Processors

Rotel RSP-1069 7.1 Surround Sound Processor

ARTICLE INDEX

Introduction

Rotel made some interesting choices with their RSP-1069. There is an obvious attention to build quality, the processor is heavy, solid and uses quality components throughout. However it is missing some key features found on many processors today, most obvious is the lack of room correction. There are no balanced inputs/outputs and HDMI 1.1 only (current version is 1.3). Whether this actually matters, is dependant upon your requirements. In my personal system there were no problems due to these limitations.

Rotel RSP-1069 SSP

Specifications

  • Codecs: DD, DD-EX, DTS, DTS-ES, DTS 96/24, DTS ES 96/24, 192k LCPM, HDCD, DVD-A
  • MFR Audio Frequency Response: 10 Hz - 120 kHz, +/- 3 dB (Analog bypass)
  • MFR Audio Frequency Response: 10 Hz – 95 kHz, +/- 3 dB (Digital input)
  • MFR Video Frequency Response: 3 Hz - 10 MHz, +/- 3 dB (Composite and S-Video)
  • MFR Video Frequency Response: 3 Hz – 100 MHz, +/- 3 dB (Component Video)
  • Audio Inputs: 3 Coaxial, 4 Optical, 8 Analog Stereo, 1 Analog Multi-channel (7.1 with Bass Management)
  • Video Inputs: 4 HDMI (ver. 1.1) 3 Component, 3 Composite, 3 S-Video
  • Audio Outputs: 1 Coaxial, 1 Optical, 3 Analog Stereo
  • Video Outputs: 1 HDMI, 1 Component, 3 Composite, 3 S-Video
  • Pre-Outs: 10 at 1v (Dual Center Outputs, Dual Subwoofer Outputs)
  • RS232 Port
  • 4 independent Zones
  • Dimensions: 4.8" H x 17.0" W x 13.4" D
  • Weight: 19.8 Pounds
  • MSRP: $2,199 USA
  • Rotel

Build Quality

This unit is attractively styled, with a clean uncluttered front, despite having 19 buttons and a volume control. The two-line display keeps information at a minimum and the display is easy to read from ten feet away. There are no front panel inputs. Inside the unit there is a Texas Instruments Aureus™ DSP processor and Burr Brown 24 bit/192kHz DACs. Rotel fit this unit with a hefty power supply and has packaged it all inside a well constructed case. The unit is heavier and produces almost as much heat as my Marantz receiver, all without any on board amplifiers. This does require you make room for ample ventilation (Rotel recommends four inch clearance at the sides and top. I did run the unit inside my closed cabinet without issue with four inches of air space at the top and on one side only.

The substantial outputs on the back include 10 analog preouts for the main zone. You have your normal 8 plus a second center and a second subwoofer. There are three additional zones with analog video and audio. The unit will not convert digital signals to the analog zones, so you most also connect analog feeds from those units if you want to use them for another zone. Fortunately the RSP-1069's high level of customization makes this easy.

Rotel RSP-1069 SSP Rear Panel

Compromises

Throughout the course of my review I found two shortcomings with this otherwise excellent unit. First, there is no room correction. No microphone input, no internal equalizer no auto speaker calibration. This may be a problem for some users. For custom installers or advanced users this is not a problem as they should have high quality calibration equipment. The second shortcoming is that the unit only has HDMI 1.1 and will not be able to be upgraded to 1.3b. Is this really a problem? That will depend on who you ask. The biggest potential drawback is that HDMI 1.1 does not decode Dolby TrueHD and DTS Master HD. This means you need a DVD player capable of decoding those codecs and sending the information to the Processor. The other noted issue is that HDMI 1.3 supports the (not yet used) Deep Color improvements. And a small issue is that you need at least HDMI 1.2 to send SACD over HDMI.

Rotel's website has this to say about HDMI 1.1 vs 1.3 and high definition audio formats:
"There seems to be plenty of misunderstanding about Rotel's ability to handle these new audio codecs due to the employment of HDMI 1.1 chipsets in our RSX-1058 surround receiver and RSP-1069 pre/processor. It is important to note that both Dolby and DTS recommend that the HD audio decoding be done in the HD disc player, which also provides access to other options such as additional Internet-streamed content for the movie being played. Once decoded by the player, the audio signal is output via multi-channel LPCM to HDMI input provided on the RSX-1058 and RSP-1069. Not all players support internal decoding, so you should confirm this on your particular unit. You should also know that a great many Blu-ray discs do not use either of these new codecs, offering instead a completely uncompressed LCPM as the high resolution option, which is of course accepted by our latest units."


In my system the RSP 1069 was connected to a 5ch Rotel RMB-1085 for powering my Paradigm surround and center speakers, a 2channel Jaton AP2300 for my Raw Acoustics OB2x front left and right speakers, an Oppo 981-HD for SD DVD, and music playback, and my HTPC. All video was sent via the component cables to my Optoma H27 projector. The Rotel and Optoma did not play nice when using HDMI with my 35' cable, instead I could use only my 15' HDMI cable which did not reach my Optoma projector. The Rotel does convert HDMI to Component however this does limit you to 1080i video resolution.

Sound Quality

rotel-rsp-1069-processor-sept-fig-3.jpg

For music listening I put a wide variety of formats through the RSP-1069. I started with Gwenyth Herbert's new album; download from the new B&W music club. Her dynamic voice passed from my HTPC through the HDMI port into the RSP without loss, or degradation and the quality was startling. The bass line on My Mini and Me solidly provides foundation to the steel guitar laid over top. The detailed soundstage and depth found on this track is a great test of lossless compression.


rotel-rsp-1069-processor-sept-fig-4.jpg

After that I fired up the Oppo and put in the DVD-Audio QuAUDIOPHILIAc disc by Dweel Zappa comprised of multitrack recordings Frank made in the 1970's. This disc is far ahead of its time and is a great recording to show what multitrack mixes should sound like. The Oppo will not send DVD-A through the HDMI port and so the multi channel analog inputs were used. The Rotel applies a fixed 100Hz crossover on the multichannel inputs allowing for basic bass management. This disc puts you on the floor with the band, not quite in the center, just back far enough to feel like your watching the performance. I particularly enjoy Chunga Basement as the layers of percussion frame the guitar work and when done right the mix makes you feel a part of the jam.

rotel-rsp-1069-processor-sept-fig-5-200x283.jpg

Next up was the DVD Mulholland Drive. David Lynch's TV pilot turned movie is a real head scratcher. The highlight is the Spanish version of Crying sung A cappella by Rebekah Del Rio. Without fail this scene will grab you by the throat and hold you tight, you feel her crying inside with every note and the Rotel did a great job of allowing her emotion to flow through.










rotel-rsp-1069-processor-sept-fig-6.jpg

Finally I threw in the clean and powerful Burn to Shine by Ben Harper and the Innocent Criminals. The first track drips with atmosphere and layers. The strong bass line is punctuated with a sharp triangle and is all held together with Bens' lap guitar/skateboard. The rising emotion of the song caries though till the final triangle note held through to the next track. Changing tempo is the hard charging Burn To Shine with a tight bass line and crunchy guitar all lead by the versatile vocals from Ben Harper. Again, no faults found as the processor has a solid analog section which allows the music to come through clean and clear.


Conclusions

This is a flexible and great sounding surround processor. What it does do, it does very well, however it does lack some options on even entry level receivers today. If you can live without auto room calibration and HDMI 1.3b then you should give this unit a test drive. This is a well built great sounding processor with ample features.

Addendum

At the recent CEDIA 2008 Expo, Rotel announced a new product line, dubbed the 15 series (the RSP 1069 is from the 10 series) and features a new Surround Processor, the 1570. Initial information reveals it will be priced similar to the 1069, includes HDMI1.3, and features new styling. They have apparently discontinued the 1098 processor and the 1570 will become their new flagship processor. There still appears to be no room calibration or auto EQ, however it should support DSD over HDMI which is good news for SACD fans. My sources suggest the models may be due out later this year, however most likely we will not see the unit available until the current stock of 1069's is no longer available. It seems as though Rotel listened to the consumers and have upgraded the video section. Hopefully the sound quality will remain as good as the current 10 series. When the new units are available I intend on writing a comparison review of the 1069 and 1570.