Rotel RB-1590 Amplifier and RC-1590 Preamp Review - AVS Forum | Home Theater Discussions And Reviews
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post #1 of 42 Old 01-29-2016, 04:34 PM - Thread Starter
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Rotel RB-1590 Amplifier and RC-1590 Preamp Review

Audio amplifiers have exactly one job to do—take an electrical signal and magnify it without adding distortion. That goal was elusive in the vacuum-tube era, as well as in the early days of solid-state amplification. However, modern amplifier designs have evolved to the point where measurable distortion is typically below audible thresholds on most properly designed solid-state amps.

With refined modern amps like Rotel's 2-channel RB-1590, the specifications hint at true transparency. A flat frequency response often extends well into the infrasonic and ultrasonic realms, while most modern amps—including what you find in an AVR—exhibit vanishingly low levels of distortion. In fact, there's vigorous debate about whether solid-state amps operating within specifications all sound the same.

Preamps are, by necessity, more complicated than amplifiers. At their most basic, preamps offer source switching, a volume control, and perhaps tone controls. Often, a dedicated phono preamp is part of the package, as is a headphone jack. Many modern preamps add additional features such as high-end DACs (digital-to-analog converters) and support for wireless connections, not to mention subwoofer outputs and advanced room correction. As manufacturers add more features, the device becomes a pre/pro (preamp/processor). The Rotel RC-1590 in this review is a true 2-channel preamp, eschewing DSP processing for a more "audiophile purist" approach to handling sound.

The RC-1590 takes an old-school audiophile approach to embracing new-school digital sources. It starts where all good preamps must start: with impeccably spec'd analog inputs and outputs. Notably, it is an audio-only device, with nary a video connection to be seen. The RC-1590's architecture is a reflection of this audio-above-all approach—it's basically a high-end DAC and an analog preamp that share the same chassis.

Audio enthusiasts spoiled by the feature sets of modern AVRs and pre/pros will lament the absence of any controls that depend on DSP, such as setting the distance and crossover point of a subwoofer or applying EQ or room correction. That's simply not how the RC-1590 rolls; the preamp is analog. Digital sources pass through the DAC, while analog sources proceed directly to the outputs; aside from defeatable tone controls and a mono-summed signal for two subwoofers, the audio is left alone.

It took me a while to understand the charms of the RC-1590, but once I figured out what the system was about, I started to have a lot of fun with it. Mostly, this review is about my experience using the RB-1590 and RC-1590 to audition a wide selection of speakers. It is not a deeply technical review—I lack the facilities to confirm or deny most of the listed specifications. Rather, it is an experience report from a fan of AVRs, DSP, and all the other digital goodies that the Rotel system rejects for the sake of simplicity and analog purity.

Features

The RB-1590 ($3000) is a 2-channel class-AB amp with a rated output of 350 watts/channel into 8 ohms. It offers balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA inputs, dual speaker terminals for bi-wiring, and a 12-volt trigger input and output. The amp is housed in a very handsome aluminum chassis that is a perfect aesthetic match for the RC-1590 preamp. My review units came in silver, but they are also available in black.

The amp's custom-made twin-toroidal transformer and dual-monoblock design uses high-quality British slit-foil capacitors. It boasts a frequency-response spec of 10 Hz - 100 kHz (+/-0.5 dB). The rated signal-to-noise ratio (A-weighted) is 120 dB, and THD is specified at less than 0.03% from 20 Hz to 20 kHz.

The damping factor is listed as 300 (1 kHz, 8 ohms), and channel separation is greater than 50 dB. The amp can drive 4-ohm loads, but Rotel does not list a power spec for that. Its 5U chassis is rack-mountable, and the amp weighs 84 pounds—we're talking about a very substantial piece of hardware here.

The RC-1590 ($1750) is intended to compliment the RB-1590. It offers an AKM premium DAC with an eye-popping resolution of 32-bit/768 kHz. The analog and digital sections of the RC-1590 each have their own toroidal transformer, and the preamp's design keeps the two sections isolated from each other.

Performance specs for the RC-1590 put it in flagship audiophile-preamp territory—THD is under 0.002% from 20 Hz to 20 kHz. Frequency response fluctuates by only +/-0.1 dB from 10 Hz to 100 kHz when using the line-level analog inputs, +/-0.2 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz for the phono input, and +/-0.5 dB from 20 Hz to 20 kHz for the digital inputs. The S/N ratio (A-weighted) is 112 dB for the line-level analog inputs, 108 dB for the digital inputs, and 80 dB for the phono input.

You get a lot of input and output options with the RC-1590. When it comes to analog, it sports one pair of balanced XLR inputs and two pairs of balanced XLR outputs. It also offers phono, CD, tuner, and auxiliary unbalanced RCA inputs, two pairs of unbalanced RCA outputs, and one pair of unbalanced RCA line outs. Additionally, the preamp has two mono-summed subwoofer outputs.

On the digital side of things, the RC-1590 includes three optical inputs, three coaxial inputs, a rear USB input that includes DSD support and handles up to 24-bit/352.8 kHz PCM, and a front panel USB input for connecting an iPod/iPhone/iPad. It also includes a pair of digital outputs, one optical and one coaxial. For those who want to listen to audio from their smartphone or tablet, the RC-1590 also supports Bluetooth with aptX for CD-quality streaming. Notably, the RC-1590 preamp sports a 3.5mm headphone jack that operates concurrently with the line outputs—plugging in headphones does not automatically silence the speakers.

In addition to the preamp's substantial remote, you can also control the unit over IP through a built-in Ethernet connection as well as an RS-232 serial connection—in other words, it integrates nicely with a home-automation system. Twin 12-volt triggers, an external IR-receiver input, and a pair of Rotel Link connections round out the preamp's integration-friendly features.


Ergonomics

There's not much to discuss about the ergonomics of the RB-1590 amplifier. It's big, it's heavy, and it has one button on the front panel—the power switch. The speaker terminals on the rear panel are very generous in size and will accommodate 10-gauge bare wire or banana plugs.

The RC-1590 preamp takes a decidedly old-school approach to its interface, but ergonomically it is very intuitive and easy to use. The two-line, dot-matrix monochrome display is minimalist, but it manages to convey all the information needed to operate the preamp. There's a dedicated button for each input as well as discrete controls for tone adjustment and for operating the setup menu. Also, the RC-1590 features a fairly large rotary volume control that offers 100 steps of adjustment.

The rear panel of the RC-1590 is nicely laid out, with clear labeling and plenty of space between connections.

The remote is a bit of an anachronism. It's huge, it's made of plastic, and unless you buy a Rotel CD player and/or tuner, most of the buttons serve no purpose. I think a compact metal remote would have been a better compliment to a system such as this. On the other hand, there's no way you'll lose the provided remote, and it's pretty solid.

The menu system of the RC-1590 is notably simple. You can adjust the bass and treble tone controls—or defeat them. In the setup menu, you can choose fixed or variable gain for each input and enable or disable USB audio class-2 playback, which allows the unit to accept 192 kHz sample rates from a PC. The setup menu is only one level deep, so you can't get lost in it.


The front panel and remote control of the RC-1590.

Setup

As noted earlier, I had to adopt the mentality of a 2-channel audio aficionado before I was able to get the most out of the Rotel system. That meant coming to terms with the total absence of bass management, parametric EQ, and timing correction that I take for granted when working with AV gear. The advantage of avoiding DSP is a system that offers audiophile performance plus simplicity without breaking the bank.

I set up the system in my 2-channel listening area, which is an 11-foot-wide, 16-foot-deep space with an 8.5-foot ceiling. It's part of the open-plan first floor of a Philly row house, so the room itself is actually 35 feet deep, and there's no wall behind my head at the main listening position.

Most of the review consisted of playing music (and some test tones) on as many different speaker systems as I could get my hands on. I used an audiophile-approved speaker configuration throughout the process, with the speakers positioned five feet in front of the forward wall, and six feet apart from one another.

I disabled the tone controls for all my listening—in my opinion, they are too blunt a tool and usually unnecessary. More often than not, I simply listened to towers playing full range, with no subs. Room measurements of sine sweeps revealed a respectable in-room response at the main listening position, with some measurable room-related effects in the bass region, but no big bumps or notches.

Although I did a lot of listening to towers running full range without subwoofers, I also used subs a few times—some genres demand bass reproduction that dips into the infrasonic, and I had no true full-range speakers on hand. Since swapping subs is not really necessary, I went for the biggest subs I had available to me—a pair of Klipsch R-115SWs.

In order to better integrate the subwoofers, I used a miniDSP 2x4 processor between the RC-1590 and the subs. It applied response-flattening EQ and a custom lowpass filter to the RC-1590's raw subwoofer output, allowing me to tailor the subs' response to each speaker system I used them with.

I positioned the subs against the side walls and slightly ahead of the speakers in order to achieve a natural time alignment. With this system, you can't add delay to the main speakers—for proper time alignment, the subs can't be farther away from the listener than the speakers.

Ultimately, I used the system to play tunes and tones through eight different pairs of tower speakers and five different pairs of bookshelf speakers from eight different brands. The speaker positioning remained roughly the same for all of the speakers, with minor tweaks to the toe-in depending on the particular model.


Some of the tower and bookshelf speakers I used to listen to the Rotel RB-1590 and RC-1590 system

My primary source of music was a Sony VAIO laptop that I have dedicated to music playback. It runs Tidal, iTunes, Google Play, Spotify Premium, and Foobar 2000 (for hi-res playback). An SSD drive also holds my ripped CD collection, which I usually play through iTunes. The laptop was connected to the RC-1590 via USB.

The system also featured a Chromecast Audio as a source using the optical-digital output of Google's clever little player. All I can say about the Chromecast is it's truly remarkable what $35 buys these days.

Finally, I did play some vinyl records through the system using a vintage Dual turntable equipped with a Stanton 681 EEE cartridge. I'm not a huge vinyl-record fan, but I can report that the phono input on the RC-1590 works.

Performance

Whether we're discussing amps or automobiles, there's something supremely satisfying about knowing you have more power on tap than you need, and that satisfaction grows when you can tell that power is backed by refinement. The combination of the RB-1590 amp and RC-1590 preamp provided exactly such an experience.

When I used the most sensitive speakers I have on hand—Klipsch's RP-280FA (98 dB/W/m)—I never heard any hiss unless it was a part of the recording. The backdrop of dead silence remained regardless of how much I cranked the volume. Furthermore, when I used the least sensitive speakers at my disposal—the Pioneer Elite SP-EFS73 (86 dB/W/m)—there was plenty of power available to make 'em sing. In other words, it hardly matters what kind of speakers you use with the RB-1590; it's got both the juice and the finesse to make the most of them.

As part of the review process, I used a Focusrite Scarlett 2x2 digital audio interface and REW (Room EQ Wizard) software to take frequency response measurements. I measured sine wave sweeps generated by REW directly from the RC-1590’s analog outputs, and I used a Can Opener (really just a couple of resistors in a box) connected to the RB-1590’s speaker terminals to measure the amplifier’s frequency response.

The RB-1590's flat response, inaudible distortion, low noise floor, and high power output repeatedly brought out the best qualities in all the speakers I hooked up to it. I measured frequency response of the amp from 4 Hz to 24 kHz, and found it met the published specs—bass response was down only 0.4 dB at 10 Hz, and it was flat from 20 Hz right on up to my 24 kHz measurement cutoff.


The RB-1590 stayed within its published frequency response specs when measured from 4 Hz to 24 kHz.

Simply put, the amp never, ever stumbled—on any piece of content—with any of the speakers I connected to it. Granted, I don't have six-figure super-speakers to test the amp with, but that's a whole different ball game.

At this point, it's worth acknowledging that you can spend less for an amp with similar wattage and specifications—hello Emotiva—but in the grand scheme of things, the RB-1590 offers reasonably priced, high-quality amplification in an attractive and reliable package. I'm sure the forum comments will include some discussion on this particular point. To my taste, the Rotel RB-1590 looks, sounds, and feels like it's worth the asking price.

Similarly, I'm hard pressed to find much to criticize in the RC-1590's performance, aside from a lack of bass management. The audio it produced was crystal clear and free of any audible coloration. When I measured frequency response, the result was ruler flat from 4 Hz up to my measurement limit of 24 kHz—and that's with a digital input, which easily surpasses Rotel's spec for a digital input (20 Hz to 20 kHz +/-0.5 dB).


The RC-1590 exhibited ruler-flat frequency response from 4 Hz to 24 kHz when using the USB input, easily exceeding its published spec.

In the months I used the system, it did not falter once. Even when torture-testing the gear by running 3-Hz sine waves through it with the volume cranked, the end result was woofers moving in and out in an eerily slow manner. While I'm not in a position to definitively declare that all modern DACs and amps are effectively transparent, I can say that—to my ears—the Rotel system featured in this review was indeed transparent.

Listening

KEF's R500 towers rendered some amazingly detailed, wide, and deep soundstages—it all depended on the mix. With a rated sensitivity of 88 dB/W/m, they require some juice to really get going. I especially enjoyed listening to the entire Bassnectar catalog through the Rotel/KEF combo. Adding the two Klipsch subs with a low-pass filter set to 50 Hz yielded ridiculously impactful yet well-integrated bass that took the dubstep listening experience to a higher level. With most music genres, letting the R500s run on their own (no subs) offered plenty of tight bass as well as clean, clear, dynamic sound that satisfied everyone who heard it.

When I used the system to power Klipsch's RP-280FA towers, I experienced an embarrassment of dynamic riches. The RB-1590 amp just cruised right along, serving up a watt here and there until called upon to deliver a crescendo of some type. There's no logical reason I would ever max out this system in my home. The huge amount of headroom offered by the Rotel/Klipsch combo—combined with the RP-280FAs' ability to reproduce bass as low as 30 Hz—lent a live-concert feel to jazz and classical recordings. However, my favorite use for the badass Klipsch towers was blasting rap music.

Adding the subs to handle bass frequencies 30 Hz and under brought out the awesome in a many of my favorite tracks, including a wide variety from artists like Lil' Wayne, Danny Brown, Alchemist/Mobb Deep, Notorious B.I.G., B.A.R.S. Murre, Jay-Z, Nas, Wu-Tang Clan, and others. It was easy to get scary-loud with that combo, and yet the refinement and precision of the Rotel gear shone through.

Pairing the Rotel system with Paradigm's Prestige 75F towers resulted in sound that was notably silky and smooth. Indeed, the combination was so sublime, I could listen to that system forever without growing tired of the sound. I particularly enjoyed revisiting some of my favorite albums of decades past, including some classic Thievery Corporation, Bill Laswell, and Orb albums. Who am I kidding—the Paradigms sounded great no matter what I played. Driven to their limits by the system, they exhibited perfect poise right up to the edge of what those speakers offer output-wise.

The RB-1590 was assuredly overkill for use with bookshelf speakers, and yet it was quite a treat to hear ELAC's Debut B6 bookshelf speakers powered by the Rotel system. Those speakers have a lot going for them—the overall sound was smooth and relaxed, and imaging is notably good for speakers at their price point of $280/pair. Unsurprisingly, adding the subs to the ELACs yielded a deeper, more impactful listening experience—I could both hear and feel even the subtlest of deep sounds.

I'm quite fond of the GoldenEar Triton Five towers, the larger and more capable of the two models of passive floorstanding speakers the company sells (the other being the Triton Seven). GoldenEar specializes in holographic imaging, and that's exactly what I got when I paired the Tritons with the Rotel rig. Frankly, a lot of systems I've heard at high-end audio shows don't come close to the fidelity I experienced from this combination—even at five or ten times the price. Yes, I know that's a cliché comment, but it's true.

My experiences with the other speakers I tried with the system largely mirrored what I've described above. It did not matter if I was playing the Rotel rig through the SVS Prime Towers, PSB Imagine X2Ts, or Pioneer Elite SP-EFS73 towers; the speakers translated the uncolored output of the system into eminently listenable music—or unlistenable, in the case of a bad recording. This is not a stereo that veils sound, it's true to the source; if you use it with speakers that are also neutral and true to the source, you'll have a true hi-fi experience, guaranteed.

Conclusion

There are a lot of options out there when it comes to hi-fi stereo amplifiers and preamps. Rotel's flagship offerings are interesting because they offer an attractive balance between price, aesthetics, and capability. Yes, you can spend less and get similar specs from a few other brands. You can also spend a lot more and wind up doing worse, performance-wise. Rotel exhibits a particular aesthetic and design philosophy; once you experience the gear, you'll know if you dig it.

When it comes to the RB-1590, I'm skeptical that it's possible to make an amp that sounds significantly more transparent than it already is. In the grand scheme of things, it's neither the cheapest nor the most expensive option out there for a 350 W/channel stereo amp, but the impression it gives is that you are getting a lot of value for your money.

The RC-1590 may not be my cup of tea feature-wise (I happen to prefer coffee), but excellent fidelity combined with ease of use is the upshot of its audio-centric design. The preamp features truly ruler-flat frequency response and microscopic levels of distortion, meaning that it just gets out of the way of the music. The simple operation and stereo-purist feature set are not necessarily going to thrill DSP addicts used to the digital bells and whistles of AVRs and pre/pros, but 2-channel audio aficionados should find much to like in the way the RC-1590 goes about its business.

Ultimately, the Rotel RB-1590 amp and RC-1590 preamp combination creates a killer 2-channel rig that gives you the power and the precision needed to get the most out of a great pair of speakers, so you can enjoy the music. Of that, I am certain.

EQUIPMENT LIST

Sources

Sony VAIO Laptop running Tidal, iTunes, Spotify, and Foobar 2000
Google Chromecast Audio
Dual Turntable with Stanton 681 EEE cartridge

Speakers

GoldenEar Triton Five
GoldenEar Triton Seven
KEF R500
KEF R100
Klipsch RP-280FA
Klipsch RP-160M
Paradigm Prestige 75F
Pioneer SP-EFS73
Pioneer SP-EBS73
PSB Imagine X2T
PSB Imagine XB
SVS Prime Tower
ELAC Debut B6

Subwoofers & DSP

Klipsch R-115SW
miniDSP 2x4

Cables

Hosa HMIC003 Pro balanced XLR interconnects
KabelDirekt 3-foot RCA interconnects
Mediabridge Ultra RCA subwoofer interconnects (25-foot)
Monoprice 12-gauge OFC speaker cable
Monoprice 3-foot Toslink to mini Toslink cable
Monoprice 3-foot USB 2.0 cable
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Last edited by imagic; 02-08-2016 at 02:37 PM.
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post #2 of 42 Old 01-30-2016, 11:36 AM
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Nice review, thanks.
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When I see the list of excellent speakers you used with this awesome combo from Rotel you enjoyed I can't "imagine" why you still use that entry level cable from Monoprice. Your a reviewer, you had Ray Kimber on your show. Get some decent sounding cables from Ray and compare (make sure it is level matched and a blind test or the cable haters on this board will go nuts)
Another idea, see what cables any of these companies used for their demos at Cedia or CES and just review the ones they chose themselves, For example:
http://www.avsforum.com/goldenear-in...at-cedia-2015/

I think Sandy prefers Pangea, etc.

Imagic, you are a professional reviewer now, time to step it up.

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post #4 of 42 Old 01-30-2016, 02:04 PM
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Interesting review but you forgot to mention one important feature: home theater bypass which allows easy integration with a home theater processor/receiver. I had to dig into the RC-1590 manual online and found there is a Line Out which fits the bill.
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post #5 of 42 Old 01-30-2016, 02:23 PM
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post #6 of 42 Old 01-30-2016, 03:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by witchdoctor View Post
When I see the list of excellent speakers you used with this awesome combo from Rotel you enjoyed I can't "imagine" why you still use that entry level cable from Monoprice. Your a reviewer, you had Ray Kimber on your show. Get some decent sounding cables from Ray and compare (make sure it is level matched and a blind test or the cable haters on this board will go nuts)
Another idea, see what cables any of these companies used for their demos at Cedia or CES and just review the ones they chose themselves, For example:
http://www.avsforum.com/goldenear-in...at-cedia-2015/

I think Sandy prefers Pangea, etc.

Imagic, you are a professional reviewer now, time to step it up.
Apparently you have me confused with Scott Wilkinson re: Home Theater Geeks. Scott hosted Ray on his show.

I'm absolutely not concerned about the quality of my speaker cables. There is no room for cable mythology in my world. There is no issue at all with the cables I used, and the notion that spending more on speaker cables will get me better sound is a fiction.

Mark Henninger

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post #7 of 42 Old 01-30-2016, 03:23 PM
 
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Absolutely not. There is no room for cable mythology in my world. There is no issue with the cables I used, and the notion that spending more on speaker cables will get me better sound is a fiction.
As a professional reviewer I believe you should not be biased either for or against anything. I wouldn't fuel a race car with kerosene and I wouldn't mix entry level components with high end components for best result in any system.
As for mythology you attend enough shows to inquire from the various manufacturers as to why they choose a specific type of cable for their demo. I am sure they have experimented enough to know why they chose the cables they did and who knows, maybe it was based on astrology instead of mythology, but why not just ask?

A carpenter has a hammer, a doctor a stethoscope, have you considered adding this to your tool kit? It may help you step up your game. Great for double blind unbiased testing of any components:
http://www.avahifi.com/index.php?opt...271&Itemid=238

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post #8 of 42 Old 01-30-2016, 03:27 PM - Thread Starter
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As a professional reviewer I believe you should not be biased either for or against anything. I wouldn't fuel a race car with kerosene and I wouldn't mix entry level components with high end components for best result in any system.
As for mythology you attend enough shows to inquire from the various manufacturers as to why they choose a specific type of cable for their demo. I am sure they have experimented enough to know why they chose the cables they did and who knows, maybe it was based on astrology instead of mythology, but why not just ask?
No bias here, and that's the point behind my using inexpensive speaker cables that do the job 100% as well as any other came of similar gauge and length. Being unbiased does not mean being a fool and falling for cable hype.

I have thought about this topic already, and discussed it quite a bit. Thx for the tips.

Mark Henninger

Last edited by imagic; 01-30-2016 at 03:34 PM.
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post #9 of 42 Old 01-30-2016, 04:13 PM
 
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No bias here, and that's the point behind my using inexpensive speaker cables that do the job 100% as well as any other came of similar gauge and length. Being unbiased does not mean being a fool and falling for cable hype.

I have thought about this topic already, and discussed it quite a bit. Thx for the tips.
To say that cable A is exactly 100% the same as all other cables means you have actually compared it to all other cables.
I would enjoy a proper double blind test of your Monoprice up against the cables Sandy chose for his Golden Ear demo at CES using the Golden Ear speakers you already own. Get the ABX Comparator and it would be a snap and an intersting review. I realize that 99% of the members here are biased when it comes to cables but I trust you would be able to take the flack if your review proved Sandy's cable choice for his own speakers sounded better in your opinion than the Monoprice.
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Originally Posted by witchdoctor View Post
To say that cable A is exactly 100% the same as all other cables means you have actually compared it to all other cables.
I would enjoy a proper double blind test of your Monoprice up against the cables Sandy chose for his Golden Ear demo at CES using the Golden Ear speakers you already own. Get the ABX Comparator and it would be a snap and an intersting review. I realize that 99% of the members here are biased when it comes to cables but I trust you would be able to take the flack if your review proved Sandy's cable choice for his own speakers sounded better in your opinion than the Monoprice.
I firmly maintain that two copper speaker cables of similar length and gauge will perform similarly enough (at the task of carrying an audio signal) that any differences—were they to exist—would be well below the threshold of human perception. I don't deny the existence of cables that do enough damage to a signal that it's audible (after all, the best you can hope for is that a cable does no harm)... but the cables I use don't fit into that category. I did take care to use decent XLR cables to connect the preamp to the amp (since analog interconnects are the type of cable most likely to audibly degrade a signal,) but even then I did not go for some overpriced and overhyped audiophile option—Hosa Pro did the trick.


You might say I'm a bit of a cable skeptic...


Note that I used the Rotel RB-1590 and the KEF R500s in my Aluminum Foil vs. Monster XP test, and was not able to measure (or hear) a meaningful difference between 25 feet of aluminum foil and 3 feet of monster Cable.



Also, I'd say most members here (99% by your estimation) are not biased about cables, they are simply not falling for the shenanigans and misinformation that plague that particular product category. Fwiw, I've had long, in-depth chats about speaker cables with Sandy Gross, and I showed him the video from my aluminum foil vs. Monster post over dinner at CEDIA—I definitely take time out to discuss cables with people in the industry.
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I firmly maintain that two copper speaker cables of similar length and gauge will perform similarly enough (at the task of carrying an audio signal) that any differences—were they to exist—would be well below the threshold of human perception. I don't deny the existence of cables that do enough damage to a signal that it's audible (after all, the best you can hope for is that a cable does no harm)... but the cables I use don't fit into that category. I did take care to use decent XLR cables to connect the preamp to the amp (since analog interconnects are the type of cable most likely to audibly degrade a signal,) but even then I did not go for some overpriced and overhyped audiophile option—Hosa Pro did the trick.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LUqUq-Dt814
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2fCYDtB17KI
You might say I'm a bit of a cable skeptic...


Note that I used the Rotel RB-1590 and the KEF R500s in my Aluminum Foil vs. Monster XP test, and was not able to measure (or hear) a meaningful difference between 25 feet of aluminum foil and 3 feet of monster Cable.



Also, I'd say most members here (99% by your estimation) are not biased about cables, they are simply not falling for the shenanigans and misinformation that plague that particular product category. Fwiw, I've had long, in-depth chats about speaker cables with Sandy Gross, and I showed him the video from my aluminum foil vs. Monster post over dinner at CEDIA—I definitely take time out to discuss cables with people in the industry.
Now this is much better, you compared two specific cables instead of making a generalization. I do applaud the effort you went through and yes, I agree with your conclusion even though I have never tried aluminum or that monster cable.I will not buy the Monster cable you compared it with.
We both know that there are many many reviewers that have come to different conclusions about cables. That isn't to say all of the other reviewers are right and you are wrong, nor does it mean they are all wrong and you alone are right.
I am happy to see you know Sandy. Can you please tell me why he doesn't use Monoprice in his demos when you asked about the cables he chose?

Look at the quality construction of a Monoprice cable in this video, that might have something to do with it. You know that the solder and terminations of a cable are sometimes even more important than the wire itself right?

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post #12 of 42 Old 01-30-2016, 07:29 PM
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Originally Posted by witchdoctor View Post
***I wouldn't mix entry level components with high end components ***
I hope you realize that you just used snob words for, respectively, "cheap" and "expensive."

This type of jargon is often employed by snobs (and their close relatives, greasy sales-hacks) to imply something about audio performance, but in fact it just shows the user's pretentiousness and lack of critical listening experience and/or skill.

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Originally Posted by DS-21 View Post
I hope you realize that you just used snob words for, respectively, "cheap" and "expensive."

This type of jargon is often employed by snobs (and their close relatives, greasy sales-hacks) to imply something about audio performance, but in fact it just shows the user's pretentiousness and lack of critical listening experience and/or skill.
I just can't use the same type of language you prefer, see post #439 in this thread.
I can see where this discussion is going when people start making up words that I never wrote and I am signing out before the moderators close this thread.

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So is the rotel supposed to be cheap (low end)?
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post #15 of 42 Old 01-30-2016, 09:14 PM
 
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So is the rotel supposed to be cheap (low end)?
No, the Rotel is not entry level, I was referring to Monoprice cables as entry level cables which is true and certainly not insulting. I wouldn't agree that entry level products mean cheap or low end. There are many excellent entry level products.
Nobody used the words cheap or low end in either my posts or the reviewers posts for any of the products discussed.

These happen to be my favorite entry level cables, YMMV:
http://signalcable.com/index.html

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Exclamation

THEY BROUGHT BACK THE ROTEL RB-1090!!!!!!!

Long out of production, the Rotel RB-1090 was one of the best amplifier deals I've ever bought: extremely powerful while remaining smooth and refined. It has driven my PSB Stratus Goldi speakers for years and years with gusto!

Assuming the components are the same in the 1590 as 1090 (looks darn close) I'd highly recommend picking up the 1590!

old:
http://www.stereophile.com/solidpowe...tel/index.html

new:
http://rotel.com/product/rb-1590


edit: specs on 1590 aren't quite as good as the 1090 but very close.
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Thanks for the review.
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Thanks for yet another great review imagic!

As for witchdoctor... your screen name ironically says it all.
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Rotel RB-1590 Amplifier and RC-1590 Preamp Review

Quote:
Originally Posted by witchdoctor View Post
when people start making up words that I never wrote

You never wrote the snob jargon "entry level" and "high end?" That's precisely the kind of blatantly anti-reality statement one would expect from a wire mystic.

I'm also genuinely curious what you intended by linking to a post in which I corrected some salesman for materially misrepresenting the product he most vigorously plugs on these forums in a thread about a competing product. (A second poster later corrected the salesman as well.)

As for my thoughts on the Rotel amp...it's great that they recased their 1990s product I guess. I think it's going to be hard to compete with that against modern Class D (eg NAD with Hypex Ncore) or more advanced AB (ATI AT4000/6000) or cheaper conventional AB (Emotiva). Rough spot to be in for a commodity product.

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post #20 of 42 Old 01-31-2016, 09:42 AM
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Originally Posted by witchdoctor View Post
We both know that there are many many reviewers that have come to different conclusions about cables. That isn't to say all of the other reviewers are right and you are wrong, nor does it mean they are all wrong and you alone are right.
Spoiler!

Many of those reviews have vested self-interest in perpetuating numerous dubious, read often outright false, claims with superfluous flowery language that sustains audiophoolia mysticisms.
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post #21 of 42 Old 01-31-2016, 11:36 PM
 
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Originally Posted by KMFDMvsEnya View Post
Spoiler!

Many of those reviews have vested self-interest in perpetuating numerous dubious, read often outright false, claims with superfluous flowery language that sustains audiophoolia mysticisms.
Really? I rather liked Imagic's review of the Rotel, I didn't think it was superfluous, flowery, or mystic at all.

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Originally Posted by Ruined View Post
THEY BROUGHT BACK THE ROTEL RB-1090!!!!!!!

...Assuming the components are the same in the 1590 as 1090 (looks darn close) I'd highly recommend picking up the 1590!
Did you mean picking up the 1090? I have the 991
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post #23 of 42 Old 02-01-2016, 10:29 AM
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Great review - I feel like I have demoed the product.

Quick question imagic - did you experience any sonic advantages using a this pre/amp focusing on SQ vs. an AVR that has more features (mainly bass mgt for me)?
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post #24 of 42 Old 02-01-2016, 11:07 AM
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i ran a rotel into a quad 909....
I wont say anymore besides...
Retro rules!
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Wink Review limited and refuses to deal with reality

It is disappointing that you didn't test the amp with crystals placed at the proper room chakras. Those crystals will triple the sound coming out of the speakers if you surround your house with magnets and flux capacitors. Honest, it really will bring out the warmth from the power supply. Ask the witch doctor: he or she knows how to optimize true audio science.
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post #26 of 42 Old 02-01-2016, 02:14 PM
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I just wish the RB-1581's were available in the US, I'd love to a review on those, but none exist.
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post #27 of 42 Old 02-01-2016, 02:39 PM
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I heard the RB-1590 with a Pair of B&W 802D3's and a Classe CP-800. In my opinion, the 1590 sounded fantastic, and didn't like it was batting out of it's league with a DAC and a pair of speakers that are clearly out of it's league. It's a fantastic deal for $3000. I'm not sure what the interconnects in the system were, but I can guarantee they weren't Monoprice...

As to the whole cables thing: To my ears, in my systems, I do notice a positive difference with entry-level cables over my (now unused) monoprice cables (even my wife noticed when I swapped the interconnects in our systems without telling her). I prefer to listen to my ears, and not the clowns here on AVSForum who swear cables don't matter. Most of them haven't tried, don't care to try, and never will try. Their loss. In my experience (your mileage may vary), cables, even the digital ones, do make a difference. What sounds best to you, or if you will even hear an improvement, depends completely on your system. That is true with any component. And as for the measurements on cables, there is a whole lot more to audio than just frequency response. Reviewers are still trying to explain why amplifiers that have the same specs still sound different.

At the end of the day what really matters the most, regardless of the cables or other components you choose to use, is that your system sounds great to you.
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post #28 of 42 Old 02-01-2016, 02:49 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HighSierras View Post
I heard the RB-1590 with a Pair of B&W 802D3's and a Classe CP-800. In my opinion, the 1590 sounded fantastic, and didn't like it was batting out of it's league with a DAC and a pair of speakers that are clearly out of it's league. It's a fantastic deal for $3000. I'm not sure what the interconnects in the system were, but I can guarantee they weren't Monoprice...

As to the whole cables thing: To my ears, in my systems, I do notice a positive difference with entry-level cables over my (now unused) monoprice cables (even my wife noticed when I swapped the interconnects in our systems without telling her). I prefer to listen to my ears, and not the clowns here on AVSForum who swear cables don't matter. Most of them haven't tried, don't care to try, and never will try. Their loss. In my experience (your mileage may vary), cables, even the digital ones, do make a difference. What sounds best to you, or if you will even hear an improvement, depends completely on your system. That is true with any component. And as for the measurements on cables, there is a whole lot more to audio than just frequency response. Reviewers are still trying to explain why amplifiers that have the same specs still sound different.

At the end of the day what really matters the most, regardless of the cables or other components you choose to use, is that your system sounds great to you.
Yes, it's a nice amp that brings out the best in many speakers.

If you read the piece, you'll see I did not use Monoprice interconnects I used Hosa Pro XLR cables (balanced) and KabelDirekt RCAs (unbalanced). Practically all of my listening occurred using the balanced connection between the preamp and amp.

Regardless, a non-defective Monoprice XLR cable would produce the same aural result as the Hosa. But, just in case someone complained about Monoprice interconnects (which turned out to be the case here) I used something a bit "nicer."

That is, unless you are referring to the Monoprice USB cable and the TOSLINK cables I used... there's no chance those cables affected the sound in any way.

You should listen to the people you call clowns, they make some good points about cables.

Cables that carry a digital signal do not change the tone or character of music. "Audiophile" USB cables and HDMI cables are a pure marketing fiction. Either you get sound, or you get crackles, or you get nothing. You don't get a trumpet that sounds like a trombone, or smoother highs with deeper bass, or whatever other claims are made for so-called "audiophile" digital cables.

Notably, the Hosa Pro XLR is the same cable that I used to get the flat measurement coming out of the preamp—elegant proof it is not altering the signal. Furthermore, the Monoprice USB cable provided the connection to the laptop that generated the sine sweep test signal, and what I measured exceeded the system's specs.

Mark Henninger

Last edited by imagic; 02-01-2016 at 03:32 PM.
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post #29 of 42 Old 02-01-2016, 03:59 PM
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Thank you for the great review, by the way. I did enjoy the read, but I just figured I would try and help prevent the spread of some misinformation in the comments. It's a real shame that you can't even read a decent review without coming across such blatantly wrong information on the internet.

I wasn't calling you a clown... You're better than most. You've actually formulated an opinion on the subject based on personal experience, and you're not blindly misinforming the community here. It's nice that you're not one of the mindless clowns here who haven't heard a difference between cables (analog or digital or power) and swear that it makes no difference. I used to be one of those guys, but then I really started getting into this hobby. As I listened to my systems, I tried different things, and I was very surprised when I did hear a difference with different cables and digital sources. At this point, I simply assume that every change I make causes a difference, until I hear that it doesn't (of course, it nearly always does). Just because you haven't heard the difference doesn't mean that it's a fact that it makes no difference. It just means that it makes no difference to you in your system. Cables both analog and digital all have made significant differences in all of my systems.

Oh, and by the way, it has been scientifically proven many times over that noise in digital systems (e.g. jitter) has a very significant impact on the reproduction of a digital signal in the analog domain. It's one of the first things I learned in my graduate studies in electrical engineering. The math is there, if you're willing to work through it. A pretty basic article that is quite well-written: http://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.c...fectJitter.htm

At the end of the day, all that really matters, regardless of whether you have heard a difference, or believe that there is a difference, is that we are both happy with how our systems sound, and enjoy the music that we listen to. The speakers, and all of the components that make them sing, are simply a means to an end; enjoying the music.
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post #30 of 42 Old 02-01-2016, 05:57 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by HighSierras View Post
Thank you for the great review, by the way. I did enjoy the read, but I just figured I would try and help prevent the spread of some misinformation in the comments. It's a real shame that you can't even read a decent review without coming across such blatantly wrong information on the internet.

I wasn't calling you a clown... You're better than most. You've actually formulated an opinion on the subject based on personal experience, and you're not blindly misinforming the community here. It's nice that you're not one of the mindless clowns here who haven't heard a difference between cables (analog or digital or power) and swear that it makes no difference. I used to be one of those guys, but then I really started getting into this hobby. As I listened to my systems, I tried different things, and I was very surprised when I did hear a difference with different cables and digital sources. At this point, I simply assume that every change I make causes a difference, until I hear that it doesn't (of course, it nearly always does). Just because you haven't heard the difference doesn't mean that it's a fact that it makes no difference. It just means that it makes no difference to you in your system. Cables both analog and digital all have made significant differences in all of my systems.
Just how did you do these comparisons? The details of the comparison methodology make a huge difference in whether or not the listener thinks they reliably hear differences.

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Originally Posted by HighSierras View Post
Oh, and by the way, it has been scientifically proven many times over that noise in digital systems (e.g. jitter) has a very significant impact on the reproduction of a digital signal in the analog domain. It's one of the first things I learned in my graduate studies in electrical engineering. The math is there, if you're willing to work through it. A pretty basic article that is quite well-written: http://www.thewelltemperedcomputer.c...fectJitter.htm
Yes, it's well-known that jitter induces *measurable* differences in D/A performance. It's not so "scientifically proven" that those differences are audible. The subject is exceptionally complex (what signal? is it music or pure tones? what jitter characteristics?) Studies on the audibility of jitter - as opposed to the measureability of jitter - tend to show that it's not nearly as audible as the hi-fi media has led people to believe.

What's more, if we're focusing on jitter, can you explain how one cable is going to increase jittter compared to another? Oh sure, one cable might roll off the edges a bit more, as can be seen on eye-diagrams, but to really increase jitter in a way that matters audibly, well, wouldn't that take a magical cable?

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At the end of the day, all that really matters, regardless of whether you have heard a difference, or believe that there is a difference, is that we are both happy with how our systems sound, and enjoy the music that we listen to. The speakers, and all of the components that make them sing, are simply a means to an end; enjoying the music.
True enough. Just don't do any double-blind cable tests, or you might find yourself regretting calling other posters "clowns."

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