In recent years we have subjected dozens of AV receivers to an extensive review. These were models that were packed with features and can be paid for most of us. In this review we go one step higher, and we look at the Rotel RAP-1580. This integrated amplifier (no, no real receiver), costs a bit more than the average receiver we handle here, but also has to offer more quality. It is in any case a surround amplifier, which means that you can control 7 channels amplified.
What is the Rotel RAP-1580?
Rotel, part of the Bowers & Wilkins Group, is active worldwide as a manufacturer of high-quality audio products. With a headquarters in Tokyo and R & D departments in Japan and England, the company develops high-end products based on the ‘balanced design concept’. Each component is in balance with the other components. The result according to Rotel: audio and hi-fi products that guarantee uncompromising sound reproduction.
The RAP-1580 is one of the newest collections of the Rotel family. This is an 11-channel integrated amplifier, which basically means that you can control seven channels and control the remaining channels through an external amplifier, while the RAP-1580 handles the audio signals for you. Thanks to the support of 11 channels you have the possibility to view Dolby Atmos and DTS:X audio tracks.
Under the bonnet we see a Class AB amplifier design and a large toroidal transformer that provide the device with 100 watts of power per channel. This is the power when all channels are controlled simultaneously, with an impedance of 8 Ohm. And if we have learned something from Rotel, 100 Watts will be delivered. When two channels are controlled, a power of 150 watts per channel is available, and in any case the total harmonic distortion (THD) remains below the o.03% from 20Hz to 20kHz. The amplifier uses high performance Wolfson 24-bit / 192kHz digital-to-analog converters for all channels.
Regarding the connections, the RAP-1580 is equipped with eight HDMI inputs and two HDMI outputs. Three of the inputs and all outputs support 4K Ultra HD, HDR and HDCP 2.2 . There are enough connections for audio, including three pairs of unbalanced RAC inputs, an MM Phono connection, multi-channel analog RCA inputs, a stereo XLR balanced input, three digital optical connections, three digital coaxial connections, USB (for iPhone in front and for PC on the back) and an ethernet port. For wireless communication, Bluetooth is present with aptX. The Rotel RAP-1580 is for sale for a price of 3.999 euros.
An overview of the specifications
- 100 watts x 7 channels @ 8 ohms
- DTS: X and Dolby Atmos (7.1.4)
- 6 Wolfson WM8740 24-bit / 192 kHz DACs
- Analog BYPASS mode for analog inputs
- 10 bands parametric PEQ
- 8 HDMI 2.0a inputs with 4K video pass-through
- 2 HDMI 4K video outputs (one with ARC)
- TFT screen and OSD display
- PC-USB support for 24-bit / 192kHz audio
- Front panel USB input support iOS devices with 2.1A charging
- Phono stage input (MM)
- CD, Tuner and Aux analog inputs
- Multi-channel input
- XLR balanced entrance
- Bluetooth with aptX
- 3 source independent 12V trigger outputs
- Wired IR remote control input
- RS-232 interface for automation
- IP network interface for automation
- 2 IR output connections for IR pass-through
- Dimensions: 431 × 192 × 470 mm
- Weight: 22.8 kilograms
- Rack mount included
In this review we use an LG E6V series oled TV for the display of video material, Spotify for streaming music, a USB stick with high-res audio, the Oppo UDP-203 Ultra HD Blu-ray player for the playback of CDs and (Ultra HD) Blu-ray discs, and the B & W CM S2 series speaker system for optimal playback of the audio.
The Rotel RAP-1580 might look like an AV receiver, looking at the possibilities, but it is not. Traditionally, an AV receiver is an integrated amplifier with built-in tuner. Over the last few years, features such as Spotify Connect, multi-room, WiFi, DLNA, internet radio and many more have been added. All these features are missing on the RAP-1580; it is therefore a pure integrated amplifier with physical connections for your equipment, although bluetooth is present.
Rotel RAP-1580 – design
When we remove the RAP-1580 from its box, we immediately see and feel that we are dealing with a different class of equipment. The amplifier weighs about 23 kilograms and is therefore not an easy to lift boy. The dimensions are also larger than we are used to and the entire device exudes stability, quality and rigidity. There are no other bells and whistles present; clean lines, subtle design elements and just what you need to comfortably position and operate the receiver.
The material used, the feel of the pushbuttons, the large TFT screen on the front, the metal feet, the smooth and tightly turning volume knob and the overall look and feel make this a premium device at first contact. What is immediately striking is that large TFT screen on the front panel. Rotel does not focus on advanced on-screen displays, but rather wants to keep it simple and tight, on the device itself. This large display shows all the information you need to set up the amplifier, choose inputs and change things, although you can also switch on the OSD if desired.
Rotel RAP-1580 – operation and installation
The installation of the RAP-1580 is a bit different than we are used to from the receivers that we have tested in recent years. This amplifier comes with a large TFT color screen on the front panel on which all settings can be seen and which you have to look at to set the device. This menu looks very simple – without bells, whistles and animations – and is therefore easy to use and easy to use. Here and there the navigation in the menu is a bit slow and the Dutch translation of some parts leaves something to be desired.
There is also the possibility to show an OSD on your TV via HDMI, but the resolution is so low (up to 576p) that it does not look like it. On a device in this price range you can really expect better, especially since some prefer the setting of the amplifier via the TV screen.
That said, setting the RAP-1580 is not very difficult, provided you keep it to the basic settings. This allows you to adjust everything manually, including naming inputs, the speaker configuration, the distances of the speakers, the crossover of the speakers, the size of the speakers and the number of decibels per channel that needs to be lowered or raised. Unfortunately, there is no possibility to assign each amplifier in the RAP-1580 itself; you are dependent on predefined configurations such as 5.1, 7.1, 5.1.2 and 7.1.4. There is also a PEQ configuration, which is an advanced equalizer. Here you can perform a 10-band optimization. Now this equalizer is a lot more complicated (and more extensive) than the equalizers we encounter in for example the Denon and Marantz receivers, and that has its advantages and disadvantages. The advantage is that with the right knowledge and equipment you can fully optimize the audio reproduction. The disadvantage is that you do need that knowledge and equipment. With limited knowledge about how to use this equalizer you will not get far. And unfortunately for these users there is no automatic calibration function, such as Audyssey or Dirac, for example. If you want to optimize the amplifier completely and you have too little knowledge about it yourself, then a professional installer is a must.
In the menu of the amplifier we also see some video settings (in most cases you do not have to do much about this) and system settings back. In the system settings you can connect to the home network, provided you have an Ethernet cable connected. However, this option is only available to implement firmware updates, but unfortunately that function did not work in our case. The software check indicated that it was unable to find an internet connection (while the network test was ok) and so we had to rely on a firmware update via USB. Speaking of USB; the port on the back is for connecting a computer and the port on the front is only compatible with an iPhone or iPad (or for new firmware). A simple USB stick containing your music is unfortunately not recognized so you are dependent on linking a physical device with its own controls, or streaming via bluetooth.
Once set and adjusted, the TFT screen is used to display information about the content and your speaker setup. The layout and use of this are simple and simple. On the screen you can see exactly what is coming in, what the volume is, which speakers are controlled and which modes are switched on. You can operate the amplifier using the buttons on the front or the supplied remote control.
The RAP-1580 is a robust device, and that includes a hefty remote control. The remote is not very premium; especially plastic and little weight. But, that has no negative consequences for the use. The remote control has a clear layout, easy-to-use buttons, lights for the dark and all the buttons you need for comfortable operation.
Dolby Atmos and DTS:X
As indicated, the Rotel RAP-1580 has support for Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. This means that you can connect height speakers for an impressive surround experience. However, the RAP-1580 has 7 amplifiers so that the configuration directly connected to the amplifier is 5.1.2-channel or 7.1-channel. If you want to go bigger, for example to 7.1.4 or 5.1.4 you have to connect an external amplifier, to which the extra speakers will be connected. The RAP-1580 can process 11-channel signals, so a 7.1.4-channel setup can be easily controlled in this way. To learn more about Dolby Atmos we would like to refer you to our introduction article about Dolby Atmos and our article with information aboutPlace Dolby Atmos speakers and connect them to your receiver .
Rotel RAP-1580 – audio quality
In terms of features and functions, the RAP-1580 is a lot less equipped than the receivers that we normally watch, but there must be an audio reproduction that is at a higher level. As you can read above, we already see various premium components under the hood, packed in a balanced design concept. Combined with a stiffened chassis and the focus on pure audio reproduction, this amplifier has to be very successful. In our test room and home cinema, which is fully optimized in acoustics, we have the Bowers & Wilkins CM S2 series, accompanied by two AM-1 speakers for the top channels and two CWM663 speakers for the sides. The setup has been tested once as 7.1 and once as 5.1.2. The subwoofer in this case is the B & W ASW610XP.
First we connected the RAP-1580 with our UDP-203 for a movie night. For this we have pulled out Deadpool, The Revenant and Mad Max Fury Road. The first thing you notice is that the RAP-1580 even with a low volume, a dynamic surround sound with power and at the same time manages to put down. In particular, the middle range is displayed full of color, nuance and dynamics. You just have to turn the volume up just to really enjoy a movie with surround sound.
If we open the volume a little further towards the reference level (as far as our neighbors can appreciate this), it becomes clear that the RAP-1580 does not make it difficult to get through easily. The control is impressive, even in crowded action scenes of Deadpool where the falling containers and explosions alternate. The idea of surround sound is, of course, delusions in the action, and this amp is absolutely for each other. With smooth transitions between the channels, an impressive depth in the sound and a lively but well distinguishable soundstage.
What also stands out is the flexibility with which dialogues are displayed, full of emotion and a warm timbre. Music in the background, during dialogues, also stands out in a positive way. This music is often mixed in a lower volume, but the RAP-1580 even manages to bring out subtle details, which gives the overall picture an extra dimension. The film comes to life even more. The amplifier continually gives the idea of complete control to show all audio elements with precision, detail and sufficient power.
If we switch to the 5.1.2 channel setup, then it will take some getting used to. There are two channels on the sides, but instead we get two height channels. The RAP-1580 makes perfect use of these channels when we set up an Atmos track. The soundstage suddenly becomes a lot higher and we can speak more of a ‘3D surrounder experience’. The effect (the audio object) floats, as it were, in space. So you can get the idea that something happens directly behind you or above you while no speaker is hanging here. The action in space is so natural that you can easily follow effects and movements from left to right and from front to back. The transitions between the speakers are very tight and flowing. However, if you opt for a set-up with height channels, we recommend choosing a 7 / 5.1.4 setup. This really only makes the area above the listening position. However, with the RAP-1580 you need an external amplifier.
Then we started with our favorite music. We have this music on a USB device but the RAP-1580 does not accept that. You can connect an iPhone / iPad on the front via USB and on the back you can find a USB port for connecting a computer. We connected the USB stick with the hi-res audio files that we use via the UDP-203, which is not a big disadvantage but an attention point. In comparison with the receivers that we have tested before, the other possibilities are also limited. No DLNA, AirPlay, Spotify, etc. Bluetooth aptX.
That said, of course, is how the RAP-1580 deals with that 2-channel music. We have used hi-res albums from The Beatles, Muse and Michael Jackson. Almost immediately it became clear that most of the conclusions from the above piece can be taken over for the music reproduction. Especially when we talk about the middle range that is full of color, nuance and dynamics. The vocals are warm, and the emotion in the voice convincingly emerges through the audible subtle details. In the higher range it never sounds shrill or too sharp; the RAP-1580 is able to show high tones tight and penetrating.
Especially with The Resistance from Muse, the very lively and wide sound field is striking. This sound field seems to have been pulled wider than we were used to with the Denon receiver. Instruments can be placed exactly in the space and can be perfectly distinguished from each other, so that details of all these instruments also convincingly come to the fore. There is simply more life and more reach in the view. Nothing is snowed over by exaggeration, and it is again that sublime control that makes every aspect of music come into its own.
Rotel RAP-1580 – conclusion
If we take everything together we have to conclude that the Rotel RAP-1580 has both pluses and negatives. The integrated amplifier is not a receiver – which is also clearly stated – and that means that certain parts you might not expect are present. Think of streaming services, DLNA / WiFi and a USB port for your USB device. This, however, something you choose when buying an integrated amplifier. What you choose not to do, and where Rotel can devote a bit of attention, is the rather old-fashioned menu which is displayed on a TV in low resolution.
In addition, the Rotel RAP-1580 is not an amplifier for the novice home cinema fan. Although the menu is clear and easy to operate, the options for tuning the sound can not be understood by everyone. There is no automatic calibration on board and the PEQ settings are not an option if you do not know exactly what you are doing. The possibilities of assigning the amplifiers of the Rotel RAP-1580 themselves are also very limited.
If we look at the functionality and use there are some hooks and eyes on the Rotel RAP-1580, and the price of 3.999 euros on the high side. We would also like to have seen at least 9 reinforced channels for this money for a full (built-in) Atmos experience. However, what this model excels in is what it is ultimately intended for; the audio playback. In this area the amplifier performs very well, both in terms of surround and stereo. Compared to the fully equipped receivers that we tested earlier, the Rotel RAP-1580 offers a wider sound field, with more subtle details, clearer control over playback and a wider range. If we look purely at the audio quality, then the Rotel RAP-1580 is absolutely worth the money.