Receiver: Sweet Sound for Small Rooms
By Jim Bray
Rotel Corporations RSX-972 home theater receiver may not offer
the most oomph, but if youre looking for excellent sound
in a smaller room, it can do the job.
I must confess that Im a Rotel fan; my reference home theater uses
Rotel separates that I love for their excellent sound and build quality,
so I went into the review of this receiver expecting it to be good.
It was but, surprisingly, it wasnt as good as I had expected.
Now, dont take that to mean the $1299 RSX-972 is a dog. Its
a very good-sounding receiver; it just wouldnt be satisfying in
my main home theater and its ergonomics leave something to be desired.
The Rotel begins with a beefy power supply feeding five separate power
amplifiers rated at 100 watts each in stereo and 75 watts each in the
The receivers rear panel sports enough inputs and outputs to satisfy
nearly anyone. Theres a 5.1 input for future upgrade (an anti-obsolescence
feature), and 5.1 channel outputs that let you can hook in a separate
power amplifier (if you like the receivers features, but want a
Audio I/Os include 3 coaxial and 2 optical digital inputs, 1 coaxial
and 1 optical output (for digital recording) and, for video sources, 5
composite (RCA) inputs (and 3 outputs), 5 S Video inputs (3
outputs) and 2 component inputs. Theres also one composite, S-Video,
and a component video output to send signals to your TV monitor.
The component video passthrough is a great idea because it
lets you patch your DVD player through the receiver. This is a feature
my high end preamp doesnt offer, so I cant adjust the preamp,
using its onscreen menus, without pausing the DVD and switching to the
input on my TV that displays the preamps output.
Speakers hook in via heavy duty five-way binding posts; gold plated RCA
jacks accept the patch cords that connect the Rotel to most of your other
One thing missing from the rear panel is switched or unswitched AC inputs.
This may be to avoid electrical interference with the Rotel and, while
I can understand that, I missed the flexibility of being able to plug
other components into the Rotel.
The RSX-972 can also run an system in a second room, where you can listen
to a different audio source from whats playing in the main room.
The remote control is backlit, and bright enough; it also features light
sensors that automatically will turn it on if the illumination of your
room warrants. A manual switch on the side of the remote lets you override
the automatic operation.
Unfortunately, the remote doesnt backlight the source select
keys, which select the audio source to which youre listening, and
those keys are hidden behind a sliding cover that looked as if it was
ready to fall off at a moments notice. It didnt, fortunately.
The remote looked easy to use at first, but it takes some getting used
to, especially when accessing the on screen display. It didnt seem
to like adjusting the volume, either; youd have to press it a couple
of times. On the upside, its fully programmable, so you can teach
it to operate your other components.
As mentioned, the sound quality is excellent and the receiver performed
very well driving the satellite/subwoofer speaker system with which I
used it. The sound is detailed and not boomy, and it excels in the surround
Tracking of the audio signal from the main speakers to the center and
rears was impressive. In DTS mode (it also offers Dolby Digital and Pro
Logic, of course) the scene in What Lies Beneath where the
bathtub fills with water as Michele Pfeiffer lays paralyzed, sounds extremely
realistic. As the water rises, it muffles the ambient sounds of the bathroom
and as the gurgling liquid envelopes her face it sounds as if you are
also experiencing her agonizing helplessness.
It was on music that I really thought the receiver excelled, though.
The bass is well controlled and the midrange and highs are clean and detailed,
The bottom line for the Rotel RSX-972 is that its a fine-sounding
surround receiver thats eminently suitable for small rooms or efficient
speakers, but its ergonomic issues take away some of the enjoyment.
Read more Manufacturer's information here
Jim Bray's technology columns are distributed by the TechnoFILE and Mochila Syndicates. Copyright Jim Bray.
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