Rotel RSP-1570 Surround Processor and RMB-1575 Amplifier Page 2
The front panel is refreshingly basic and thoughtfully laid out. It’s dominated by a centrally located volume control and a large, easyto-read fluorescent display. The HF and LF knobs and the Standby button are the only controls on the front panel’s entire left half. Two rows of buttons to the right of the volume control offer source selection and instant access to various modes, like Two-Channel, Dolby Pro Logic IIx, DTS Neo:6, DSP (party on, Garth), Multichannel, Mute, Zone, and Sel.
What does the Sel button do? You’ll find out eventually, but it won’t be quick or easy. When it comes to identifying and explaining the purpose of the buttons on the front panel and remote, the manual that comes with this tidily laid out processor is among the most ineptly organized and frustrating I’ve ever encountered.
The manual is written in real English, not in cumbersome, difficult-to-understand Japanglish, and that’s a genuine plus. So is the wealth of useful background information on surround formats, setting up the bass-management system, and other options. On that count, it’s among the best. Unfortunately, the rationale behind its organization is difficult to comprehend. Did anyone at Rotel try to use it? More importantly, did they give it to an unsuspecting test consumer to use? For example, all of the front controls and rear-panel connections are neatly numbered in boxes on page 4 of the manual. All of the remote’s many buttons are neatly lettered in circles on page 5. But the manual doesn’t list the page where it identifies the numbered and lettered functions because, inexplicably, there is no such page. Why bother with numerical and alphabetical labels if you’re not going to neatly list them for easy identification? Instead, on pages 14 and 15, you’ll find a table that lists the pages where you can find the corresponding instructions for various functions, next to the associated boxed front-panel numbers and circled remote letters. The listings aren’t in alphabetical or numerical order, which makes it extremely difficult to quickly find a particular number or letter.
Some functions that have up to eight circles and boxes next to them resemble a NYC subway sign. For example, to learn the function of a particular remote button, you have to search for the circled letter next to the text, then turn to the page listed to learn what it does (if you can find the page). It’s unnecessarily time consuming and frustrating.
Hands-On: Setting Up and Using the RSP-1570
The RSP-1570 is effortless and pleasurable to use. The OSD isn’t the most attractive you’ll see, but its layout is clean and its use is intuitive. I assigned and labeled the RSP-1570’s inputs and configured speaker size, distance, and levels (etc.) without referring to the instructions. When you hit the Menu button to access the GUI while you watch video, the unit disconnects the picture so that the GUI doesn’t pollute the picture quality. Although the RSP-1570 is 7.1-channel capable, both my reference Parasound Halo A51 and Rotel’s RMB-1575 are five-channel amplifiers, so that’s how I used this processor.
Rotel supplies an excellent backlit universal learning remote. It’s compact and ergonomic. The flip-down access panel is less than convenient, but the functions it hides are rarely used. The shape of the volume up and down buttons are easy to identify in the dark. When you press either one, the remote lights up to show you both the button locations and their functionality (some remotes light the buttons, but the illumination obscures the labeling). You can use the same set of remote buttons that control input selection to select what source the remote controls. For example, when you lightly tap the V1 button (which I set for and labeled Blu-ray), it switches the processor to the Blu-ray input. If you hold down the V1 button, the remote will control the Blu-ray player (once you’ve programmed it to do so). That’s smart. It reduced a lot of confusion, and it saves a superfluous bank of buttons.
The RSP-1570 offers the usual host of setup options for the various surround modes, as well as some that are unique. With one option, you can override the speaker size setup that’s normally set globally and choose different settings for Dolby, DTS, Stereo, and DSP modes. If you don’t want to use the subwoofer in Stereo mode, you can set it to off.
When you select Two-Channel mode, the unit turns off the center and surround speakers. You can also set the processor to Bypass mode, which sends analog signals (stereo or multichannel) straight through with no processing, delay, or level adjustments. As I mentioned above, you can still program the system to add the subwoofer to Two-Channel mode. The many setup and customization options offer numerous ways to optimize system performance for both stereo and multichannel playback.
You can also use this menu option to override the global crossover point selection (there are seven selectable crossover points between 40 hertz and 200 Hz) and adjust speakers individually. The Contour Setup in the menu digitally adjusts the extreme high- and low-frequency response ±6 decibels either for all speakers or for individual ones.
Once you’ve learned the system, set up the RSP-1570, and taken it through its paces, you’ll wonder how Rotel manages to make it all happen with so few buttons and controls and why other companies use so many.
Sounds Good, Too
While the Rotel didn’t achieve the exalted sonics of the Cary 11a (twice as expensive and no video processing facilities), it considerably improved on my Integra DHC-9.9’s sound. This was particularly true with both stereo and multichannel music playback. I hate to keep dumping on the DHC-9.9, because it’s pretty good for the money. However, when I replaced it with the RSP-1570, leaving the Halo A51 amp in the system, the DHC-9.9’s somewhat bleached harmonic structure gave way to a more colorful panorama. There were blacker backdrops and thus wider dynamics and greater three-dimensionality. The Rotel replaced the DHC-9.9’s vague attack and slightly metallic flavor with greater attack clarity, a pleasingly lush midband, and no unwarranted crispness.