Rotel RAP-1580 Amplified Processor Review
Rotel is a brand associated with good solid engineering, and is often seen in the company of good stereo equipment, and in some countries, is often marketed with B&W speakers.
Despite moving their manufacturing base to China a few years back, the quality has not suffered.
I have used many of their power amps, and these amplifiers give true power that matches their ratings and more, with plenty of drive and quality.
I have often wonder how it would sound if we could strap one of these power amplifiers onto a Rotel processor, and see how all that power can be directed by a decent 'brain'...
The last processor from Rotel was the well regarded RSP 1098, and many are still in service. So getting my hands on this model was a very inviting prospect.
Some links :
From the Manufacturer Website:
And the technical blurb:
RAP-1580 is the ideal home theater solution for those who don’t have space for separate components, yet still desire uncompromising performance. It is an ultra-high-performance multichannel, integrated amplifier with surround processing that brings music and movies to life in a startlingly vivid way. Sporting the latest HDMI2.0a hardware and Dolby Atmos 7.1.4 processing, its amplifier section is built upon a powerful linear design with 7 x 100 watts per channel, all channels driven into 8 ohms, anchored by a massive Rotel-made toroidal transformer. While it may be compared to ordinary AVRs, it really is in a class by itself. Please hook it up to your best speakers in stereo and listen for yourself. RAP-1580 utilizes high performance Wolfson 24bit/192kHz DACs for all channels. These low noise, audiophile quality DACs are supported with premium-grade audio parts in circuits tuned by Rotel’s acoustic engineering team in the U.K. Inputs include 8 x HDMI video inputs with 2 x HDMI video outputs all supporting 4K video, with 3 of these inputs and both outputs enabled with HDCP 2.2. There is a seven-inch TFT display on the front panel to provide easy adjustments to all audio and video parameters without the need to turn on the television or video projection system. This makes it ideal for set-ups when the equipment rack is located separately from the video display. A full suite of integration features are also on board. Other features include a front panel HDMI input with 4K video pass-through, front panel iPod USB input with 2.1A charging and integrated APTX enabled Bluetooth technology for higher fidelity. The RAP-1580 also includes a PC-USB input supporting 24 bit / 192kHz audio, a MM phono stage input, CD input, XLR balanced input, Tuner input, AUX analog input and multichannel input. Rack mount ears are included. Rotel's RAP-1580 is simple to operate, powerful, flexible and refined. It is a state-of-the-art single chassis audio/video component that outperforms most separates. In an age of deflationary pricing, RAP-1580 lets you step customers UP to a higher quality experience.
- 6 Wolfson WM8740 24-bit / 192KHz HiFi DACs
- Analog BYPASS mode for analog inputs passes audio directly to output w/ no DSP processing
- 10 band parametric PEQ
- 7 rear panel and 1 front panel HDMI 2.0a inputs capable of 4K video pass-through
- 2 HDMI 4K video outputs (one with ARC)
- HDMI Bypass when in standby allowing the HDMI from source to TV when RSP in standby mode
- OSD setup and status on front TFT and HDMI out
- PC-USB supporting 24-bit/192kHz audio
- Front panel USB input supporting iOS devices with 2.1A charging
- Phono stage input (MM)
- CD, Tuner and Aux analog inputs
- Multi Channel input
- XLR Balanced input
- Bluetooth with aptX
- 3 source independent 12V trigger outputs
- Wired IR Remote input
- RS-232 interface for automation system control
- IP Network interface for automation system control
- 2 IR Output connectors for IR pass-through
- 4U cabinet • Finishes - Silver and Black
- Dimensions (W x H x D) 431 x 192 x 470 mm , 17 x 7 5/9 x 18 1/2 in
- Weight (net) 22.8 kg / 50.27 lbs
I am glad that the dealer helped me to move this behemoth into place, because it's one heavy unit! This harkens to the days when amps were real heavyweights, and not the flyweight ones we see these days from many manufacturers. You can tell they did not compromise on the power amplifier section.
There are plenty of inputs, and this is a HDMI 2.0a equipped amp, with true 4k support. It has sweet DACs, and will process Atmos and DTS X, so it's bang up to date on the sound formats.
However, when we say up to date, that's a relative term, because you will soon realise that the menu and user interface hails from a different era. I have the Marantz Reference Series SR 12 AVR, and this was the most musical AVR in 2004. The interface is very similar to that, and it makes you wonder what kind of video chip and CPU does it use.
It's clunky, and sluggish, and even worse, buyers should be aware that there is no auto EQ built in. For those of you who have gotten used to or expect the same press button auto-setup that come with Japanese brand AVRs equipped with Audyssey, well, there is none. Nadda.. everything is manual. The test tone is also a rudimentary device.
So it will be a rather big culture shock if you have been using a modern AVR, but if you have just come into the AVR scene after being away for a decade, it might be less of a problem.
You will definitely need a tape measure and a SPL meter for starters, then maybe a UMIK microphone and some additional software if you really want to bring out the best of this amp.
Oh and yes, it's an "amplified processor", so there's no tuner built in. In addition, if you are looking for mod-cons like Airplay, Internet Radio, Streaming etc, you are out of luck. You do have Bluetooth though if that's any comfort.
You get 3 HDMI inputs which are HDCP 2.2 compatible, so not all of them are. There's a USB port in the front for your iPod / iPhone, plus a type B USB port so you can hook up a computer and play digital music through the very impressive Wolfson DACs.
Now let's see about that remote..
Wait, haven't I seen that somewhere before? Hey, it's a dead ringer for the Oppo remote! But no, you can't use it on your Oppo, and AFAIK, there's no learning function.
Now it's not all doom and gloom, just move on to the real meat, and that's the power amp section.
With 40 000 uF of capacitance powering 7 channels, a toroidal transformer, and plenty of choice audiophile parts, you can see the pedigree of this amp. It can drive 4 ohm speakers, and Patrick Butler from B&W USA has measure it as 170W times 7 into 4ohms. Not shabby at all. Unlike more budget AVRs, the power does not sag and it can deliver the true specs. This is where the money has gone to.
However the flexibility of use leaves a lot to be desired. You cannot assign the different internal amps freely, and the various speaker configurations are very limited.
In many other amps, you can use the internal amps to drive the ceiling speakers and add a power amp to drive the fronts and centre. Here, you add an external amp to drive those Atmos / DTS X channels and you use the internal amps or add more amps to drive the important front three channels. A real waste and reflects poor design. I suspect it is due to the limitations of the CPU.
Setting it up took a lot more effort, and it's a good thing that I have the gear and patience, so it's taken me more than a week before I can do some critical listening.
So with all the pros and cons, how does it sound?
I slipped in an old THX equipped classic, "Aliens" with the unforgettable Bill Paxton, who had so many memorable scenes and his famous "Game Over Man" line. Then I watched a recent Atmos equipped hit, "Deepwater Horizon".
My setup is listed here:
The front three are rather power hungry 4 ohm design speakers, and will provide a stern examination of any amplifier. Dynaudios have shut down my old THX - select AVRs, and I was indeed concerned if that may happen here.
Happily the amp was up to the task. Even when I set the speakers to full range. The volume dial had to be turned up a lot more, but it was ticking along fine. It's not too hot, and certainly did not scald like the Onkyo amps.
In HT, there is not a lot of different between the Rotel and other major makes. But the sonic signature is decidedly neutral. Not as warm as say a Marantz, but less bright than an Onkyo or Pioneer amp. This is of course a generalisation, and you should do a careful audition. Steering is crisp, and if you close your eyes, you will not be too aware it's a Rotel and not some other AVR.
This middle of the road style of sound will benefit it's partnership with almost any brand of speakers, and the unfatiguable depth, control and bass will help the amp keep a tight rein on the bass cones of most speakers.
Add a subwoofer or two and you will be able to fill most homes.
As for music, you will enjoy the benefit of the Rotel sonic quality, and the amp shines in music as well as home theatre. Depending on your partnering equipment, you can consider using the built in DACs for lower budget gear. That will give the sound a nice step up. I decided that the sound from my Marantz NA 11 used as a DAC was still superior, but that piece of gear costs as much as this amp.
The Rotel can drive the Dynaudio Confidence 1 (http://peteswrite.blogspot.sg/2016/02/dynaudio-confidence-c1-platinum-review.html) very nicely, and it allows the bass to come through, with a good soundstage. In comparison to my Marantz PM 11 stereo amp, it loses out, in detail, smoothness and depth, but again, that amp costs a lot more than this Rotel.
In small homes, you will not miss a floorstander, and the Confidence 1 was singing confidently (pun intended), with a good bass line and rhythm.
So where does it put this amp?
If it was priced at 2000 USD, you can run out and grab one. Even sans the processor section, as a seven channel power amp, it will be a pretty impressive unit.
However, at 4000 USD SRP, that places it in an awkward position. That's around the selling price of my old SR 12 when it was being sold as a run out unit, and there were not as many takers because despite it's musical pedigree, 4000 clams is a lot of money. Most HT hobbyists will buy a regular AVR in the 1-2000 range, and add a power amplifier to increase dynamics and use the internal amps to power the ceiling channels.
However if you are in the market for a premium processor that has amplification built in, such as the Arcam, or perhaps a Marantz AV 8802 processor, you may want to take a look at this. Those who are willing to spend a bit more to enjoy better sound, and do not mind getting down to do their own calibration, or can afford to hire someone to do it for them, should give this amp an audition.
Solid power amp section
Neutral sound makes partnering speakers easy
I have no financial interest or other interests in any of the items / events I write about.