Rotel A14

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“

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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.

Prickly pro­duc­tion

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 PCŠUSB 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

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