Rotel RA-1592MKII Integrated Amplifier

hfnoutstandingLaunched as part of Rotel's 60th anniversary celebrations, this is the latest version of the brand's flagship 'big integrated' amp – and there's rather more to it than meets the eye

Rotel's larger integrated amplifiers have always provided an attractive waypoint between the compact designs of hi-fi's affordable end and the monster amps of the high-end, offering plenty of power, an extensive feature-set and an entirely convincing performance. The new RA-1592MKII, selling for £2295 in black or silver finishes and claiming a 200W output, is no exception. It's not huge, at an industry-standard 43cm wide and standing just under 14.5cm tall, and while it's substantially built, its 17.6kg weight is far from back-breaking. In other words, it's like a conventional integrated amp – just a bit bigger – and much, much bigger sounding…

The fascia looks rather busy because Rotel's designers decided that, rather than having a single source selector control, they'd offer a button for each of the inputs. Given the amp's flexibility, that means a total of 14 input buttons in addition to the A/B/A+B speaker selectors, four buttons for the menu system, plus the volume control. The two-line display is simple but functional, and while the amp's build is solid and finish excellent, the aesthetic engineering is perhaps not quite as swish or luxuriant as Rotel's all-black Michi models [HFN Apr and Jul '21].

Phono And Digital
As with other Rotel amps – at least from the A12 upwards – the RA-1592MKII offers both digital and analogue inputs. The former include three optical and three coaxial ins (up to 192kHz/24-bit), a USB-B port for direct connection to a computer (up to 384kHz/24-bit) and, on the front panel, a USB-A socket designed for the connection of Apple iOS devices. There's also Bluetooth with aptX for wireless connection of other handhelds, facilitated by the same lozenge-shaped antenna on the rear panel, so there's no need for one of those stubby rubber aerials poking up behind the amp.

MQA and MQA Studio-encoded files are supported via USB and the amplifier is also 'Roon Tested', so it will operate with a computer running Roon software. However, before you get too excited by the presence of an RJ45 Ethernet socket on the rear panel, it's purely there for software updates and for IP control of the amp in custom installations. It's part of a suite of control options that include the brand's 'Rotel Link' connections for unified operation with the RR-AX150 remote; an input for an external remote IR receiver; 12V trigger outputs; and an RS232 port for computer control.


Large screened transformer [top centre] feeds a strictly-regulated PSU, supporting left/right bipolar power amps [far left/right] each with five pairs of Sanken bipolars. Phono and digital PCBs are stacked together [bottom]

Analogue audio inputs extend to MM phono, three sets of line-ins on RCAs, and a single pair of balanced XLR sockets. Alongside the two sets of speaker outputs, the amplifier has a pair of preamp outs, and also two unfiltered mono 'subwoofer' outputs. So if you use these with an active sub you'll need to dial-up the low-pass filter via an AV processor or from the sub itself, if included. Similarly, while there's also a 3.5mm headphone socket on the front panel, plugging in here doesn't mute the speakers: you'll need to turn them off yourself using the speaker selector buttons.

On The Menu
Dig into the amp's menu system, which is as basic but effective as the dimmable display it uses, and you'll find a balance control, bass and treble tone adjustments, a maximum start-up volume setting, and a fixed gain option for each of the inputs. Elsewhere in the menu you'll find settings for automatic power off, and network set-up for control and updates.

In creating this MKII version, Rotel's engineers have implemented a number of changes including a dozen new coupling capacitors in the digital section, said to deliver improved frequency response, along with upgrades throughout the amplifier including 28 upgraded capacitors in the signal path, and further enhancements to the customised power supply.

As usual, extensive use is made of Rotel-specific components, from its own power supply transformers, made-to-order capacitors and the like – a philosophy the company has followed over many generations of products. Rotel claims this new model 'leverages the brand's Michi technology', and PM's Lab Report tells its own story: on the analogue side at least, the RA-1592MKII is the Michi X3's shadow, with identical – very impressive – power output running up to 430W into 4ohm, and a staggering dynamic peak of more than 1.76kW/1ohm, along with gain, distortion, and signal-to-noise figures too close to that of the junior Michi integrated to be mere coincidence. The engineers haven't just leveraged Michi technology, they look to have shoehorned it in, and to exceptional effect.

sqnoteCrank Up The Volume
Well, almost, as PM's Lab Report also shows the digital section isn't quite on a par with that in the X3 (the latter's AKM DAC traded for a TI-sourced 384kHz/32-bit DAC here). The good news is that it still sounds extremely fine and will suit users who are heavily invested in legacy hi-fi sources but still want access to all that 'computer audio' has to offer. I tried it not only with my trusty Rega turntable and a variety of network players connected via analogue audio, but also with the excellent little iFi Audio Zen Stream 'transport', feeding the RA-1592MKII via USB, and in each case the sound, having already heard the X3, was all I could have I'd hoped for.

The Rotel Co. Ltd
Tokyo, Japan
Supplied by: Rotel Europe, Worthing, UK
01903 221 710