The company showed a pair of pre/pros—one for 2-channel audio and one for surround-sound—and a beefy new amp. Is it enough to keep pace in an ever-evolving AV landscape?
As a brand, Rotel occupies a middle ground between the major AV manufacturers and boutique brands. Its design philosophy emphasizes sound quality and straight-forward design that evokes more expensive brands. Even so, it also manages to keep prices at levels that allow it to be competitive with the Japanese heavy-hitters as well as competing high-performance brands. Rotel told me the design and engineering budget for each device focuses on audio performance, above all.
First up is the new $1750 RC-1590 2-channel preamp/processor. Rotel equipped it with independent power supplies for its analog and digital sections, balanced XLR inputs, and outputs, a phono input, APTX Bluetooth, and a iPod-compatible USB port on the front. A second USB input on the rear of the unit connects to a PC or Mac, it supports up to 24/192 PCM as well as DSD playback (with Windows). The RC-1590 includes RS232 and IP control for easy integration into automation systems and packs it all into a 3U chassis that's available in silver or black.
Rotel has an amp that's made to match the RC-1590. Its new $3000 RB-1590 is a beast, offering 350 watts/channel of class A/B power into an 8 ohm load. The Rotel rep said "It is a monster piece with a transformer the size of your head in there." The company touts the combination of the 1590 pre/pro and amp as offering true audiophile performance on a budget. I plan to take them up on the claim in a future review.
The RB-1590 amp and the RC-1590 pre/pro.
I also saw—but did not get to hear— a new surround-sound pre-pro from Rotel. The $3500 RSP-1582 offers 7.1 channels of surround-sound along with 4K pass-through, but no HDCP 2.2 support. It uses six Wolfson DACs to render up to 24/192 audio—left, center, right, and subwoofer channels each get their own DAC whereas the four surround channels get one DAC per pair. It has seven HDMI inputs on the rear (with 4K pass-through) and one similarly capable HDMI input on the front panel. It also includes three optical and three coaxial digital inputs. There's a PC USB port that supports 24/192 PCM audio on the rear, and an iPod-compatible USB plug on the front. The RSP-1582 support automation through RS232 as well as IP over Ethernet.
The rear panel of the Rotel RSP-1582.
The RSP-1582 features seven stereo analog RCA inputs, including one with a phono stage. It also sports a complete set of surround-sound analog inputs. On the output side, the RSP-1582 has one set of balanced XLR connections as well as unbalanced RCA. There are two HDMI outputs as well. It also features three 12-volt trigger outputs and twin IR outs. The RSP-1582 has a large display on the front panel that allows you to perform all setup and configuration functions.
I asked about potential support for Atmos, Auro 3-D or DTS:X. Rotel said it was watching the immersive sound sector very closely, but this new model offers no support for those new formats. The RSP-1582 does decode everything Dolby and DTS can throw at it aside from Atmos and DTS:X. Personally, I'm already sold on the benefits of immersive sound and object-based audio formats. Even so, Rotel's new surround-sound pre/pro appears to offer a good feature set for its price—as long as it really does sound better than its similarly-priced but more feature-rich competitors. I bet it could sound great if you paired it with a few RB-1590 amps. What are your thoughts on Rotel's new gear?
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