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Amplifier Rotel RA-980BX review

If power is at a premium, then truckloads of speaker-frying watts rarely come much cheaper than Rotel’s RA-980BX. This ?425 design represents the top of the company’s integrated tree, combining the high quality bass/treble controls featured in all of its 900 Series (apart from the 935) with a Michi-based MM/MC phono stage and high current power amplifier circuit which has been culled from the RB-980BX power amp.

Three other line sources and two tape decks are also catered for, along with individual pre-output and power-input sockets to accommodate any future upgrades.

Underneath the bonnet, Rotel’s chunky power supply combines a massive, shielded toroidal mains transformer, separate left and right rectification and a bank of huge, slit-foil reservoir capacitors. All in all, this amplifier adds up to a tour-de-force of cost-effective engineering.

Sound quality

Anyone looking for a very bold and grand sounding amplifier should certainly audition the 980BX because size rather than subtlety is its forte. ‘Rather like one of those large puffy anoraks’, one member of our listening panel suggested, ‘its sound is sometimes rather too heavily padded’.

As a result, it often failed to realise the natural weight and impetus of the music. This was particularly true via the 980BX’s rather restrained MM disc input where music coasted along but unfortunately never really developed into the thundering crescendos we know to be possible.

On the other hand, elegant vocal tracks or simple up-beat rock and pop music usually worked quite successfully as the amplifier proceeded to carve out a broad and tangible acoustic. The sense of urgency and rawness came over convincingly enough so it’s a great pity that the PA-980BX started to harden-up and close-in on itself when the going got really tough. And, bearing in mind our use of sensitive, easy-load Audio Note Ell speakers, ‘tough’ was not, at any point, particularly tough at all.


With lashings of power In tow and a blot-free specifications sheet to its credit, I expected a better result from Rotel’s beefy RA-980BX. Nevertheless, the RC-980/RB-980BX prompted a similarly indifferent reaction from our blind listening panel some two years ago, so perhaps its strangely impassive sound should have been predicted.

Rotel has promised to re-think the 980 circuit in an effort to combine the poise of its cheaper models with the muscle expected of a ?400 winner. Now that should be an amplifier worth waiting for.

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