The current Rotel range contains just two CD players: this new RCD-06 model and the RCD-1072 at £595, a tightly focused range from what was once one of the strongest names in budget hi-fi. Rotel was also a pioneer of adding UK design input to Far East built audio.
The continuity of this process has been maintained by B&W employing the services of Robert Burn (from Rotel's former distributor, Gamepath) as group services manager and Rotel voicing expert.
The RCD-06 replaces 2002's RCD-02, but does not appear to have changed externally. Functionally there are few frills, but it does feature everything most of us might require from a CD player, including a coaxial digital output, single-ended analogue outputs, an external remote socket and a 12v trigger. The latter two make the player custom-install friendly, an increasingly important factor for many products.
Under the lid, the RCD-06 ups the 02's 18-bit ante with a 24-bit/96kHz DAC from Burr-Brown; the exact choice of chipset, however, is not divulged. What we are told, though, is that the metal-film resistors are UK designed and the low-noise resistors are US made. So, while Rotel manufactures in China, components are not limited to those made in the same country.
The player's remote handset tries a little bit too hard to be different by incorporating the main functions into a cross arrangement not unlike those found on DVD handsets. That said, it wouldn't take a great deal of familiarisation and the most important button, eject, is included - a boon to couch potatoes.
In the context of expensive and revealing amplification and loudspeakers, this player exhibits a good deal of precision in terms of timing, imaging and general detail. It does so in the context of a slightly thin midband, however.
This gives a good sense of transparency, but sounds like a tonal weakness in a revealing system. However, it's an approach that would help a more appropriately priced system with speakers that are smooth and evenly balanced, such as B&W's own CM1.
If you avoid bright loudspeakers and/or amplifiers this should not be an issue, and given that Rotel's own integrated amps would have been used in the voicing process they probably complement the player beautifully.
This is a highly engaging machine for the price. The qualities listed above are impressive, especially the timing. This has always been a tough one for any hi-fi component let alone a CD player, of which there have been too many that can't get it right.
So the RCD-06 has a real advantage in the way that it can start and stop notes precisely without sounding too gritty in the process - very impressive at the price.
We enjoyed the solidity of imaging on offer as well; voices in particular are presented in a distinct and almost tangible fashion that suggests channel separation has not been compromised. It is also a facet of the detail resolving capabilities on offer, which are clearly very good for the asking price.
This neat Rotel needs careful partnering in order to smooth out its midband but has a highly engaging and revealing sound that puts it among the top 'budget' contenders. Jason Kennedy