It's been a while between drinks for Rotel, which has waited three years to follow up its RSX-1057 receiver. But it seems the wait has been worth it as the new model is up to the minute with features, including HD audio decoding and 1080p upscaling. Is this Rotel's best receiver yet?
When you're on a good thing, stick to it. Rotel's receiver designs have remained relatively unchanged for the last 10 years. You still get a large, rather attractive "slab" fascia with a single volume dial in the middle. We applaud Rotel for keeping direct source selection buttons on the front when its competitors have gone for annoying dials or confusing up/down systems. They don't have the best "feel" though — a little plastic-y, and the volume knob too.
While we like the sparseness and rigidity of the build, we were less than enthusiastic about the remote. It's actually a little bit of a nightmare. It has lots of little buttons, and not all are logically arranged. In fact, it looks like a 70's scientific calculator. But at least it comes with a blue backlight.
The Rotel RSX-1550 is a 5x 100W receiver featuring all of the latest audio standards. You get the newest codecs — barring the two-month-old Pro Logic IIz — including Dolby TrueHD and DTS-HD Master Audio. Interestingly, Rotel has dropped support for one of the audio standards it championed, but never took off: HDCD. But otherwise you'll find support for other formats including DTS 96/24 and DVD-As.
Unlike the newer breed of receivers, the RSX-1550 still features an old-school black and white menu. But accessing it isn't the easiest thing in the world. Pressing the menu button doesn't give you a menu — just a description of the input you're switched to, and no instructions as to what to do next. After consulting one of the four manuals in the box we found that you have to press Enter to get to the menu — this is a shame as the "input" page could have told you that. Once accessed though, the menu is quite straightforward, and if you're familiar with most amp set-ups you'll find it easy to navigate.
The provision of inputs is reasonable, with four version 1.3 ports available, but this is still short of the Sony STRDA5400ES's six. You'll also find three component inputs, three composite and three S-Video ports. Audio is also well served with a 7.1 analog input in addition to four optical and three coaxial digital inputs. Interestingly the receiver will only output at 1080p via HDMI — and is limited to 1080i for component. While we can't see too many people with 1080p screens still using component connections, this is still a little disappointing.