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For such occasions I tend to whip out Seether’s new Holding Onto Strings Better Left To Fray which counters current trends by being fully dedicated to the cinerama sound of late 90’s post grunge. "Fur Cue" instantly opens with hard cross metal riffs and brutal snare drums, sadly—but apparently unavoidably with contemporary rock productions—also with maximally compressed dynamics and as a result textural compaction. Even so the British receiver extracted maximum possible satisfaction at quite ambitious SPLs and over an extended session. Without brushing over obvious mastering boo-boos, the RCX-1500 remained fun even with contracted fare that’s been badly overcooked to make it fit for radio broadcast where loudness rules.

As mentioned, this machine is quite flexible about how to access music. Besides the integral CD drive, there’s streaming via LAN, WLAN or USB stick and of course Internet radio as well as DAB and legacy UKW broadcast. There’s one analog input too and a combo optical/coax digital input for perhaps a DVD or BluRay machine. Though Rotel is famous for its phono stages, this receiver lacks one which I’d personally have considered perfection. Those keen on vinyl will have to go external and use the high-level input.
How did the likely most common signal paths of CD and network streaming differ? To find out, I alternated between CD and the same 44.1kHz WAV files on my Twonky Media-fitted iMac’s hard drive. Streaming won by a whisker. Whilst CD via the Wolfson 24/192 DAC was truly convincing, I felt that streaming was a tad freer still as well as more relaxed and exhibited the better ambient recovery no matter the source material. I also thought backgrounds were even blacker. Perhaps here the lack of mechanical noise from the spinner had the advantage? I couldn’t define accurate cause and the difference was certainly not pronounced. This was more about nuances one notices with sufficient time and attention. Network streaming added to generally observed transparency and resolution a dose of air which allowed me to penetrate even deeper into the sonic weave.

As to compatible formats, the spinner reads standard CDs and MP3 discs, the streaming inputs handle MP3, WMA, Ogg Vorbis, AAC, WAV, AIFF and AU files. Flac is officially out except for certain conditions (refer to Rotel’s FAQs). The frontal USB port feeds on MP3, MP4 and WMA but not Apple Lossless. iPod/iPhone data are processed digitally by the way and the receiver even controls their basic access functions.

Two items caught negative attention. One, the RCX-1500 took its merry good ol' time before shaking hands with my WLAN. After finding it more time passed before I had actual access to my music library – altogether five to seven minutes to the first tune. Perhaps this wasn’t too dramatic but a number of competitors are certainly less lazy.

Two, LAN/WLAN selection requires that one of two included USB dongles be inserted. This doesn’t seem terribly elegant. What’s more, if you forget to insert one of these, nothing aside from CD playback will work, not even radio. That's because the UKW and DAB receiver module is shared with the network/internet receiver which is activated by the dongles. Once you know that, there’s no practical issue however. Simply don't go without dongle.