Rotel RA-1572MKII Review

RA-1572MKII

Rotel sent over the RA-1572MKII for us to check out, this just after the Michi X5, also from Rotel. I was excited to see how the Rotel stacked up against the Michi as they share some design elements. The Michi for me is something many may consider an end-game product, it has nearly every feature you could want, plenty of power if you don’t want to worry about adding a power amp, and stunning sound quality. Is the RA-1572MKII and end-game integrated, entry-level, or something between? With the long list of updates and upgrades from the previous generation, this is not an integrated amp that reflects the considerably low price tag of $2,099.99.

RA-1572MKII

Unboxing, Set up and Initial Impressions

The RA-1572MKII ships in a standard box with form-fitted packing, keeping it well protected. Ours actually had a bit of slight damage on the box, none of which managed to make it through the packing materials, online customers can rest easy knowing their 1572 should make it to them safe and sound. After getting the RA-1572MKII out of its box I went through all accessories to make sure I got everything I need to get set up as well as do a full visual inspection of the unit. This amplifier weighs in at 30.5 lbs making this much easier than it was with the 100lb Michi. After the inspection was complete it was time to get the RA-1572MKII settled into its new home. I will say it’s a stark difference in appearance from most of my equipment with the silver, which if silver isn’t your style it is also offered in black. Personally, if I were to buy one I would likely pick up the black version.

After getting it into position I connected my Martin Logan Aerius I’s and all of my sources. For those, I still happened to have the Diablo from iFi Audio, which I connected with the pair of XLR inputs available. I also connected a standard RCA to a 3.5mm jack, a USB, and my LP-7. I like to try a variety of inputs even for the same source such as my Macbook. It allows me to compare the internal DAC to that of the Diablo, and the MacBook itself. I also switch between using the LP-7’s internal Phono Stage and the RA-1572MKII’s Phono Stage. The RA-1572MKII has a pretty comprehensive set of input options, for both analog and digital options.

When you power the unit on you will be greeted by a bright blue power light around the power button and the somewhat basic screen. Thankfully the blue lights that adorn both the power button and the speaker select buttons (A, B) are dimmable. This is all subjective but I don’t care for the LEDs or at least bright ones. That said some people absolutely love them, and I know in the Marantz world the blue ring is a bit of a status symbol, that said I have one of their amps with the blue ring. It is also something that can be turned off. The screen is a bit lackluster for 2021, but it does its job well and you really don’t need much more on an audio-specific integrated amp. The overall look of the front is my favorite design that Rotel has used in quite a while. It has a fairly timeless design with polished and rounded end caps, and a clean panel, for my taste they could even get rid of the buttons and make it even smoother, but that may be a bit too far for some users.

RA-1572MKII

RA-1572MKII sound

Appearance is only a small part of the game for audio equipment, while important most of us audiophiles will ignore looks in the pursuit of sound quality. I prefer the RA-1572MKII over my Marantz a bit, and if it were not for me wanting to save up my pennies for a Michi P5, this would likely be replacing the SR7009 that I use now as a preamp. It unsurprisingly reminds me of the sound signature of the Michi, which makes sense with how much of this amp is pulled from the Michi line. I think if I had to summarise the sound I would say it is on the warmer side of neutral, slightly rich, and detail-oriented. The sound is not as refined as the Michi integrated, but I would also not expect it to be at 1/3 of the cost and power. It doesn’t sound bad by any means, but with all the extra power in the Michi, the details come through with more ease, all the nuances in music make themselves known. Rotel did a great job tuning the RA-1572MKII, at least in my personal opinion, I prefer the warmer side of neutral, it is more inviting, more exciting really. I listened to the Classé Delta Stereo Amp and Preamp recently and it was the most fantastically unexciting amp I may have ever had the pleasure of spending time with. The Delta duo was objectively exception in sound quality, yet somehow lacked any attack or excitement. They were playing through a pair of Paradigm Persona 9h speakers, which I have enjoyed listening to with other amp combos. TheRA-1572MKII does not suffer from this same fate, it is a pleasure to listen to at length. While the silver exterior of the amp may look cold and contemporary the sound coming from within is anything but.

TheRA-1572MKII complimented my Aerius I’s very well. The combination offered a spectacular sound stage, with precise imaging, with a very balanced tone. The various frequencies from my music didn’t sound like they were fighting for attention. This combination of equipment provided a good synergy across the totality of it. The frequency range is well represented in the out-of-the-box configuration as well, there are times that you may need to do more tweaking than others. I didn’t feel as though the Rotel needed a tone of adjustment in my system, though I like to bump the bass up a little as I am a bit of a bass head, I really don’t need to. I listened to a wide variety of music, from Classical and Jazz to Hip Hop and EDM. I like to see how different music plays through an amplifier and whether or not it compliments a particular type. The RA-1572MKII sounds great with everything I threw at it, there was no real preference for me. I have played with amps and speaker combos in the past that tonally seem to pair better with certain styles of music, or perhaps what may typically be found in that genre.

Rotel Packed the RA-1572MKII with all the gear you need to get started in HiFi. There is an onboard MM Phono stage, DAC, and somewhat obviously a Power Amp. All of that may sound like a given, however, there are many Pre Amps and some Integrated amplifiers without a digital stage, meaning you need an external piece of equipment or an upgrade module as some have this available. Even with integrated features such as DACs and Phono Stages, that does not mean there is no room for improvement. I tried the Diablo DAC/Amp using the balanced XLR input on the Rotel and switched between it and the Onboard DAC. I prefer the Diablo over the onboard DAC in the Rotel. Rotel used Texas Instruments DAC chips for the RA-1572MKII and iFi has Burr Brown Chips in the Diablo. While there were no real differences in sound quality, there are some slight tonal differences, as both are tuned slightly differently, ultimately to work best with the circuitry around the DAC chip. As far as the Phono Stage goes, I used my LP7 turntable with an Ortofon 2m Blue to compare its onboard Phono stage to that of the Rotel. The LP-7’s onboard Phono is decent, it works fine in the event that you do not have another option, though there are much better options available, such as found inside the RA-1572MKII. Rotel’s phono stage provided better frequency extension, channel separation, and overall detail. I love that my LP-7 has the option to bypass its own Phono Stage, not because it is bad, but because it is an awesome table that could be hindered by the phono amp built-in.

left Marantz SR7009 as a preamp, right Rotel RA-1572MKII as a preamp
The chart shows both amps at the same DB level, both bypassing any tone controls.

Comparing the Rotel to my Marantz is a little difficult as they are two very different integrated amplifiers. One is an Audio and Video Integrated Amp (Marantz) and the other Audio only (Rotel). That being said they are not that different in sound. As you can see from the charts above. I do prefer the sound of the Rotel slightly. I played a few songs on each one, switching back and forth keeping the levels as close as possible. I tended to prefer the slightly better higher end of the Rotel. You can see it has fewer pressure dips in the top end than my Marantz. In the bottom end, it does seem to dip a little more than the Marantz, likely due to the factory gain settings for subwoofer outputs. I did not adjust any settings on my powered subwoofer, or the Amps themselves. The mid-range has more dips on the Rotel than my Marantz, especially around the 400 and 800-1kHZ areas. The totality of the frequencies represented on both does make for an enjoyable listening session. The biggest difference between the two amps comes from the software side of things. The Marantz, being an AVR has all the audio adjustability you could ever want and probably more, whereas the Rotel is more limited in what tweaks you can do to your sound. Neither is right or wrong, it comes down to what you may like to do, if you like to tinker and tweak each little piece of your sound, the Rotel may not offer as much adjustability as you want onboard. Some folks may decide to add an EQ or other hardware in scenarios where the preamp/integrated amp they choose does not have the adjustments they want to make.

RA-1572MKII as a preamp

I like to use integrated amps as preamps as well in reviews as for many people, myself included they are how they get started into HiFI. Folks will then, later on, add a power amp to the integrated they started with when possible at least. Having pre-outs is something I also recommend people look for in an integrated amp as it gives them an upgrade path without having to start completely over. I tried my Nakamichi PA5 Stasis, as well as a recently picked up MC250 amplifier. I liked the combo of Rotel with vintage McIntosh over the Nakamichi with theRA-1572MKII. The PA5 Stasis just did not complement the tone at all. After about a week of the PA5 being connected, I went back to using Rotel’s power stage. TheRA-1572MKII also has two subwoofer pre-outs which I appreciate as I am a fan of 2.1 setups and always use a subwoofer.

Overall my impressions of theRA-1572MKII are positive. None of the onboard equipment seemed lacking in any way, from the amplification to the Phono Stage and DAC. It is a great all-in-one device to get started in the world of high-end stereo equipment. I enjoyed listening to this integrated amp quite a lot and would be happy to own it.

Design Elements, and trickle-down from Michi

As I mentioned earlier in the review, this shares some components and designs found in the much more expensive Michi X5. I reached out to Rotel to find out a little more and this is what they had to say:

We engineered Michi as a platform knowing the architecture and components would be scaled and levered in Rotel models.  The engineers carefully reviewed each critical circuit and component to ensure they maximized the performance of the RA-1572MKII maintaining the exceptional value of this integral amplifier.  

Capacitors in the power supplies, DAC circuits, preamp and amplifiers share components found in Michi.  High efficiency, low tolerance resistors also are pulled from Michi design to ensure low noise, stable output across a wire frequency and temperature range.  Circuit boards were updated with improved isolation techniques and signal path routing to also reduce noise and distortion. 

Daren Orth
Rotel – CTO
Rotel RA-1572MKII vs Michi X5

Rotel also sent over a detailed list of changes from the MK I of the 1572 and those are below:

RA-1572MKII Review Q&Q
September 2021

  1. Does the MKII sound better or different to the MKI? Elaborate please
    [Rotel] Extensive tuning was implemented in the MKII models improving the acoustic
    performance with larger sound stage, improved details and natural sound.
  2. What are the differences between the 1572 and MKII models?
    [Rotel] The MKII models include the same source inputs and outputs and focus on
    utilizing the technology developed for Michi for improvements to the audio
    performance and musicality.
  3. Why were they upgraded?
    [Rotel] Michi was developed as a platform with the plan to extend this new acoustic
    engineering technology into Rotel models as space and budget allows. The “best-of”
    circuit topology, power supply design methods and components were selected for
    each model to include in the new MKII models.
  4. What are the key points that Rotel wants to make regarding the update?
    [Rotel] Music is our passion, and we are passionate about music. The heritage of
    this family owned and family operated business is about improvement, innovations
    and delivering higher performance audio products with the exceptional value
    synonymous with Rotel. The MKII models are excellent examples of this
    commitment with the investments in these 3 models delivering on the promise of
    ongoing improvements to the musical performance.
  5. Tell me about the design brief for the 1572 MKII, what were the desired parameters
    etc.

    [Rotel] The RA-1572MKII baseline was the recently released Michi Integrated
    Amplifiers. While the budgets, size and performance characteristics are clearly
    different the sonic signature of Michi was the target. Natural, open, enveloping
    without artificial coloration of the music was the design strategy and is evidenced in
    the performance of this Integrated Amplifier.
  6. Is there anything about the production of the unit that is worth discussing?
    [Rotel] Rotel has been engineering and manufacturing products in our own dedicated
    factory since the company launched in 1961, over 60 years ago. We know well the
    commitment and ongoing investments required to operate a state of the art
    manufacturing facility but we also believe that to ensure the product quality worthy of
    Rotel this is the best path for the brand. Our in-house Surface Mount equipment,
    DIP line, soldering, testing, assembly, burn-in and Quality Control ensure each
    product meets and exceeds the strict build quality standards required by Rotel.
  7. What is the target market for the unit?
    [Rotel] Value has been key to the success of Rotel since the business launched.
    While we understand there are varying budgets across a wide range of products the
    RA-1572MKII allows access to no-compromise HiFi equipment that is scalable from
    a simple pair of bookshelf speakers to a set of high fidelity floor standing
    loudspeakers. The flexibility of source inputs ensures the system allows connection
    of legacy equipment such as a turntable as well as digital source components and
    streaming music from the near limitless catalog of online albums or with the
    convenience of high quality aptX and AAC Bluetooth. Scalable, flexible, musical –
    this is the RA-1572MKII all with a consumer friendly, budget friendly price offering.
  8. Is any specific technology worth highlighting about the unit?
    [Rotel] Leveraging Michi’s technology platform, the RA-1572MKII includes many new
    critical sonic components in the power supply and signal path. These include
    coupling capacitors in and around the DAC stage, power supply filter capacitors and
    a new premium Texas Instruments 32bit 384kHz DAC. Rotel’s bespoke acoustic
    tuning process ensures all critical circuits have been hand tuned selecting the
    components for each location to ensure audio is reproduced as close to the original
    artist as possible. The RA-1572MKII also proudly announces MQA compatibility
    unfolding and rendering MQA and MQA Studio audio files. MQA reveals detail of the
    original master recording. The RA-1572MKII is also Roon Tested ensuring the best
    user experience using Roon and accessing the catalog of audio on the local network
    as well as popular streaming services.
  9. What are the units competitive advantages?
    [Rotel] Performance, price and build quality. These are the 3 pillars of Rotel and are
    easily found in the RA-1572MKII. While there are other models in the Rotel product
    offering both above and below the price point of the RA-1572MKII we find this model
    in the unique position of offering a most musical experience replete with source
    inputs and features.
  10. Also why the swap from AKM to TI DAC’s?
    [Rotel] Several components were auditioned during the engineering of the Michi
    product and platform including Texas Instruments. We found the TI solution to be
    exceptionally well matched to the Rotel components targeted for the MKII models
    with more expression, larger sound stage and more musical. The decision to make
    this change ensures we have followed our Balanced Design Concept ensure
    investments in the components and technologies are best suited for each individual
    product.
RA-1572MKII

RA-1572MKII Specs

DIMENSIONS (W × H × D)431 × 144 × 425mm

DIMENSIONS (W × H × D)431 × 144 × 358mm
17″ × 5.7″ × 14.1″ 
FRONT PANEL HEIGHT 3U / 132.6mm (5.25″) 
POWER REQUIREMENTS 120V, 60Hz 
POWER CONSUMPTION 400W 
STANDBY POWER CONSUMPTION <0.5W 
NET WEIGHT 13.63kg (30.05lbs.) 
BTU RATING (4Ω, 1/8th power)810 BTU/h

INTERMODULATION DISTORTION (60Hz:7kHz, 4:1)

INTERMODULATION DISTORTION (60Hz:7kHz, 4:1)<0.03% 
DAMPING FACTOR 300 
INPUT SENSITIVITY Line Level Inputs (RCA): 270mV
Line Level Inputs (XLR): 440mV
Digital Inputs: 0 dBFs
Phono Input (MM): 2.1mV


OUTPUT IMPEDANCE
470Ω 
COAX/OPTICAL DIGITAL INPUT SIGNALS LPCM (Up to 24-bit/192kHz) 
PC-USBUSB Audio Class 1 (up to 24-bit/192kHz)
USB Audio Class 2 (up to 32-bit/384kHz)**Driver installation required MQA and MQA Studio (up to 24-bit/384kHz )Roon Tested

MAXIMUM POWER OUTPUT 200W/Ch (4Ω) 
CONTINUOUS POWER OUTPUT 120W/Ch (8Ω) 
TOTAL HARMONIC DISTORTION(THD)<0.018% 
FREQUENCY RESPONSE
Line Level Inputs:10Hz – 100kHz, ±0.5dB
Digital Inputs:10Hz – 90kHz, ±2dB
Phono Input:20Hz – 20kHz, ±0.5dB 
S/N RATIO (IHF “A” Weighted)
Line Level Inputs: 100dB
Digital Inputs: 100dB
Phono Input: 80dB


INPUT IMPEDANCE
Line Level Inputs (RCA): 100kΩ
Line Level Inputs (XLR): 100kΩ
Digital Inputs: 75Ω
Phono Input (MM): 47kΩ 
INPUT OVERLOAD Line Level Inputs (RCA): 4V
Line Level Inputs (XLR): 5.5V
Phono Input: 32mV 
PREOUT LEVEL1.5V

RA-1572MKII

Conclusion

Many audiophiles get started in the hobby with an AVR and a pair of speakers, or perhaps a vintage integrated amp. That is precisely how I got started, a family member gave me a Yamaha receiver, I don’t even remember the model, and a pair of Polk Monitor 7 speakers. That setup got me hooked, I wanted more, but at the ripe age of 14 or so I was not exactly independently wealthy so it hung around a long time, until the Yamaha finally died, granted I have the Monitor 7’s still, in a garage system. All that to say the RA-1572MKII is really the perfect upgrade for someone coming from vintage wanting newer features, or perhaps a dedicated audio-only Integrated amplifier to upgrade from an AVR. It is hard to call it entry-level at the price of $2100.00, but it is a great value in a world where integrated amps can cost 10’s of thousands of dollars. Rotel included a great suite of features and I/O that allows an upgrade path if you decide you want to add a power amp or to use external DACs, or Phono stages, and so on. You also have dual subwoofer outs which is a nice touch, as many integrated 2ch. amps will only have a single pre-out. I like to find something to compare a review item with, there really is nothing comparable at this price point, you either have to spend more or make concessions on either I/O or power or both and likely sound quality as well. Rotel did an incredible job taking the amazing sound of the Michi X5 and scaling it down to more of an entry-level market point. Don’t get me wrong this is no Michi, but it certainly follows the path made by the Michi very well.

Testing equiptment

Speakers: Martin Logan Aerius I
Power Amp(s): Nakamichi PA-5 Stasis, McIntosh MC250
Sources: Audio-Technica LP-7 with Ortofon 2m Bronze/Blue
MacBook Pro (Spotify premium)
iPhone 11 Pro (Spotify premium)
Fiio M9 (FLAC Files, Spotify Premium)
All digital sources played using both onboard DACs, iFi Diablo, iFi GoBlu, and Rotel onboard DAC
Cables: RCA – AudioQuest Evergreen, all
XLR – iFi Audio
Speaker: Custom made DIY with Rodium Locking Banana Plugs
Power: Factory supplied, all run through AudioQuest PowerQuest 3 conditioner
Marantz Sr7009

Disclaimer:

Rotel provided Hifi Chicken with a demo unit of the RA-1572MKII, this review was not paid in part or full by Rotel or any affiliates there of.

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