Tag: Rotel

Australian Audio & AV Show 2011

I had visited the Australian Audio & AV Show 2011 which was held at the Marriott Hotel in Melbourne over two days. Here I had noticed certain trends being marked out as far as hi-fi and home-theatre technology went.

Valve (tube) amplifiers - the old school of hi-fi continues

The old-school of hi-fi lives on with these valve (tube) amps

There was interest in orthodox hi-fi setups where vinyl records or CDs were the main medium of choice. These still appeal to the music listeners who prefer to make a point out of listening to their favourite recordings. Here, there was a large number of amplifiers that were driven by valve (tube) technology which appealed to audiophiles who placed value on the “valve and vinyl” style of hi-fi enjoyment. It even showed that there was still life in the “old girl” that was the classic vinyl record, This was more so with the arrival of newly-issued recordings on what I call “boutique vinyl” i.e. records that were cut for best dynamic range and pressed on heavier discs that were made of new material; with the ability for the purchaser to download MP3s of the same recordings for free.

Marantz CR603 CD receiver

Marantz CR603 CD receiver

Of course, I had seen the return of Luxman to the hi-fi scene, with their efforts on high-grade CD players and stereo amplifiers, with one of their amplifiers being modelled on a 1970s-era classic of theirs.

Network audio

But the main focus of the show was the use of computer equipment and home networks to play out music through hi-fi systems.

Network setups

Netgear ReadyNAS - the music server of the connected home

A router and DLNA-enabled ReadyNAS is what this show is about

Most manufacturers which were demonstrating network-based hi-fi setups had a small network in their hotel rooms. This typically had a wireless router that was fit for home or small-business use at the “edge” of each of these network and working as the DHCP server; the same as what would be expected for a home network. As well, a lot of the manufacturers hooked a network-attached storage unit like the ReadyNAS to these networks to demonstrate their network-audio equipment.

In some cases, some of the suppliers used computers running DLNA-compliant media server software on the network rather than a NAS. An example of this was NAD who linked a MacBook Pro running Elgato EyeConnect as a media server for their C446 Digital Media Tuner.

Network-audio equipment

NAD C446 Media Tuner

NAD c446 Network Media Tuner

Most of the equipment shown was network-audio adaptors which were known by names as “media tuners”, “Internet tuners”, “network media receivers” and similar names. These were components that were connected to existing amplifiers through a line-level connection and could play content on a DLNA media server, USB memory key or Internet-radio services. Some of the units could connect to and control an iPod attached to their USB port.

Some of these are devices that I have cited in a previous article on this site about top-shelf hi-fi names using DLNA as their preferred network-audio infrastructure. Here, I had mentioned about them using this established technology and the high-grade codecs like FLAC so they can concentrate on high-quality clear sound.


Linn Majik DS network preamplifier

Linn Majik DS network preamplifier

Linn had a handful of these devices which worked as control amplifiers for use with power amplifiers or active speakers. These Akurate, Majik and Klimax units could also stream line-level signals or, as I have seen, the output of a turntable (Linn Sondek LP12) playing a record to other Linn network media adaptors.

As well, some of the manufacturers were offering receivers and CD-receiver systems that had DLNA media playback and Internet media access as part of their function set. This included the Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver that I have previously reviewed on this site. Speaking of which, Rotel’s Australian distributors, International Dynamics are introducing more network-enabled kit from Pro-ject, in the form of another network media adaptor.

Denon even promoted their network-enabled home-theatre receivers a “everyhing”-ceivers because of the multiple functions that they could offer through the home network.

Denon networked home-theatre receiver and Blu-ray player

Denon's "everything"-ceiver

All of these setups were based around UPnP AV / DLNA Home Media Networks with Denon, Marantz and B&W demonstrating Apple AirPlay-compliant setups. The sales representatives for most of the various manufacturers had described the UPnP AV / DLNA network setup as an open setup where everyone can “come to the party”. A lot of the setups were controlled using various UPnP AV control points that were running on iPads owned by the various demonstration staff. Some of the control-point apps were branded and optimised for particular manufacturers’ equipment, usually offering control functionality that worked peculiarly with that equipment.

Naim Uniti network CD receiver

Naim Uniti network CD receiver with Naim's distinct CD-loading tray

Naim and used this show to exhibit their Uniti CD receiver; as well as the UnitiQute network media / FM receiver and the UnitiServer which is their “ripping NAS”. This is a class of NAS which uses an integrated optical drive and software for ripping CDs to the hard disk.

One interesting point that I had noticed was that Loewe had used this event to launch their MediaCenter network-enabled music system. This was equipped with a hard disk and software that allowed you to “rip” the currently-inserted CD to that hard disk, a practice that I had observed with some Philips and other hard-disk-equipped music systems. But this unit was able to share the contents of its hard disk to other UPnP AV client devices as well as become a UPnP AV client device for devices like those NAS units.

How is this becoming relevant to “real” hi-fi?

Loewe MediaCenter

Loewe Mediacenter media server and player

One reason this is happening is that other Websites, fronted by audiophile recording labels, are offering their recordings for purchase and download as high-bitrate FLAC or, in some cases, WMA files. In some cases, these are copies of the studio-master recordings rather than producer-tuned masters for CD and iTunes distribution.

Here, you could load these files on to a NAS and share them through your network with network media clients of this calibre. Or you could use media-management software to transcode to MP3 for use on most portable players and smartphones or prepare CDs of these files for playback on regular CD players.


What I see of this Australian Audio & AV Show this past weekend is that the home network as a system for storing and playing audio content has earned its stripes as far as high-quality sound reproduction is concerned. This is definitely underpinned through the use of the UPnP AV / DLNA standard for discovering and presenting available media content in these networks.

Product Review–Rotel RCX-1500 Network CD receiver


I am reviewing the Rotel RCX-1500 network CD receiver which is one of the first “big-set” hi-fi units that I have reviewed that can do proper Internet radio and benefit from the DLNA Home Media Network. Previously I have been reviewing Internet radios that are mainly “small-sets” which are table / clock radios or portables and are intended for use as secondary or auxiliary audio devices.

The product class

This unit is infact a CD receiver, a class of “single-piece multi-function” hi-fi music system which continues from where the music centres and casseivers (receivers with integrated cassette decks) of the 1970s and early 1980s left off. Here, some of these units were equipped with the functionality and quality of modest separate-unit hi-fi systems yet they offered this in a single box, which you could just hook up a pair of speakers to. The manufacture of high-sndard pieces of this class of equpment had diminished through the late 80s. This is although Bang & Olufsen were consistent in this field at a premium price and a few other manufacturers like Proton, Bose and Onkyo were releasing in to their model ranges  one or two receivers with integrated CD, tape or MiniDisc transports that weren’t just second-rate music systems.

Then there had been a slow but sure renaissance in this class of good-quality integrated-function hi-fi equipment as the trend for “downsized” living especially in “executive” city apartments became more intense. This is where most of the good hi-fi names ran with at least one CD receiver in their line-up that didn’t come with a set of substandard speakers and this Rotel RCX-1500 that I am reviewing is one such piece of equipment.

Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver


Unit alone: AUD$1999 (recommended retail price)

Speakers (Cabasse Antigua MT30): AUD$999 / pair (recommended retail price)


Analogue Radio FM RDS
DAB+ Yes
Internet Radio Yes
Network Media Audio
CD Yes
Stored Memory USB memory key
iPod / iPhone Yes



Input Count as for a device
Audio Line input 1 x RCA-connector pair
SPDIF input 1 (PCM – Coaxial and optical)
Headphone output 3.5mm
Pre-amplifier output RCA-connector pair
Wi-Fi 802.11g WPA2 (supplied dongle)
Ethernet 10/100Mbps (supplied dongle)



Output Power 100 Watts (RMS –
8 ohms, )
2 channels
Speaker Connections Binding-posts


This unit was tested with a pair of Cabasse Antigua MT30 bookshelf speakers connected using premium audio cables. These speakers were also on loan from the distributor so I can review this unit properly. They are built using an orthodox two-way driver arrangement and use a bass-reflex enclosure and can work with amplifiers that have a minimum power output of 75 watts and maximum of 500 watts. As far I was concerned, these speakers worked very properly with all kinds of music and could yield a decent sound for their size.

The Rotel CD receiver

Functionality comments


Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver - slot-load CD player
Slot-load CD player

It is also worth knowing that this CD receiver has a pair of pre-out connections so one can connect it to a more powerful and better-sounding power amplifier or a pair of active speakers like an active subwoofer or some of the active speakers like B&O’s Beolab range or any of the Bose Powered Acoustimass speakers.

It can connect to your home network via Wi-Fi or Ethernet using supplied network-adaptor dongles. The Ethernet option can also allow it to be used with a HomePlug AV network segment using an appropriate “homeplug” adaptor and I would recommend this as a “no-new-wires” option for connect this CD receiver to the home network.

This functionality allows this CD receiver to provide Internet radio or work with a DLNA-compliant media server that is on your home network. The only limitation with this function is that it doesn’t work as a MediaRenderer which means that you have to select your network media using the Rotel CD receiver’s display.

The tuner is “up to the minute” with broadcast radio in Europe and Australia by supporting FM RDS as well as DAB+ radio. There are two antenna connections for both FM and DAB but you can choose to use the FM aerial for DAB. It came with two aerials – the typical “T-wire” for FM and a small whip one for DAB. With this one, it was able to pick up Melbourne’s DAB multiplexes reliably as long as it was near a window.

But I would rather that this unit be connected to an outdoor aerial especially for FM reception so it can provide clear signal reception. You may also be able to use a digital-optimised Band III aerial for better DAB+ reception especially on fringe areas.

You can connect an iPod or iPhone to the front USB socket using the data cable supplied with your Apple device and the sound that is played off the iPod will be converted to an analogue form using the Rotel receiver’s internal digital-analogue converter. As well, this same socket is used for playing music held on USB memory keys.

The CD player is a slot-load type that performs as expected for a decent-standard player. It can play the regular CDs or file-based MP3 discs and gives “best-case playback” for any CDs recorded with the HDCD mastering technique. This does yield to high-quality sound from these discs.

As for connection of external equipment, this is feasible with a line-in connection in the form of RCA connectors or SPDIF digital in the form of coaxial or optical connectors. There isn’t a line-out connection that is independent of the volume control for use as a recording connection, which may limit this unit’s utility with cassette or MiniDisc decks.

It is also controllable by a supplied remote control which has a numeric keypad for direct access to 30 presets in each of the radio bands – FM, DAB and Internet. As well, this remote also allows for direct access to tracks on a regular CD and is a preferred control surface when you are searching content on a well-stocked media server or using the CD receiver’s setup menus.

Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver remote control

The unit's remote control

This unit’s amplifier is engineered for sound quality. Here, the volume control is a motor-driven potentiometer managed through the control on the front or the remote control. There aren’t any tone-control options, which may please audio purists who believe that tone adjustment affects sound quality.

The display is the white bright fluorescent display but uses four lines of text. This also works with the menu-based operation for advanced functions.

Sound quality

The sound quality for the Rotel RCX-1500 CD receiver is what you would expect for equipment in its class. This is even so with the Cabasse Antigua speakers that I am testing this unit with.

It comes across as being tight and good across all frequencies. This means that it gives all the instruments in a sound recording a proper chance rather than sounding like the old pub jukebox. This has come across so well with well-recorded rock like Peter Gabriel’s “1 – Car” album which was considered to be in the same league as Pink Floyd. Here, you still had that “punchy sound” while hearing the vocals and other instruments.

This system was even performing well with classical music especially as I was playing through a recording of Beethoven’s Violin Concerto which was done with “period” instruments. Here, the combination of this CD receiver and the Cabasse speakers shone through the whole of this popular concerto and was clear with all of the instruments.

As for handling the audio codecs, this amplifier answers the requirement for handling properly-encode music properly especially if you use the “maximum” throughput settings for the codecs like 320kbps MP3 or 192kbps WMA.

Limitations and points of improvement

The network connectivity could be improved on by not requiring the user to deal with easy-to-lose dongles. This is more so with Ethernet as most Internet-enabled hi-fi components and TVs use integrated circuitry with an Ethernet socket on the back.

As well, the Rotel could benefit from WPS setup for Wi-Fi wireless networks especially as most current-issue routers implement this easy-to-use setup method.

An improved version of this unit could support a proper tape loop and a phono input for use with a turntable especially as a lot of the older people may keep records or tapes lying around and could benefit from a simplified system with these inputs.


This is one network-enabled CD receiver that I would recommend for people who have a pair of good-quality bookshelf or “piece-of-furniture” speakers that they wish to keep going but want to benefit from newer sources like music held on their home network or iPod; or Internet radio. I would also consider this unit as a the core of a simplified music system if they want to choose their own good speakers.

This unit, along with the Cabasse Antigua speakers or bookshelf speakers of a similar standard, would be an ideal simple music system for use in an apartment or small house by people who place high value on music. It is especially more suitable with older retired people who are moving towards smaller flats or retirement villages.