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Amplifier Rotel RA-935BX review

The evolution of any fine amplifier usually involves a little backtracking from time to time. After all, very few manufacturers hit the bulls-eye on every occasion. To this end, the new line-only RA-935BX is an acknowledgement on the part of Rotel that its previous BX-Series was not the raving success it had anticipated. The lack of any phono stage, even the option of a phono stage, is a further submission to the reality of a rapidly-changing market.

From the outside, the simple friction-locked L/R volume control and independent rotary selectors for its CD, tuner, aux and two tape inputs adhere to the modern Rotel style. Yet inside we witness a return to the older Rotel school of design with its thumping great mains toroid and high-gain Sanyo-based power amp (2SB817/2SD1047).

Sound quality

This Rotel put in a characteristically sensible’ but engaging performance, so much so that one of the panellists guessed what it was by the second track! The same guy described the opening track as ‘lively, wiry, twangy and elastic’, which is a fair description of the track, even if it gives a rather energetic repression of the amp. Bass was considered a bit light, but the clean and fluid midband allowed detail to flow easily.

It had better resolution than the dearer Adcom GCA-510 which preceded it on test, and presented the Mahler piece with aplomb. The reverberation that creates depth and reinforces the sense of menace was nicely preserved, even though the double basses could have dug down a little deeper. Brass was particularly well presented, with sheen and power but not too much rasp.

One listener was less easily won over, and found it a bit flat and uninspiring. It’s definitely not superficially exciting, but when the music gets going, it’s there on the beat. It’s ability to create the sense of acoustic environment was noted by everyone on the panel, suggesting that its high frequency performance, while not obvious, is extended and reasonably natural.

Conclusion

This sparsely equipped Rotel has not skimped on the important ingredients. It can’t be used with a turntable, but CD users on a budget could do worse than listen to the RA-935BX. Recommended.

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