Rotel RAP-1580 Surround Amplified Processor Review Page 2

Associated equipment included five Paradigm Reference Studio 20 v.4 speakers, four Klipsch RP-140SA Atmos-enabled elevation speakers, and a Paradigm Seismic 110 subwoofer, along with an Oppo BDP83SE universal disc player, Lenovo Windows 10 laptop, Samsung Galaxy J3 Android phone, Micro Seiki BL-51 turntable, and Shure M97xE cartridge. To facilitate 5.1.4-channel surround, I augmented the system with a pair of stereo amps: the Parasound Zamp (front height) and Sonic Impact Super T (rear height). It was an awkward kluge, and in retrospect, I don’t recommend it. Note again that only one external stereo amp would have been required if the RAP-1580 had allowed its back-surround channels to be reconfigured for height in 5.1.4. All movie demos were on Blu-ray.

I’ve been intimately familiar with Rotel’s Class A/B amps for a long time, but reacquaintance can still be disorienting. That’s because their complete dynamic confidence is so un-receiver-like, it confuses receiver-oriented expectations. The RAP-1580, like its forebears, established an iron grip on the speakers’ drivers, with the kind of solid bass you’d expect from a good outboard amp and a bracing transient snap. All amplifiers clip, but you’d have to deafen yourself to catch this one at it in my room. If your ears wilt, it’s from the quantity of sound, not the quality. As I listened, images arose out of inky blackness, not sketchily outlined but fully fleshed out, colorful, and true to life. The top end was squeaky-clean and addictively easy to listen to but not numbed or polite. The Rotel told the truth, and lots of it, and made me love it.

1017rotelavr.rem.jpgxXx: Return of Xander Cage is the kind of Dolby Atmos soundtrack I love—the kind that announces its Atmosity from the outset by punctuating the opening-title music with synthesized whooshes zipping around the top of the sonic bubble. Their height frontto-back and diagonal trajectories were a 5.1.4 perq that I wouldn’t have heard the same way in 5.1.2. This Vin Diesel vehicle pressed my surround-height buttons a few more times with effects in jungle-skiing, car-crash, and exploding-inferno scenes, along with a few more I probably missed. The Rotel handled the multichannel onslaught selfassuredly, at least with five of its amp channels called into full-on action.

Hacksaw Ridge used Atmos more sparingly but stepped up the dynamic challenge (even compared with a Vin Diesel vehicle). Height effects and dynamic peaks both occurred in the copious battlefield scenes, as the movie told the story of an Army medic who rushes into a smoking hellscape and carries 75 soldiers to safety. Although the Rotel always handled dialogue beautifully, here it surmounted an even greater challenge, as voices were layered in amongst loud explosive and ballistic effects. I was constantly surprised by how little I needed to adjust the volume (though a low-volume mode still would have been welcome).

Doctor Strange went to theaters in Atmos, and the disc was labeled Dolby Digital, but the primary Blu-ray soundtrack was actually identified by the Oppo player as DTS-HD Master Audio. It quickly won my heart by preceding a car crash with Pink Floyd’s “Interstellar Overdrive,” but the chief effects in this sorcerer’s tale accompanied onscreen spells (or “programs,” as Benedict Cumberbatch’s title character prefers to call them). This barrage of bass-heavy synthesized roars showcased the Rotel’s ability to handle dynamically demanding output just above the sub crossover.

Translucency and Sparkle
I cued up Brahms: Five Trios (Vols. I and II) by the Golub-Kaplan-Carr Trio, ripped from CD to ALAC and Bluetoothed from smartphone to receiver. While I don’t go out of my way to collect early digitalia, I fell in love with the dark-toned sound and ensemble virtuosity of this Arabesque recording immediately on hearing it reviewed on public radio back in 1989—when it still would have been considered cutting-edge. How to describe the strings? If the recording didn’t allow for perfect transparency, the Rotel did nudge it toward translucency, to stretch the metaphor. There was an indefinable gleam, a little something extra. And I was delighted with the transient crispness and sparkle of the piano. When David Shifrin’s clarinet entered in the Trio in A minor for Clarinet, Cello, and Piano, the reed instrument’s resonance was a palpably imaged thrill. Nothing meaningful got lost in the Bluetooth aptX translation.

Led Zeppelin’s Physical Graffiti (FLAC 96/24 via PC-USB) needs to be loud and epic, and once again, the Rotel delivered. Even the cheesy bits—like the druggy phase shifter that disfigures the acoustic guitar in “Bron-Yr-Aur” and the drums in “Kashmir”—sounded musically correct, if not subtle. Recorded over a long stretch at numerous homes and studios, this album has more varied guitar and drum sounds than most Led Zeppelin albums, and the Rotel excelled at revealing differences in them, large and small. The monster riffs and beefy drums lost none of their pile-driving power. They were pretty convincing even when I shut down the sub and the Paradigm speakers ran full range.


Although any phono stage would be flattered by Rotel’s amp, the internal one didn’t seem to impose any gross flaws. In Max Roach’s Freedom Now Suite, the drum sound was full but snappy (the right feel in a drummer-led band). Abbey Lincoln’s impassioned and sometimes harrowing vocals, with or without lyrics, were lifelike and convincing. The phono stage was also discerning enough to allow a hairsplitting contemplation of two versions of the Beatles’ Revolver in mono, one from the vinyl box set of The Beatles in Mono (or, as I call it, my precious) versus an early 1970s U.K. pressing. Generally, this meant smooth, sweet, and slightly soft versus harder, louder, and more unpredictable. The reissue had the advantage in lead-vocal prominence and overall organization. The original had zingier cymbals and sitar/tamboura, with the occasional surprise—such as a noticeably hazier “I’m Only Sleeping,” which was probably more appropriate, if not intrinsically better.

The Rotel RAP-1580 delivers sterling sound with especially satisfying dynamics and rich timbre. Is it worth $3,800? On the basis of sound quality, unquestionably—it could easily go head to head with a good pre/pro and any one-chassis multichannel amp. If you want to power demanding speakers with a one-box solution, this is your best shot.

However, despite the boon of the PC-USB input, great sound comes at the cost of a trimmed-down feature set. Even when the dodgy software receives its promised corrections, this seven-channel model will never deliver more than 5.1.2-channel surround without a band-aid, and that limits you to just one pair of conventional (passive) height speakers in Dolby Atmos and DTS:X. Still, accounting for its limitations, those who want both the power and the subtlety of separates will find this the ultimate music and movie machine.

Rotel of America
(978) 664-3820

drny's picture

Clean power with no hesitation of clipping or overheating.
I have a ten inch diamater fan over my Yamaha Receiver and ten inches of clearance, and still I tread lightly when pushing my receiver.
Granted I love to crank it up on Dynamic passages of both music and movies.
Rotel's 1580 seems to be a great alternative for folks like me.
However with HDMI 2.1 just months away, I will wait and see what the market bears this time next year.
By the way, I love the old school aluminum silver model of the 1580.

K.Reid's picture

Dennis Burger over at (former S&V Contributor/Editor Adrienne Maxwell's site) reviewed this unit. Below are my comments. on the tuner = more robust power supply and amplification. That does not justify the absence wifi, ehernet (for streaming internet music) and room correction. Room correction is a critical feature that is needed with the complex surround processing capabilities this unit and Rotel does it buyers a shameful disservice by not licensing Audyssey or Dirac. There is not an argument leadership at Rotel could make to excuse the above exclusions. I refuse to believe Rotel's customers wouldn't appreciate or fork over the extra coin for these features which nowadays are not 'bells and whistles'. Unacceptable for the price, performance notwithstanding.

Mark Fleischmann's picture
This is one of very few AVRs to include a USB jack supporting direct connection of a computer, which in turn would support any kind of music streaming. Some audiophiles prefer to avoid room correction altogether, like the sound of their rooms, and prioritize getting a great sounding amp. This product is clearly for them.
prerich45's picture

That can be handled by HDMI as well. I currently use my PC that way. I also have a DIY 4495SEQ DAC connected to my PC (Windows 10 now recognizes USB Audio 2.0 with the addition of the Creators update).
Room correction can also be handled via a PC through a number of ways Dirac...but costly, Audiolense -costly as well, REW -Free, and MathAudio Room EQ (inexpensive) just to name a few....there's even a Windows apo based solution called APO Equalizer, totally free.

K.Reid's picture

There is merit to the argument that some audiophiles do not favor room correction, but is this product solely built for audiophiles. I would think that Rotel's management would desire to 'cast a wide net' and design a product that would appeal to many potential buyers not just we 'philes'. After all, it is a for profit company. It does not excuse the lack of room correction at this price point. If a 'phile' does not like it, a simple button press or swipe of a finger on the downloaded control app can turn it off. Oh wait, what use would a control app be without WiFi. It is just shameful that Rotel charges this price. No one's room has perfect acoustics and when using Atmos or DTS-X, room correction is needed for the vast majority of users. Period. Prospective buyers would be better off buying separates or cheaper A/V receiver with multi channel pre-outs to connect a standalone multichannel amplifier such as one from say.....Emotiva or Outlaw or Wyred 4 Sound.

Side note: Hope you and Robin Sabin do a Pixel and Bits episode on satellite/sub versus full range speaker use in home theater applications.

schwock5's picture

I feel like in the current environment it's getting very hard to choose a receiver. I'm looking to upgrade soon (more HDMI inputs, atmos/DTS:X, better tech and sound) from a 10 year old receiver that's still crushing 7.1 sound like it's nobody's business! But with such quality products from Yamaha, Pioneer, Denon, and Marantz, it's tough to choose. I like reading these reviews, but it's hard to tell at which price points which receivers are actually providing any better value or better sound for the buck. Also, in this day and age, are separates even worth considering over a receiver? Are there true audio gains in the mid-range tier? For example, one could save $1,000 getting a Marantz 7703 over the new 7704 and use the savings on external amps. Would this deliver better sound then a Marantz 7012 (or even last year's 7011)? With savings on the receiver or last year's model and then purchase a 2-channel amp to provide the full 11 channels needed for Atmos, is there any benefit to spending more on Separates? For this Rotel, how much better is this than a Marantz 7704 + amps bringing it to the same price point?
I'm upgrading from an old Denon 4308. Are receivers 10 years later that much better that i wouldn't be missing much by not going separates? Where's the point of diminishing returns right now?

Warrior24_7's picture

At $3800, certain features must be present to be competitive. Some fool will buy it.

mars2k's picture

I cannot remember the last time I listened to FM at home...and I'm old. Yeah, this receiver is a bit quirky for me. No Atmos on one channel except for every third Wednesday..thats a bit much to take.....however I would give their 1582 processor a chance with separate amps maybe Bryston or some of the new ATI gear

Jonasandezekiel's picture

Mark, what about those that have two subwoofers? Is there a way to have stereo subs, or do they need to be daisy changed and configured as a mono channel? This looks very enticing, but not having two sub inputs is a problem.

North Bay AVphile's picture

I took the plunge with the Rotel RAP 1580. Upgrading from an Arcam FMJ AVR400. Absence of auto calibration is not a factor, I'm old school when it comes to setup. Audio performance is excellent, using the RAP1580 in a combined Audio and HT setup where the Left/Right main speakers are driven by Pass Labs X250.8 2-channel amp. Pros: High performance audio with excellent sound quality (B&W 803D3s, HTM2D3 center, 2 pairs B&W SCSM as surrounds and rear speakers in 7.1 setup). Dual subwoofer outputs (hooray, although they are in parallel) coupled with twin REL G-1 subs. Cons: So far, only one. There is an apparent bug in the firmware that results in the OSD image flipping upside down (the onscreen setup menus thankfully do not invert). Only cure so far (and this recommendation came from a very responsive Rotel rep; this is apparently a known issue) is to do a cold reboot (corrects the issue sometimes) or do a System Reset and return the unit back to its default specs (which requires one to reenter all of your setup info). Thankfully the setup menus are easy to navigate...just make sure you have recorded your settings before doing the reset. It takes me about 5 minutes to reenter all my settings. Verdict: "The jury is out." Outstanding audio performance with no frills, but early bugs with the OSD have me pondering whether to return the unit and look elsewhere. I very must want a unit with a silver faceplate since this piece of kit rests on a rack along side all silver gear (Pass Labs XP-20 and X250.8), Modwright Oppo 105D and power supply (both in silver), and Shunyata Hydra Triton and DPC-6 A/C conditioners. For what I suspect is purely cost vs. expected sales reasons, very few high quality AV receivers or separates remain available in silver finish. The plague of ubiquitous black boxes is run amok. Some of us actually like to display the gear we collect.