Rotel RSX-1562 AV Receiver Reviewed

Rotel RSX-1562 AV Receiver Reviewed

Rotel is a company that has been part of the audio video industry from some time. Does that translate into an AV receiver that can compete with the best of today? Sean Killebrew reviews the RSX-1562 to find out.

Rotel-RSX-1562-AV-receiver-review-silver.jpgRotel is a company known amongst the audiophile ranks for delivering quite a bit of bang for the buck, especially as it relates to receivers and amplifiers. They've been in the game for 50 years and have garnered a reputation for quality, reliability and affordability. The subject of this review is the RSX-1562 receiver, retailing for $2,599, which is Rotel's follow-up to the RSX-1560.

Additional Resources
• Read more AV receiver reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com's staff of writers.
• Explore Blu-ray player options in our Blu-ray Player Review section.
• See Bookshelf Speakers and Floorstanding Speakers to connect to the RSX-1562.

Some of the highlights of the RSX-1562 include six HDMI 1.4 inputs, which might sound like overkill, but I ended up using all six to connect my DirecTV DVR, Oppo Blu-ray player, Roku, PS3, Xbox360 and AppleTV (yes, I'm a junkie). The Rotel is also 3D-compatible and features an ARC, or Audio Return Channel, an important feature, considering the proliferation of network-capable television sets on the market. Power comes courtesy of an efficient Class D amplifier that is rated at 100 watts per channel for each of the receiver's seven channels. All of the new lossless audio codecs are supported, and it will also play MP3, WAV, AAC and WMA files through the USB input featured on the front panel; much more convenient than trying to connect your iPod and/or USB thumb drive to the back panel. Rotel also includes a Bluetooth dongle, which allows you to stream audio wirelessly from just about any Bluetooth-capable audio device. I tried it using my iPad and it worked flawlessly. It's a simple solution that beats having to worry about using my Apple TV (which means turning on my projector) or some other source component. Just turn on your receiver and your iPad, or any Bluetooth-capable phone, and you're in business. While the audio quality does suffer a bit from the compression that exists when streaming wirelessly, it's still worth using, as it is just so damn convenient. It's a nice touch and I really like the way Rotel incorporated it on this receiver.

Rotel-RSX-1562-AV-receiver-review-rear.jpgThe Hookup
The packaging of the Rotel was in line with its price point, which is to say adequate, secure and intuitive. I typically mention the packaging when reviewing a piece of gear, as I think it matters when you're spending this kind of money. The manual is intuitively laid out and well constructed; the packet of manuals is also roughly the size of Wisconsin, as it accommodates multiple languages. Better thorough than sparse, though, so another victory for Rotel. Okay, on to more compelling things, such as the aesthetics of the receiver, which are exemplary. I've always been a fan of the design of Rotel's components and, put simply, they're gorgeous. The RSX-1562 is no exception, with a bright fluorescent display and contemporary front-panel design. My review sample came in black aluminum and it's also available in silver. The focal point is a large volume knob, situated dead center and featuring a blue light ring around it. The buttons are laid out in a complimentary fashion around the volume knob and all of it works well, both aesthetically and functionally.

As I mentioned in the introduction, HDMI inputs are plentiful and actually hit what I consider to be the sweet spot on a receiver or processor at six (I used to think four was the right number). It also features two HDMI outputs, which are ideal for someone who wants to connect a flat panel as well as a projector.

The unit weighs a substantive 34 pounds and measures 17 inches wide by seven-and-a-half inches tall by just over 16 inches deep. Connectivity is not a problem, as the Rotel features all of the requisite analog and digital inputs and outputs. Video processing is handled by the Faroudja Tourino, their latest and greatest offering and, yes, it supports 3D.

I connected the RSX-1562 to my current home theater system, which includes an Oppo BDP-93 Blu-ray player, a Sony PS3, a Music Hall MMF 2.2 turntable, an Apple TV, a Cambridge Audio DacMagic and a DirecTV HD DVR. The front left and right speakers are Focal Chorus 836 Ws and the center and surrounds in my 7.1 setup are all Episode Series 700 in-walls. The subwoofer is a Definitive Technology SuperCube II and all of the cabling came courtesy of David Salz and company at WireWorld.

After connecting everything, I fired up the Rotel and went straight into the menu. I immediately noticed that the OSD or On Screen Display is about as vanilla as they come. At the end of the day, though, does this really matter? I don't think so, not if it functions as it should and covers all of the bases, which it does. This said, there is no automatic room correction featured on the RSX-1562, a potential deal-breaker for those who use this as a crutch. It's worth noting, however, that a measuring tape, an SPL meter and some patience will generally net better results. While I didn't miss a room correction system on the Rotel, I did miss a headphone jack (I have a two-year-old who's a light sleeper) and Dolby Volume or similar volume correction, which is great for toning down volume spikes on commercials. Considering Rotel's engineering prowess, it would make send for the company to have developed its own proprietary version of volume leveling. However, Rotel explained that the company doesn't believe in volume leveling, stating that the process can affect louder sections of the content.

The last noteworthy bit about the hookup relates to the speaker binding posts. In my opinion, if you're spending big money on a receiver, your binding posts should be able to accommodate heavy speaker wire. Audiophiles love their high-end speaker cables, which tend to be heavy, anaconda-like beasts. Thankfully, Rotel did not cut corners on their binding posts, as they were solid enough to support my beefy WireWorld Oasis 6 cables.

Performance
I gave the Rotel a solid 24 hours of break-in time before starting any critical listening, and then I fired up some two-channel music in the form of Timmy Curran's "Daylight's Coming" from his album Word of Mouth (Adeline Records), played through my MacBook Pro using Decibel playback software. I immediately noticed that the Rotel threw a nice, broad soundstage, all while accurately conveying all the rasp and nuance of Curran's beautiful voice. The bass was also well represented and palpable, while not being the least bit overbearing. Overall cohesion was strong and provided an engaging and lively listening experience. Each layer of instrumentation was well fleshed-out, with no signs of the muddiness that tends to be the sonic signature of lesser receivers.

Read more about the Rotel RSX-1562's performance on Page 2.

Rotel-RSX-1562-AV-receiver-review-front.jpgContinuing with two-channel music, I cued Paul Simon's "Getting Ready for Christmas Day" from his brilliant new release So Beautiful or So What (Hear Music). I picked this album up as a high-resolution, 96/24 download from www.HDTracks.com as it is a fun, incredibly well-recorded album. I played it back using the RSX-1562's Bypass Mode, which passes the signal right through from the source components with no processing. This turned out to be the most sonically pleasing setting for two-channel listening; if you have a decent DAC as part of your system, you'll likely want to stick to this setting as well. During this listening session, I was again impressed by the soundstage, which was wide and convincing. This is a busy track and some of the instrumentation can be lost on lesser gear. Not so with the Rotel, as the instrumental detail and especially Simon's vocals were all represented with solid resolution and transparency. For lack of a better way to put it, this is a toe-tapper of a track and the experience of listening to it several times through the Rotel was as it should have been - fun and engaging. This track is best enjoyed at high volume, and that's what I did. The Rotel cruised along at 80 percent volume while showing no signs of strain or the fry-an-egg-on-it heat that some receivers exhibit when pushed.

Moving on to multi-channel audio, I played Forsenses II "Acroamatic - Almost Heaven" from the most recent DTS demo disc. Both Dolby and DTS produce these discs just about every year and hand them out at the CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Vegas. As for Forenses II, I can tell you that it's a collection of lounge music out of Germany and that's about all I can tell you, as there isn't much information available online. The vocals in the track were noteworthy for their level of detail and nuance. The Rotel did an exemplary job of conveying all of their haunting richness and mood. Low-frequency material was also put across well and blended seamlessly with the mids and highs. After listening to it a couple of times, I can understand why DTS chose this track to demonstrate their 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio codec. Continuing with multi-channel music, I grabbed my Sony SACD Sampler, which features Keith Greeninger and Dayan Kai's "Looking for a Home." I can say that this was the most rewarding experience I had with the Rotel. It truly sounded like live music, as if I was sitting with the musicians. The sound of their fingers moving up and down the strings of the guitar was so compelling as to be difficult to describe. The sound was so transparent and rich that, for a moment, I didn't miss my $7K worth of separates. This is the experience audiophiles crave - sound that comes as close to what was heard in the studio during the recording as possible. I hate to say it, but it's a difficult place to reach, as it's expensive and time-consuming. Some would argue with me - and I'm happy to go toe to toe, as I have enough experience to know from whence I speak. The Rotel is versatile and somewhat forgiving, as such I didn't cringe too much when listening to compressed and/or poorly-recorded music. But it was the lossless audio (from movies as well as music) that put the experience over the top for me.

Moving on to movies, I popped Tron: Legacy Blu-ray (Walt Disney Pictures) into the Oppo and soaked in some of its lossless 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio surround sound. While I enjoyed the film immensely through the Rotel (the battle scenes were especially visceral), I realized that it might be slightly underpowered for really large rooms. My room is roughly 350 square feet and, while I didn't feel the Rotel was underpowered per se, I did miss the extra 25 watts of power per channel from my standalone Integra amp. However, it's worth noting that this was not the case while listening to music, nor was it the case while watching dialogue-heavy films. I really only missed the added power during heavy action sequences in certain films. Anyway, during Sam Flynn's disc battle scene, I noticed that the Rotel exhibited strong balance throughout the frequency range and never sounded shrill or etched as the glass shattered all around the arena. The sound of the crowd was palpable and put me squarely in the middle of each battle sequence. The soundtrack was also intense and I found myself gripping the sides of the chair as I watched the film, always a good sign.

Moving on from Jeff Bridges and light cycles, I played Disney/Pixar's Blu-ray of Cars 2, also in 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio. The chase scene in the beginning with Finn McMissle on the water pushes all 7.1 channels hard and the Rotel didn't flinch. During this scene, the Rotel demonstrated its low-end prowess with taut, punishing bass. I also wrote in my notes that dialogue was intelligible throughout the film, even during chaotic action sequences. I hate having to crank the center channel in the middle of a film because I'm unable to hear and/or understand the dialogue, but I had no such issue with the Rotel.

As a sidebar, I also suffered through the Blu-ray of Varsity Blues (Paramount), which is an absolute mess of a film that my buddy Allen bought me as a joke. I was going to use it as part of my review, but the audio quality was so poor that I couldn't bring myself to take notes. If you haven't seen this film, congratulate yourself.

The Downside
The most important aspect of a receiver's performance is its overall sound quality and versatility in playing back both music and movies. In this regard, I found little to no fault with the Rotel. My quibbles are related to functional annoyances, such as HDMI handshake issues (shouldn't we be past this in 2012?) and errors of omission, such as the curious lack of a headphone jack and any sort of networking capability. I don't consider any of these issues to be deal-breakers, but they're worth noting, as they tend to shine more brightly when you've just spent close to three grand on a receiver. To further explain the HDMI issue, I noticed that sometimes there would be a lengthy delay for the audio to kick in when switching inputs and that sometimes I'd have to cycle between inputs several times to get a picture.

Competition and Comparison
While the most competitive receiver space falls in the affordable and midrange realm of $1,500 and less, there are a handful of viable players in the high-end receiver market. One such manufacturer is Arcam, and I recently reviewed and thoroughly enjoyed its AVR500. While it's a bit pricier than the Rotel at $3,499, I'd have to give it a slight edge in refinement and transparency. That said, it's so close that in order to determine for yourself whether or not it's worth the extra money, you'd have to audition each. If the price of the Rotel falls outside of your budget, you might want to check out the new Marantz SR7007, which retails for a more wallet-friendly $1,799 and offers features like AirPlay and full networking capability.

For more information on AV receivers and/or to read more AV receiver reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com, please visit our AV Receiver section. For more detailed information on the RSX-1562 direct from Rotel, please take a look at their web site.

Conclusion
Does the Rotel possess the sheer power and acoustic refinement of my reference Cary Cinema 12 processor and Integra DTA-70.1 combo? It does not, but for roughly one-third of the price, it makes a pretty compelling case for itself. If you're a discerning audiophile with a fresh pile of discretionary income, first send me your address and then ask yourself why you're reading this article when you should probably be shopping for separates. I've yet to audition a receiver that can match the performance of well-matched, high-end separates. On the other hand, if you're looking to save a bit of cash but still give yourself a healthy dose of true high-end sound, then the Rotel will be a wonderful foundation for your home theater. As receivers go, it's truly one of the more acoustically pleasing and aesthetically well-designed pieces I've had in my listening room. It sounds great on both movies and music, and it's somewhat forgiving of source material that is compressed and/or not well recorded. If it's in your budget, it's certainly worth an audition, and I recommend it without reservation.

Additional Resources
• Read more AV receiver reviews from HomeTheaterReview.com's staff of writers.
• Explore Blu-ray player options in our Blu-ray Player Review section.
• See Bookshelf Speakers and Floorstanding Speakers to connect to the RSX-1562.

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