The upgrades are all worthwhile, but the upgraded price undermines the Rotel a little
Fluid, driving sound
Can’t deliver the full details
relatively thick and monotonal at the low end
Rotel's more budget-conscious amplifiers and CD players have long been among our favourites, so the Japanese manufacturer's decision to give four of its core components the Special Edition treatment is enough to get us tingling with anticipation.
The first ‘SE' model through our doors is this RA-06SE integrated amplifier. The major changes all happen under the bonnet – better capacitors, improved decoupling of the power supply from input switching and buffer stages, some finessing of the moving-magnet phono stage – but from the outside the only difference is in the badging.
And the fact that the price is up to £600, of course. This brings it dangerously close to Rotel's handsome RA-1520 amp, a £700 recipient of five stars.
Solid, punchy and articulateThe RA-06SE's sound is also worthy of comparison to the RA-1520. Playing John Parish and PJ Harvey's Black Hearted Love, the SE is a forceful, articulate listen: it's solidly punchy in the low frequencies, decently expressive through the midrange, and rapid at the top end.
The frequency range is integrated smoothly, stereo focus is impressive and there's a fluent musicality to the Rotel's overall presentation.
More after the break
There are caveats, though. The SE isn't the last word in detail retrieval, and those hefty low frequencies don't have the tonal variation or articulacy of the rest of the frequency range.
The RA-06SE is scarcely a disappointment, but we can't help thinking another £100 buys an even more convincing Rotel.