Rotel’s RA-03 replacement is fine, but falls short of its predecessor’s stunning standards
Even tonal balance
delves deep in the bass
Lacks the drive, dynamics and punch of the class leaders
Let's not pound around the hedging plant: we're disappointed. Yes, this amplifier receives a highly respectable four-star verdict, but we had hoped for much more: this is not only the big brother to the stunning RA-05, it also replaces the RA-03, a long-term favourite around these parts.
Like the RA-03, this integrated amp costs just £500, but somewhat bizarrely, it fails to properly build on the solid foundation stone laid by its predecessor. Indeed, up against its little brother, the £350 RA-05, we reckon it's not cut and dried which we'd prefer to listen to.
So what's the cause of our relative discontent? Well, the fact is that sonically the RA-06 simply doesn't hang together well enough. Sure, it delves pretty deep in the bass, and the tracks on Massive Attack's Best of… album receive good attention throughout the frequency range, but the lower bass needs a touch more tautness and extra zip.
Sounds out of puff Up against the best at this price point the Rotel sounds a little out of puff. As a result, tunes that should power along with urgency lose some excitement.
Tonal balance is fine, so we wouldn't worry overly about speaker matching. However, the Rotel doesn't quite have enough muscle, and if it's presented with a complex arrangement it can trip up, sounding a touch confused.
More after the break
The title track from Eric Whitacre's superb Cloudburst is an ingenious mix of choral vocals and handclaps, and only the cleverest, and fleetest of foot, amplifiers can fully deliver its intended rhythm.
However, unfortunately, the Rotel isn't one of them. If we sound overly negative we apologise – you mustn't forget this is a respectably talented four-star product – but it's just we expected more.
The Rotel does uncover good detail, delivers good dynamics, and avoids nastiness at the frequency extremes.
It's not at all a bad amplifier. However, if a genie promised you a dinner date with The Beatles and only George, Paul and Ringo turned up, it'd be difficult to not feel short-changed. This is kind of how we feel listening to this Rotel.