My Review: Rotel RA1570 vs Rotel RA1592 Integrated Amplifiers, side by side.


Introduction:
This is a comparison between 2 pretty popular integrateds. The Rotel RC1570 has been Rotel’s best new series 15 integrated amplifier since their introduction, however, most recently there has been this craze for better and more powerful integrated amplifiers. The days where an integrated was looked down upon is likely passing. More and more companies are embracing the simplicity and (sometimes) the sonic improvement to be had when you have a single box unit with direct connections between the DAC (sometimes), the preamplifier, and the amplification units.

With the push for better integrateds, Rotel has just released the RA1592. There has been a lack of information or direct comparison between the previous flagship RA1570 and the new big dog.

The RA1570 integrated describes it as using their well known topology for the preamplifier and amplifier sections, takes a Wolfson Premium DAC, adds a classA/B amplifier capable of 120w/channel. It is not entirely clear if the preampfification unit of the RA1570 is taken off the RC1570 preamp. It is 17"x6"x14" (approximately and weight 29 pounds.

The RA1592 is bit more of a beast. Rotel specifically states that the RA1592 is a combination of their top of the line preamplifier RC1590 and adds the amplification aspects off of the second from top of the line RB1582mk2 (top is RB1590) producing a very respectable 200w/channel. Add to that an AKM 32/768 DAC and more inputs, a dedicated bluetooth receiving unit (on the RA1570, you would have to use your only USB input to attach the bluetooth dongle). The unit is significantly bigger measuring 17"x6"x16"The unit is approximately 30% heavier at 37 pounds.

Packaging:
While I have both, I did not have the box for the RA1570, as it was a dealer demo that was loaned to me for a period of time. I did receive the RA1592 brand new, in box, and I can attest that the packaging of the Rotel RA1592 is superb. It comes in a brown exterior box, which leads to a white interior box with a "Rotel" masking tape to prevent unauthorized dealings, then a heavily foamed reusable interior shell. The remote comes in its own box as well.

Functionality:
The RA1570 had enough inputs for my use, but for others I suspect it to be sufficient enough. However, once I had the RA1592 in my hands, I began to appreciate the extra number of inputs and toys. For example, there are now 3 optical inputs instead of 2, which makes sense if you have multiple sources or a TV to run all digital inputs from. There is also more USB inputs on the RA1592 [i]in addition[/i] to the fact that the bluetooth dongle need not be installed (to take up another USB input) as on the RA1570... it was perfect.

The remote of the RA1570 looked cool at first, it has a grey vintage type of an appearance, but after some use, you begin to hate the overall feel and placement of buttons... namely the volume button which are 2 little dimple sized buttons located at the right upper topmost section... even my wife commented on how much she hated the remote ([i]a sidenote to other audiophiles, if your wife dislikes your audio equipment, you can take that as a hint to upgrade[/i]). The RA1592 remote is more pedestrian appearing (black), but the placement of buttons is far better, the feel is better and more ergonomic. I really like how the volume buttons are easy to access and big... as if I were an old man with loss of vision.

Sound:
I connected the RA1592 and RA1570 into my secondary system - it is based off the Sonus Faber Olympica 3 (otherwise lovingly referred to as my daughter Emma’s system). The first thing I felt was bass impact. It was so abrupt and so sudden that I thought I had the settings messed up on the RA1570 (alas it was stock tone control settings). Then I thought that the bass was boosted on the tone controls of the RA1592 (it was not). Even my wife who was passing by even noticed it... she commented, "is that your system upstairs? what’s that extra sound?"

It was clearly evident that the bass was improved. We would watch movies or youtube videos or tv and there would be a wholesomeness to the sound on the RA1592 that was simply not there on the RA1570. As a result, the vocals would be meatier, the midrange was thicker, the bass was obviously ever-present. Flipping back to the RA1570, it would be easily described as swift sounding, quicker, and leaner... but not bright. Oh no, the RA1570 was not bright at all. It was still a good sounding integrated, but I’m liking the RA1592 at this point.

But yes, the bass was a bit of an eye-opener... so much so that since we have a 3 month old at home and he seems to be bass-sensitive (or is that force-sensitive for all you Star Wars fans??)... I had to create a "Henry Tone Control Bypass".... it’s when I cut the bass by -5dB on the RA1592 for whenever he is napping.

Real evaluation of the sound:
OK, so I had the units in my secondary system... and I was able to demo them back to back to back to back on TV, movie, and subpar musical content... and I was able to hear the differences between the RA1570 and RA1592.... let’s see how they stack up against each other in the big system.

So I lugged them both to the upstairs system. I plopped them on top of the Emm Labs Dac2x/TSDx stack (that’s my CD/SACD transport box and my DAC box) because of the proximity to the XLR, digital, etc connections.

I initially wanted to test each of the integrateds on its own merit, meaning I wanted to test each one utilizing their own DAC units because that’s how most will use these integrateds. Alas, I found out that there are only 2 digital outputs on my TSDx, it was the emm link (which is a proprietary optical output) and AES/XLR.... both the RA1570 and RA1592 do not have AES/XLR digital inputs... so I was stuck.

I decided to use the Emm DAC2x/TSDx stack as my digital source and I ran it into the XLR analog inputs of both RA1570 and RA1592, effectively bypassing the internal DAC units. It was still a fair assessment as both were on even ground.

OK, so how did they sound:
Well, I will say this, both sounded quite good. This was a simple demo... I did not spend hours tweaking the connections, I did not use my Audioquest WEL speaker cables (which would have been cool), nor did I use any of my special power cords. I just used a simple basic XLR interconnect as well.

RA1570 sonic characteristics:
The RA1570 was quick and lightfooted. The treble was not bright, the midrange was sufficient, and the bass was fast. I would play a cut of piano, and all the notes were present. Granted it was not as wholesome or as real as I have been accustomed to when I plug in the Cary SLP-05 and the Boulder 2060 with the Audioquest WELs, but we are talking worlds apart in terms of price points.

I played some Melody Gardot and I was still able to appreciate her voice on the RA1570. Adele sounded decently immediate on Track 11 of her 21 album. The Weeknd still sounded musical. And Frank Sinatra, sounded... well crappy as always since most of his recordings are terrible, but it sounded like a good facsimile of the Frank Sinatra I know from all his recordings.

RA1592 sonic characteristics:
Well, ok enough of the RA1570. I plugged in the RA1592... what’s the first thing I hear?

Wholeness. More truth. More bass. More midrange texture.

More more more.

And less hash around the vocalist. Less ringing. Less diffuse imaging.

Less less less.

The RA1592 sounded good, it sounded pretty dang good.

The treble was not bright, it was nearly right, the midrange had bloom and texture and palpability, the bass was fast but also sounded true. I would play a cut of piano and the piano actually sounded more like a piano rather than a mirage of one (as on the RA1570), Melody’s or Adele’s voice hung at a more realistic (and lower) height, with more oomph, more tension, more energy than on the RA1570. The midrange was more musical, more powerful. You can really feel certain emotions hit you as they belted out their song.

The bass was still quick, it was not a dull sensation, but it was commensurate of the music/track. Was it Boulder level? Heck no. But dang it Jim... I’m an integrated, not a Boulder.

The hash was less evident, there was still a trace of slight harshness that you can hear if you listen closely.. I’m not sure if this was an effect of the standard 12g OFC speaker wires I was using rather than the AQ Wels that I am more accustomed to. You can tell that there was still a little bit of digititis on the higher notes.. but much less evident than on the RA1570.

Conclusion:
Keep in mind, we are volume matched, I listened to approx 63db (as measured on my Radioshack db meter) at the starting point of Adele’s Track 11 off Album 21.

I would go back and forth between the two integrateds several times, but I came to the same conclusion - the RA1592 was the superior product.

Concisely put, the RA1570 gave me a good mirage of the musical instruments, it was quick and fast without being hot or fatiguing. The singer had decent imaging but I felt stood about a foot too tall (meaning that there was a ghost image that kept pulling her/his mouth upwards towards the ceiling). The soundstage depth was less than desirable but actually very inline with many of the systems I have heard that was outside my own.

The RA1592 gave me more. It gave me a better facsimile of the instrument, the piano actually sounded legitimate. The singer has far better imaging and better palpability to his/her energy, the location of the mouth was in a more more appropriate area, maybe a few inches taller than I’d like, the bass was quick but at the same time it was full. The soundstage was better as the singer was pulled out further infront of the speaker plane.

Side to side imaging was nearly the same.

What was significantly different was ease. The ease through which music emanated from the RA1592 was better and less strained that on the RA1570 at volume matched levels. It was a very cool effect that I could pick out. You cannot tell that the RA1570 was stressing had you not heard the RA1592 immediately after. Like Harry Pearson said, "You cannot know better until you heard it."

Recommendation: 
Goes to the RA1592. At $2499 (compared to the $1699 RA1570), it is a good value for the money. You have to be the right customer, you have to want all the features, the bluetooth, the integrated DAC unit, the toys.... if you want pure sonics, maybe there’s something out there that would beat it sonically, but I doubt it would have the connections and feasibility of the RA1592.

For me, as a unit at the helm of my secondary system (aka Emma’s speakers), it fits in perfectly. I originally wanted the big boy Rotel RC1590+RB1590 stack, but space considerations and my wife veto-ing me ultimately led me to discover this little gem, the RA1592. When I placed my order (it is not in stock, high demand I guess) 2 weeks ago, I made sure that I could return it as I am quite picky... I was worried I would not like the sound.

Well I can assure you, I am happy with the unit and I am glad I went with what my wife requested, a medium sized unit that fits into the media console.. all while giving me all the connections and the sonic traits I need. It’s very nice to see your family use the unit, the wife uses the bluetooth connection, the kid dancing to youtube or whatever else they get themselves into.

For this, I give it 2 thumbs up.

Further thoughts:
So after the little demo, I plugged in the reference system, the Emm Stack going into the Cary SLP-05 preamp and the Boulder 2060 amplifier, the nearly 2/3 WEL loom in place... and what do I hear?

The volume control on the reference stack is not so much a volume control, but a soundstage modifier. When I turn the volume button up on the SLP-05, the soundstage expands in all directions, but also forwards. I can modulate the volume in which I am listening about 2 feet from the singer, full energy right at me.

I tried that on the RA1570, it puttered out quickly.

On the RA1592, the volume brought out the soundstage a little, but then it mostly went upwards and louder, and lost soundstage depth.

In addition to this cool "magnifier" effect that I love the Boulder for, everything sounds more real, the piano, the singer, the midrange, the instruments... everything.

The image of the singer is more phantom, the voice is located lower and more inline with where their mouth would be, there is more dead air and dead space around instruments.

The dynamic contrast is better. The soundstage is not just wider, deeper but also taller. You get a better sense of the "room".

So, yes, while the RA1592 is great as an integrated... it is not there yet.

But I can tell you this... it sounded more like the Boulder unit than it had any right to. And that’s why I like it. 

joey_v
This is one of the best user reviews I’ve read, joey_v. Thanks for taking the time to do it; it is extremely helpful.

Btw, you are correct about the slight hash/hardness you hear. I also heard it with the RC/RB1590 set. It seems to be a Rotel trait. It's the only reason I hesitate to go with Rotel for my B&W 683 S2s. I'm leaning towards Marantz; either the PM11S3 or the PM14S1. After your review though I'm going to have to try to find an RA1592 and give it a listen.

Cheers,

Scott
@samac 
thanks for the comment, I believe the 1590 stack would still be better as the digital, analog and power units on the 1592 share the same power supply whereas are separate x3 on the stack.


@joey_v 

I'm sure your right. The 1590 set really is great. With your write-up you have me intrigued by the 1592. I hope I can get a listen to it but it'll be hard. None of the dealers around here show any interest in bringing in the 1592. Oh well, might have to take a road trip.

I hope you and your family get lots of musical enjoyment from the 1592 (like you I want a simple set-up that the whole family will use and enjoy).

Cheers,

Scott


@samac 

my my family enjoys the ease of use of the 1592... I like that it's a solid performer and a Swiss Army knife as well.

My Boulder based system keeps me occupied with tweaks and such... The Sonus faber o3 and ra1592 is my simple pleasure maker. 
Until a year ago I had the Rotel RB 1582 power amp (rated 200 W output power)and the RC 1580 (their top of the line pre back then) , I thought it was impressive and powerful combination until I upgraded to the McIntosh D100 pre/dac and MC152 power just to learn that the Rotel combination couldn’t driver my Proac speakers at their full potential as the Macintosh do (and it’s only their entry level gear ! ).My conclusion is that Rotel has great products for their price but it’s certainly not hi end brand only "mid end " one.
The major drawbacks of the Rotels :
At high volume the sound was harsh and uncomfortable to listen too.
The mid and and high is too bright and cold.
The low end/bass was not enough punchy and tight and once the music become aggressive the bass sounded muddy.
The separation between instruments and transparency is horrible.


Macs are nice for sure.  I would love to have a pair, but they are at a different price point. 

I am fine with Rotel in the secondary system.  My primary system amplifier obliterates any amp I have yet heard anyway, and that includes Mac 601.  I have compared my previous Classe M600 mono block to the primary amp and it was a no brainer.  And then I compared the Classe M600 direct against the Mac 601 and it was very close.  
I would agree Rotel for secondary system should be fine.