FOR Bold presentation; impressive connections AGAINST Rhythmically bettered; needs more subtlety “The exhaustive functionality of Rotel’s amps is impressive, and the A14 is just as well equipped“
Rotel is like the friend you can rely on to have everything in your time of need – plasters, Paracetamol, an elastic band. The exhaustive functionality of its previous models has been impressive to say the least, and the A14 – the flagship integrated amplifier in the brand’s new A-range – is just as well equipped.
A moving-magnet phono stage taps into the vinyl renaissance, aptx Bluetooth caters for smartphone streaming, and a 32-bit/768khz DAC aids the digital inputs to welcome your streamer, CD player, set-top box…
Two optical and coaxial inputs apiece, compatible with hi-res files up to 24-bit/192khz, join a type-a USB port for IOS devices (and a second solely for charging devices), as well as a type-b USB for playback from a laptop or PC.
The latter handles DSD 64 and 128 and is compatible with ‘class 1’ (restricted at 24-bit/96khz) and ‘class 2’ (supports 32-bit/384hz) USB interfaces.
Four line-level inputs and a 3.5mm headphone jack complete the bill. You’ll spot an ethernet socket on the rear panel, but don’t get your hopes up – it’s simply there for software updates rather than facilitating any network streaming.
Just a façade
Each input has its own button beneath the LED display screen, making it quick to switch between them. The façade of the full-width chassis (available in silver or black) is busy, but polished enough to look like it belongs to the 21st century.
Even outputs exceed expectations thanks to a second pair of speaker terminals for hooking up – you guessed it – a second pair of speakers. A preamp output means you can add extra horsepower by way of an additional power amp, though you won’t need to rush out and buy one.
The A14 gives every impression of its 160W output (20W per channel more than the A12 it sits above), with a powerful, authoritative sound.
Its emphatic delivery of Kendrick Lamar’s King Kunta showcases its athleticism, driving it forward and throwing conviction behind the rap. It allows the intentionally prickly production to come through, but also has the refinement and balance to ensure it isn’t uncomfortably overstated.
The A14’s soundstage shows fine instrument separation and spaciousness. The funky bassline that underpins the tempo for the track’s lyrical structure has heft aplenty, even if it could shimmy along more quickly. The treble’s rather thin character is more noticeable, the scratchy synths opening The Naked and Famous’ Young Blood coming through as a little zingy.
That’s emphasised as we switch from line-level to the PCUSB input, which suffers from a slight loss of warmth and weight in comparison but is a decent alternative when it comes to detail and precision – especially for hi-res tracks.
But the beautiful piano sequence of Ludovico Einaudi’s Oltremare lacks the delicate touch and dynamic subtlety of the Heed, let alone the Rega Elex-r, and is not as intimate as it should be. It’s clear the Rotel has what it takes to draw you in, but doesn’t necessarily have the talent to keep you there.
The Rega takes it for rhythmic articulacy and transparency too. Play Badly Drawn Boy’s Stone on the Water and some notes that have purpose via the Rega stray from the Rotel.
The Rotel A14 has its strengths, mainly its impressive connections and bold, authoritative sound. But without the transparency and rhythmic dexterity of more affordable class leaders, it can’t be hailed one of the more illustrious stereo amps of Rotel’s career. Not even close.
Each input has a button, making the A14’s façade busy but polished KEY FEATURES MM phono stage Bluetooth DSD
Rotel’s reputation for well-equipped amps continues with the A14