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Rotel A12MKII Integrated Amplifier: Review (Part One)

Does the brand new Rotel A12MKII Integrated Amplifier deliver the sonic goods for $1,100? Indeed it does.

Rotel A12MKII Integrated Amplifier Silver Front Beauty

Over the past 24 months of the pandemic, we’ve been fortunate to have access to a lot of equipment; expect to see more than 25 reviews from our staff over the next 45 days. I’ve been focusing on integrated amplifiers, speakers, and sources because I enjoy putting together systems for our readership who want some form of context when it comes to system building. How the brand new Rotel A12MKII Integrated Amplifier fits into all of this meshugas was a good challenge to start the new year.

The opportunity to review three components from Rotel over the past 12 months has been really rewarding for me; I had really only listened to their components at trade shows and Hi-Fi stores over the past 23 years and I was really curious.

The Michi X3 and A14MKII were both stellar performers when reviewed; the Michi X3 is one of the best products I’ve tried from any brand over the past decade and is well worth its very expensive asking price. The only other megabuck integrated amplifiers I’ve listened to recently that I think are comparable are the Cambridge Audio Edge A (which I own) and the McIntosh MA352.

Rotel A14MKII Integrated Amplifier Front Silver
Rotel A14MKII Integrated Amplifier has same front panel as the A12MKII

The Rotel A14MKII is definitely worth its $1,600 asking price (I believe the price went up recently) but it has a lot more competition; Audiolab 6000A, Croft Phono Integrated, Schiit Audio Ragnarok 2, NAD C 700, Cambridge Audio CXA81, and the Naim NAIT 5si are just a small group of integrated amplifiers that are in the same price category.

The A14MKII is almost $500 more than the brand new Rotel A12MKII which raises a few questions for sure.

Does the more expensive A14MKII offer a lot more to justify the difference in price?

It definitely sounds more refined and powerful, but I can’t say that the gap between them is enormous — that just isn’t the case with some of the loudspeakers I tried.

Rotel A12MKII Integrated Amplifier Silver Angle Silver
Rotel A12MKII

The Rotel A12MKII is also $300 more than the A11 Tribute Integrated Amplifier and I would definitely say that the A12MKII is a better sounding amplifier with 5 digital inputs and 32-bit/384kHz DAC included.

The power rating difference between them is negligible on paper but the A12MKII has greater reserves and a tighter grip on the low end.

The Rotel A12MKII is a 3-inch tall solid state integrated amplifier that feels very solid out of the box. It’s not a back killer like the Michi X5, but it’s a hefty piece of metal for its size.

The heart of the A12MKII begins with Rotel’s in-house manufactured oversized toroidal transformer feeding high efficiency storage capacitors. Rotel doesn’t skimp when it comes to its transformers or capacitors and a quick look under the hood confirmed similar build quality with the A14MKII.

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Rotel A12MKII Integrated Amplifier Internal
Rotel A12MKII Integrated Amplifier Back
Rotel A12MKII

The A12MKII is replete with inputs supporting your favorite sources including a MM phono stage, 4 RCA analog inputs, 4 digital inputs, PC-USB and support for Bluetooth aptX.

The S/PDIF and Optical digital inputs are limited to 24-bit/192kHz, while the USB will accept up to 32-bit/384kHz.

The class AB amplifier delivers 60 watts/channel into 8 ohms making it more powerful than the A11 Tribute.

The 32-bit/384kHz DAC and Roon-Tested certification complete the package making the Rotel A12MKII a serious piece of kit for those looking to build a $3,000 system with analog and digital sources.

Hijiki Seaweed Salad

Over the weekend, I went to my local Japanese restaurant in Sea Bright. Having lost my sense of smell and taste almost two months ago during my second battle with COVID, I’ve been rather reluctant to venture out and visit my usual haunts when I can’t appreciate what I’m eating.

I enjoy food. Perhaps too much. I grew up in a food industry family and I’ve been fortunate to eat a lot of interesting meals around the globe over the past 40 years. I’m a solid cook and I love certain flavors and scents.

I’m the same way with my audio components. I need a little bit of color and flavor or the sonic experience is very unfulfilling.

When I tasted the Hijiki Seaweed, I sensed something for the first time in almost two months. Flavor. Not a lot of flavor but it was something and I glossed over my disappointment that the red snapper had zero taste and went home and turned the A12MKII back on for another listening session.


The Rotel A12MKII really shines with a good pair of stand-mount or bookshelf loudspeakers like the Wharfedale Diamond 12.1, Q Acoustics 3030i, or PSB Alpha P5; it has more than enough power for all of them and its slightly forward presentation made all 3 loudspeakers awaken from their slumber.

Eric Pye has become an invaluable member of our team and his knowledge of Jazz Kissa and jazz piano trios has helped to broaden our knowledge base considerably.

Listening to Billy Taylor and Oscar Peterson through the A12MKII and all 3 loudspeakers was somewhat eye-opening; the Rotel doesn’t posses the incisiveness of the Ragnarok 2 or the cool neutrality of the Audiolab 6000A which can often feel like a bitter Montreal morning in January.

Instead, it does a really wonderful job of letting the music flow without adding too much or stripping away the texture and detail that makes a good system such an awakening with your favorite music.

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Piano notes had real weight behind them, and more importantly, never obscured the other musicians in the mix. Entry-level amplifiers don’t always do such a great job with that but the Rotel carved out every instrument in its proper place and it moved along with really solid pace.

All 3 of the aforementioned bookshelf loudspeakers sound less engaging or interesting at really low volume levels; I find myself raising the volume level on a consistent basis regardless of the amplifier in the system.

Rotel A12MKII Integrated Amplifier Silver Front Slight Angle

The Rotel wasn’t the most powerful amplifier in my arsenal but I never found myself reaching for the remote if the recording became too unruly. It was always just enough power and the top end was quite smooth and detailed; the A12MKII is the polar opposite of etched or strident in the treble even with heavy metal, classic rock, or electronica.

Last week was the two year anniversary of the passing of Neil Peart, and I felt it appropriate to spend a few hours listening to Rush because it’s almost hard to believe that he’s gone.

Rush was my hometown band and after 19 shows in 3 countries, I was devastated by his passing. I’ve shared my personal connection to Geddy Lee in other articles but Neil Peart connected to me as a teenager like few others.

“Ghost Rider” is a particularly personal song for the band; Peart lost his daughter and wife during a very traumatic 2 years that almost ended the band for good. Peart became a “Ghost Rider” and escaped on his motorcycle to deal with the pain of so much loss.

The album track is a tough one for some speakers and power amplifiers that can’t deal with the complexity, but the Rotel A12MKII and the 3030i dig a little deeper and took me away to a different time when we were blessed with his poetry and overwhelming command of his kit. RIP Professor.

How does the Rotel compare to some of the other integrated amplifiers I have on hand?

You are going to have to wait a week for that but the Rotel A12MKII is going to cause some trouble for amplifiers in the $800 to $1,500 range. To be continued.

Where to buy: $1,199 at Crutchfield



  1. Conar Rough

    January 14, 2022 at 7:37 pm

    Liking the review so far. Any way you can test it against the Yamaha A-S801? It’s a bit cheaper than the Rotel now but I’ve been looking between it and the A11 Tribute and if the price-to-performance is there, I could swing a little higher for the A12 Mk.II.

    • Ian White

      January 14, 2022 at 10:04 pm


      It’s possible but not something I can get to before April. I have a number of phono stages, cart, and tables under review until then.

      The A11 Tribute is very good and if you don’t need the DAC…possibly a better deal for you.

      It really depends on the speakers.

      Ian White

  2. Mike Cornell

    January 27, 2022 at 2:31 pm

    What became of part two? It’s been a couple of weeks now. 🙂

    • Ian White

      January 27, 2022 at 2:50 pm


      Next week. My kids had Yeshiva Break this week and we’ve been taking some very deserved time off to recharge.


      • Carlo

        November 25, 2022 at 5:59 pm

        Isn’t there a part two? 😢
        I don’t know to take it or not 😁

        • Ian White

          November 25, 2022 at 6:54 pm


          I think Part II fell by the wayside with so many articles Landing on my plate this year.

          It’s a really good amplifier. It really depends on the loudspeaker and your power needs.

          Ian White

  3. Mike Cornell

    January 27, 2022 at 5:25 pm

    Everyone could use that, Ian! Enjoy!
    Looking forward to it (and those ever-elusive KLH 5’s!)

    • Ian White

      January 27, 2022 at 6:33 pm


      I’m looking forward to the 12″ of snow coming to the Shore. I’m one of those sick people who enjoys playing with the “Toro” in minus 12.

      Eric is working on that review for February.


  4. Mike Cornell

    January 27, 2022 at 7:21 pm

    You’re lucky you’re not still in Toronto (or maybe you’d still enjoy it!)….we got about 22″ on the 17th.

    • Ian White

      January 27, 2022 at 8:17 pm


      I know. My friends sent me images. We don’t get a lot here on the Shore but when it really blows ashore…it’s 12-20″ most of the time.

      I enjoy running outside in the cold so bring it on.


  5. Shan Mal

    February 24, 2022 at 9:23 pm

    I would also like how this amp compares against Yamaha A-S801.
    Yamaha amp measurements sure seem nice but not sure how it treats my B&W 7 series floor standing speakers. The speakers are definitely bright, perhaps due to their metallic tweeter. You mentioned Rotel having a slightly more forward presentation so If this amp makes my speakers even more brighter then I would stay away from it.

  6. Oni

    December 12, 2022 at 10:46 pm

    Another great review Ian,

    I am putting Rotel on my audition list;)


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