Well my new Rotel RCD-1072 CD player was brought home.
I spent half a day messing with it in various configurations and receiver settings to A. See what the 1072 sounds like in various states of connect
B. Put it up against my $70 Panansonic Universal Player.
I can tell you that I wound up walking away from the experience not with any revelation about the players but rather the receiver. Its a Pioneer VSX-816, almost to the lower end. But I have always liked it. It does quite well with a little help on the power end from a separate amp, and Pioneer support has always been very helpful.
First off and foremost, I knew if I really wanted to make sure I could evaluate the Rotel Player for all its worth, I would have to make absolutely sure that at least in one cofiguration I would hear the converted output from the player only. With no processing done in the receiver. I went round and round trying to figure this out, phone calls, talking to audio guys at the store, and floppin round then net. Without getting into how I finally got to the bottom of it, I found this:
1. My low end receiver has a DIRECT mode. Unlike what I was expecting, and even other audio brains were expecting, it does not turn off D/A processing in the receiver. It circumvents the tone controls, midnight mode, and a few others, but the D/A still occurs in the receiver. So any signal from my players would just be reprocessed. I did not know that, and that really could have fowled up my evaluation. Also, another give away was that the Subwoofers were still working in DIRECT mode. So, not sure about other brands, but in Pioneerese, DIRECT is not PURE DIRECT, which higher end models do have. That will throw you for a loop, I did not recognize this until I happened to read an owners manual from one of their high end receivers.
So, how with this receiver, can I bypass any D/A processing in the receiver. Well, that was figured out over the phone with a Pioneer rep. And, I thought oh, ofcourse, use the Left and Right channels of the 5.1ch ins. That will indeed bypass the D/A in the receiver and you get to hear how the DACs in the 1072 sound.
So I did some listening using the Rotel ananlogs to the CD inputs on the receiver, the 5.1ch ins, and through digital.
Findings are basically this. Since there is no pure direct mode on the receiver, the Rotel 1072 sounds exactly the same connected to CD RCA jacks as it does when being used through a digital coax. That makes sense, both ways the signal is being fully processed. Now, not to confuse this, but you can listen in Direct mode, but on this receiver that simply eliminates the tone controls. So it will sound different in Direct as it should, not necessarily better.
Using the 1072 through the Left and Right channels of the 5.1ch, to me, again this is to me, not scientific with level match etc, sounded more clear with better separation than any of the other ways. It is possible that this has something to do with that fact that I am getting strictly 2 channel here with no subwoofer. There was definetly a difference, without a doubt, obviously with no sub there would be. I say better, at least for the recordings used during the test.
Now what about how it performed against my old S52, a Panasonic Universal from Radio Shack that cost $70 or so. The differences were not huge nor very revealing. As many of realized the truth, players often yield very little difference, and for the most part this is true here.
Comparing both the players in digital (D/A done by Receiver). Swithing back and forth with the remote, not looking at the screen, and listening. The 1072sounded ever so slightly better. Again, its just my ears and not science. Not worth going out and a getting a new player based on what marginal difference if any was noted comparing digital. And afterall, you don't buy a player like this to go digital with it (at least not most of the time & recording dependant).
Now 1072 in 5.1ch (L/R only used) vs. Panasonic. This was the biggest range of difference I could definetly notice. And the 1072 in this mode does sound better than the Panny (Panny only works in dig). I know its different cuz of the sub for one. But it sounds good, better than the panny. By a large margin, no. Enough to warrant the purchase of the new player? I don't know, maybe not at 10x the cost of the Panny. I do like the front buttons on the 1072, with the panny I was always hunting for the remote. I need to do a little more testing with some other recordings, other than that I am just going to enjoy the new equipment and not worry about it. Nah, I'll worry a little, in a quest for better audio.
Rotel RCD 1072 was $609.99. The money may have been better spent on a center speaker that needs to be upgraded in my system. That would have bought me a more tangible upgrade for my concert DVD listening. I could return the 1072, but I won't. I like the controls, the appearance, and my confidence in its ability to decode HDCD, which I listen to not infrquently. Plus, it stands to me as the end of any sort of CD player search. Thank god I did not buy gorgeous box of snake oil for $3000. Yet, if someone is willing to show me something that will improve sound to that degree I'm all ears. Lots of hooey out there on players I think.