Interview with Rotel’s Mike Bartlett

December 14, 2010

Gary Pearce recently had the good fortune of an email conversation with Mike Bartlett of Rotel Global, and put a few pertinent questions regarding the RCX-1500 to him

Witchdoctor – It’s certainly a fine product, but was there a reason you didn’t include support for Apple Lossless? It would appear to me (at least) that quality-minded Apple owners would be ripping CDs in this format. I’m sure this represents a small part of the overall target market for the RCX1500, but companies such as Logitech (Squeezebox), Naim and Sonos all have Apple Lossless capability.

Mike Bartlett – You may play Apple lossless files that are recorded on your iPod and iPhone but it is not possible to stream Apple lossless from a computer. Rotel is limited to how Windows Media player 12 operates and unfortunately they don’t play nice with Apple. Of course there are a lot of choices and a lot of audiophiles like FLAC as their preferred “neutral” audio codec.

The RCX 1500 and RDG 1520 both have digital playback via the USB from iPod/iPhone/iPad. It’s possible to stream from a computer a wide variety of files limited to 16bit. FLAC is a popular format with audiophiles and you can stream these from a PC, and using a third party program you can play FLAC from an iPod.

Witchdoctor – Is there scope for a remote app for a smartphone? One aspect I enjoy about the Olive 4HD is the downloadable iPhone app. It does make navigating the menu on that product a breeze, and you don’t have to leave the settee!

MB – We have an iPhone application in development now, it’s not so much the iPhone that’s the issue it’s how the RCX responds to control over the UPnP controller. Maybe by January Rotel will have this program to offer.

Witchdoctor – Also missing is an Ethernet port – useful if the signal from a wireless network isn’t a strong one. I did experience buffering while playing full redbook resolution files on the odd occasion.

MB – There is an Ethernet dongle provided with the product and you can plug it in, in place of the Wireless dongle. If you didn’t have one in the box that’s an omission because we are critically aware that Ethernet must be supported. The design of the Internet device requires that we work through USB and not have a separate input. Like an Apple Airbook, you must use the USB input for Ethernet.

Witchdoctor – Did you have a target market in mind when the RCX-1500 was on the drawing board?

MB – The target market is today’s user of iPods/iPhones/Androids/Zen and all manner of digital audio play back devices. Smartphones using the Android operating system outsell iPhones 3 to 1 and with this product lets Droid owners play their MP3 files with the best fidelity. Apple is big, it’s important but it’s not the only smartphone in the market, so we have tried to cover everyone.

Other brands are beginning to market tablets with Android and again the Rotel products support all of these that play back MP3 files through our USB input.

At some point Rotel will offer a Bluetooth option to play “wirelessly” from any so-equipped device.

From a worldwide perspective we intended these units RCX 1500 and RDG 1520 to be “Gateways” to the digital age. The CD is obvious and can play WAV or MP3 CDs as well as regular CDs. The radio is DAB and DAB+ and even analogue FM is converted to digital to be replayed through the Wolfson 24bit 192KHZ DAC. It’s the same DAC setup that is used in the much-acclaimed RCD 1520 CD player.

Internet radio is today’s short wave radio without the crackle, distortion and pop; there is an amazing choice of 16,000 programmes from around the world. Don’t forget the online PC site at where you can check out all the stations available, search for them by genre of course but more importantly by codec, so look out for AAC+ stations that sound particularly good.

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