Rotel RC1580/RB1582 - £1,000/£1,100

An undisputed badge-winner, Rotel promises a great deal for the money and delivers... in spades

Like NAD, Rotel has for many years steered a careful course somewhere between the vast multinationals (Sony, Yamaha) and the small specialists, as well as managing to maintain a profile associated with distinctive products of good performance and value.

These amps are actually among the more expensive we’ve seen from the company and it’s no surprise to find out that they are the current stereo range-toppers. In terms of basic specification they are well equipped, with the RC1580 preamp offering eight line inputs, plus phono (both flavours), while the RB1582 is a particularly high-powered beast.

But does one actually need that much power for domestic audio? Obviously the answer entirely depends on the speakers, the space to fill with sound and the target loudness. A few spare watts never hurt and the high current delivery, which is also on offer, is often handy for controlling awkward speakers, even at lower levels.

You’ll notice that the preamp thoughtfully includes separate source selection for listening and recording. In order to provide this flexibility, Rotel has had to compromise slightly on the signal switching arrangements, which use relays for listening and an electronic switch for recording.

The volume control is a motorised mechanical one, and the (switchable) tone and balance controls also use mechanical parts The power amp features a particularly large mains transformer, with separate secondary windings for each channel, plus huge supply smoothing capacitors grounded via a large copper plate.

Sound quality

Even when playing at quite modest levels (the same as all the others in the blind test, decided empirically but well within the envelope of the least powerful here), these amps still manage to put out a powerful and convincing performance. By unanimous acclamation, they rocked harder than any others here and overall achieved the most convincing musical results. The nearest thing to a serious criticism was the mention of slight stridency on piano and other tuned percussive sounds.

Take rhythm, for instance. Right across the board, the sound was felt to have not just excellent drive but also great rhythmic solidity and consistency – it never wavers whatever happens to the musical texture. In part, this is due to the very solid, but also very well-tuned, bass, but the taut midrange clearly also plays a role. Treble is clean and detailed, with very nice decay into ambience, while the detail is just delightful, clear and precise.

You want more? Dynamics, maybe? They’re generous and beautifully judged, on both the small and the large scale – the big swells across a whole orchestra and the little inflections in an individual voice or instrument. Oh, and though it couldn’t be part of the main listening as several amps didn’t have one, the phono stage is also something of a gem.

LIKE: Powerful and great- sounding in all areas
DISLIKE: Just the slightest hint of upper-midrange
WE SAY: It looks high end and it really sounds the part too. This kind of sonic authority is something to treasure

DETAILS
DISTRIBUTOR: B&W Loudspeakers
TELEPHONE: 01903 221500
WEBSITE: rotel.com