layer ceramic boards.

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    Criterion Technology

    The Criterion's sensuous musicality, sonic excellence, and trend setting usability features are products of a sophisticated architecture that pushes the limits of today’s technological art. The preamplifier’s elegant topology is completely balanced in the input phases, in circuit, and output phases.

    The Criterion features a twin chassis mechanical package milled from ingots of premium aircraft-grade aluminum, ground-breaking dual AC/battery power management, fully isolated transformer-coupled balanced and single-ended inputs and outputs, military-grade 4-layer ceramic boards, incredibly low noise and high gain differentially balanced OPA1632 audio amplifier modules at its core.

    The Criterion reference preamplifier stands at the intersection of paradigmatic innovations within the Jeff Rowland tradition of uncompromising engineering, green technologies, impeccable craftsmanship, and personal expression—exacting JRDG artistic and technological standards that turn innovations into heirlooms.

    Criterion Preamplifier Features

    Ultra Low Resonance Chassis

    Balanced preamplifier design housed inside twin ultra-low resonance, structurally rigid chassis precision-machined from solid ingots of aircraft grade 6061-T6 aluminum, completely sealed for trouble-free operation, yield maximum electrical/EMI/RF isolation.

    Diamond Sculpted Front Panel

    Matching front panels precision-machined and sculpted with a diamond tipped cutting tool into a uniquely elegant prismatic curved design.

    Functional isolation

    Power supplies and microprocessor-based system control circuits confined inside control chassis. Sensitive audio circuits isolated in audio chassis. Left and right subsystems further isolated into individual milled Aluminum pockets in true dual mono design for ultimate RF and EMI shielding.

    Free of internal signal pollution

    Control subsystem taken completely offline after each command execution to maximize sound purity.

    Advanced DC operations

    NiMH field replaceable high capacity, industrial grade, rechargeable batteries provide ultimate clean power source and absolute isolation from the power grid. AC power supply is taken offline during DC battery-based operations to isolate Criterion completely from residual mains grunge.

    Multi-regulated AC SMPS

    High speed switch mode power supply (SMPS) developed for aerospace applications incorporates passive power factor correction (PFC) for sonic performance so pure and musical that is virtually invariant to power cords.

    Automatic worldwide operations

    Auto sensing and auto ranging SMPS provides automatic optimum performance at any world-wide mains operating voltage between 85V and 260V.

    Ceramic boards

    Circuits implemented on military-grade 4-layer ceramic boards for minimum energy retention. Boards further sport numerous grounding points for extended internal star-grounding.

    Shortest signal path

    Gain stages based on ultra-low noise advanced TI Burr brown OPA1632 differential balanced audio amplifiers are implemented into shortest signal path of any Rowland reference preamplifier.

    Dual zone preamplification

    Separate 2nd gain stage for record outputs sports own OPA-1632 modules and independent volume.


    All inputs and outputs coupled to identical custom wound Lundahl transformers for maximum noise rejection and cross-component compatibility. Transformer coupling also ensures invariant gain for balanced and unbalanced devices. Flexible connectivity: 6 inputs (4 XLR balanced, 2 RCA unbalanced); 4 main outputs (2 XLR balanced, 2 RCA unbalanced); 2 record outputs (1 XLR balanced, 1 RCA unbalanced).

    Input gain offsets

    Hi resolution independently programmable gain offset on each main input ranging from -10dB to +10dB in 0.5dB increments--. Output offset: hi resolution programmable gain offset on main unbalanced input 2 with 0.5dB resolution.

    Unity gain inputs

    All main input configurable as unity gain bypass for compatibility with theater processors.

    Phase inversion

    Independent signal phase inversion control on left and right channels for optimum speaker setup and system checks.

    Channel balance

    Hi resolution (1.0dB) panning of stereophonic image (channel balance) for a maximum +/-20dB shift.


    Long life graphic vacuum fluorescent display (VFD) for system control. Remote control: Highly ergonomic, custom remote control transmitter milled from Aluminum billet supports complete system control and duplicates front panel operations.

    Remote sensor

    Wired remote sensor milled from Aluminum billet enables Criterion’s control while housing preamplifier in closed cabinet enclosures.

    Precision volume adjustments

    Dual rate volume control allows precision level adjustments over nearly a 100 dB range. The volume control incorporates a permanently noiseless optical encoder that always maintain its tactile feel, accuracy, and channel balance at all settings. The volume can be adjusted from 0dB to 99.5dB from the multi-role control knob on the front panel, as well as from the multi-function remote control. Rapid turns of the control knob adjust the volume by 1.5dB increments. Slow turns of the control allow for very fine adjustments by 0.5dB increments.

    Quiet power-up

    Rocker switch on back panel coupled to timer relay, turns Criterion quietly on to full power after circuit test and stabilization.

    Updatable software

    Customer installable control software updates via standard USB 2.0 interface port.


    Grounded 15 Amp female IEC AC power connector.

    Green technology

    Highly efficient circuits yield modest power consumption of mere 50 Watts in class A, resulting in cool operations, and permits constant power-up to eliminate warm-up time and maximize musical performance. Criterion can operate also enclosed inside an entertainment unit.

    Criterion Specifications

    Overall Gain Independently Programmable 0 to 20 dB on each input
    Gain Range 99.5 dB, 199 Equal Increments
    Gain Resolution 0.5 dB, +/- 0.03 dB Over Entire Range
    Frequency Response 10 Hz – 300 kHz, -3 dB @ 8 ohms
    Maximum Input Level 13.5 volts (RMS) @ 0 dB Gain
    Maximum Output Level 13.5 volts (RMS)
    THD + Noise < .003% @ 2 volt (RMS) Output, 50 Hz – 20 kHz
    Signal-to-Noise Ratio > 100 dB
    Common Mode Rejection Ratio > 90 dB, 20 Hz – 20 kHz
    Channel Separation 99.5 dB
    Input Impedance 40k ohms Balanced or Unbalanced
    Output Impedance 60 ohms Balanced or Unbalanced
    Inputs 4 pair Balanced (XLR), 2 pair Unbalanced (RCA)
    Outputs 2 pair Balanced (XLR), 2 pair Unbalanced (RCA) for Main Out, 1 pair Balanced (XLR), 1 pair Unbalanced (RCA) for Record Out
    Power Consumption Min – 15 watts, Max – 50 watts depending on Battery Recharge Rate
    Power Supply Universal Voltage Input Power Supply with selectable Off-line NiMh Battery Power Supply and Charger
    Display 320 x 32 dot Vacuum Fluorescent Display (VFD)
    Preamplifier Weight 46 lbs / 21 kg
    Overall Dimensions (H) x (W) x (D) 6.4” x 15.5” x 12.3” (162mm x 394mm x 311mm)

    Criterion Preamplifier Reviews

    Criterion Preamplifier

    Complemented by the ultimate refinement of its own DC battery power, the Criterion Reference Preamplifier simply delivers a transcendent musical experience: the Jeff Rowland hallmark of the ultimate sensuous and grain-free musicality, combined with unparalleled transparency and low level resolution. A vast 3-dimensional sound stage materializes into the physical listening space, where instruments and vocalists assume the textured appearance of solid existence.

    The Criterion yields exceptional frequency extension and linearity, with magnificent bass definition, an extraordinarily complex exposure of harmonic structure, and a sweetly filigreed treble. It exhibits the most nuanced low level detail and micro-dynamics of any JRDG preamplifiers ever, while comfortably besting them with its supreme transient speed, staggering authority, and breath-taking macro dynamics.