I really owe Rotel a debt of gratitude for letting me review their RCD-971 HDCD CD player. Before reviewing their CD Player, I fancied my self a rather non-bias reviewer. Not so. I think (on some level) I was/am a price snob. Yes. True. My wife has been calling me a snob for years, but I chalked that up to just having very good taste. I like full, dark, rich tasting beer, I like my cars foreign and fast, and I could really care a less, who won the damn 1972 Super Bowl. But the thought of being a price snob…troubles me. You see, after reviewing the Rotel single-disc RCD-971 HDCD player (and for having it around for so long…sorry) I had grown so comfortable with it, that I wanted to buy it. I wrote the appropriate emails and found out the price of the unit. WOW!!! That's when I decided to...
Well... let me start at the beginning.
The Rotel RCD-971 HDCD CD Player is a rather thin, sleek looking machine. It has the typical buttons and knobs, but with a nice, minimalist look, fit and finish. On the back, you will find the usual, single analog audio connectors and a single, coaxial S/PDIF digital output. It is also as thin as a typical novel but deceptively heavy and well built. Rotel has been known for their sturdy (almost industrial) look, solid performance and reasonable prices. I unwrapped the player, connected it to my reference system, put in my test disc, and set the player on repeat mode for a day. I was very curious to try out the HDCD capabilities of this player. For those of you not-in-the-know, HDCD stands for High Definition Compatible Digital.
Pacific Microsonics Inc. (PMI) are the developers of this cool technology. As is usually the case, this HDCD technology is now in the hands of Bill (Microsoft Corp. recently announced that it has acquired Pacific Microsonics Inc. (PMI), the developer of HDCD digital audio technology. Microsoft will incorporate PMI's pioneering technology into future offerings for the PC and will make it available for a wide range of consumer devices. PMI will continue to support and develop its existing products).
According to their website, "HDCD® (High Definition Compatible Digital®) is a patented encode/decode process for delivering on Compact Discs and DVD-audio the full richness and detail of the original microphone feed." To the rest of us, it means your CD's will sound more open and spatially pleasing. To date, there are over 4,000 HDCD recording (over 100 of these have been nominated for Grammy's). Before you purchase a CD player (or DVD or DVD-Audio player) look for the HDCD® logo, then head for their website (www.hdcd.com), then buy the player!
HDCD encoded discs are cool!
The Rotel RDC-971 has a small indicator light, which alerts you when it locks onto the HDCD encoding. This is sometimes necessary, as most of us don't even know we already OWN many HDCD encoded discs! Yep, that's right. Take a quick look at your collection! I bet 20% of your latest CD's are HDCD encoded. A quick trip to HDCD's website will confirm this. Otherwise….just checkout the back of the latest CD you just purchased. Are you going to buy the new Paul Simon CD? Yep..it's HDCD. How about George Strait's new one? Yep…it's HDCD. Check out the sight, and then check your CD collection. The HDCD people need to advertise more. People just don't know about them. The majority of new DVD players will sport their logo. Look for it.
I did the majority of the review with non-HDCD CD's, but really enjoyed the 3 HDCD's I picked (Dixie Chicks / Fly…which I reviewed earlier…click here to read, Lisa Loeb / Firecracker, and Pat Benatar / Innamorata). All recording sounded solid, clear and musical, with the HDCD recordings sounding the best (with less fatigue). The Rotel RCD-971 sports a large, multi-segmented power supply and a toroidal transformer with separate secondary winding for (digital and analog stages). It also features a cool linear motor transport that shares overscan capability (to retrieve data from any CD). It has low digital "jitter.", an HDCD Decoder and 20 Bit Burr-Brown PCM63 chips. Gold Analog output jacks and coaxial S/PDIF digital output jacks line the back. . It also sports a tiny remote (I kept loosing the thing!).
Overall, I found the RCD-971 to be a perfect Home Office or a budget Audiophile listening room piece. It would be a home in either environment.
Oh the price, and my realization of my new found snobbery?
Well, the Rotel RCD-971 retails for just under $700 (about $ 580 in the stores). I was a little bit shocked. Maybe I was so used to the $ 249 dollar, 301 disc mega players, or the $ 3000 price is no object CD transports. I haven't really seen a CD player in between this price range. I suddenly found myself wondering if the player was worth this much? With DVD-Audio players in the stores (no software, hardly…just the players) I began to take a hard look at the Rotel.
Then it hit me…what did I want?!! I've lived with the player for months (again….sorry Rotel) and didn't have a single complaint?! What was my problem? It was price snobbery. Once I cross the magical $ 500 price line…I expect vestal virgins to descend upon my household, bearing the Rotel RCD-971 HDCD CD player, close to their bosoms (yes, if you know me, they are wearing Tank Tops), the sound of a thousand Angels singing to the heavens, horns blaring loud and strong, rose petals falling... You get my drift.
Am I cheap?
No. I'm not cheap. I'll drop $ 5000 on a pair of Martin Logan speakers and not even blink (if I HAD $ 5000 to drop). So what was the problem?
I'm a price snob. I admit it. I need help. So, full of shame, I boldly (but quietly) announce to myself (I didn't want the wife to hear) that I was going to buy this CD player, Dammit!! It had become a fixture in my home, and helped me through many recent dark times (the moving across country saga. I'll tell you about it when you're old enough to understand (the horror, the horror). So, I bought it... well, almost.
As I was placing it proudly on my new shelf in my new office with my new home, the wife quietly glides in and comments " When are you sending that thing back? You didn't buy it, did you? We have blinds to buy, you know!". Then she glides out (yes, she does glide when she's on the prowl). Damn!
Here's the rub, folks.
Buy this player. Yes, DVD-Audio is coming. Yes it's cool, but you have no software to play on it. It will also cost you at least twice as much to own. The Rotel is a solid, great sounding unit, with advanced circuitry. It doesn't have fancy knobs or cool gold lettering….but it sounds great. Now excuse me. I need to go look at some Damn blinds!
Rotel of America