Receivers

Rotel RSX-1550 7.1 A/V Receiver

ARTICLE INDEX

Design

Rotel has always impressed me with their subdued and restrained styling, more akin to traditional audio gear, Rotel's RSX-1550 surround sound receiver looks as much at home in my 2-channel "audiophile" rack as it does in my living room powering my home theater.

The 15 Series comes in either brushed silver or black. The thick faceplate is flush other than the soft radius extruded aluminum polished edges on either side. Clean and symmetrical, the large centered volume control spins silky and sturdy. We're visually spared most of the prerequisite logos with a smooth clean look. Even the soft touch buttons are labeled numerically.

A deeply etched "ROTEL" logo is centered above the main front display which is clean and informative without TMI! Light blue LED backlit reading scrolls information it receives, like the audio sampling rate, or the current processing for example. The bright blue glow from the on/off standby button can be distracting in completely dark room, and Rotel provides an optional blackout ring that reduces said brightness.

The rear has the usual plethora of connections that include 4 HDMI and 7 digital coaxial/optical inputs while a pair of digital outputs will allow external recording. A single HDMI output is provided.

What dominates however is the abundance of analog inputs, 5 generic video (and corresponding analog video inputs), along with CD and a Tape inputs. A tape output allows external recording.

Analog video include 3 component inputs, one component output and Rotel still supplies an S-video and composite output for Standard Definition.

Multi-channel inputs are for 7 channels which bypass all digital processing directly to the volume control. Ten channels of preamp outputs allow in addition to the normal 6, 2 center, 2 rear and two subwoofers. As I still listen to DVD-A and SACD for that matter, the 1550 will also automatically detect and play back the multi-channel format.

Three additional analog audio zones allow variable volume from the main receiver or fixed for a volume control down the line. Additionally, six 12-volt triggers turn on other components, or amplifiers. Four mini jacks allow the 1550 to be controlled in those other zones by a third-party IR receiver or remote. An RS-232 computer connection allows third-party control and also software updates. During my time I successfully updated the software.

Although the RSX-1550 is technically a 5-channel receiver, its processor can handle 7 channels by adding an additional 2-channel amplifier. Dedicating the 2-channel amp to the front, left /right, a redirect feature switches the output of the fronts to the rear speakers for the 7 channel setup.

Although the pricier sibling RSX-1560 receiver boasts 7 x 100wpc (8 ohms) of Class D amplification, the RSX-1550 is a traditional Class AB amplifier delivering 100wpc for two channels but only 75wpc (8 ohms) with all channels driven, conservatively speaking.

The 1550 originally offered HDMI v1.3 compatibility with Deep Color support, but if you're one of the few interested in 3D, Rotel provides a software upgrade to v1.4. However the upgrade doesn't support the return audio channel. Video processing is handled by Faroudja and provides calling for 1080p/24 Hz.

The 1550 handles all the latest digital processing from Dolby (TrueHD) and DTS (HD Master Audio) and LPCM up to 192k, in addition to the typical DSP's such as Pro Logic and Neo:6.. The digital am/fm tuner allows 30 preset stations.

Balanced Design Concept

Although not new to the 15 Series, Rotel boasts a philosophy they refer to as Balanced Design Concept, concentrating on the three important aspects: parts, circuitry, and evaluation. By testing electronic parts, hours and hours are spent critically listening to and for the best options.

Rotel then takes these parts and incorporates them into a system called "Symmetrical Single Trace" design in their circuitry ensuring that each path is identical to each other. Like any true audiophile company, Rotel does not rely exclusively on testing gear, but rather inclusion of listening sessions at every step of the design process.

Remote Control

The included remote is their model number RR-1061 with the lower flip-down panel the most its most distinguishing feature. I'm generally not a big fan of this type of remote but in this case Rotel smartly placed the controls for the CD/DVD behind it. In other words, you only "flip" when controlling those devices.

My reservation about the remote is line of sight; if it is not directly pointed to the IR input on the front of the component, it won't register easily.

Otherwise the beeping remote is quite functional and nicely arranged. A backlit panel indicates the source in use. For night time Rotel provides a side mounted light button.