Rotel RCD-1072 CD Player
Rotel has for
many years had a reputation for creating products of above-average build and sonic quality
at prices that are quite reasonable, relative to the "high end." Rotel calls its
philosophy "balanced design." Having owned a few Rotel components over the
years, I can attest to the validity of this approach: All of them have performed superbly.
So when the Rotel RCD-1072 CD player ($699 USD) arrived on
my doorstep, I had high expectations. After all, $699 is fairly pricey compared to the
vast array of sub-$100 DVD players that have flooded the market in recent years and
rendered CD-only players nearly obsolete. Unfortunately, one thing that nearly all low-end
DVD players have in common is lousy build and abysmal analog CD sound.
The Rotel RCD-1072 is several notches higher in build
quality than that. At a fairly heavy 13 pounds, its more in line with my aging but
still capable Adcom GCD-600 CD changer. Along with the Rotels superior build comes a
substantially superior appearance. It has the usual Rotel silver-aluminum front panel, and
black handles on either end. The RCD-1072 measures 17"W x 3 .7"H x 13.25"D.
As far as setup goes, there isnt any to speak of. You
get a choice of analog RCA outputs or a single coaxial digital output, and thats
about it. Once you plug the RCD-1072 into your preamp or receiver, and then a power
outlet, youre done. Remember when all audio was this simple?
With that thought in mind, I hooked up the RCD-1072 to my
reference rig, which consists of a Cayin TA-30 integrated tube
amp and a pair of Silverline Sonatina speakers. This is about as simple as it gets,
and my wife loves it: two components, one source, one remote, and no menus to wade
through. To make sure there was nothing especially synergistic about pairing the Rotel
with a tube amp, I also used the RCD-1072 in my solid-state home-theater system. Over the
course of the review, the RCD-1072 also found itself paired with an Anthem AVM 20
preamp-processor, a Chiro C-300 power amplifier (discontinued), a Rotel RB-976 amplifier,
and Ascend Acoustics CBM-170 and Magnepan MMG W speakers.
While I find the RCD-1072s styling extremely
attractive, Im not all that thrilled with the layout of its controls, which I found
not terribly intuitive. But Id had much the same complaint about my Adcom GCD-600 at
first, and I quickly grew accustomed to the Rotel. The RCD-1072s remote is somewhat
better, especially in comparison with the Adcoms truly awful remote. Still, buttons
of different shapes and sizes that could be easily identified by feel alone would be
greatly appreciated for late-night listening sessions.
Although the Rotel is a CD-only player, it does support
HDCD, through its Burr-Brown PCM-1732 DACs. The "features" are the standard
repeat, scan, random, and program functions. Thats fine with me; I rarely use even
those functions, let alone anything more. Simplicity has its virtues.
The Rotel lacks a remote power switch, relying instead on a
mechanical switch coupled to a 12V trigger to control power in an integrated system. I
suspect this will work fine for most people, as most new preamplifiers seem to include
triggers to control amplifiers and source equipment. But if you have a remote-capable
preamp that lacks triggers, then be aware that youll have to extract yourself from
the La-Z-Boy to turn off the CD player.
Ive had my Adcom GCD-600 CD player for several years
now and its held up well, physically and sonically. When I first played the Rotel
RCD-1072, I had the feeling there was something missing. There was, but it took me a long
time to figure it out.
It was late at night, the neighborhood was deathly quiet
(except for my listening room), and Id removed a pesky wall clock that ticked
incessantly in my ear when I tried to listen to music. I was listening to the Bad Plus.
Following a great deal of musical commotion, the very tail end of "Cheney
Piñata," from Give [Columbia 90771], trails off to an eerie silence. What was
missing from the Rotels sound was what, I now realized, the Adcom had always given
me: noise. The Rotels noise floor was, for all practical purposes,
This took me a while to get used to. After all, the Adcom
isnt even that noisy. At the time of its launch, it was an incredibly good CD
player. But the Rotel removed that last trace of noise from beneath the music. The
difference was so slight that I could hardly call it "audible" -- but it was
there. I could almost feel it more than hear it.
When it came to soundstage portrayal, the two players were
in much closer competition. In the drum solo that opens the Bad Plus
"Layin a Strip for the Higher-Self State Line," the drums extended out
beyond the sides of the speakers with the Adcom; with the Rotel, the soundstage lay almost
entirely between the speakers. However, the Rotel countered this with slightly tighter,
more precise, image placement. I wouldnt say that one player was better than the
other in this respect; they were just a little different.
On the hybrid SACD reissue of Carlos Kleiber conducting
Beethovens Symphony No.5 [Deutsche Grammophon 471 630-2], the Rotel displayed
surprising depth of soundstage, particularly in some passages in the first movement, when
the violin section seemed to sweep well out into the room. Mind you, I was listening to
the CD layer of this SACD through a strictly two-channel system; there was no
surround trickery going on. During parts of the second movement, the Rotel again showed
how quiet things can get. This recording never gets as quiet as the Bad Plus album, but
had I not figured out by this time how quiet the Rotel was, it would have disturbed me.
Something was missing. When the last trace of the noise floor disappears, the emotional
impact of music is somehow different. Gone, too, was a trace of upper-treble grain that
Ive experienced with lesser players.
I was right that there was something missing -- all the bad
stuff Id become accustomed to hearing over the years. Now, when I listen to my older
CD players, what I hear is all the grunge. Im afraid the Rotel RCD-1072 has ruined
my ability to live for long with what is, by most standards, still a perfectly good CD
player: the Adcom GCD-600. Such is the life of a reviewer. Im sure youre all
weeping for me.
While I found the Rotels soundstage a bit narrower
than the Adcoms, I didnt find that true of the RCD-1072s reproduction of
depth. On "Mercy of the Fallen," from Dar Williams The Beauty of the
Rain [Razor & Tie 7930182886-2], the vocals reached well into the room while the
instruments were clearly spread across the back. The same was true of "I Saw a Bird
Fly Away," in which a male vocalist was clearly placed just behind Williams and a
couple of feet to her left. This depth of soundstage became a consistent theme throughout
my listening with the Rotel, reinforced over and over as I went through a pile of CDs,
listening for its differences from and similarities to the Adcom.
My Adcom GCD-600 CD player ($600 way back when) has
been around since nearly the beginning of time. Where the Adcoms presentation is
sometimes coarse and etched -- especially in the upper frequencies -- that was never the
case with the Rotel RCD-1072. The Rotel was all about smooth. This, too, took some
time to get used to; early on, I thought the Rotel was perhaps a little too mellow.
My ideas about this have changed over the course of the review; Ive come to the
conclusion that the Rotels less strident, less forward presentation is the correct
This is a big deal to me. When it comes to analog CD
playback, the Adcom still easily bests any of the newer DVD players Ive had in the
house in the last few years. But the Rotel has so completely changed my perception of the
Adcom that I will now always question whether what Im hearing is the music or the
player. While I found the Rotels soundstage width to be ever so slightly narrower
than the Adcoms, the Rotel more than made up for this in terms of depth, freedom
from grain, and an absolute lack of noise. While you probably wouldnt hear these
differences without a direct A/B comparison, once you have, your perspective of what a
player in this price range is capable of will be forever changed. The differences were
subtle and, at the same time, not subtle at all.
The only thing that is nearly the Rotels equal is the
SACD stereo output from my Sony DVP-S755 ($250), another highly regarded overachiever.
This is due solely to the higher resolution of certain SACDs over their CD counterparts,
and not to an improved soundstage or noise floor, where the Rotels vastly
higher-quality output stage easily trumped the Sony.
Anyone on the prowl for a very good reference CD player
should have the Rotel RCD-1072 on his or her short list. If you already have capable
speakers but dont have the best source components, the Rotel is a no-brainer. If you
already have the speakers and an above-average player, then the Rotel is less of an
imperative, but is still worth a close look.
Five or ten years ago, it would have cost many thousands of
dollars to build a simple audio system capable of showcasing the virtues of a CD player
such as the RCD-1072. With the advancements made in speakers in the last several years,
thats no longer the case. In that respect, the RCD-1072 could find its way into many
a system that would otherwise be considered "budget."
Repeat after me: All amps do not sound alike. All
sources do not sound alike. Quality of design, parts, and workmanship count. You will
hear the difference. Your ears are worth the investment.
...Jeff Van Dyne
Price of equipment reviewed