Rotel RSX-1550 AV Receiver 
Home Theater AV Receivers AV Receivers
Written by Robert Mead   
Wednesday, 11 March 2009

A cornerstone of any high-end audio manufacturer has to be the ability to continually research and look for ways of improving their design technology to stay one step ahead of their competition. Rotel, formed more than forty-six years ago, employs engineers that spend countless hours listening to various audio components to discern which companies to purchase their new circuitry from for installation in Rotel’s A/V receivers, DVD players and power amplifiers.

This kind of authoritative dedication allowed Rotel to gain serious credibility with home theater stores worldwide and found their products being sought after. The Rotel RSX-1550 5-channel receiver is an excellent example of Rotel’s attention to advancing audio design with their patented Symmetrical Signal Trace design. This new technology keeps each audio channel’s signal path identical to the other audio channels, which increases the imaging of the audio to deliver a more precise and clean sound to a speaker system connected to this Rotel A/V receiver.

Beyond paying attention to the circuitry of an audio component’s inner workings, Rotel also makes sure that every receiver they produce is aesthetically pleasing to the eye. Their receivers have a sleekly designed silver metal casing accompanied by rows of silver buttons allowing the consumer easy access to a variety of sound modes.  The 1550 also comes in two colors, polished silver and slate black.  


The RSX-1550 5-Channel receiver powers 75 watts per channel with a digital input ratio of 92dBs. This A/V receiver also comes with the ability to decode Dolby Digital, Dolby EX, Dolby Pro Logic IIX, DTS ES, Dolby TrueHD and DTS HD Master Audio. If you require the latest surround modes from DTS and Dolby to enjoy your Blu-Ray discs more fully, the Rotel RSX-1550 is quite capable.  The cost of this component is around $1,999 retail, something of a deal for audiophiles.  It also comes with on-board seven channel processing, but requires an extra stereo amplifier for full 7.1 channel operation.

If you have four components that are equipped with HDMI (version 1.3) outputs and your current receiver cannot handle that many, the RSX-1550 provides four HDMI inputs located at the back of this unit. It also comes equipped with four optical digital inputs as well, in case you have more audio components. If you do have a SACD player, the RSX-1550 features a multi-input for 7.1 channel analog signal for DVD-A players as well as SACD players.  Alternatively, if you desire the purity of 2-channel stereo and want to listen to analog sound as it was back in the 1970’s, this receiver includes an analog bypass mode with no digital processing.  You can enjoy listening to any old-school rock band of your choice the way the sound engineer originally mixed it back in 1972.

The receiver weighs in at 38 pounds with has a height of over 17 inches and a width of 16 inches.  It really has no real bulk to it at all.  It has a very calm look about it, and with the silver buttons organized neatly around the front panel, this receiver will only invite envy for those obsessed with aesthetics. The signal to noise ratio is rated at 40dB and the input/impedance line level tops out at 200 mV/100k ohms, so there’s very little distortion running through this system at any one time.

Taking a good look at the remote, I found it lightweight and it fit easily into the palm of my hand. The remote is fairly long and the features on it are very well designed and laid out.   There is a light button on the side of the remote control that helps you view the buttons at night without problem. The power on/off switch is at the top of the control panel in the right hand corner, the volume controls and channel change switch are also found there for quick access. The remote also can be programmed to control your own CD player and DVD player.


Rotel RSX-1500 Rear Panel



The main audio configuration of the showroom that housed the Rotel RSX-1550 was built to highlight how this A/V receiver performed in a home theater. Jim Wicklund, the co-owner of Premiere Home Entertainment, had the room setup to emulate a professional movie theater’s sound experience as accurately as possible. The room was around 12 feet wide and 15 feet long, with a Stewart Firehawk 102” movie screen at the opposite end of the room. A Marantz DLP projector was set up to display the crystal-clear images emanating from the Marantz BD8002 Blu-Ray player that was hooked up to the projector.

The RSX-1550 was sitting in the middle of the showroom’s main A/V rack to the left of the room, directly under the Furman Elite 15 power conditioner, the BD8002 CD/DVD player and the Marantz VC 6001 DVD changer. This DVD changer comes equipped to handle SACDs, divX playback, MP3 discs and it features 24-bit/192 khz audio DAC. This DVD player also contains an RCA analog out, one digital optical out and a 5.1 channel audio out, which would demonstrate how the RSX-1550 would handle digital audio signals from the DVD player as well as showcasing the equipped main speakers in this configuration, Canton’s GLE-409 floor standing speakers.

The Canton speakers were situated about five feet from the walls of the room and are around 4 feet tall apiece. The room was also equipped with the Canton GLE-455 as the center speaker. These speakers all complimented each other and were well calibrated to insure that the demo of the Rotel RSX-1550 was accurate.  HDMI cables were used to send the audio signal and the up-scaled video signal to the RSX-1550.  Kimber cables were used primarily for the speaker connections. The power consumption of the RSX-1550 is a fairly hefty 450 watts and the receiver requires 115 volts going through it at any one time to send audio signals to the speaker system, so a power conditioner should be considered if you are thinking about purchasing the Rotel RSX-1550. Otherwise your system might suffer from too much unconditioned and ‘dirty’ power flowing to your speakers, causing unwanted distortion levels, which might damage your speaker setup.

The Velodyne DLS-3750R subwoofer was situated at the left of this room. It contains a 10” driver which pushes 175 watts of power. I’ve always liked the DLS line of subwoofers from Velodyne due to the Digital Signal Processor.  Because of their all-digital design, the DLS-3750 R is made to deliver compact and precise low-end with a more direct and powerful impact than most subwoofers in the same price range. The importance of including a high-caliber subwoofer as a major part of your own home theater’s audio system cannot be overstated, mostly if you want to hear loud sound effects such as bombs exploding, machine-gun fire and car crashes exact and as powerful as sound effects technicians want you to hear them.

Music and Movies

To truly feel what type of power the Rotel RSX-1550 could disperse to the Canton GLE-409’s, I needed an action clip from a movie that featured a LOT of explosions in surround sound to make sure that the RSX-1550 could decode DTS and other surround modes with no problem, while still delivering huge low-end to the subwoofer included in this audio set-up. I selected a scene from the movie “Fantastic Four” (20th Century Fox 2005) in which the set of superheroes are standing on a broken, shattered concrete road at the Golden Gate Bridge and a major fireball is hurtling towards them at the speed of light. The fireball turns out to be a meteor heading directly to the bridge and when hit, all hell breaks out as the meteor impact explosion caused the audio system’s main subwoofer to explode with a very loud bang that sent a low-end shudder throughout the room.

The RSX-1550 handled processing the correct audio signal with ease. Even during the bombastic moment when the meteor hit the bridge, I could easily discern what each character was saying to each other with great clarity. The Rotel had no problem decoding the signal to hear the low-end of the explosions and the much more delicate sound of the movie’s dialog track. The room seemed to come alive with the sonic impact of the ensuing action onscreen after the meteor hit the bridge and the Fantastic Four leapt into action, flying over the ocean in pursuit of whatever super power was responsible for sending the monolithic meteor into the bridge, hoping to kill everyone standing on it. As the movie’s musical soundtrack broke into full gallop, the RSX-1550 filled the room with highly powered, yet intricate orchestration from the symphony, slowly building into a high crescendo as the superheroes began to face their main foes.

I next choose a clip from the outdoor adventure movie “Adrenaline Rush” (Image Entertainment 2002) which was first released as an Imax exclusive. The sequence featured a group of snowboarders and skiers attempting to ski and snowboard down a 150-foot snow covered cliff all at the same time.  The movie’s sound mix included actual human heartbeats that pulsated during the trip down the cliff. As the group of adventure-seekers moved to the edge of the huge cliff, the heartbeats stopped and were replaced by the sound of five people flinging themselves over the 100-foot cliff to feel a true adrenaline rush as they were sent hurtling through the air. The RSX-1550 filled the room with the captivating sounds of the wind and the group of adventurer’s cries of excitement as they all landed with a loud thud upon the soft snow after falling about 100 feet from the cliff.  How these people actually performed this trick without killing themselves is beyond me.

The audio interlacing between the natural sound effects of the mountainside’s wind and the movie soundtrack’s swirling musical score was without fault, and the bass that the RSX-1550 was dispersing to the loudspeakers was adroit and rhythmic without conveying any distortion. As the volume was increased during this demo, the Rotel A/V receiver was able to push the higher levels of low-end to the Velodyne DLS-3750R subwoofer with aplomb. I was even able to aurally detect the exact moment that the skier’s landed upon the harder surface of the ice when hitting the end of the ski run at speeds of 60 miles per hour and above, an accurate test of audio delineation from the Rotel receiver.

The last movie clip I check out was from the Jason Statham car chase movie, “The Transporter” (20th Century Fox 2002). The fast-paced sequence was the scene in which Statham is trying his best to fend off a group of heavily armored villains attempting to decimate his two-story house with him and his impromptu girlfriend still in it. The scene starts off quietly, with Statham telling his girl to stay down right before the attackers outside unleash a barrage of bullets and grenades that would level a small town into oblivion. As the house’s windows were shattered and the wood building posts were splintered into a hundred pieces, the sound effects coming out of the RSX-1550 thundered against my eardrums with a dynamic sonic blast, yet was never too overpowering for the Canton speakers to take. The Rotel receiver was able to push the audio system without causing any distortion or sound blur in the process.


While the RSX-1550 a/v receiver delivers a powerful wallop to the listener during playback of a movie’s sound effects and dialogue, the a/v system could rank higher on the technical side of audio components when it comes to up-scaling the mid-range signals during the more musical side of a film’s soundtrack. I noticed that the clarity and precision that other audio manufacturers incorporate into their A/V receivers, such as Marantz, was somewhat missing in the RSX-1550 during music reproduction of the movie soundtracks.

Additionally, the setup function is somewhat simplistic and may seem utilitarian compared to receivers in a similar price range.  Those who are used to being spoiled by extensive menu functions will be disappointed here. The menu is plain text on a dark background.  There’s no room calibration tool either, such as an automatic mic-driven equalization tool.  You have to set all the levels manually. The Rotel RSX-1550 also forgoes an Ethernet connection, so don’t expect any streaming capabilities or menu accessibility through your home network.


The design team at Rotel have been doing a great job of bringing top-quality audio components to the mainstream in recent years, and with the Rotel RSX-1550, they are continuing with this same attention in developing excellent a/v equipment for the masses at a decent price. This a/v receiver could be a cornerstone to any audiophile’s home theater set-up as well as being included as a more minor part of someone’s complete audio configuration. The value of incorporating the attention to detail that Rotel’s designers are known for really brings up the overall quality of the RSX-1550. The engineers that continually evaluate audio reproduction really paid off from what I experienced during my time with the RSX-1550.

The way that this receiver integrated with the Canton GLE-409’s, the GLE-455 center channel speaker and the Velodyne DLS-3750 R subwoofer was completely seamless. This A/V receiver is solidly built and offers an extra sheen of sophistication when aligned alongside the rest of your audio components. At a retail price point of $1,999, the Rotel RSX-1550 is well positioned for a portion of the audiophile market that’s looking for a piece of equipment designed for replicating the movie theater experience.


Special thanks goes to Premiere Home Entertainment, a Las Vegas based home entertainment company specializing in the design and installation of home theater, home automation, and home integration systems.  They are located at 2300 N. Rainbow Blvd., Suite 119 in Las Vegas. 

Model Rotel RSX-1550 Receiver
HDMI Version 1.3
# of Output Channels 5.1 • 7.1
Room Correction/EQ Yes

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