Monday, March 30, 2015




   A friend of mine and I were discussing the state of the high-end audio market late last week, and we both agreed that, while there’s some seriously exciting stuff going on in the two-channel world, the high-end surround sound market is getting a bit stale. Many of the most highly lauded surround sound processors are approaching half a decade or more on the market. To keep up with the latest in connectivity and features, a number of home theater enthusiasts are simply buying high-end receivers and adding their own amplification. But not all is hopeless, I pointed out. After all, companies like Classé and Rotel are keeping things interesting and relevant. The latter’s upcoming RSP-1582 7.1 channel surround-sound preamplifier, for example, is practically everything you could hope for in a high-performance home theater processor, all wrapped in a gorgeous chassis with modern conveniences to boot.
   What sort of modern conveniences? For one thing, the front panel USB port is designed not only as an iOS device connector, but it also provides 5-volt, 2.1-amp charging, which is sufficient to charge even an iPad. It also features a built-in Bluetooth receiver with aptX Codec support, which is quite a step up from standard Bluetooth streaming audio, along with a back-panel USB input with support for digital audio up to 192kHz/24-bit.

   The RSP-1582 also features a staggering eight HDMI 2.0 inputs on the back and one up front with 4K video pass-through capabilities, along with two HDMI outputs, one of which supports Audio Return Channel and CEC. In terms of control capabilities, the processor is packed to the gills, with not only IP and RS-232 control ports, but also two IR ports and three source-independent triggers (for automatically turning on amplifiers and subwoofers and such when the RSP-1582 is powered on).

   In other words, the RSP-1582 boasts pretty much everything you’d need to integrate it into a smart home control system. It also gives the home tech specialist all the tools that he or she needs to tune the processor’s performance perfectly for your room, including a ten-channel Parametric EQ.
   Dig a little deeper, though, and that’s where things get really cool, in my opinion. The RSP-1582, for all its video, control, and connectivity features, was designed first and foremost as a high-performance audio beast. As such, it features not one or two or even four digital-to-analog converters, but a grand total of six Wolfson WM8740 DAC chips—one each for the front left, right, and center channels as well as one for the subwoofer, and a pair for the left and right rear and surround channels. There’s also a Texas Instruments Aureus TMS320DA808 DSP chip onboard for decoding of multi-channel soundtracks.

   Of course, if you’re listening to high-quality analog music via, say, your turntable (which the RSP-1582 features via its built-in phono stage), or you have a beloved audio player with an integrated DAC that you love, the RSP-1582 also of course supports pure analog bypass. In addition to the phono stage, analog inputs include auxiliary ins, XLR inputs, six RCA stereo analog inputs, and a 7.1-channel analog in. As for outputs, you have your choice between balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA, both with dual subwoofer outs.
   All that, and there’s even a handy seven-inch front panel TFT display to allow access to all of the setup menus and adjustments without the need to fire up your TV or projector.
   Best of all, the RSP-1582 will sell for just $3499 when it’s released this spring. (Current thinking has the release date falling somewhere in March or April.)