- Written by Brian Alvarez
- Published on 25 February 2010
I have to admit that initially I was not very impressed by the RSX-1560. The receiver lacked imaging, warmth and smoothness I've heard in the past from Rotel gear. On a positive note the receiver had excellent dynamics. I was a bit puzzled as I somewhat foolishly expected the receiver to sound like my NHT amp. I let the receiver burn in for a few weeks and then re-visited. After a few weeks the sound did warm a bit, yet I was still not happy with the top end. It was still very bright, dry, and etched. Upper frequencies were lacking air and detail.
Nevertheless, I listened to a lot of content through the RSX-1560 for a period of three weeks in hopes of the unit burning in further and the sound evolving into something I could connect with better. I also thought at one point it might be the particular combination of my B&W 805s speakers and the RSX-1560 so I listened to the receiver with my JBL near field studio monitors and heard very similar results.
For the first three weeks, the receiver had been plugged straight into the wall with the stock power cord. My own Class D amp responded extremely well to power cord upgrades. While I hesitate to do reviews using power conditioners and cords for things like receivers, I was curious if it could have a good impact on the sound of the receiver.
I swapped out the stock cord for a homemade power cord using Oyaide cable with gold plated Furutech connectors. What a revelation! I listened for several hours to a lot of music and various passages on DVD and Blu-ray that I became even more curious to see if I could improve the sounds even further. I then plugged the receiver with the new power cord into my power conditioner. The sound improved yet again! The rest of this review is based on this configuration. I have also done some informal research on various audio forums (that correlate with what I found on my own Class D amp) that some Class D designs seem to respond extremely well to power cord and conditioning tweaking. I know that many consumers don't believe power cables can make a difference, and one of our own double blind tests resulted in no audible differences. But, that test was not with a Class D amplifier. This will not convince the cable nay sayers, but I heard what I heard, and as I said, there are discussions on forums about power cables and Class D amplification.
After living with the receiver for six weeks and massive amounts of content, I came to the following conclusions: This receiver in my system sounded its best with the mentioned power upgrades and needed to be warmed up for two hours at a minimum. This worked to really smooth the top end, calming the harsh and dry character previously exhibited. The midrange seemed largely unaffected, not that the midrange needed any improvement. From the start, the midrange was very detailed, clear, and dynamic. Bass was on the lean side, with great amounts of articulation and incredibly fast
Air surrounding the treble increased, cymbals were smoother and female vocals took on a silken feel that was missing when the RSX-1560 was using the supplied cord, plugged straight to the wall.
With straight wall power, the lean and harsh sound robbed rock and pop music of drive and energy. With the power cord and power conditioner upgrades, the sound was still on the lean side, but it was a lot more enjoyable with greater attack and vibrancy. Even before the power upgrades, Hip Hop and Electronic music sounded exceptional, drum skin tight bass, and I heard details never before perceived in my reference system. Upgrading the power cord and conditioner just intensified my impressions. While the tonal character of the receiver is very good, it still had a very digital sound when run through the S/PDIF-Toslink or HDMI inputs using CD material. The sounds possessed the glare most digital systems have. Switching to using the analog inputs and my California Audio Labs CD player revealed a much better musical presentation. There was more warmth and depth, a greater fluidity to musical timing, and I was impressed by the analog circuitry of the RSX-1560.
Movie performance was even more impressive. Dialogue clarity with my 800 series speakers was stunning. I've not heard such articulate and natural voices through my system ever. Regardless of the movie having a lossy or lossless audio track, the RSX-1560 and HTM4s sounded amazing. I've run Bryston, Parasound, and now an NHT amp with these speakers, and none gave me this level of detail and articulation from my theater speakers as did the Rotel. The level of detail in surround mixes was addictive and stunning across the entire frequency spectrum. Panning was seamless, quick, and accurate.
One thing the receiver lacks is that sense of a sound field emanating from an area beyond the speakers. Sound emerges from within the confines of the speakers rather than radiating from beyond and disappearing into the room. It's really a matter of personal taste. I used to prefer the more direct detailed approach. I prefer the bigger than life fields I get with my reference setup. This review reminded me of just how much personal taste and system matching plays into our hobby.
Actions movies had drive and dynamics, and they would get my heart racing. Scenes like the meteor impact from Monsters vs. Aliens exhibited effortless dynamics which is rare in most receivers. This is a receiver than can go from whisper quiet to full chaos with ease. At the same time, when I watched a more relaxed movie like Gattaca on Blu-ray, the RSX-1560 was able to beautifully convey the tension in the dialogue between the various characters and render the soft but highly effective musical score with warmth and detail. What more could you ask for?
Did I miss Auto Room EQ in my installation? Yes and No. I didn't miss it when it came to my five speakers. The lean tonal sound of the Rotel mated well with my overly warm room. What I did miss compared to using Audyssey was with my subwoofer. I adore the results Audyssey gets from my Rel subwoofer. I still feel that room correction is a very hit and miss affair and at this point, the lack of it would not preclude me from getting a receiver or SSP without it.