Rotel rc-1580/rb-1582 main

Even when playing at quite modest levels (the same as all the others in the blind test, decided empirically but well within the envelope of the least powerful here), these amps still manage to put out a powerful and convincing performance.

By unanimous acclamation, they rocked harder than any others here and overall achieved the most convincing musical results.

The nearest thing to a serious criticism was the mention of slight stridency on piano and other tuned percussive sounds. Take rhythm, for instance. Right across the board, the sound was felt to have not just excellent drive but also great rhythmic solidity and consistency – it never waivers whatever happens to the musical texture.

In part, this is due to the very solid, but also very well-tuned, bass, but the taut midrange clearly also plays a role. Treble is clean and detailed, with very nice decay into ambience, while the detail is just delightful, clear and precise. You want more? Dynamics, maybe?

They're generous and beautifully judged, on both the small and the large scale – the big swells across a whole orchestra and the little inflections in an individual voice or instrument.

Oh, and though it couldn't be part of the main listening as several amps didn't have one, the phono stage is also something of a gem.

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