February 1, 2009
Rotel RA-1062 Integrated
While Americans have always preferred
receivers, in Europe, integrated amplifiers command the market. And, as Rotel gear is
designed in the UK, it makes sense that the company would offer a line of integrateds. In
Europe, buyers have the choice of five different Rotel integrateds, ranging in power from
40 to 100Wpc.
The RA-1062 ($699 USD) is the middle model of Rotels
line of European integrateds, and the only one offered on this side of the pond. Its
output is rated at 60Wpc and 0.03% total harmonic distortion (THD) into 8 ohms. No power
ratings are offered for other impedances; in fact, the owners manual recommends that
the RA-1062 be used only with speakers whose impedance doesnt dip below 8 ohms. Such
power supplies often cant provide the high current needed to reproduce a loud
transient at a point in the speakers reproduction curve at which its impedance is
low. (The opposite design philosophy is represented by brands such as NAD, whose amps
feature high "dynamic power" into low impedances.)
The RA-1062 is similar in dimensions to its companion CD
player, the RCD-1072: the same width of
17", but a bit taller at 5 5/8" (vs. 3 11/16"), and slightly
deeper at 14" (vs. 13 1/4"). Like the RCD-1072, the RA-1062 has a
matte-silver front panel, and a black steel cover with a stylish handle at each end.
The RA-1062s front panel is dominated by a large,
centrally mounted volume control. At the far left, above a standard 1/4" headphone
jack, are the Power switch and a blue power-on light. To their right are three small knobs
for: speaker selection (Off, A, B, A+B), Contour (tone), and Balance. The Contour switch
has five positions: L-1, which is described in the manual as "Moderate increase in
bass frequencies (typically +3dB at 100Hz)"; L-2, for "More increase in bass
frequencies (typically +4dB at 100Hz)"; Off (flat); H, for "Moderate increase in
high frequencies (+3dB at 10kHz)"; and LH, for a "Combination of L-2 bass and H
high-frequency increases." These make small but noticeable shifts in the timbre of
To the right of the volume control are the Recording and
Listening selectors, which allow one to listen to one program source while recording
another. And with the RA-1062, thats a distinct possibility -- I found the crosstalk
between inputs to be nil, even between phono and a high-level source such as CD. The
RA-1062 includes a built-in moving-magnet phono preamp, a feature thats seldom
standard on hi-fi gear these days. Other inputs include line-level sources labeled Tuner,
CD, Aux, Tape 1, and Tape 2. There is one-way tape dubbing (Tape 1 to Tape 2).
The rear of the amplifier is taken up by the input jacks, a
pair of Pre Out jacks for a subwoofer or to drive a second amplifier, a two-prong IEC
power inlet (allowing you, if youre so inclined, to try different power cords), and
two sets of high-quality, heavy-duty speaker connectors. There also is a 12V Trigger
output to automatically turn on another component so equipped when the RA-1062 is powered
The interior of the RA-1062 is, as is usual for Rotel gear,
beautifully designed, with a beefy, toroidal power transformer, an equally stout heatsink
for the output transistors, and a circuit board thats the next thing to fine art.
All the solder joints in my review sample were perfect; an amazing piece of work!
Accompanying the RA-1062 is a remote control that handles
both its amplifier functions and those of Rotel CD players and tuners. I used this with
the RA-1062 and the RCD-1072 CD player and found it worked well, even at oblique angles to
the infrared sensor (which is just to the right of the Power switch). While the Power
switch is of the mechanical variety, you can put the RA-1062 into standby mode from the
For this review, I used only two source components: my Sony
CDP-303ES CD player and my Dual CS5000 turntable with Grado Gold cartridge. When listening
to CDs, I attached the Sony to an old RadioShack outboard tape switcher so that I could
quickly switch the players output to either the Rotel or my Linn Majik-IP integrated
amp. I used Dayton Audio interconnects for all three connections. Also for this review, I
ran my NEAR 50Me Mk.II speakers single-wired rather than in my usual biwired setup. This
allowed fairly quick changes between the Rotel and Linn for comparisons. To match levels,
I ran pink noise from the CD player through each amp until their levels closely matched,
as measured by my SPL meter. No, it wasnt A/B/X testing, and no, I cant claim
that the amps levels were precisely matched, but it sufficed for my purposes.
As often happens in my listening sessions, the first CD out
of its jewelbox was Fourplays first, eponymous album (Warner Bros. 26656-2).
"Bali Run" features a lot of percussive bass playing, as well as some good
electronic keyboard, guitar, and percussion. The Rotel RA-1062 seemed to dig slightly
deeper into the bottom end than Im used to; perhaps its extra grunt -- 60Wpc vs. the
Linns 33Wpc when single-wired -- made the difference. However, the Rotels
soundstage was a bit like a description of Nebraskas Platte River in summer: a mile
wide and an inch deep. Sound seemed to emanate from outside the speakers outer
edges, but in terms of depth, the instruments sounded as if they were on top of one
These initial impressions carried over to "You Can
Call Me Al," from Paul Simons Graceland (CD, Warner Bros. R2 78904). The
bass and percussion were reproduced with lots of punch (or "slam," as the Brits
say), and Simons voice had just a bit of a "honky" characteristic that I
didnt hear through the Linn Majik-IP. The Linn also continued to offer a more polite
sound -- not entirely what one wants with this track.
On "Smooth," from Carlos Santanas Supernatural
(Arista 19080-2-RE-1), Santana and singer Rob Thomas attempt to occupy the same virtual
space, but the rest of the instruments are reproduced across a wide, fairly deep
soundstage. Santanas solos soared more spiritedly through the Rotel than through the
Linn, and the Rotels overall sound was, again, punchier. As noted above, this may be
the result of the Rotels nearly 3dB power advantage over the Linn.
With the Rotel in the chain, the title track of Steve
Winwoods Roll With It (CD, Virgin V2 90946) just cooked. The
soundstage was wide and deep, and Winwoods voice emanated from the very center of
it. Transients, such as from the snares, were good and crisp. With the Linn, the piano was
more up-front, while the soundstage was a bit narrower. The Linns reproduction of
the drums was good, but not quite in the same league as the Rotels.
Dire Straits "Sultans of Swing," from the
soundtrack CD of Metroland (Warner Bros. 47006-2), is one of those tunes
thats hard to categorize -- unless the category is "Great Songs of All
Time." The Linn gave good, solid sound: nothing flashy, but with a crisp, rather
delicate sound to the cymbals and a detailed but gutsy tone to Mark Knopflers
guitar. The Rotel provided a beefier, fuller, somewhat more forward sound. As much as I
love the Linn -- my reference integrated for 12 years now -- the Rotel outperformed it
My home town, Cincinnati, Ohio, is blessed with one of the
premier music schools in the US: the University of Cincinnatis College-Conservatory
of Music, which has a respected jazz program. The head of that program, pianist Phil
DeGreg, has made a number of solo recordings, including Down the Middle (CD,
Prevenient Music PWM 103), which begins with Dizzy Gillespies "Con Alma."
DeGregs trio had a very natural sound through the Linn; theres no 7-wide
drum set, for instance. The piano is handled quite well, with no smearing of tones.
Through the Rotel there was slightly more midrange presence and a broader soundstage. In
all, I found the Linns sound more satisfying, but the Rotel put on a great show.
Another of my favorite reviewing tracks, for its wide range
of voices and backing instruments, is Manhattan Transfers version of Weather
Reports "Birdland," from Down in Birdland: The Manhattan Transfer
Anthology (CD, Rhino/Atlantic D200146). Its a cornucopia of sounds. First, all
of the instruments accompanying this vocal group are electronic, even the percussion.
Second, the four fabulous voices of ManTran are placed all over the aural map. Through the
Linn, the presentation was fine -- this was one time the Majik-IP got up and boogied. But
"Birdland" just sounded more alive through the Rotel: the bass was punchier, the
vocals more present. A definite win for the Rotel.
I then played a recording of Schuberts
"Trout" Quintet by the Cleveland Quartet, with double-bassist James Vandemark
and pianist John OConor (CD, Telarc CD-80225). As I mentioned in my review of the
Rotel RCD-1072 CD player, the piano has always sounded as if, during the recording
sessions, it was in the next room -- and is if that room was quite large, with lots of
echo. Somehow, the Rotel pulled the piano a bit closer to the rest of the instruments and
placed it right in the middle, just behind the violin and viola. The soundstage was
broader and deeper than when I played the same recording through the Majik-IP.
Finally, I just had to play with the Rotels phono
input -- so few integrateds offer one any more. I wasnt able to easily switch from
Rotel to Linn and back, as I couldnt use the input-switching kludge Id used
with the CD. So my comments are limited to my impressions of the Rotel.
First up was a cover of Kris Kristoffersons "Me
and Bobby McGee," from Gordon Lightfoots If You Could Read My Mind (LP,
Reprise 6392). One thing I always look for on this cut is the knee-slaps in the second
verse. This very delicate percussion isnt the easiest sort of sound to reproduce
well, but the Rotel came through with flying colors. As with other recordings, the
RA-1062s reproduction of this track was just a bit heavy in the lower midrange,
making Lightfoots voice sound a bit hollow. But I was pleased with the overall
Then came "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," from
Paul Simons Still Crazy After All These Years (LP, Columbia PC 33540). One
small thing that immediately stood out was the tambourines location on the
soundstage. This has been a sore point for me with many other amps, the Linn Majik-IP
included, because the tambourine usually seems to be perched atop Simons left ear.
With the Rotel, however, it was just to the left of and somewhat behind Simons left
ear -- a much more likely real location. There was a little sibilance, but I have a hunch
thats a byproduct of my 30-year-old copy of the LP.
Finally, I pulled out an LP that challenges any
high-quality sound-reproduction system: Grazin (RCA LSP-4149), the
1969 album by the Friends of Distinction, which features their hit, "Grazin in
the Grass." The problem: its an RCA Victor Dynagroove pressing. For those of
you not of a certain age, Dynagroove was an early attempt by RCA at processing an audio
signal so that a pickup stylus would track the groove more precisely. According to the
"Dynagroove" entry at Wikipedia.com, RCA claimed that "Dynagroove had the
effect of adding brilliance and clarity, realistic presence, full-bodied tone and
virtually eliminated surface noise and inner groove distortion." The general response
to this by audio aficionados then and now is something akin to "poppycock": Most
Dynagroove recordings have significant amounts of audible distortion, and Grazin
is no exception. However, in my opinion, the groups performance is so exceptional
that I couldnt resist hearing how it would sound with the Rotel.
In three words, "pretty darned good" for a
40-year-old LP that had serious problems even when new. I was impressed. The sound was
lively and very up-front. The lead singer was nicely out front, the three backing singers
behind and spread across the soundstage. The instruments were a bit behind, including the
very strong trumpets. Given this recordings limitations, I was happy; now I want to
find it on CD.
Rotels RA-1062 is a brilliant piece of gear,
beautifully designed and beautifully built. On a range of sound from "polite" to
"party," it definitely leans toward the latter -- not always a bad thing. For
instance, Id love to hear the RA-1062s preamp section driving the Blue Sky System One 2.1 active
subwoofer/satellite system -- I think theyd love each other. Also, I believe the
Rotel would be a great companion to the Elemental Designs A6-6T6 tower speaker, which I recently reviewed. In
fact, I could see it in my own system, if only because of the extra bass punch it offers
with my NEAR speakers.
Rotel has a hit on its hands. Should you be in the market
for a moderately priced, moderately powered integrated amplifier, the RA-1062 should be at
the top of your list.
. . . Thom Moon
Price of equipment reviewed