If you listen to more music than watch movies at home, a top-notch integrated stereo amplifier may be a better choice than an AV receiver. I've said that for years. But a lot of the better-sounding integrated amps are feature-challenged, and some offer nothing more than an input selector for analog sources and a volume control. Some don't even have a remote control. So I was happy to spend some quality time with Rotel's sweet-sounding, fully loaded RA-1570 amplifier.
The 17x5.8x13.75-inch component weighs a hefty 28.7 pounds. That's interesting because this 2x120 watt per channel amp is heavier than a lot of 7x120 watt AV receivers. Look under the cover, and you'll know why: The RA-1570 has the sort of massive power supply you see in expensive high-end amps. AV receivers don't have the internal real estate for five or seven channels' worth of the equivalent power supplies. Receiver designers also have to distribute their budget over more channels, so they have to skimp on parts quality, relative to what you find on the better stereo integrated amps, like the RA-1570. Instead of the more common Class D digital amps you see in most entry-level and midprice components, the RA-1570 features a high current, Class AB amplifier output stage.
Feature-wise, the RA-1570 sports two USB ports, one on the front panel and one on the rear. There are also two coaxial (RCA) and two optical digital inputs. You get A & B sets of stereo speaker binding posts, so you can run two sets of speakers, and preamplifier output jacks to hook up a subwoofer. Analog sources weren't ignored -- the RA-1570 boasts a phono input for a turntable, and there's a 3.5mm headphone jack on the front panel.
I found the on/off power button's blue LED ring annoyingly bright when I turned down the lights in my listening room, and apparently somebody at Rotel noticed the same thing. Packed with the amp you'll find a low-tech, but effective, fix: a stick-on filter that reduces the glare. Maybe on the next version of the amp they'll make the LED dimmable. I mostly liked the remote control, but I would have appreciated larger volume up/down buttons -- they are, after all, the most frequently used buttons on any remote. Why make them so small?
I auditioned the RA-1570 with my Zu Druid V and KEF LS50 speakers, and the sound had the sort of rich, satisfying weight I associate with the best high-end amps. Over in my two-channel home theater, I had my Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player's audio going to the RA-1570 via the optical digital connection, and video ran from the Oppo's HDMI directly to my Panasonic plasma display. The RA-1570 sailed through the most demanding passages on action-heavy flicks like "Iron Man 3."
Just because a receiver or integrated amp has a phono input there's no guarantee it will sound particularly good, but in this case the RA-1570's analog sound was excellent.
The Rotel RA-1570 sells for $1,599.