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Published July 1, 2004


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, it’s more in line with my aging but still capable Adcom GCD-600 CD changer. Along with the Rotel’s 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 isn’t any to speak of. You get a choice of analog RCA outputs or a single coaxial digital output, and that’s about it. Once you plug the RCD-1072 into your preamp or receiver, and then a power outlet, you’re 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-1072’s styling extremely attractive, I’m not all that thrilled with the layout of its controls, which I found not terribly intuitive. But I’d had much the same complaint about my Adcom GCD-600 at first, and I quickly grew accustomed to the Rotel. The RCD-1072’s remote is somewhat better, especially in comparison with the Adcom’s 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. That’s 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 you’ll have to extract yourself from the La-Z-Boy to turn off the CD player.


I’ve had my Adcom GCD-600 CD player for several years now and it’s 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 I’d 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 Rotel’s sound was what, I now realized, the Adcom had always given me: noise. The Rotel’s noise floor was, for all practical purposes, nonexistent.

This took me a while to get used to. After all, the Adcom isn’t 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 wouldn’t 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 Beethoven’s 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 I’ve experienced with lesser players.

I was right that there was something missing -- all the bad stuff I’d become accustomed to hearing over the years. Now, when I listen to my older CD players, what I hear is all the grunge. I’m 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. I’m sure you’re all weeping for me.

While I found the Rotel’s soundstage a bit narrower than the Adcom’s, I didn’t find that true of the RCD-1072’s 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 Adcom’s 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; I’ve come to the conclusion that the Rotel’s less strident, less forward presentation is the correct one.

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 I’ve 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 I’m hearing is the music or the player. While I found the Rotel’s soundstage width to be ever so slightly narrower than the Adcom’s, the Rotel more than made up for this in terms of depth, freedom from grain, and an absolute lack of noise. While you probably wouldn’t 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 Rotel’s 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 Rotel’s 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 don’t 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, that’s 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

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