Rotel RSX-1550 7.1 A/V Receiver


In Use

Although I used many speakers with the Rotel 1550, including Episode in-walls, Martin Logan Source, my main listening was done with Definitive Technologies Mythos STS for fronts and DT Gems for surrounds. The OPPO SE version of their outstanding BdP-83 provided the source. Power cables from Wireworld and interconnects from Ethereal.

In spite of the lack of automatic room EQ, the sound from the Rotel is simply natural, with a wide stage and perfectly distributed acoustics. What does this mean? If you're in a good concert hall, you expect the instruments to sound authentic; you expect to hear the instruments where they are on-stage, front, back, and side to side.

What impressed me most about the 1550 is dynamics and how it keeps that civility at higher volumes. A lesser receiver will mesh all those sounds together and complain doing it with distortion and shrill. Not so with the Rotel, this is where those extra dollars count, high quality parts and design = great sound.

There is no better way to listen to a receiver's ability to play music is SACD first, then redbook CDs. Yes movies provide excellent sources for dynamics and spaciousness, which I will get to, however from my perspective, the Rotel will reveal itself when I play multi-channel audio. Unlike two-channel, the Rotel will be stressed to output all 5 channels, further putting demands on its amplifiers.

Mozart's Requiem in D minor K.626, under the leadership of Nikolaus Harnoncourt featuring the Arnold Schoenberg choir presents both orchestra and solo vocals. The 1550 presents an excellent sense of stage-depth and height. The recording itself tends to be warm and subject matter dark. I found no articulation is missing. Each singer, whether bass, tenor, alto or soprano achieves a clear rich and textured performance thanks to the Rotel.

Roxy Music's Avalon is still one of the best rock music conversions to multi-channel. This music was engineered perfectly and the placement of the just the right drum smack, or guitar lick, and even the saxophone envelops you. No track better than Avalon, floats Brian Ferry's voice among the female backup singers. The Rotel makes you forget it's there, turn up the volume, close your eyes and listen to the music.

This review coincided with my adding a projector to my listening room and I used the Rotel RSX-1550 extensively for not only movies, but my enjoyment of music on Blu-ray. Stage performances from KD Lang, the Police, Sting himself, and Chris Botti are in constant rotation with me. The Rotel simply disappears, and the stage performances in lossless audio place you squarely at center stage.

Movies include the fun and well done Toy Story 3, where the soundtrack and the voices very intelligible, the Rotel exhibited strength. Likewise on Avatar, the key ingredient added was the war-like scenes where the devastation caused by the human canons on the forest is startling rich!

I was never afraid of turning the Rotel up knowing it had plenty to give without distortion.

I am curious how this Rotel might compare to the 1560 with its class D digital amplification. Amongst the audiophile community, the knock to-date of a Class D had always been sonic performance, the way it sounded. Some called it dry, thin, lacking in full weight or dimension. Unlike bulky analog Class A, or AB amplifiers which suffer from energy loss, require larger heat sinks, and many more parts, Class D switching technology can potentially result in, smaller chassis, less parts, and more efficiency.

I did use the Rotel for normal TV watching, which is where I finally found a minor flaw; switching between Dolby and non-Dolby channels or during commercials, leaves a slight lag. It's not significant, but can be as much as a half second?! Playing music from my Apple TV is where this is most evident; a track begins without music until the Rotel locks in. Is there a firmware fix out there for this?