Rotel RCD-1520 review

With its modern appearance, the RCD-1520 looks the part – but up and running it's a dynamically restrained performer Tested at £695.00

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A CD player that promises much but leaves you feeling rather disappointed – it's back to the drawing board we're afraid...


  • +

    Robust build

  • +

    modern looks

  • +

    uncovers great deal of detail


  • -

    Notes lack weight and drive

  • -

    dynamically restrained

  • -

    lacks timing and precision

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

Rotel has a distinguished history of making fine hi-fi components, but its latest CD players haven't really hit the spot. The only Rotel spinner currently on our website is the three-star, RCD-06.

So, the RCD-1520 is a great opportunity for Rotel to up the ante.

Out of the box there are encouraging signs: the RCD-1520 feels solid and looks like a quality machine. The addition of a slot-loading mechanism is a neat touch, although the machining around the slot on our sample wasn't as tidy as we'd have liked.

The display is a good size but can get congested with info, while the player could be quicker to respond to the remote's commands.

Presentation lacks confidence
Spinning 160 BPM from the Angels & Demons OST, the Rotel picks out much detail from the bells, drums and choir chants. But they aren't delivered with great conviction. Class leaders around this price point can convey the drama of this track with much greater authority.

It's a similar story when you switch to Led Zeppelin's Babe I'm Gonna Leave You. The acoustic guitar that opens the track doesn't sound solid or expressive. Notes lack precision and are dynamically restrained – it sounds like the guitarist is half asleep.

Considering the RA-1520 integrated amp is a five-star performer, it's a shame its partner isn't up to scratch.

Read all our CD player Best Buys

Follow us on Twitter

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test