Compact Disc: Rotel RCD-971 (HDCD)

September 4, 2008

This Rotel RCD-971 is a fine performer for a CD player, incorporating a few late nineties features to get just a bit more out of the format including solid bass and the extended volume dynamics of HDCD.

The latter goodie relies on specially mastered CD discs encoded with the Pacific Microsonics (now Microsoft) High Definition Compatible Digital system.

I have a few of these discs from various artists that do seem to give my system a bit of a work out. At the same time they reveal a bit of detail in dry unprocessed instruments and human voices because of the included HDCD decoder.

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However, as the most heavily used mechanical thing in my audio system, the RCD-971 has a few moments of misbehaviour.

I’ve found on accidentally placing a blank computer CD in the deck that the poor thing gets confused checking it out and won’t release it on eject. Also if the tray is open a slight tap will very quickly close it, which is reminiscent of the famous cash register scene on Ronnie Barker’s ‘Open all Hours’. Then finally, and I haven’t figured out quite why it’s doing this, track 10 is sometimes the first track to play rather than track 1!

Because the Rotel’s strengths seem to be the 18-bit Burr-Brown DAC and the HDCD decoder, when the time comes that the Sony mechanism used eventually loses its marbles, I may check out using the remains as an outboard digital converter to another deck – possibly a self modded DVD player or even a PC CDROM drive.