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Rotel RB-1590 Power Amplifier Review Print E-mail
Monday, 01 February 2016
Article Index
Rotel RB-1590 Power Amplifier Review

ImageI’ve been familiar with the legendary Rotel brand since childhood. My father would often take me along when he would frequent hifi shops and I remember their components on display alongside other now classic manufacturers products. Rotel has a long and storied history and they are going as strong as ever today with a full suite of products that cater to every market, including home theater, distributed audio, and purist two channel audiophile components.

Rotel is part of the B&W Group, located stateside in North Reading, MA, which owns Classe electronics and the legendary Bowers & Wilkins speaker brand. My first pair of “high end” speakers were indeed B&W monitors. The company is totally committed to each brand, and they have large dealer network and offer high quality customer technical support.

It has been a number of years since I have had Rotel product in my system, and it was with great enthusiasm that I accepted an offer to review their flagship power amplifier, the RB-1590. Very impressive on paper, the RB-1590 offers 350 watts per channel of Class A/B power.

Internally, the RB-1590 sports twin massive toroidal transformers custom made by Rotel. The transformers are part of a massive robust power supply that includes British made BHC capacitors, Rotel’s circuit topography has been laid out in a true monoblock design, for channel separation and noise reduction. Around back you you will find XLR balanced and RCA input connections, two pair of 5-way speaker binding posts, and 12-volt trigger control. For peace of mind there is thermal protection circuitry, as well as over current, over voltage protection circuitry, The RB-1590 retails for $2999.

Unpacking the RB-1590 was a task. The amplifier weighs in just under 90 Lbs! The black casework is immaculate, and even more impressive for a sub $3000 component. Layout and connector quality around back are first rate as well. The front panel simply has a power on/power off switch, which gives the amp a bit of a cool menacing look.


Set Up & Listening

The RB-1590 was set up in my larger system in a 20 x 25 room with high ceilings. I used no special tweaks aside from discarding the accompanying power cord and using the recently reviewed ZenWave Audio PL-11. The RB-1590 drove Bryston Mini T speakers, and briefly, Harbeth Compact 7ES-3’s, with a Rogue RP-5 tubed preamp, Bryston BDP-2 file player, and Simaudio 280D DAC in the chain. The signal cables were also ZenWave. Everything was plugged into the Bryston BIT-15 power conditioner. The amp was stationed on the bottom shelf of a Salamander rack.

A quick disclaimer. I had, in the past, somewhat of a bias against high powered amps. My thinking was that more output stages, more parts, and massive power supplies were great for drive and SPL’s, but lacked nuance and delicacy. My feelings changed some time ago when realized good designers were giving you the best of both worlds, and that there were no absolutes. I had auditioned a series of high powered top class amps and was dazzled not only by the ease with which they drove various speaker, but by their musical qualities as well. End disclaimer.

I was very eager to get the Rotel broken in and warmed up as I had wanted to see how it would compare to my 50 wpc tubed Audio Research VS55, and a 120/240 wpc (4 Ohms/8 Ohms) Simaudio 760A. After a generous warm up, the first thing I noticed about the RB-1590’s presentation is how very deep the soundstage was. The music seemed to stretch back very far behind the speakers and spatial cues were easy to understand. A highly impressive start, as soundstage depth is more important to me as a listener than soundstage width. This is a personal preference.


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