Jeff Rowland Design Group Continuum S2 integrated amplifier

Equipment report
Integrated amplifiers
Jeff Rowland Design Continuum S2
Jeff Rowland Design Group Continuum S2 integrated amplifier

Jeff Rowland is one of those brands that audio people like to show off to non-audio people. The company’s products go some way to quiet the “it cost HOW much?” cries from non-audiophiles, thanks to off-the-chart external design and build criteria. With its thick gloss black casework and contrasting scalloped so-shiny-it-might-be-lenticular front panels (all machined from top-grade 6061-T6 aluminium alloy), Jeff Rowland sets a build quality standard that is rarely matched, and never exceeded. It’s the Leica lens effect – spending that much money on metal and glass is an absurd idea right up until you handle one.

The Continuum S2 is Jeff Rowland’s 4th generation integrated model in a line of electronics that range in price from about a 3.0 to a 9.5 on the Richter scale; the more ‘reassuringly expensive’ mono power amplifiers in particular are extremely popular with the Masters of the Audiophile Universe. Alongside that sumptuous build, Jeff Rowland is perhaps best known for being one of the first high-end brands to embrace Class D operation. Jeff Rowland has not tied itself to one circuit design, however, and recent launches from the brand have used a range of 20th and 21st Century modes of operation. It’s a pragmatic approach that has paid off, even if there are those who swear blind that one amplifier design sounds better than another, the fact is Jeff Rowland amps have a signature sound, one that does not appear unduly altered by the internal architecture.

The Continuum S2 operates in Class D, which is how the company manages to deliver 400W into eight ohms from a relatively small 15.9kg chassis. The first indicator that Jeff Rowland does Class D right is that it doubles its power perfectly into four ohms; most Class D designs might have an impressive performance into an eight ohm load, but quickly fall apart when faced with any loudspeaker more challenging. The Continuum S2’s ability to face off low impedances shows just what the company’s learned with Class D over the years. Perhaps the secret is the Continuum S2 running surprisingly warm for a Class D design; not Class A warm, but way beyond the ‘is it on?’ feeling you get when handling most switching PWM amps.