Since this is my first review for Enjoy the Music.com™, allow me to say I am honored by the professionalism of the communication and the delivery of the equipment. Nothing ever could have gone smoother. I know this sounds like kissing up, but frankly, just the arrival and communication was a pleasure (you know what I mean if you have ever placed an order for equipment and not been pleased).
First of all, being involved with audio at all the various stages for many years is helpful. I tend to look for the sonic nirvana and decided many years ago that having my own professional audio studio and production facility would be the only way to keep close to the state of the art. Surrounding myself with solo live instruments... I really know what is real and what is a opportunity either for one of the many links of the reproduction chain, or actually the recording itself. Call it a unique advantage as a reviewer. Having 6,500 different works to choose from helps quite a bit as well. When you can plug a bass guitar in the console and knock out a track or three, then listen back on different pieces of equipment...
Enter live performances by a symphony, jazz group, or small chamber groups. My goal is to recreate the event. The emotional experience... the true essence of the music. When this is play back and I feel transformed, well, something is on the right page. Subtle difference between a flute and a sax in dynamics can make the difference between the "Mo-Jo effect" or not. Call it what you will, but you know when it is "happening" in the music.
...It's Reviewin' Time!
Carefully removing the contents from their cartons, these units are built to high quality standards. Robust, heavy and simple, the feel of not your average components, but something pretty special. I looked over the owner’s manuals to learn what we had in store. Simple yet detailed manuals. Good! About time as there is none of the mumbo jumbo about care and feeding. Just ol' fashioned "let’s get on with the program, here is how it works and what it can do". This was enlightening considering manuals today. Seems as though you do not know what a volume control or power switch does. None of this attitude, here. Let’s play.
Connected the equipment with supplied (very nice) interconnect cable and removable IEC power cord to let it idle and burn in. The Rotel RB-1050 power amplifier has a larger cord for the AC than the RC-1070 pre-amplifier. Upon turning on the amplifier, I noticed a dimming of the lights in the listening room. Sounds like a robust power supply to me! Inspecting the amplifier, a nice toroidal power transformer is clearly visible as well as good sized heat sinks. This is usually reserved for amplifiers that must dissipate hundreds of watts of power, but this amplifier stereo is rated at 70 watts per channel. Overkill? You betcha! Now that we are reviewing two separate pieces of equipment and also their use together, this will make the review probably the longest in Enjoy the Music.com™ history. Please be patient!
Look Good, But How Do They Sound?
First of all, the preamplifier has a killer phono stage for these dollars. Don’t ask me why, but compared to many 70’s vintage receivers in the $500 up range (and even a Yamaha C-2X), this phono pre cooks! It sounds very nice. Even all the way up on the gain there seems to be no hiss. At this price range I would consider purchasing the unit for its’ phono stage alone. Sounds serious. I like it. Compared to boutique phono pre’s in the thousands, you generally get what you pay for. The RC-1070’s phono stage makes for an involving listening experience. Very nice.
The preamplifier is as good as any 500 to 1,000 dollar pre I have experienced. It has no balance control. Only a record out selection of sources, input selection, a contour control (five positions) a master gain, and a power switch. That’s it. The contour has positions that allow for different flavors, not curves. L1 measures a moderate increase of +3 dB at 100 Hz. L2 is a +4 dB at 100 Hz. H is an increase at 10kHz of +3dB, and LH Is a combination of the +4dB 100Hz and the +3dB at 10kHz. They are solid changes, but not overly intrusive. Enough for low level listening or room acoustic adjustments. At no time did I hear a phase problem with these adjustments as I do with tone controls. The controls are not volume sensitive as they are with common loudness controls. You select them and they are on for the full range of volume selection. Simple and functional plus, at times, pleasing to use on those late night listening sessions.
This pre-amplifier is fully remote control. Solves many problems and is great for the couch potato too. The remote was supplied with alkaline batteries and functioned flawlessly during this review. It may be a shade small in button size for some and was not lighted, so you will need to memorize the buttons in the dark. I ran test of the preamp after break-in (one month) and full 24 hour warm-up. In all cases it met and exceeded published specs, except for the phono stage, where it actually exceeded the specifications enough to note. Signal to noise IHF A weighted of phono stage yielded 83dB. This is 13dB quieter than advertised. Phono stage overload was at 1%THD at more than twice the rated specification... at 267mV. Overall frequency response was down 0.7dB at 1 Hz (duh), and rolled off –3dB at 147,400Hz; staying within –2dB to 122,000Hz. Better than published! I like that too. The unit did draw 12 watts from the wall under severe load instead of the published 10 watts, but I feel this is hardly a need to check the power grid! The unit also put out a healthy 320mW to the headphone jack at 0.775mV ref, which is enough to drive some of the most demanding headphones around.
The pair ran cool at all times, under all conditions presented to it. The lighting is laid back with a red volume marker that will blink in mute mode with remote and green input LED and a red power LED. While this will not light up your late night listening area, it is informative. The main volume control is motorized. All input jacks are 24K gold plated and you have two sets of outputs to choose from if need be. Electrically, they are the same. The phono has a nice nickel plated lug with teeth. Two convenience outlets are provided with ample power for amplification purposes up to 50 watts. Both are switched operation. The remote is designed to work with any other Rotel products of this vintage including their CD players and tuners.
Better Than Claimed
First of all, I have no reservations recommending the Rotel RC-1070 pre-amplifier. It simply does what you ask it to. It performs well within its price range and outperforms many other units within this price range. I had no trouble with the well-designed remote. It was easy to memorizing the buttons in the dark, though I wish it were lighted. The RC1070 will hold it’s own easily... and possibly outperform a few at twice the price! The crown jewel of this pre-amplifier is the phono stage. I cannot imagine a phono stage at the entire cost of this unit that will outperform the one in the RC-1070. It is very nice and will stand the test of time. Indeed, Rotel did their homework. This is a pre-amplifier that exceeds any and all stereo receivers’ pre-amplifiers I have ever tested. There is no excuse not to go separate in this price range. It looks expensive, sounds expensive, and is built to last. I cannot criticize this level of performance. In fact if this unit were offered at $1,500, I would say it was in middle ground, but at this price, the Phono pre alone is worth admission. Rotel, you have a winner.
Can it Reproduce Music?
I first connected RC-1070 to the RB-1050 power amplifier that is also included within this review. I really did not do this for evaluation at first, but to warm up the equipment for two weeks prior to testing and evaluation. When cranked up, I honestly did not know if it was the amp or pre-amplifier, but I noticed serious midrange dynamics. Being familiar with the Auratones, this was full and large with plenty of ambiance and good bass punch. Highs were civilized (thank goodness).
I tested the RC-1070 with a classic Dynaco ST70 tube ampifier and also the Paramour 2A3 amplifiers. Even used an Alesis RA100 amplifier, McIntosh MC2105 and even a Sansui B77 amplifier. Yeah, i have a lot of gear here. In each case, there is plenty of output to drive all the above units’ to their limit. Left/Right balance is dead on and the contour adjustments worked great for various listening conditions. I observed no switching noises or glitches of any kind. This is a very nice value in a solid state pre-amplifier. Like I said earlier, Rotel did their homework. I have been pleased with the reproduction and if this is the quality that Rotel builds into all of their gear. You will not go wrong.
Music used for this review include:
Selections from Larry Carlton Fingerprints
Rotel RC-1070 Pre-Amplifier
Okay…that was just talking about the preamp….
How About the Rotel RB-1050 Power Amplifier?
This baby sounds similar as a mint ST70, but with more power and dynamics. So far... lower midrange does not contain quite as much decay as the finer tube amps yet everything else seems very good. I wish it had slightly more coherency between the 150Hz to 800 Hz range. The unit tries so hard to get this right that the decay of that range falters some. Are we listening to a $20K amp here? No. I would complain if so, yet at this price point the Rotel RB-1050 seems to be a very strong value. Outstanding performance in fact. The main caveot is that these frequencies between 150Hz to 800Hz are just more pronounced dynamically than I am accustomed to. Similar to speaker resonance, but a slight lack of control as well.
It is all there... but a little too long for me. Needs to fade out quicker... or last longer. The control within this range could be tighter. Then again this is super critical as compared to the "ultimate performance". Overall power seems to easily 3 to 4 dB above rated power, especially in the bass handling. Highs are a shade louder too. Not shrill mind you, but louder than I am use to. In my opinion this is one reason this unit has such decay and definition. The Rotel RB-1050 is close to reference amplification yet at 1/40th the price. Not shabby at all!
The amplifier reproduces music is a very pleasent way that I could live with for a long time. Large, even huge power that is never edgy or never fatiguing. Not perfect, but fresh and clean. I really do not need this large an amount of power, but I do find myself toying with the maximum. There seems to be little resonant signature at higher volumes. In fact it seems very neutral at all volumes. Like previously mentioned, it could be slightly more precise in the 150Hz to 800Hz region. The positives of this is when a clave is played during a difficult passage... you still hear the wood of the clave and the other instruments instead of being blended, and are more punctual sometimes masking the delicate sounds. This is only apparent after listening to thousands of hours of reference valve electronics. These differences here did not take away from the vibe of the sound. It simply provides a different perspective!
Musically, Larry Carlton’s Fingerprints gave me all the sounds I am familiar with on my reference system (an achievement!). Some variations of the lowest guitar notes while heavy bass was being played, at less than one watt, could have had more body. But again, look at this price point. The Rotel RB-1050 amplifier meets or exceeds each and every thing I throw at it. I consider the unit outstanding.
Low-level highs during loud passages were faithfully reproduced without a hint of smearing. Background stayed intact, smooth and quick. Hands down nicer than any of the vintage 1985 to 1991 Adcom amplifiers I have for comparison (GFA555, GFA545, GFA535). You just may find yourself falling in love with these Rotel products after an audition.
All Together Now
As a combo, these units complement each other as a whole. I have no reservations saying that if you purchase one piece, the other is waiting to complement. Together they perform impeccably well. The RC-1070 and its' phono stage is superb by any standard while the RB-1050 power amplifier is ready to take on any demands the pre-amplifier dishes out. This is a budget player's dream, and I would not consider going above this level unless your demands for more power and more functions. This is where high end begins and the rewards can be described as diminishing returns. Definitely worth 50% more in terms of value, musicality, and execution.
This is definitely the right direction in Audio equipment. I simply cannot find fault at all in this price range and would highly recommend auditioning this equipment for a quality and satisfying two-channel system. Team them up with you favorite speakers and let it rip.
Rotel RB-1050 Amplifier
Rotel RB-1050 Amplifier
Rotel of America