Get Your Roks Off!

Simon Pope discovers whether Roksan's solid audio pedigree gives them the edge in the thriving multi-channel market.

The Roksan Caspian Digital Surround Sound Processor and multi-channel power amp represent the company's first foray into the rapidly developing world of audiophile multichannel (yes, there is such a thing).

The Caspian power amp (also available in four or three channel at £100 less per channel) and Dolby Digital/DTS processor are housed with the usual stylish minimalism of the rest of the Caspian range, but the DSP has a very natty transparent remote that incidently provides a test tone for checking that you have connected the various loudspeakers correctly.

The front panel of the DSP consists of a simple display window and six symmetrical buttons for simple tasks such as input selection, power and two channel/multichannel selection. Anything more serious, such as speaker balance, is dealt with by the remote. Round the back of the DSP is a veritable feast of sockets. These include 5.1 channel analogue inputs which allows the decoding process to be by-passed. and the use of the unit as a preamplifier if your MD player includes either Dolby Digital or (much rarer) DTS on-board decoding. There are also three more sets of two-channel analogue inputs. Rounding off the collection are a tape out put and 5.1 analogue output, one coaxial digital out, two coaxial digital inputs and an AC3/RF input for laser disc players.

Starring the listening with one of Denon's Ambience discs in Dolby Digital, the immediate effect was one of power and clarity in abundance. Using the analogue inputs (using the USP as a preamp) the organ of Bonn Minster, with Markus Karass at the keyboard, developed into a beast of immense power. -the overwhelming sense was one of space. With no alteration to rear or centre 'speaker levels, a vast expanse was created. so much so that 1 almost felt as if I was in the Minster itself and could lean over for a quick splash from the font.

Next into the Sony DVP-S725D was Lyle Lovett's now classic DTS 5.1 channel album, Joshua judges Ruth. This, unlike many DTS titles, is specifically mixed for multi-channel sound and, boy, can you tell! When the backing vocalists are trying to climb into your left ear from behind, you know the recording intends to let you know as much!

Once the initial "corr!" factor has struck home with this recording, you can settle down and listen to the music on it, which to be honest, comes second to the sonic fireworks, in my opinion. However, the Caspian pairing delivered the effects with aplomb. The second track, Church, with the gospel choir backing tunefully from the rear, was crisp and detailed, with Lovett's voice focused perfectly at the centre to the rear of the soundstage. Again the predominant feature of the sound was the clarity with which Roksan obviously pride themselves. The one difference I found in the Caspians compared with their two-channel brethren was that they sounded, to my ears, more 'digital'. OK, so these multi-channel recordings are emphatically digital in sound, but with bog-standard CDs in stereo, via analogue connections, there was a certain compression to the sound, a minimal effect hurt nonetheless present.

These are two very fine pieces of electronics that will deliver multi-channel sound with electrifying precision, detail and power. Since they also double up as a high quality two-channel audio pre/power - and at a sensible price - it could be argued: what else do you need?


Equally talented with both multi and two channel sounds. A great buy.
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