Hardware Reviews

Roksan Attessa for streaming & vinyl

Roksan Attessa Streaming Amplifier https://the-ear.net

Roksan Attessa Streaming Amplifier

Roksan has been around since 1985 when it was founded by two chaps of Persian heritage, Tufan Hashemi and Touraj Moghaddam. The company name draws on their cultural background, after Roxana, daughter of King Darius. It was Touraj who set things in motion after obtaining his doctorate through Imperial College London. Already fascinated by audio he concluded that there were fundamental flaws in most turntable designs and set out to build one of his own. This so impressed his friend Tufan that they decided to set up a company to design and build turntables. Fast forward to 2016, by which time Roksan had a full catalogue of audio products from cables to cartridges, electronics and of course turntables.

In the hi-fi industry, as in many others, mergers and acquisitions occur quite frequently and in late 2016 Roksan was acquired by Monitor Audio Limited, an already successful and well-respected manufacturer of loudspeakers. Both brands have continued to grow, but with the benefit to each from the ideas of the other. Today the Roksan name appears on turntables, tonearms and cartridges, and three different ranges of electronics, Attessa, blak and Caspian. During my time in retail I had the pleasure of selling Roksan equipment, content in the knowledge that the customer was procuring a well-made and high value piece of equipment. But that was more than a decade ago, so when invited to review the Attessa Streaming Amplifier I was intrigued to see how things had progressed.

Roksan Attessa Streaming Amplifier https://the-ear.net

Unboxing a new product is often quite revealing of a company’s ethos, at least in my experience. This Attessa was beautifully packaged with every item well wrapped and isolated from anything else in the box which might cause a problem in transit. Having unloaded the peripherals and the instructions I reached into lift the amplifier itself out. Weighing over 10kg, it felt very solid without being unmanageable, and was carefully positioned on my rack.

My example was finished in a matte silver, but a black version is also available. The front panel has a pleasing (to my slightly OCD eye) symmetry to it. Constructed of machined and anodised aluminium, this has a central control knob flanked by thin black glass through which are displayed input symbols and volume level shown by a series of vertical markings. The orange light is thankfully not glaring but was easy to see from the listening position at the other end of the room.

The rest of the Attessa is made of steel, with mesh apertures on either side of the top plate for ventilation. On the rear panel it absolutely bristles with inputs and outputs. Looking from the rear on the left hand end there are two pairs of loudspeaker terminals, which are configured to accept banana plugs or bare wire if preferred. Immediately beside those is the grounding post for a turntable, confirming that the first pair of RCA analogue input sockets are connected to a moving magnet phono stage. The next two pairs are RCA inputs for any other devices that you may wish to plug in, the fourth set of RCAs are marked pre-out/sub. Then there is a panel of four digital inputs, two coaxial and two optical SPDIFs.

Roksan Attessa Streaming Amplifier https://the-ear.net

Next there is an ethernet LAN input and inputs for 12V trigger in a remote control system. Above that are a pair of USB sockets. Last but of course not least, the very necessary IEC socket for receiving a mains cable. The unit comes supplied with a cable but as is my habit I left that in the box and used an after-market alternative. Packed into the elegant body is a powerful class A/B amplifier, fed from a hefty toroidal transformer, which offers a meaty 80W per channel into 8 Ohms and 130W per channel into a 4 Ohm load, with less than 0.1% THD.

I plugged in my trusty Harbeth Compact7 ESXD standmount loudspeakers using Audioquest Robin Hood cable, and the arm leads and earthing socket from my modified Linn Sondek LP12, in whose Ittok arm was mounted Touraj Moghaddam’s Vertere Dark Sabre cartridge. One pair of the analogue inputs was used to connect my Yamaha CD-S3000 SACD/CD player, using Audioquest Pegasus interconnects.

Into the digital D1 coax I plugged my Auralic Aries Mini streamer and into the D3 optical socket went the toslink cable from our television. A Shunyata ethernet cable was connected from the dedicated LAN switch which serves my system from the BT router. Finally, I plugged in the power cable. Returning to the front panel I pressed the button on the extreme left and the orange lights sprang into life. We were in business.

Roksan Attessa Streaming Amplifier https://the-ear.net

Getting the unit ready to go to work involves a small amount of effort, but is very well described both on the Roksan website and in the enclosed manual. First comes downloading the Roksan Maestro Unite app. Connecting with the unit one gets a passcode on the left hand side screen. Once that is done download the BluOS application, from which the user then controls the input selection and accesses streaming services. I am no great tech-head, but none of this was beyond my capabilities and should not present an issue for most people. With all that done and dusted, it was time to take the Attessa for a test drive.

Listening to Attessa

For the first couple of days I let the Attessa warm up thoroughly, streaming playlists from Qobuz by day and watching television by night. Even with this casual style of listening it was obvious that the Roksan and the Harbeths were getting along famously. The sound was rich and full of detail, and several times when I was elsewhere in the house a familiar piece of music would start and I would hasten back to the lounge to sit down and listen, despite my best intentions. Mrs K, a total civilian when it comes to matters audio, commented on how clearly voices came through from the TV ( we were binge-watching the new series of Justified at the time). She also took pleasure from the simplicity of the Attessa’s remote control, which compares favourably with some multi-buttoned variants that have accompanied other guest amplifiers. An excellent design choice, according to this household at least.

Roksan Attessa Streaming Amplifier https://the-ear.net

I knew my time with this amplifier would be relatively brief so on the third day of its visit I decided to put the phono stage through its paces. And what paces they turned out to be. I shall be reviewing the Vertere Dark Sabre cartridge here very soon but suffice it to say at this stage – spoiler alert – it is the most accomplished MM I have yet heard, and from the moment its single crystal, nude micro elliptical diamond stylus settled into the run-in groove and then into the music, the Attessa gave an amazingly good account of itself. The first album I loaded onto the LP12 was the 50th anniversary edition of the evergreen Dark Side Of The Moon whose opening heartbeats came through the Harbeths with impeccable clarity. I sat almost motionless through the first side of the album, walked over to swap to side two and returned to the listening chair.

I had been listening at what I consider sensible day time levels but as the cash registers chimed at the start of Money I used the remote control to increase the volume to front stalls seat rock gig levels. There was no hardening of the sound at all, the Attessa seemed unburstable. It delivered enough power to rattle my fillings but kept total control of all elements of the reasonably complex musical heart of this fine album. It got warm during these sessions and I would suggest that it does need to be placed in a well-ventilated environment, but that is hardly unique to this device. With the phono-stage selected and nothing playing the Attessa passed the ear to the speaker test with flying colours. No hint of buzz, hum or any other unsolicited extraneous noise was to be heard.

Roksan Attessa Streaming Amplifier https://the-ear.net

In the next few days I trawled through some of the less frequently played corners of my record collection and whether it was the ethereal sound of Eva Cassidy’s voice on Live At Blues Alley album or Rodrigo y Gabriela’s epic reading of Stairway To Heaven on their eponymous debut album, the sound was simply so good that I forgot to stop to eat or drink anything for hours on end.

All the usual things one looks for were present and correct. The soundstage had height, width and depth, the low frequencies were full and tuneful, with a wonderfully realistic midrange and finely etched high frequencies all combing to pull of that ‘musicians in the room’ trick which makes this sometimes exasperating hobby so addictive. The Attessa is genre agnostic, I played everything from hard rock to choral music, via jazz, pop, folk and blues, and it treated them all the same, with impeccable timing and tonal purity.

Returning to streaming again, I compared the sound of my Auralic Aries Mini with the streaming capability built into the Attessa. This is not a standard Auralic Mini, as it has benefitted significantly from some Network Acoustics upgrades, so perhaps it wasn’t a fair competition. However, the Attessa was in no way heavily outclassed by its standalone rival. In fact this was as good a one-box solution sound as I have had through my room in recent years. I should also add that the latest version of Blu OS (4.2.1) is an absolute pleasure to use. It is very stable, and acts as a gateway to pretty much any of the streaming services, as well as acting as a remote control for the Attessa, allowing simple input switching.

Roksan Attessa Streaming Amplifier https://the-ear.net

Conclusion

It is interesting that a modern, post Touraj Moghaddam, firmly Monitor Audio era Roksan design should work so well with a very new Vertere cartridge from the same designer. I fancifully like to think that they are like distant cousins, who meet for the first time and discover that they have many things in common. Certainly, the teaming of the LP12/Dark Sabre with the Attessa’s excellent phono-stage was a very welcome discovery, especially as the cartridge alone is in the same general price bracket as the Attessa.

The choice of ‘just add speakers’ all-singing, all-dancing streamer amplifiers seems to be growing almost by the day, so the Attessa is not short of very capable competitors. However, based on my experience I think it would acquit itself very honourably in any comparative auditions. You will most certainly get a lot of well-thought through technology for your money. If you want to use a CD player, I would look no further than the Attessa Transport, which is a fine visual match for the streaming amplifier. I haven’t heard it but I am confident enough in the Roksan ethos to trust that it is more than capable. If vinyl is your thing, the built in phono stage capability of the Attessa is not an afterthought – it is really very good indeed.

If you have read this far you will by now, I hope, have gathered that I enjoyed my time with the Roksan Attessa immensely and I have no hesitation in recommending that if you are in the market for do-it-all device, this one needs to be firmly inked into your shortlist. I am hoping to hear some other pieces from the Roksan catalogue in 2024, because if this their entry-level offering there must be some extremely accomplished devices above it in the Roksan family.

Specifications:

Type: integrated streaming stereo amplifier & DAC
Analogue inputs: 2x RCA
Phono input: moving magnet
Digital inputs: 2x coaxial RCA, 2x optical, network RJ45
Analogue outputs: pre-out/sub RCA
Wireless inputs: Bluetooth aptX
Headphone output: 3.5mm mini-jack
Speaker outputs: 5-way binding posts
Power Output: 80W into 8 Ohms, 130W into 4 Ohms
Music services: Amazon Alexa, Amazon Music, Spotify Connect, Tidal Connect, Deezer, Qobuz, HD Tracks, Highresaudio, Murfie, Juke, Napster, Slacker Radio, KK Box, Bugs
Max sample rate: 192kHz/24 bit, DSD128
Control: Roksan Unite & BluOS apps, remote handset
Dimensions (HxWxD): 76 x 432 x 373mm
Weight: 10.5kg
Warranty: 5 years

Price when tested:
£1,600/€2.000/$2,400
Manufacturer Details:

Roksan
T +44 (0) 1268 740580
http://www.roksan.com

Type:

streaming amplifier

Author:

Chris Kelly

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