Rotel RSX-1562 A/V Receiver
Price: $2,599 At A Glance: ICEpower Class-D amplification • Bluetooth- and iOS-compatible USB • No room correction or low-volume mode
How would you like your audio/video receiver if it had a coal chute and chimney atop the chassis? Would you enjoy shoveling coal into the chute as the chimney belched black smoke and particulates into your home?
Or would you find this entire arrangement so unhealthy, so 19th century, as to be unbearable? Most people probably would prefer to avoid burning coal when sitting down for movie night or putting on some music. And of course, there are no A/V receivers that run directly on coal. But don’t fool yourself. Coal is the single-largest feedstock for electricity generation—not only in developing economies like China, but in the United States as well—far outpacing natural gas, nuclear energy, and other sources.
In a sense, all electronic products are, however indirectly, coal-burning products, and the effects of burning coal are provably undesirable. So how efficiently your receiver uses power does matter. You want it to produce as much sound as possible while minimizing the amount of energy dissipated in the form of heat. A receiver that acts as a space heater adds to your monthly power bill—in addition to all the other well-documented effects of burning fossil fuels.
So let’s give Rotel a round of applause for rigorously pursuing energy-efficient, Class-D amplification into a second generation of ICEpowered AVRs. The RSX-1562 is an updated version of the 3-year-old RSX-1560 with a few significant connectivity improvements, including HDMI 1.4 (with 3D passthrough) and support for both iOS and Bluetooth devices.
All Aboard the Pulse Train
ICEpower is Bang & Olufsen’s version of Class-D amplification. It is licensed for use in receivers and other audio products. Class-D amplifiers convert incoming signals to a train of pulses that rapidly turn output stages on and off. When operating near maximum, this process can convert as much as 90 percent of the energy input into power for your speakers, although Rotel’s design comes closer to 80 percent, sacrificing a little efficiency in its pursuit of better sound. Compare that to the 30 to 60 percent efficiency of conventional receivers using Class-AB amplification. The RSX-1562 is rated at 100 watts per channel, and it is noteworthy that Rotel has specified seven channels driven, a tougher standard than the two-channel specs given for most receivers at their top power rating. For a more detailed explanation of how Class D works and how Rotel has implemented it, see my review of its original ICEpowered receiver, the RSX-1560, at HomeTheater.com.
Available in light or dark brushed-aluminum finishes, the RSX-1562 has sleek looks and high build quality. The front panel continues to have that relentlessly symmetrical Rotel look, with a half-sphere-shaped volume knob surrounded by double rows of buttons, crowned by a white, fluorescent display. I was pleased by the inclusion of a plastic, adhesive masking ring for the power button’s blazing blue LED. That darn LED is so bright you could read by it, and I’ve been known to cover the similar one on my RSX-1550 with duct tape. The masking ring doesn’t entirely obliterate the blue circle, but it does make it less distracting, which you’ll appreciate if your rack is located within your field of vision.
Rotel has overcome its longtime aversion to front-panel jacks with a USB input; it is compatible with Apple iOS devices. You might also plug in a USB stick to access MP3, WAV, WMA, or AAC files. The USB jack has yet another notable use: Plug in the supplied Bluetooth dongle, and you can stream music to the receiver from your mobile device. Incidentally, iPhones, iPads, and iPod touches are Bluetooth compatible, so this is a workable alternative to Apple AirPlay. The front panel still doesn’t have HDMI, video, audio, or headphone jacks, but the back panel does accommodate a reasonably busy rack with six HDMI 1.4 inputs and two outputs.
As an audiophile-receiver manufacturer, Rotel continues to omit features it deems unnecessary. The RSX-1562 has no automatic setup, no room correction, no low-volume listening mode, no satellite radio, and no support for Internet radio or a subscription music service such as Rhapsody. (An RJ-45 jack on the back panel is strictly an RS-232 serial port.) Another omission is DLNA certification for access to media from a router-equipped computer. Granted, Rotel is not the only manufacturer to omit one or more of these features, but it is unusual for such a high-priced receiver to omit all of them.
Rotel’s graphic user interface has always been rudimentary. It now offers pale blue highlighting and a green logo against a navy-blue background, but it retains the feel of black and white, perhaps implying that simplicity is an intentional choice. One welcome change: It’s now possible to access the main menu directly using a single remote-control button, without having to step through a status display. The redesigned remote is slimmer and more conventionally shaped than the old, familiar wedge, with modest attempts to distinguish buttons by color and shape. The navigation keys are helpfully big, although the volume keys are unhelpfully small—and oddly located at the top. That causes a problem with balance; when you hold the remote to access volume with your thumb, it tends to slip out of your hand. In terms of responsiveness, though, this remote works better than the previous generation did.
For this review, associated equipment included five Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v4 speakers and a Seismic 110 sub, and Blu-ray Disc players from Oppo (BDP-83 SE) and Panasonic (DMP-BD87).
Class D, Act II
This was my second evaluation of a Class-D product with Rotel implementation, following my June 2009 review of the RSX-1560. As before, I quickly came to like the distinctive and elegantly warm-tinged midrange, a longtime characteristic of Rotel amps. However, I also became aware of an intermittent difficulty with imaging, something my previous review does not refer to at all.