CD-player Rotel RCD-1570

Here's a company with something of a varied past. In the seventies it was making huge, chintzy hi-fi separates, but a decade later had become famous for stripped-down, minimalist products with the accent on sonics rather than frills. It has stuck with this, watching larger Japanese manufacturers fall by the wayside in pursuit of other markets, and now has a great reputation as a purveyor of affordable audiophile products. The player here is the successor to the boldly styled 1520, whose basic layout it shares. It sports a centrally mounted slot-loading CD drive, which works slickly. Indeed, its classier to use than any of the other tray loaders here.

The feeling of sophistication continues when you look at the fascia, which is a lovely slice of brushed aluminium and the buttons are neatly laid out and positive in use. The vacuum fluorescent display lights up - predictably enough - in blue, and while it may be a rather cold color it's easily readable. Inside, there's a Wolfson WM8740 digital filter and DAC chip, working up to 24/192 resolution. Operationally; the mechanism can be slightly noisier than the others here, and oddly it will recognize and display HDCDs, but won't play them at their higher resolution! This is something of a ghostly feature, harking back to when Rotel made great HDCD players.

The Rotel is a strong and assertive sounding CD player, with an animated, musical nature. The New Order track sounds highly energetic and forceful, with the RCD-1570 capturing the frenetic synthesizer work, chiming keyboard stabs and that busy, undulating bassline. It's a very compressed track, which makes it all the more difficult for budget CD players to shine, as there's so much going on, crammed claustrophobically into one small space. But this machine isn't fazed in the slightest, showing itself to have an extremely detailed midband bristling with detail. This is allied to a clean and crisp treble up top and partnered with a big, powerful bass down below; indeed its low-frequency power is the best of the group.

Moving to the more gentle strains of Randy Crawford, and there is a good deal of air and space to the proceedings, and the singer's stunning voice is really well carried tonally - sounding rich and breathy. Backing instruments time nicely and the song sounds polished and sophisticated in a way that all here except the Quad can't quite deliver. However, this song does show the Rotel to be a little mechanical sounding. All the instruments are beautifully rendered, but the whole doesn't quite gel together so well. It's a very impressive-sounding machine, but not quite as seductive.

The Siouxsie and The Banshees track is breathtaking. Its powerful piano cadences, allied to the impactful drum work, are carried with blistering speed. The Rotel is a dynamic player, and never quite lets you forget this - there's a touch of melodrama to its presentation, which is a joy with powerful pop such as this. Lead singer Siouxsie's vocals are both haunting and ethereal. In this instance, the Rotel's presentation seems to suit the song, and proves to be a compelling listen.

Rotel RCD-1570 CD-player photo