I don’t have a great deal to say about the RSP-1572’s intrinsic sound quality, because it was essentially transparent — a Very Good Thing, and in fact the highest praise for any audio component. Stereo music sounded as good as the source material. In the case of a high-rez title like Donald Fagen’s Morph the Cat (from a 96/24 HDtracks.com download), this was superb. As Fagen has done for some 30 years now, he pretty much sets the standard for squeaky-clean studio production on Morph the Cat, and the Rotel presented these meticulously arranged and obsessively recorded tracks in all their glory. A cut like “Mary Shut the Garden Door” was stereo audio at its best: transparent and deep, with pronounced details like delicate cymbal attacks, and a woody bass-strings “bite” that I only hear from properly reproduced high-rez files.
Irritatingly, however, the Rotel RSP-1572’s HDMI-format digital-audio output muted on even the briefest no-signal condition, and then required a half-second or so to unmute. The result: Nearly all CDs, and even my streaming music, were shorn of the opening half-second or so of almost every track, even when allowed simply to play through — a bit of a deal-breaker in my estimation. (This applied only to signals arriving via HDMI; both optical and coaxial digital inputs did not exhibit the cutoff.) Rotel told me it’s aware of the syndrome, and the solution it proposes to concerned owners is to set up a second input from their disc player (or other source), via optical or coaxial instead of HDMI for music listening. Sensible enough, I suppose, but it also reintroduces one bit of complication that HDMI was supposed to eliminate. The Rotel’s surround-music options include, a bit oddly, onboard decoding for high-rez PCM signals delivered by the nearly defunct DVD-Audio format, but not for the still-kicking, if admittedly somewhat moribund, SACD one. Listening to multichannel SACDs requires that you set up your player to first decode the DSD bitstream and convert it to PCM, or to use a multicable analog connection.
The RSP-1572 does incorporate Dolby PLIIz, whose “height” dimension, though conceived for film sound, can do some interesting things for surround-music reproduction. The most valuable, to my ear, is to contribute a greater sense of scale on large- hall recordings. The thrilling way that hall sound “bloomed” on the hammer blows in the “Death of Tybalt” scene from Prokofiev’s Romeo and Juliet (from an old Telarc CD) was literally hair-raising when heard with PLIIz engaged.
Less thrilling were Rotel’s four proprietary DSP-surround modes. Named, with unusual restraint, DSP-1 through -4, these simulate progressively “larger” spaces but were without exception so clangorous and boingy-sounding as to be utterly useless. Rotel would have done better to leave them off.
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