Power output 85W per channel • Inputs 5 x line in, tape loop • Outputs Speakers, preamp, tape loop • Remote Yes • Dimensions (hwd) 8 x 43 x 33cm, 13kg
It’s an old favourite of ours, used so often that we don’t bother putting it away anymore.
That’s because it sounds wonderful. There’s a lot to admire on every level. Its presentation is big and powerful, with far greater and authority than we’d expect from a rated output of 85W per channel. Put on anything by Hans Zimmer and the Caspian M2 will easily convince you that you’re on some grand, perilous adventure.
Organised and entertaining
We start off with Mombasa from the Inception soundtrack, and the Roksan shrugs off our attempts to question its grip on rhythm and dynamics. A lesser amplifier would turn the expert drumming into a frenetic mess — but not this one. It arranges the drums coherently while allowing the backing strings to ramp up the tension.
There’s a bucket load of detail to admire. We stay with Zimmer and the soundtrack from The Dark Knight, and find serious levels of subtlety.
Two minutes in and we could easily identify the sound of pencils tapping on ceramic bowls. Of course, that level of insight isn’t limited to bizarre forms of percussion. Everything we threw at the Roksan sounded well defined and textured.
Time for a bit of contrast, and we move from Gotham City to Havana, where Buena Vista Social Club shows off a nicely layered soundstage and focused stereo image. It’s here that the Roksan’s naturally fluid rhythmic abilities really shine: it’s as happy with the slow, sombre Chan Chan as it is with the upbeat Candela.
When it comes to drama, the Roksan isn’t quite as exciting as the Rega. That amp has a leaner sound with a greater energy and agility. It’s also slightly more attacking and more crisply drawn. To counter this, the Roksan offers a warmer, more relaxing and full-bodied sound.
Adding to the pleasing roundedness at hand, the Roksan also looks nice. Well, some of us in the office think so at any rate. Others aren’t too keen on the chromed control knobs and brushed steel cover. It’s a distinctive look and very well executed, feeling substantial and well damped. The controls are solid and satisfying to use. It’s not just a looker though: there’s an intelligent internal cooling fan to stop the circuitry overheating. Combine that with a clever learning remote and you get an overall package worthy of its price.
The Caspian M2 is a hit for a reason. It’s brilliant in nearly every aspect. Yes, it’s the most expensive here, but we think it’s worth it.
FOR: Impressive scale; great dynamics; rich character; loads of detail; excellent build
AGAINST: It’s a bit pricey; some might prefer a leaner, more energetic sound
VERDICT: It might be getting on a bit, but the M2 can still show the new boys a thing or two
The Roksan Caspian M2 isn’t getting old, it’s maturing — and to prove that, it’s just batted aside some pretty ferocious rivals.
We can never guess how a group test will work out. Sometimes we get products so similar in quality that it’s tough to set them apart. This time, however, there’s a fairly clear pecking order.
In last place is the Audio Analogue Fortissimo. It’s a decent amp with an impressive set of connections, but we just couldn’t get excited about its sound.
Then there is the Yamaha A-S2000. It’s a beautifully built amp with a lovely old-school design. Its sound, however, isn’t quite as impressive. As much as we enjoy a relaxed presentation, we found the Yamaha’s too laid-back to engage.
Next we have the Naim Nait XS 2 and the Heed Obelisk Si. The Naim is a hugely musical amp that manages to extract the essence of whatever you throw at it, albeit at the cost of some detail. The Heed, meanwhile, is a classic underdog. It’s less accomplished in most areas — especially build — but its likeable demeanour makes it enjoyable company.
A well-deserved win for Roksan.
Both are outclassed by the Rega Elicit-R and the Roksan Caspian M2 — which brings us to the meat of this test. These are seriously good amps that perform better than their price tags suggest.
The Rega is remarkably revealing and superbly agile, grabbing your attention and not letting let go. If you want excitement above all, this is the one.
But the long-reigning Roksan is still the best at this price. It’s marginally less crisp than the Rega but easier to live with. And it’s the amp we’d take home.
Perfect partners for the Roksan Caspian M2
Roksan Caspian M2 CD £1650 ★★★★★
This isn’t only the natural partner for the Caspian M2 amp — in our opinion it’s the finest CD player anywhere near this price.
PMC Twenty 23 £2300 ★★★★★
Unfussy, tonally balanced, with plenty of detail and excitement: these are top-class compact floorstanders.
Chord QuteHD £990 ★★★★★
A brilliant DAC for a very reasonable price tag, and a really good way to play digital files. Just add laptop.
Total build £6635