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Rotel RCD-1070 - CD player

A digital machine with gusto

[Rotel RCD-1070 CD player]

[Italian version]

Product: Rotel RCD-1070 CD player
Manufacturer: Rotel Electronics
Address: 54 Concord St, North Reading, MA 01864 USA
Telephone: (800) 370-3741
Approx. price: $700 USD/Euro
Reviewer: M.L. Gneier
Reviewed: September 2002

Some years ago a high end cable maker, of all people, took me aside at CES to tell me a secret: He leaned over and said, "You know, there's gonna come a day that people recognize that CDs came out 10 years early and that if that 10 years had been used advancing the techniques of LP playback that both LPs and the first CDs would have sounded much better by now." It was great rhetoric and quite well steeped with the truth of hindsight. Surely, the compromises inherent in the quality of initial digital recording and CD playback did their part to damage high end. I mention this while I wonder if the audio aspects of DVD playback were rushed to market as well, with the present levels of confusion over DVD-A and SCAD doing their part to further errode consumer confidence. The question: Is there still commercial and musical viability to a one box CD player that costs more than $100 or so and which plays but one disc?

Good question: If I would trust any company to continue to refine the art of CD playback, it would be Rotel. Why? Well, to start with they built some of the most musical and giant-killing CD players of the '90s. I recall with great fondness the classic RCD-855/955 and the wonderful, if less well known, the RCD-940. Each of them was known to annihilate some very costly transport/DAC combos in head to head shoot-outs. Consumers loved 'em, the high end snobs hated 'em! Rotel was (and is still) famous for paying attention to the details such as high quality audiophile grade parts (where they count) and the use of very sophisticated power supplies.

The RCD-1070 might seem rather costly at $699 in this day of the $89 dollar DVD player. Rotel clearly gambled that there is many a high end music lover who has decided (at least for now) that the lion's share of his or her musical investment lies in CDs, so it is a good CD player that they need. Ironic, is it not, that this very same effect happened about a decade ago when digital was in its teething stage: Scores of music lovers discovered the glory of their forgotten vinyl and took to buying high end entry level turn tables such as the Rega Planar 3 in droves. They knew that it was their music that represented the true resource and acted to preserve it.

So, it comes as no surprise that the RCD-1070 is a thoroughly modern and well engineered CD player. As with all Rotel products it employs some very high grade parts and sophisticated topologies including the very latest Burr-Brown PCM1732 DAC chip, an oversized toroid transformer, special high quality rectifiers, tight tolerance voltage regulation, and low-ESR storage capacitors. Let there be no doubt: The Rotel RCD-1070 is designed and built to surpass the performance of all the classic Rotel CD players that have come before it. Let's see if it does...

First, the remote: I originally thought the remote was rather slight, cheap looking and feeling, compared to the remotes used by some other makers and even previous Rotel remotes. I've since changed my mind. After living with it, I now find the remote to be modern in design, ergonomically compact and well thought out. Modest indeed, but also appropriate. The fact is, with a straight ahead CD player like this, there's just no need for the remote to be a thick, heavy, complicated device suitable for inflicting a nasty bruise. The owner's manual (in typical Rotel thoroughness) is thick and and easy to understand, allowing one to quickly setup and operate the player right out of the box. The reason the manual is so thick is because it is written in seven different languages...probably a testament to the depth of Rotel's marketing and sales efforts throughout the world.

Like all Rotels, the RCD-1070 is more solidly built than one might expect. It is significantly more hefty than similar units and certainly much more substantially made than most of the cheesey DVD players on the market. The transport drawer is located in the middle of the unit, with the control buttons to the lower right and "additional feature" buttons (random, repeat, etc.) to the left of the transport. When pushing the "open" button, the transport shoots out with speed and authority, like a Mick Jagger tongue during a '70s concert tour. Don't you just love the imagery? Like most players at this price point you can get the RCD-1070 in any color as long as it's black. Still, the unit is quite sleek with its pseudo handles rounding out the look. The only functional criticisms I can name is that at the AC power input, after attaching the detachable cord, is a little loose at the unit. It does not fit as tightly as it should. Pretty minor, but I did notice it.

The Rotel definitely needs to be warmed up close to the 100 hour mark to find out the true potential of the player. Of course, this is true of virtually every digital device that I have ever used. When I first started listening, I was somewhat disappointed, the sound was compressed, especially in the high end & unmoving in spirit. It sounded like trying to push a musical basketball through a garden hose - especially true when listening to music that really mattered to me. Once fully broken-in and warmed the Rotel shone like the star that it is. It doesn't matter what style of music I am listening to, the sound is now open, wide, quite spacious and oh so very, very smooth. For example, I'm starting to wonder whether the older Rotels perhaps added a bit of edge to the high end which the 1070 most deftly avoids. The 1070's midrange and bass are excellent, with pinpoint definition from drums to vocal harmonies. I'm able to pick out individual instrument sounds, for example the sound of fingers deadening the sound of a triangle in the middle of a symphony, picks on strings, the live sounds of a stick on a high-hat, that I don't recall really hearing with previous Rotels in their prime or with any DVD player that I've used. Hey baby, it's a groove thing that the 1070 has down! This is a level of sonic sophistication that was quite simply impossible in a one box CD player made even 5, let alone 10, years ago at any price.

The dynamics of the Rotel are smooth, if just slightly subdued. My reference digital rig (a $6000 broadcast quality DVD player) is possessed of monstrous dynamic shadings that the plucky 1070 can't match. While image localization is excellent with the Rotel, the stage depth and width is reduced compared with my reference. This all brings to mind the engineering principle of Economy of Scale. Simply put, Economy of Scale is a method by which engineers and designers decide just how much they want to spend in terms of resources to achieve a specific level of performance. As an example, a fairly modest car like the Subaru WRX achieves a high raw percentage of the performance of cars costing many times its price. The lesson being that very often you must spend a lot more to get a slight increase in performance. As a spoiled-rotten reviewer, pressures of price apply quite a bit less than they do to the average music loving consumer, so I will stick with my $6000 dollar DVD player and live and listen quite happily. However, if I had to I could live quite nearly as happily with the Rotel RCD-1070 that costs just over one tenth the price. Now, I have nothing against progress or digital audio in the main, but I must tell all of you that my advice is to invest in your music collection and not the latest and greatest of digital gear that may be on top of the heap tomorrow (or may just as likely be forgotten).

There's an old joke that the audiophile's system is usually worth more than his or her music collection and the music lover's music collection is always worth more than his or her system. Once again, it seems that Rotel is building products for those who possess both an ear for music and a mind for enduring value. The Rotel RCD-1070 fully measures up to the vaunted Rotels of the past and handily surpasses their musicality. For the millions of folks who own millions of CDs, the 1070 is perfect. The audiophiles who must blindly follow the might-be and wanna-be crowd will never understand. But then again, they don't own very many CDs! Highly recommended.

Manufacturer's comment

Dear Mr. Gneier,
Thank's for your kind words regarding our Rotel RCD1070.  Just to let you know that while you were of course correct at the time of writing that black was the only available finish, I'm now pleased to tell you that our entire 10 Series range is now also available in 2tone silver.   There is no additional charge for the 2tone finish.
If ever you need any information on the Rotel line-up please do not hesitate to contact me.
Rob. Sinclair, Director of Sales & Marketing
Rotel Europe

© Copyright 2002 M.L. Gneier - http://www.tnt-audio.com

HTML editing: Tom Browne

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