Rotel RMB-1075 5-channel power amplifier Page 2

B&W Sessions
Lingering in Tom Norton's review queue were the B&W CDM-1NT monitors and CDM-CNT center-channel—the entry speakers in B&W's CDM series. I borrowed them because I wanted to see how the Rotel RMB-1075 might handle a load slightly less efficient than the Audio Pro Black Diamonds.

The RMB-1075 lit up the B&Ws as it had the Audio Pros: The sound was no-nonsense accurate, with dynamics to spare. The combination had the character of Joe Friday—just the facts—and led to some seriously enjoyable music investigation.

But the RMB-1075 didn't just deliver the goods—it had a major-league windup. I didn't get only the transients, but sensed their delivery in a way that made the actual sound more thorough—drum rim-shots and bass-guitar plucks had palpable presence. Everything was rendered with a matter-of-fact solidity that I sometimes found startling.

All Amps Sound the Same?
I compared the Rotel RMB-1075 with two other amplifiers: Theta Digital's Dreadnaught and B&K's AV6000. And because the output level of the Integra Research RDC-7 surround processor can be adjusted in increments of 0.5dB, I was able to get the playback levels quite close at 1kHz, as measured with the Goldline DSP-30 Real Time acoustic analyzer.

I switched between the Rotel and the Theta Dreadnaught to see what's available at four times the price and nearly twice the rated power. The Theta had better extension at the frequency extremes, and smoothed out vocal sibilance—those high-frequency s and t sounds so often "enhanced" on pop recordings. Jennifer Warnes' Hunter (CD, Private Music B00002487W) exhibited the differences plainly: The upper highs of her voice on "Somewhere, Somebody" were less harsh through the Theta, but the Rotel was not so bad as to drive me to the power switch. The RMB-1075 also added a slight sheen or glare to her voice. In addition, the Theta's bass had a firmness that could not be matched by the less powerful Rotel. On "Way Down Deep," the bass line in the midst of some extremely close-miked bongos proved that the RMB-1075 was no match for the Dreadnaught. I didn't exactly expect the little guy to hang with the Theta monster, but it was good to hear the differences that quadruple the cash can buy.

I then dug out my old B&K AV6000 amp (1999 price for the slightly newer AV6000 Series II: $1498), to compare the RMB-1075 to something a bit closer to its price range. Sure enough, the overall sonic characters of the two amps were more similar than in the previous comparison, but each retained its own signature. The B&K presented a soundstage larger in both width and depth; it blended the music pleasantly, creating a continuity of sound that filled the space between the speakers. The Rotel was more forward with everything, but more distinct as well—each performer was surrounded by a bit more breathing space. I could live happily with either one.

The RMB-1075 is a competent performer with qualities of build and sound that belie its low price. More money will buy you extension at both frequency extremes, but for reasonably priced speakers in the average listening space, this amp is a winner. It's another of Rotel's best buys in multichannel amplifiers, and one of the best buys in this category, period. Highly recommended.