Rotel is a British hi-fi manufacturer whose products I
have enjoyed for some time. We use their RMB-1095 five-channel, 200 wpc power
amplifier here in the lab. It is very high quality, but I have to confess that
part of the reason I keep it here is that it's beautiful. During the last
couple of years, Rotel changed their faceplates, and wow, what a difference!
Whoever came up with that look really earned their paycheck. Although Rotel is
mid-priced, it is high-performance, and the new look makes them appear twice
their MSRP, which is a marketing department's dream, and a tweak to the
consumer's ego all rolled into one.
The RSX-1055 is a continuation of this new look. Although
it is only $1,299 MSRP, one might guess that it is much more expensive. And,
ah ha! They are also doing something a little sneaky. They rate it at only 75
watts per channel x 5, into 8 Ohms. Notice that the weight is 45 pounds. There
are some mass market receivers out there that rate their amplifiers at much
higher wattage, and don't weigh more than the 1055. Remember, heavy is good
when it comes to amplifiers. It means a big power supply. The THD is rated at
0.09%, more than some mass market receivers, meaning that they likely use less
negative feedback. So, what Rotel is
doing here is publishing specs on the receiver like a really expensive
high-end manufacturer would do, and letting the press show that it does sound
better than the average mass market product, even though it has a mass market
price. Top that off with a look that reminds me of Mark
Levinson, and voila, their sales will move into the heavens. Very
The 1055 takes a simple approach to buttons, which I
like. There is no fold-down panel to access the remaining buttons. Everything
is on the front panel. All buttons are shaped the same, in two rows across the
front, with the volume control in the middle. Easy to get to, all the time. My
eyes are not what they used to be, so with just about any product I buy these
days that has buttons, I put little green, yellow, or red stick-on dots on or
above the buttons that I use most often. This lets me access the buttons I
the room is dark.
The left side panel buttons are for the tuner, with
numerous presets for stations of choice, while the right side buttons are for
selecting the input and for selecting alternate decoding modes DPL-II and DTS
Neo:6. You can also select two-channel, or DSP modes. An LED panel at the
top indicates the status, including the input and volume, and whether or not DSP is engaged. The On-Screen Display (OSD) is required for setup, such as
speakers being "Large" or "Small" (bass management), low-pass crossover setting (40 Hz through
120 Hz in 20 Hz increments, for use when the "Small" setting is employed), and
most other things.
If you click
can see a large photo of the front panel, so you can read the labels on the buttons.
Here is a sample readout of the LED panel. When you click
"Menu" on the remote control, a small indicator shows on the LED panel as "OSD",
meaning you have to go to your TV monitor at this point to make whatever
changes you want. I would suggest future versions to have as many menu items
displayed on the LED front panel as possible, even if in abbreviated form, to
go along with the OSD on the TV monitor.
And here are some sample OSD menus that I photographed
from my projection screen. The System Status menu duplicates the information
from the LED front panel. It also shows here that the CD input has been
configured to have analog being sent to it rather than digital. So, if you
connected a Toslink cable from your CD player to the Toslink input on the
1055, with the configuration set to be receiving an analog input, it would not work. There is no automatic recognition of the input signal.
That is not necessarily bad, but you have to pay attention to what you are
You have to go into the menu to change the tone settings.
The Speaker Setup menu.
The Subwoofer Setup menu. You can configure it so that
the basic subwoofer volume changes depending on the type of decoding.
The 1055 decodes DD, DTS, DPL-II, DTS ES Discrete (6.1), and DTS Neo:6. That
pretty much covers today's formats.
The rear panel is full of inputs and outputs, like all
receivers these days. There are pre-ins for each channel (6.1) when using DVD-A or SACD players with 5.1 analog outputs along with pre-outs for each channel in
case you want to use an outboard power amplifier. There are two subwoofer
pre-outs, when many receivers have only one. The 1055 has three sets of
component video inputs, with one set of outputs, but as I said, I prefer to go
direct from the source to the projector. Even with a wide video bandwidth,
which the 1055 does not appear to have, you get some video signal
deterioration when using video switchers. Multiple composite video jacks are
there, and as soon as manufacturers can dump these and make room for something
else, the better. There is no reason to use composite video connections with
DVD or satellite. Even our VCRs will not need them soon enough.
There are five sets of speaker binding posts, but there
is a Center Back 1 and Center Back 2 pre-out for the two additional channels
in this 7.1 receiver. You need to add a stereo power amplifier to use this
feature, and an old receiver would work fine for that purpose.
A pair of zone-out RCAs deliver preamp signal to a
second room for Zone-2 operation. You will need a power amplifier and speakers
in that second room. The AC cord is detachable and un-grounded.
Click on the photo above to see a larger version.
You have to configure the inputs manually, including
whether you want a certain input, such as CD, to be a digital input or analog.
Again, the OSD is necessary for this. Even tone control adjustment (bass and
treble) need the OSD, as do activation of Cinema EQ (reduces the harshness of
the center channel that is inherent in some sound tracks programmed for
commercial theaters and not reprogrammed in the DVD), and using the Dynamic
Range (compressing the dynamic range is useful when watching movies late at
night, when you really should be in bed).
For DD and other modes, that old OSD is still required to
set them up with such things as Cinema mode DSP and Panorama DSP. It sure
would have been nice to just use the front panel LED display for this, but, oh
well, this does not affect the sound, and as you will see, the 1055 sounds
great. When I use my home theater, I spend 0.1% of the time adjusting the settings and 99.9% watching and
listening to movies.
If you have your video sources going through the 1055,
the OSD requirement for setup is is not a real issue, as long as you have your
TV on, but I like to go direct from the video source (my DVD player) to the
projector, rather than going through the video switcher in the receiver, so I
found this inconvenient. However, once you have configured everything, it is
not a big deal.
More and more receivers and processors are adding the
selectable crossover frequency, which is a very important feature to me. Some
of my staff disagree with me on this, as they feel the 80 Hz THX crossover
spec is proper, and consumers will just have more chances of messing up their
system with all these low-pass frequency choices for the subwoofer and other
speakers. Personally, I think 80 Hz is too high, as I can localize the
direction of frequencies higher than 50 Hz, so if 50 Hz to 80 Hz is being
directed to the subwoofer rather than the main speakers, I can hear that part
of the "Mains" coming from the subwoofer over in the corner, instead of coming
from the left and right front speakers. Anyway, that is my preference, and the
1055 has what I want. Also, by setting the low-pass to 60 Hz (50 Hz was not a
choice here), a very significant portion of the amplifier power could be
saved, for use with the remaining spectrum, making it much more efficient. For
future versions of their receivers, I would suggest 40 Hz to 120 Hz in 5 Hz
The "Large" vs. "Small" bass management settings,
including the choice of low-pass frequencies, are not available through the 6.1
analog pre-ins. So, for DVD-A and SACD players, you will need to use the bass
management in the player, if it has that feature.
Speaker delay setup is via millisecond assignment,
instead of feet, which we prefer. Of course, for Europe, meters would be nice.
The delays can be set up differently for each mode, i.e., DD/DTS vs. DPL-II. Although
you can translate 1 millisecond for each foot, you have to use 3 milliseconds
for a meter, so I believe the future should include a delay menu for setting
it up in your choice of meters or feet. One other delay setting for the audio
should be added, and that is a general one that takes into account the delay
in video caused by digital projector digital processing. It should be in the
speaker delay menu, but under a separate heading, such as "Overall Audio Delay
to Compensate Video Delay", or something to that effect. Perhaps variable in
milliseconds from 0 to 100. The 1055 is specified as "Software Upgradable",
and there is a "Computer I/O" jack on the rear panel. Maybe they can add a few
of these suggested features to the 1055 via that method.
Some products are coming out
now with the ability to put a microphone in the seating position and just let
the receiver figure out the proper delay setting for each speaker as it cycles
through them with test signals. Instead of measuring distances and typing them
in, you can let the receiver do it while you go to lunch at Burger King. Don't
forget to add some memory settings for several seating positions. Sometimes I
sit on my couch, and sometimes in my easy chair that is across the room. One
other terrific thing about this future "Auto-Config", is that the frequency
response will also be automatically adjusted with digital EQ. Frankly, I can't
wait for this to arrive.
The tuner is very cool in that you can configure it for
the layout in North America vs. other parts of the world, instead of one
receiver model being made for North America, one for Europe, one for Asia, and
so on. Of course, you can also select the language for the OSD, and in fact,
the instruction manual came in several bindings for a wide array of languages. There is a Zone-2 setup too, for those who like to have one receiver
but listen to music in a second room, such as the dining room, from time to
time. This is very handy with radio.
Here is a summary of how I rated the features. Green
means acceptable, while red means it could stand improvement. White means it
is not a Benchmark requirement (at this point), but simply noted. Later on, we
will have a full benchmark specification for SSPs and receivers in use, but
for now, a short table is sufficient for the main issues.
DTS, ES, EX, DTS Discrete 6.1, DTS Neo:6, DPL-II, HDCD
Pre-Ins for Use with DVD-A and SACD
Pre-Outs for All Channels
"Large" or "Small" (100 Hz); Separate Adjustment 40, 60, 80, 100, or
120 Hz Crossover for "Small" Setting
However, 6.1 Analog Pre-Ins Do
Not Have Bass Management
Milliseconds; Should Include Feet and Meters
Digital Audio Inputs
Video Switching Bandwidth
Required for Most Configuration Settings; Not Available with Component
Coaxial; 2 Toslink Optical
Composite, S-Video, Component
MHz ± 3 dB (Benchmark Standard is 100 MHz)
Maximum Digital Decoding Frequency
I/O Port for Software Upgrades
Remote Control Backlighting
The remote control is big, and it is backlit. The
principle buttons are on the main layer, while a second layer is available
when you slide the cover down (photo shows the cover down). The remote control
is necessary for configuration along with the OSD. The buttons are different
shapes, nicely laid out, and again, that backlighting is great. It does not
come on during the daylight even if you click the control on the side. It will
only come on if the room is dark. An LCD display indicates what input you are
using and what you are activating. It is programmable and about as complete as
any universal remote I have seen.
Click on the photo above to see a larger version.
Ah, the best part. I was very pleased at such a modestly
priced receiver sounding so nice. It did not have the glare that some
receivers do, and at my age, I don't care for harsh sounds of any kind.
Setting the speakers to "Small" and using a low-pass frequency of 60 Hz really
does make a difference as to the dynamic output of the receiver, but low-pass
settings are a personal thing and dependent on what speakers you have. So, I
set the speakers to "Large", which is what I have here. The dynamics are more
limited this way, since the power amplifiers are handling all those
power-draining low frequencies. Even though my floor-standers don't go to 20
Hz, the amplifier still is delivering them, and the drivers are attempting to
I thought perhaps that Rotel had underrated the
specifications, but it sounded like 75 watts per channel, and as you will see
from the bench tests, it delivers the rated power right on the money. But,
from the smoothness of the sound, I suspect Rotel has just opted to make the
receiver sound better rather than have it try to deliver more power through
tricks such as heavy use of negative feedback and lots of gain stages. Bottom
Line: Use this receiver with a sane hand on the volume control. If you want to
rattle the windows, use the low-pass option at 60 Hz and get a big subwoofer.
Otherwise, consider one of Rotel's more powerful units (you can also add an
outboard power amplifier to the 1055's pre-outs).
By the way, I am getting so I really like DPL-II. I am
glad it is now standard on most new receivers.
On the Bench
(1% THD) at 96.8 watts RMS x 2, 1 kHz, two channels running into 8 Ohms each. This is
almost right on the specification of 100 watts RMS with two channels
use digital signals as well as analog signals to test SSP and receiver DAC
capabilities. The maximum sampling rate that the 1055 could decode was 96
kHz. It could not decode 192 kHz. At 1 kHz PCM digital input (setting the volume control to give
5 volts output from the power amplifier into 8 Ohms), distortion and noise
floor were lower with 24/96 than with 16/44. The spectrum was gathered from
the pre-out rather than the speaker out. At 10 kHz input, the noise floor
was again lower, but the distortion actually increased. We will have more to
say about this kind of result as we gather data on additional review
the 2-channel mode for the measurements, to bypass processing.
analog input signals and taking the spectrum from the speaker out,
distortion remained within Rotel's specification or very close to it, with
all test signals and outputs to 72 watts x 2 (24 volts into 8 Ohms on two
channels simultaneously). Distortion is more odd-ordered than even-ordered,
typical of Class A/B push-pull solid state products.
measured frequency response through the pre-out as well as the speaker out
were almost identical. It rolls off above 20 kHz and below 40 Hz. If there
are coupling capacitors at the input, they should be made larger to give a
flatter low end response. The 0.25
at 300 Hz is something I have seen before in units that have tone controls
as part of the circuit. (They were set at 0 in the 1055 for the tests.)
all, the Rotel RSX-1055 is a very good product. It has forgone marketing
department over-specifications in favor of good sound with more reasonable
expectations of power output. It is more attractive than most receivers,
looking like a multi-kilobuck unit rather than the kilobuck unit that it
actually is. It is loaded with the latest decoding modes, plenty of DSP
choices, can handle several rooms, and the remote control is actually easy
to see in the dark. If you have not considered Rotel in the past, I urge you
to do so now, as they are moving forward from the conventional and routine,
and have evolved into the unusual.