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Rotel ready RA-1572 super-integrated amplifier

  • ‘Mid-fi’ – a piss weak insult levelled from on high at many an entry-level audio manufacturer; as if an amplifier priced in the hundreds – not thousands – could even dream of competing with ‘proper high-end’ (read: most costly) models. Thankfully, exceptions occur.

    Mid-fi, should it exist, was nowhere to be found when this Music-First Audiophile took the Rotel RA-10 (£349) out for a spin. Even if you don’t own a pair of KEF LS50, I urge you to read the review. The RA-10 Keeps It Honest and gracefully bats away any us-and-them price-tag snobbery.

    Further listening over the weekend, this time out with the low-profile Rotel hooked up to ELAC’s Uni-Fi BS U5 Slim, further cements my opinion that the RA-10 – and its successor, the A10 – could well be the integrated amplifiers to beat at US$500.

    This has me wondering if the RA-10’s combination of abundant dynamic punch and tonal saturation carries through to the company’s more luxurious models?

    A tour by yours truly of Rotel’s Zhuhai factory in March 2014 suggests a big fat YES: in-house-wound transformers, the beating heart of any amplifier, aren’t so common at the entry-level.

    It’s a “custom designed and in-house manufactured oversized toroidal transformer” that lives inside the RA-1572 integrated (US$1699), announced this week alongside the RC-1572 Stereo pre-amplifier (US$1099) and RCD-1572 CD player (US$899) — all three are fresh additions to the company’s 15 Series.

    Rotel’s press release and product info page tell us the following:

    that the RA-1572’s Class A/B output stage offers 120wpc into 8 Ohms but continuously and with both channels driven simultaneously;

    that it internalises an AKM DAC for handling of PCM up to 32bit/384kHz and ‘DSD’ over USB;

    that the twin coaxial and TOSLINK inputs’ digital capabilities top out 24bit/192kHz PCM, no DSD;

    that one can stream to this amplifier directly using Bluetooth – aptX for compatible devices. Sorry, not you iOS users;

    that iOS users can avail themselves of the front panel USB input to play music;

    that moving magnet-cartridged turntablists are invited to the party via a single MM input;

    that balanced signal devotees can avail themselves of the XLR socketry ’round back, that augment the three remaining single-ended analogue inputs;

    that a mono subwoofer- and pre-outputs round out the feature set.

    However, we must journey beyond the press release to learn;

    that the rear panel also features a USB power output socket for charging one’s smart device;

    that the forerunning model (the RA-1570) featured a 24bit/192kHz-limited Wolfson DAC and run-out pricing might be imminent;

    that the 3.5mm headphone socket silently requests insertion of portable friendly ‘phones;

    and that the rear panel’s Ethernet port permits iOS app control from the listening position – input selection, volume up/down, tone adjustments (and that UPnP streaming functionality might be yet to come via a firmware update?).

    Whichever way we skin it, this Rotel has the power to handle a broad range of loudspeakers whilst offering a seriously impressive array of features, all from an elegantly-style chassis. Take your pick from silver or black.

    In other words, the RA-1572 is a handsome beast with everything needed to anchor an affordable hifi – not mid-fi – audio system. As the terminology goes: here we have is a more affordable superintegrated that, as the cliché goes, invites us to ‘just add loudspeakers and stir’.

    Further information: Rotel

    Written by John Darko

    John currently lives in Berlin where he creates videos and podcasts and pens written pieces for Darko.Audio. He has previously contributed to 6moons, TONEAudio, AudioStream and Stereophile.

    Darko.Audio is a member of EISA.

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    The Music-First Audiophile and RMAF 2017