Rotel is a family owned Japanese audio brand that has turned its proud heritage into innovative products for the serious audiophile. The company announced the Rotel S14 integrated network streamer. The unit delivers high performance music playback with a 32-bit ESS Saber DAC powered by high current output transistors powered by a massive toroidal transformer for precise and controlled sound.
The Rotel S14 can stream music directly from popular streaming services including Spotify, Tidal, Qobuz, as well as play podcasts and internet radio stations. In addition to streaming online, the Rotel S14 can handle music streamed via AirPlay 2 and Google Cast. In addition, external sources can be connected using the coaxial, optical, analog RCA and PC-USB inputs. Rotel hasn’t neglected Bluetooth either, with support for Qualcomm’s aptX HD audio codec.
The all-in-one provides live streaming from a wide range of music services and has built-in 150W @ 4 ohm Class AB amplification plus a front-panel headphone jack. The Rotel S14 also comes with a new aluminum remote control.
Rotel says its new S14 amplifier is easy and intuitive to use, and offers network connectivity via dual-band Wi-Fi or Ethernet. The device’s front display can display full color album art and display title, track and artist information from the selected audio streaming service.
Rotel S14 review
Rotel is best known for its amplifiers, and in the Rotel S14 the company uses its classic solution: a class AB amplifier delivering 80 watts per channel (8 ohms) of nominal power. And if you bring acoustics to 4 ohms to the amplifier, then the Rotel S14 will give out 150 watts. Rotel is proud to manufacture large toroidal transformers in-house at its factory in Japan. The latter give the brand’s amplifiers an excellent power supply, which is indirectly indicated by a twofold increase in power when switching from 8 ohms to 4 ohms. So the amplifying part of the Rotel S14 is capable of swinging not only bookshelf, but also floor acoustics, but we will talk about this later.
The brand does not reveal the details of what specific amplifier they put in the Rotel S14, but the parameters are like two drops of what we see in the Rotel A14MKII integrated amplifier, and the name of the streaming streamer is also in favor of our theory. Why invent something new when an updated line of integrated amplifiers has just been released? The heart of the streaming player is a 32-bit DAC from ESS Technology. Here Rotel again leaves an understatement, but by the capabilities of the converter, we can carefully judge that we have an ESS Saber ES9028Q2M with its impressive digital signal processing ceiling of 32 bit / 384 kHz (of course, with a wired connection).
It is felt that with the Rotel S14 the company wants to surf the digital space, since the analog inputs on board are only a pair of RCAs (marked AUX), a preamplifier output for working with a separate power amplifier and an active subwoofer output. To connect the speaker system, there are two pairs of terminals that accept both a bare cable and connectors – as usual, Rotel’s terminals are made to last. Note that one pair of acoustics is connected to the amplifier: biwiring is not provided. The biggest pain in the Rotel S14 is the lack of a built-in phono stage, although Rotel knows how to make them. If you want to connect a turntable, then use an external phono stage or look for a turntable with a built-in one.
But the digital connection was given full carte blanche: coaxial and optical inputs with a signal bandwidth of up to 24 bit / 192 kHz. If that’s not enough, then there is PC-USB, through which the signal passes 32 bit/384 kHz. There is an Ethernet port for connecting the amplifier via twisted pair, and if someone wants to listen to Hi-Res music from a USB flash drive or hard drive, there is a USB input. If you’re determined to ditch cables, the Rotel S14 has dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4/5GHz) and Bluetooth with AAC and aptX HD codecs, as well as AirPlay 2. Unlike other Rotel amplifiers, the S14 has a removable Bluetooth antenna is provided, rather than an external receiver under a blue cover. This had a good effect on the stability of the connection.
If earlier Rotel had pixelated and uncomfortable monochrome screens, then the Rotel S14 has a color LED display, which displays the cover of the playing track and connection information. At first it seemed that he was touch, but we made a mistake. You can adjust the sound settings using the buttons on the front panel. The Rotel S14 comes with an aluminum remote control to control playback, outputs, volume and more. In the menu on the screen, in addition to sound equalization, channel balance and brightness, items were added showing network settings and the ability to reset Wi-Fi settings.
However, it is unlikely that you will often use the remote control, as the Rotel S14 has its own application for Android and iOS, from which it is convenient to control the playlist. Rotel has yet to polish this app in terms of usability to get closer to Naim. During the test, we used the Roon library, as the player received the Roon Ready certification. The model is fully integrated with popular streaming services, including TIDAL, Qobuz and Spotify – the user can access them in a couple of clicks.
In terms of setup and control, the Rotel S14 is very intuitive and simple, yet it provides everything you need to personalize your sound. During testing, there was one question in my head: what is more in the Rotel S14 – an amplifier or a streaming player? The model is slightly inferior in terms of sound settings to the integrated amplifiers Rotel A11 or A14MKII, since there are no proprietary sound presets, but the Rotel S14 has a complete order with power and amplification quality. In addition, the novelty has features that the rest of the Rotel line cannot do – everything related to the functionality of the player: a smartphone application, deep integration with streaming services and music libraries.
We believe this model will be popular with users who want to add the convenience of streaming audio to their home hi-fi while retaining all the features of an analog amplifier. The Rotel S14 is appealing to those who have already “played” enough with vintage, often unreliable audio and want to listen to music without unnecessary complications. Also, the integrated network player will be appreciated by the “neophytes”, since for listening you only need to purchase a speaker system and a couple of cables. It is quite attractive, especially if you try to assemble everything that is under the Rotel S14 cover from separate Hi-Fi components – the budget will increase at least one and a half times.