Rotel RSP-1570 7.1 Processor/Preamplifier  
Home Theater Preamplifiers AV Preamps
Written by Robert Mead   
Tuesday, 07 April 2009

The multi-functionality of any decent a/v receiver on the market today must be the most prominent and fundamental element when a consumer considers purchasing an a/v receiver for their living room or bedroom. Some consumers want a great 7.1 surround processor that will replicate the exact and precise DTS theater sound found at the local multiplex. But some others might want to purchase an a/v receiver that replicates the delicate nuances of pure stereo sound only, not wanting to listen to any surround mode whatsoever that would corrupt the pure audio that the original studio engineer that worked on the CD wanted to capture for prosperity.

That kind of “audio purist” that puts 2-channel clear stereo sound ahead of the latest DTS surround mode when looking for a new a/v receiver is what Rotel’s sound engineers are always striving to please. Although Rotel’s receivers are well known for delivering uncompromising surround sound audio for an excellent home theater listening experience, Rotel also designs their a/v receivers to satisfy the consumer who wants to bring out the fluid tones of a musical CD in two-channel audio as well as easily reproduce any surround mode that Dolby or any other audio company incorporates into the next line of home audio components.

Because Rotel is dedicated to a “Balanced Design Element”, as they call it, Rotel’s engineers are constantly making critical evaluations about what type of circuitry will go into every audio component in their product line, include the RSP line of a/v receivers and surround sound processors. Since I was about to receive a demonstration of what the RSP-1570 Processor / Preamplifier could deliver when it came to 2-channel pure audio, I wanted to make sure that the processor / preamplifier I was going to review was capable of bringing that type of clean and precise audio to the attached B&W CM9 speakers, so I asked Jim Wicklund, the co-owner of Premiere Home Entertainment, the store in which I was getting the demonstration what he thought about Rotel’s ability to deliver on both the 2-channel audio front as well as the surround-sound side of audio distribution. He told me that he thought Rotel was on top of their game as far as creating a processor / preamplifier that can distribute the clarity of pure 2-channel audio while also bringing out the best of any surround sound mode currently on the market today.

Overview

The RSP-1570 itself makes an impression on the viewer immediately, with its sleek metal design, along with its vast array of silver buttons which instantly modernizes the design elements of the a/v receiver to anyone who views it. On the backside of this unit, I noticed that this receiver features 4 HDMI inputs and 1 HDMI output, 4 digital optical inputs and 3 digital coaxial inputs. So you can see that the RSP-1570 is definitely set up to handle any audio system’s needs when it comes to hooking up a myriad of home theater components. This processor / preamplifier also incorporates an analog bypass mode that ensures authentic 2-channel stereo sound with no sign of digital processing interfering with the natural sound element that only 2-channel stereo can bring with it. If you currently own an SACD player and want to hear what type of audio quality that a Rotel receiver can deliver with such a high-end audio component attached to it, the RSP-1570 contains a multi input for 7.1 channel analog signals that your SACD will need to distribute that high-end audio clarity that SACD sound is known for.

For the consumer who wants to insure that this processor / preamplifier is up to the task as far as surround sound is concerned, the following surround audio modes are featured in the RSP-1570 processor / preamplifier: Dolby Digital 2.0, Dolby Digital 5.1, Dolby Digital Surround EX, Dolby True HD as well as the newer Dolby Digital Plus and Dolby Pro Logic IIx. If you own a new Blu-Ray DVD that includes DTS 5.1 channel, DTS-ES Matrix 6.1 or DTS-ES Discrete 6.1 channel modes, the RSP-1570 will automatically decode the movie’s soundtrack for you effortlessly. For a processor / preamplifier that is packed with features such as these, the weight of this audio component is a fairly light and compact 22 pounds, while the dimensions of the unit are 17” high and over 13” long.

If you’re worried about this processor / preamplifier absorbing too much of your overall system’s power, don’t be. The component consumes 60 watts of power and the power requirements clock in at a low 120 volts, 60hz, if you live in the United States, and around 230 volts, 50hz if you live elsewhere in the world with the unit’s CE version of the Rotel RSP-1570. The preamp output levels are rated at 1.0V/250 ohms and the unit’s total frequency response is rated at a respectable 3 Hz-100MHz. The on-screen menu system of this component includes easy-to-read information relating to how you have the audio configured for your separates and your loudspeaker system that is displayed in a large LED front panel display.

With the System Status screen, the display will show you the exact surround mode you are recording/listening to, it will show you which audio input you are currently hooked up to, as well as how high the volume level happens to be. This type of display is perfect for when you are recording from another separate source to another, which will cut down on audio recording input errors that sometimes leads to distortion or sound blur if not carefully monitored at all times while recording mode is in place.

Set Up

The audio configuration that was already installed in Premiere Home Entertainment’s third main showroom was built to feature pure 2-channel sound emanating from the Rotel RSP-1570 as well as the attached black Rotel RMB 1575 power amplifier and the Rotel RDV-1093 DVD/CD player. The speaker system I would be listening to came from the B&W CM9 line of floor standing speakers, and these speakers happened to be only one or two weeks old, so I knew I was not going to hear the perfect tones of a speaker system that had a lot of ‘break-in’ time. Since a major element in any 2-channel listening experience comes from the main audio source of the system’s sound, I took a long look at the RDV-1093 DVD/CD player see if this unit could had the capability of delivering true and clean stereo to the B&W speakers. I was pleased to note that the player’s signal to noise ratio was a low 65 decibels and that the frequency response of the CD playback was rated at 2 Hz to 20 kHz, insuring that all of the audio I would be hearing would come through loud and clear.

I also examined the attached Rotel RMB-1575 five-channel power amplifier and I was taken aback by the ultra-sleek and powerful design of this power amp. While the amplifier only weighs a light 11 pounds and is about 17 inches in height, the power this unit conjures up by its looks alone is fairly overwhelming. The total power output of the amp is a fairly strong 250 watts per channel, and when all channels are driven the output goes up to a very strong 500 watts per channel, more than enough voltage to demonstrate the capabilities of the RSP-1570 that this power amp would deliver all of its clean power to. Rotel is quick to point out that the RMB-1575 has a clear specification that all the channels in this power amplifier are driven at a clean 8 ohms, and the amp is designed for delivering power to a larger room’s audio system, so I would not suggest that this power amplifier should be purchased for someone’s bedroom. But if you are looking for a unit that can displace pure power to a media room, the audio configuration highlighted would be more than sufficient.

When it comes to accentuating any sound system’s true sonic capabilities, B&W’s loudspeaker CM9 product line is up to the challenge. These floor-standing speakers have a height of more than 40 inches tall and weigh a hefty 58 pounds apiece and have an elegant look to them, helped along with that sophisticated look by incorporating real wood veneers into the cabinet design of these immaculate speakers. Looking further into the technical details of this speaker, I noticed that the size of the Nautilus tube loaded aluminum tweeters that are a main element of these speakers are fairly small when it comes to the average tweeter size of most loudspeaker systems. Hopefully, that design element would not cause too much high-end coloration of the audio signals when the demonstration started, but I had some doubts.

Looking closely at the two woofers situated at the bottom of these speaker units, I noticed the large size of the twin Kevlar cones which would drive the low-end audio to the 15x10 foot showroom, so any doubts about this speaker system’s ability to deliver quality bass frequencies to my discerning ears were alleviated. The two CM9’s were positioned about two feet away from the showroom’s walls and they were set at a nice 70-degree angle, towards the main listening area of the room in which I was sitting comfortably on the sofa against the main wall directly opposite to the audio system.

Music and Movies

The RSP-1570 7.1 was designed to decode almost every surround mode on the market today, and this unit is able to disperse that decoded surround sound with true agility during any home theater viewing experience. The sound clarity emanating from this sound processor when it comes to delivering substantial low-end audio impact during a movie’s action sequences as bombs explode and houses are blown apart is definitely a highlight of this processor / preamplifier. A movie’s dialogue that is sometimes lost amid some loud sound effects in other receivers are not a problem with the RSP-1570. And during the quieter moments of a movie’s non-action sequences, this processor / preamplifier is able to disperse the more subdued sound effects of waves on a beach and the wind blowing through palm trees with great acuity.

But the main reason I was in the showroom that day was to experience pure 2-channel stereo as it was meant to be heard: with great clarity and substance, which is what the engineers at Rotel are striving for with every new component that they design. So I began this demonstration by inserting a CD of Steely Dan’s 1980 release entitled “Gaucho” into the CD tray of the Rotel RDV-1093 so I could experience pure 2-channel stereo for myself. “Gaucho” was recorded during the last gasp of the 1970’s, a decade in which Steely Dan saw their greatest success, both sales-wise and critically, but this CD was not appreciated by the press or by Steely Dan’s once-vast audience at the time of its release. I figured this multi instrument-drenched CD would be a good example of the RSP-1570’s ability to really highlight the musical soundtrack that such a heavily orchestrated CD such as “Gaucho” brings to the audio soundstage.

The first song up on the CD was entitled “Babylon Sisters.” This tune starts out very lightly, with just a few notes from Donald Fagen’s electric piano filling the showroom with his fluid piano playing, but the delicate musical nuance that flowed through the B&W loudspeakers was palpable even before the percussion from session drummer Steve Gadd cut through as his drums entered the song. The crisp vocal tones from Fagen were smooth and strong as the song continued to play along, and then the sharp guitar notes came through the speakers systems loud and clear, but never obtrusive. Even though there was never a sub-woofer attached to the Rotel RSP-1570, the low-end audio sounded full and driving, never for an instant needing any enhancement to the bass at all during this song.

“Hey Nineteen” was up next, and this was the lone semi-hit song that Steely Dan would wrap up the 1970’s with. It is a much lighter tune than the previous song, and the high-end abilities of the RSP-1570 was brought to the forefront as the 2-channel audio kicked into a much higher gear. The processor / preamplifier was able to handle the much higher background vocals with an adroit ability to focus on sending the high-end audio to the “sweet spot” of the B&W tweeter drivers. The natural musical sounds of the snappy piano playing drove the song along to its conclusion in a very organic way, replicating a ‘live’ musical environment very skillfully and flooding my ears with a good measure of melodious warmth.

The good people at B&W were kind enough to send Premiere Home Entertainment a compilation CD of various types of music that would highlight their series of loudspeaker’s ability to enhance musical arrangements, no matter what genre of music was being showcased in the home theater store’s showroom. With that in mind, I began playing the jazz portion of the compilation CD so that I could discern if the Rotel RSP-1570 could disperse the exact amount of 2-channel audio to the loudspeakers needed to fill the room with the confluent rhythmic sounds of a fairly small jazz group composed of a drummer, bass player and saxophonist, with just some background vocals mixed in for good measure. The CD did not have any liner notes attached to the accompanying CD cover, so I did not know who the musicians were on the CD, but the jazz group started off the first song with a strong emphasis on the lone saxophone player. The cool, musical elegance emanating out of the saxophone really brought out the lower-to-mid-range tones of the RSP-1570 with a special clarity and dynamic range that really needs to be heard to be believed. But take my word for it, this sleek and powerful processor / preamplifier has what it takes to manufacture pure 2-channel audio to any speaker system it happens to be hooked up to with an adroitness that borders on perfection.

After hearing how well the RSP-1570 handled the lighter musical tones of a small jazz ensemble, I decided to test the processor / preamplifier and find out how a much larger musical pop/jazz group would fare in this same audio configuration using the B&W CM9’s, with the attached Rotel RDV-1093 DVD/CD player. The next CD up was from the Richard Elliot release “Crush” (Verve records 2001.) Elliot is an accomplished saxophonist with many years of experience under his belt; and with “Crush” he went looking for thirteen like-minded musicians that could elevate the genre of jazz-pop to a higher ground of sophistication, and with this CD release, he found the right personnel to accomplish this goal. The quasi-jazz hit “Crush” opens this album with a strong burst of energy as Elliot’s saxophone is first heard over the explosive percussion section of congas, drums and the compelling bass notes of fellow musician Roberto Vally.

The RSP-1570 pumped out the precise amount of low-end to set a solid foundation on which Elliot’s accomplished musicians could build their propulsive and rhythmic instrumentation of smooth jazz stylings on. The final song I was finishing my demonstration with was the slightly slower instrumental number, “Q.T.” The four members of the horn section really showed their talent for taking a slower song structure and compelling it to hit new heights as the song progressed in a slow-building crescendo of convergent musical notes. The processor / preamplifier showed how it could spotlight mid-range audio and high-end musical interludes with a dexterity that never came into question.

Downside

While the Rotel RSP-1570 7.1 certainly has what it takes to reproduce a vast portion of surround modes for an excellent home theater experience, this receiver could show some improvements in the display screen as far as relaying to the owner just what the most important audio input levels are at any one time. It’s always nice to avoid hitting a variety of surround sound mode buttons on your remote when changing to another audio source.

Also, just having one HDMI output integrated into the back of this unit means that if you really need to hook this processor / preamplifier up to more than one high-definition video display, you will be out of luck.  It would benefit audio manufacturers such as Rotel to include at least two HDMI outputs to accomplish this task. The RSP line from Rotel are constantly being upgraded from year to year, so hopefully this HDMI output problem should be remedied very soon.

Conclusion

The overall design of the RSP-1570 is very refined and sharp, while the bulk and weight of the unit is very compact. The silver buttons laid out on the metal paneling of the component serve as an aesthetically pleasing element of the design, while also serving as a functional way to change from one audio source to another. For the amount of surround sound modes that you get with the RSP-1570, the retail price of $2,599 is a reasonable one for the home theater purist. The integration between the Rotel and the attached B&W CM9’s were flawless for this demonstration, which means that any consumer who wants to experience the full sonic impact his own high-end speakers should consider purchasing the RSP-1570.





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