There are few anomalies or complaints to report with the slim Roksan Caspian M series-1 Integrated Amplifier. This is one very capable and impressive looking unit for $1895.
Herb Reichert rocked n' rolled with the previous version of the Roksan Caspian in our December 2001 issue. Since then, Roksan dramatically improved the looks, bandwidth, distortion, dynamic range, ventilation, and power of this revised unit. They say the revisions give the finger-tall amplifier better bass, more open mid-range, smoother top-end and enhanced soundstage.
The silver faceplate of the revised Caspian is a stylishly un-crowded affair. There are but two round, modest-size knobs, two finger-size buttons, a narrow eye-slit for a row of round LEDs and four corner screws. The power LED glows green normally, red when the amplifier is on standby and orange when it is muted down 20 dB. First impression is that this is a beautiful, hefty, impressive built and refined unit, with the sleek British sophistication of a Jaguar.
The rear of the futuristic unit is clearly labeled for normal and upside-down reading. There are no tone controls or headphone jack. The unit has three pre-amplifier outputs, which is very useful for EQ units, electronic crossovers, bi- and tri-amplifying, multiple speakers and actively powered, solid-state subwoofers. Loudspeaker connections are made with knurled red and black plastic knobs, but only thin pin-type connectors fit into the holes. Unfortunately, massive cables, like the Coincident CST 1 rattlesnakes, can't fit into the thin buttonholes on the back.
The unit goes into stand-by mode automatically, with the green power LED turning red. The lights stay on all night, but there is a power shut-off rocker switch you can toggle on left corner of the rear plate. When awakened, the futuristic model defaults to the previous setting. A full-size, 11-page manual pretty much covers all aspects of hook-up and care, even plainly stating that "loudspeakers work far better with most amplifier when Multi-Amplified than using one yet more powerful amplifier. " So there. Now you know. The paper work says the stylish unit comes with a two-year guarantee. Roksan offers a fan club for customers, but it costs to subscribe to the latest news and updates.
The pre and power amplifier stages are dual mono in design with discrete symmetrical differential amplifiers. The amplifier has built in protection circuitry, goes into standby mode and self-tests when shorted or overloaded. The microprocessor and logic controls are on a separate printed circuit board mounted behind the front panel and away from the amplifier section. This board has its own dedicated regulators for optimum isolation between the logic and music signals. The Caspian uses a standard, removable IEC power cord, with two prongs and double insulated, allowing for a power cord upgrade if so desired.
Dove Bar Remote
The remote control is a stylish, curved silver piece with the size and feel of a thin Dove soap bar. It fits the hand nicely. While the top of the controller has four simple-to-use buttons, the bottom half has a crowded panel with a dozen buttons I never needed. The small buttons are NOT marked with any tactile clues, so you can't feel for the right button in the dark. The comfortable remote moves the motorized right-hand volume knob with its red LED. When you raise or lower the volume, the lighted silver knob rotates up or down, which was a very nice affect. The Volume control is a logarithmic scale, which Roksan says approximates the human ear. Perhaps. Even so, like so many other modern receivers and amplifiers, the unit sounded best at the top of the dial, generating most of its clean and powerful output between 10 and 2 o'clock on the dial.
Although on my big ole horns, the Aperion's slim 522D Powered Towers and some conventional Sony bookshelf loudspeakers, the Roksan Caspian only sounded good with the red volume LED at around 10 on the dial, never quit, never gave up and never seem to run out of steam.
Nizar Akhrass, President of May Audio, distributes the Roksan line here in the US. He has been in the audio business for 35 years, receiving his first job after completing his MBA. He distributed the famous Quad line for 27 years. He says the Caspian line is sold by high-end audio salons throughout the US. Call him for the dealer nearest you. The Audio Advisors mail-order company offered the lower cost Kandy line of Roksan electronics, but no longer.
Close To The Pass Benchmark
Tweaking audiophiles beware. Feed your home movie and music reproduction systems only the finest disc foods. The progeny of the sound quality downstream is the direct result of the quality of the fry at the foot waters. Yet, slide in an aging 80s compilation and the slim British amplifier gives you all the steel-eyed pounding of the polyester disco, yet didn't exhibit the awesome control of the superlative "Pass Laboratories Supersymmetry™ Balanced Single-Ended Class-A X250." This means that the attractive Caspian came very close to the same enjoyable performance, without the massive construction and cost of the Pass benchmark.
No front-end component gets by the unrelenting exposure of 104dB ultra-sensitivity of big ole horns. The Roksan Caspian didn't either. The revised Caspian puts about 120-watts into 4-ohm opposition, with a generous output of 50 amps. Solid mid-bass yes, yet the lean lower bass of my classic Klipsch corner Khorns didn't thump your chest like a burly nightclub doorman.
Plus, perhaps it was the proximity of the treble horns on my big ole horns, or perhaps it was the confluence of their directivity beams, but inch that red Caspian volume LED past 1 or 2 o'clock and the stylish unit began to grind- this is what college kids think is LOUD. Harshness entered the room like unwelcome cops at a raucous party. Saturday Night rock sessions at 11:00 on the dial often tempted higher volumes, only to retreat to the safer, mid-90s dB levels (slow, C weighted). The slim Caspian however, didn't exhibit harshness until the dial was cranked past 3:00.
Such strenuous dance club workouts did warm the top of the solid silver unit; otherwise, the top remained cool to the touch. Indeed the big ole horns took all the Caspian could throw at them. With the Caspian, even at ear ringing levels, the 15" woofers of the superb Klipsch corner Khorn bass bins benefit from the dedicated solid-state muscle of a really deep and powerful subwoofer. Surely tweaking audiophiles opting for this level of British refinement should enjoy superior chair-shaking subwoofer.
I have only seriously auditioned, in my own home, with the same music and equipment, only a few above average solid-state amplifiers. One was the aforementioned and well-loved Nelson Pass monster amp mentioned above. The other was a chunky harmon/kardon 630 A/V receiver. On the Enjoy the Music.com™ scorecard, tonality on my big ole horns was excellent, though not as good as on Aperion's slim 522D Powered Towers.
The Caspian tone is crisp and clear, with sparkling highs, and solid, but not overbearing, bass. High frequencies were obviously better, though the mammoth Pass amplifier makes its many above average categories seem like the only standards for tweaking audiophiles. Low and mid-bass is average, compared to the other two receivers. Mid-range is good, which was to say typical, compared to the others. No obvious faults, just smooth competence and clean sound. Although Fit & Finish, Self Noise and my own category, Enjoyment, are above average (four Blue Notes) for the Caspian, the other categories are average -- they are what you should get at this level of amplifier refinement. Therefore, the Value for the Money category is also average.
At $1,895, the revised Roksan Caspian gives you much of the superb sound and build quality of the massive Pass amplifier -- at only a third of the price. This is a beautifully smooth sounding and capable amplifier, that looks as good as it sounds.
Input Sensitivity: 700mV
Power Output: 70 Watt/Ch continuous into 8 Ohms (both channels driven)
Power Supply: 350VA Toroidal transformer, 4 regulated supply rails
Current Output: 50 Amps
Distortion: 0.003%, 1kHz - 8 Ohms, 0.005%, 1kHz - 4 Ohms
Frequency Response: 2.5Hz to 80kHz (-3dB)
Damping Factor: 140 (8 Ohms)
Input impedance: 38kOhm
S/N Ratio: 116.7dB ref 70W/8 Ohms
Dimensions (cm): 44 x 34 x 8
Warranty: 2 years, transferable
Roksan Audio Limited
United States Distributor:
May Audio Marketing Inc.