Rotel RSX-1057 AV Receiver Page 2

The limited number of crossover frequencies available in the bass management menus for speakers not designated as "Large" made for rather coarse settings that began at 40Hz with increments of 20Hz up to 120Hz, with the final two settings being 150 Hz and 200Hz. But a few of the other advanced settings let you override the crossover point for any of the speaker groups. I set my Martin Logan Prodigy main speakers to "Large," sending a full range signal to its dual 12" woofers. I set the ML Theater center channel and six-foot-tall ReQuest rears to "Small" and set their crossovers to 120Hz and 60Hz, respectively.

The Rotel redirects the bass from the speakers set to Small both to the speakers you've set to Large and the subwoofer, instead of sending it to the subwoofer alone. This does make sense for the type of mid-priced system where a flagship subwoofer is less likely to be encountered and sharing the wealth would likely improve matters all around.

Another unique feature is the ability to modify the level of bass boost or cut for various surround modes. You can (and I did) modify the movie modes, such as Dolby Digital and DTS (independently) to get a +3db boost, while Dolby PLIIx, a mode used mostly when watching broadcast programs, received a +2db boost. Stereo and Music modes (including DTS:Neo Music and Dolby PLIIx Music) were all programmed to remain flat.

It is also possible to modify the speaker setup (i.e., Large or Small) for each playback mode. Why would you want to do that? Well, your L/R front speakers, for example, might not be full range enough to handle the bass of action movies, so you might make them Small to relieve some stress by sending all the bass to the subwoofer. However, when you want to listen to some quality two-channel music, wouldn't it be nice to apply some subwoofer begone? You can. Set the main speakers to Small, but on the override screen, set them to Large in Stereo mode. Then set the subwoofer to Off with two-channel stereo material on the subwoofer menu. You can also modify the speaker sizes for Dolby, DTS and Music modes, but my brain hurt trying to think up a scenario where that might be useful.

The remote control is adequate for its purpose, and its multi-device programmability will be a plus for people who hate remote control clutter. But the quality of the buttons leaves something to be desired. I found I had to press them multiple times or else apply quite a bit of pressure to make things happen. That is perhaps why they "chirp" ("beep" would be too masculine a word for it) when you press them. On the positive side, the visible buttons are backlit, and a flip down door conceals the less frequently used (and non-backlit) buttons, such as those needed to select surround modes.

My biggest gripe, however, involves switching inputs. To do this, you have to press and hold the desired input's button down for, according to the manual, two seconds—as if letting go would make the couch explode. Back off in the slightest, and the chirping will drive you to distraction. (I can understand why someone at Rotel R&D might have thought this hold-down procedure to be a neat idea. Haven't we all bumped up against our remotes or sat on them at one time or another and made some unwelcome change, like switching inputs just when the Cylons attacked?—TJN)

In Use and Listening
The Rotel's FM tuner section could serve in a pinch, I suppose, but with the 14' Christmas ornament on my roof, I would have thought I could pull in more than seven FM stations, two of which were excessively noisy to boot. The receiver's muting circuitry is very aggressive as well. That's fine if that muting threshold is tied into the scan circuitry only (channel up / down) to help you find strong stations. But what about punching in a weak station directly? Unless I already have the antenna properly oriented before I attempt direct punch in, I am greeted with silence. Move the antenna. Try again. Needless to say, this was frustrating and, frankly, not worth the effort. Fortunately, we don't spend a lot of time making AV receiver purchasing decisions by listening to their radio sections anymore.

I watched a lot of hi-def broadcasts of more recent films, like 2003's underappreciated Open Range, starring Kevin Costner, Annette Bening and featuring a remarkable performance by Robert Duvall. The shotgun blasts in this Western were powerful and gut wrenching – as was the brutal treatment fostered on Mose, one of the most sympathetic characters I've seen in any movie. The Rotel offered solid transient response which, coupled with the trigger fire nature of my electrostatic speakers, made for a riveting movie.

When I watched the bizarre Suspect Zero (DVD, Paramount), the evocative music and sound effects were chilling in their completeness. Like Se7en, this soundtrack is heavily layered and creepily involving. While the rain in the film's opening chapter wasn't quite as dramatic as the constant weathering of storms to which the characters in Se7en were subjected, the Rotel clearly provided a backdrop of silence that dramatically enhanced the mood the film's creators envisioned. Ben Kingsley's sporadic outbursts of dialog, which teetered on insanity, were dramatic in their attack, an attack the Rotel unflinchingly relayed. The movie's habit of letting us share each "remote viewing" through a red filtered and geometrically distorted birds-eye view is at first a confusing construct but then, once understood, unexpectedly threatening. Each of these sequences would be introduced with an attention-getting opening click followed by elevated and intentionally out-of-phase dialog. The aural subtleties between live and Memorex are nuanced and the Rotel exhibited very good attention to drawing out details in this and other soundtracks.

Detail was the Rotel's strong point and nowhere was it more clearly demonstrated than with movies. Music alone, however, was a little bit of a mixed bag through the Rotel. Ironically, my iPod was the most relaxing of sources, I conjecture, due to lossy compression algorithms that may favor the midrange. But with better sources like CD, the Rotel seemed to exhibit the shallowest of troughs in the midrange. The effect was subtle, and while the Rotel could never be called threadbare, the midrange did lack some of the warmth that I've come to expect on my admittedly many-more-times-as-expensive reference system.

When it comes to power, the Rotel just doesn't make enough of it for me and my system. It's not that it won't go loud, it will after a fashion, at least to the point that everyone would agree it should be turned down. But you should be cautious with your speaker selection when you have only 75-Watts on tap, even 75 Rotel watts. My room is large, my speakers a bit too demanding perhaps, but my listening level requirements aren't ludicrous. Still, time and time again, I'd put on a CD, start cranking it up and notice distortion as the amp clipped. It doesn't help matters that the steps on the volume control are so small, forcing you to resort to holding the volume button down. And then, of course, the remote overreacts and ramps up like a bat out of hell!

While the rated, and no doubt measurable, distortion with a static load is quite low, in my real world scenario, there was a granularity to the amplification section that, once heard at higher levels, contributed a small edge to some music even at more moderate levels. For as good as the Rotel is with highlighting details, the sense of relaxation one feels when listening to a favorite recording didn't always emerge. I'll turn to a Harry Connick Jr. CD for an example. People usually drag out Harry Connick Jr. to put a smile on Granny's face, but only two of his albums, 1994's She (CD, Columbia, CK 64376) and 1996'sStar Turtle, highlight what makes him one of the greatest talents in the music industry- at least, when he wants to be. The song "Trouble" from She is a minimalist piece – piano, bongos and Connick's voice- and it sounded very good. But the song that precedes it, "Here Comes the Big Parade" is a full band number, complete with horns, that doesn't fare as well. Cranked up to higher levels than the Rotel could honestly maintain, the instruments and voice take on a brittle quality, as would be expected. But ramping things down to what should be both the Rotel's and my comfort zone didn't completely eliminate the memory of that edginess, for a lack of a better word, just heard.

The amplification section of the RSX-1057, while not exhibiting the warmer timbre of my reference system, was still spatially effective and detailed, making it a good choice if you mostly watch movies and TV. What I heard as a bit of hardness could likely have been the strain my speakers presented to the receiver. Still, while the amps that display an audible side effect with the Martin Logan's impedance are less prevalent than you'd imagine, here's yet another.

More people still use vinyl than you'd think, so a phono input, perhaps in place of the weak FM section, would be an improvement, as would a better, less fussy remote. Making up for these faults, however, is the Rotel's ease of setup and (remote issues aside) use. In the price market where this Rotel receiver competes, very little looks as classy.

Highs and Lows

Aesthetically pleasing, not your run of the mill receiver
Detailed and effectively geared for movies

Remote by De Sade
Sound can turn hard as the amps reach their 75-Watt per channel limit.