Rotel CD11/A11 CD Player/Amplifier Page 2

Rotel couldn't have chosen a better word than 'Balanced' to headine its design concept as this is precisely how I would describe the sound of the CD11 and A11. From the lowest to the highest frequencies there's a pleasing sense of uniformity to the presentation that makes for a musically satisfying listen, whatever kind of music being played.

Treble is delightfully sweet, warm and well controlled, with just the right amount of detail being revealed without it ever becoming overbearing. The result is that cymbals sound crisp and shimmer off into the background as they decay while flutes and violins sound compellingly vivid. At no time did I ever detect any screech or discomfort in this area. Rather, the CD11 and A11 duo typically boasts a pleasingly open top-end that ensures musical detail is illuminated in broadly realistic fashion.

1219rotel.remIn spatial terms, the area between the loudspeakers was expertly filled, the CD11 and A11 not resorting to party tricks such as cavernous depth perspective or throwing out an impossibly broad swathe of action across the width of the listening area. However, far from making a musical performance seem flat or shut-in, the pairing ensured that everything was focused and appropriately spaced within the soundstage and easy to locate.

Philip Aaberg's piano on 'Don't Stop Now' from the Windham Hill Piano Sampler II [Windham Hill 01934 11149-2] was not only placed perfectly centre-stage, but it had a delightful realism to it. There was a proper sense that a hammer was hitting a string, rather than a good facsimile emanating from an electronic box of tricks.

True Grip
The CD11 and A11 typically prove equally rewarding in the bass department, possessing bags of grip and bite, ensuring the Usher S520 loudspeaker's little woofers were working well. I did briefly try the 'Rotel Max' tone setting and it did indeed add a modicum of extra weight at the bottom end, but ultimately I decided this also adversely affected the overall balance of the pair, so it was switched off again. Likewise, the 'Rotel Boost' option.

Hooking the A11 amplifier up to the larger PMC Twenty5.24 loudspeakers rewarded my listening with further slam and detail. Low bass notes rang out convincingly and possessed tremendous impact, regardless of whether they were acoustic or electronic in nature.

The thumping percussion on the title track of Runrig's The Stamping Ground album [Ridge Records RR016] punched out with gusto, yet Bruce Guthro's acapella vocals in between were delightfully open and realistic, with every intake of breath loud and clear to hear.

King Of The Hill
Not all was perfect, however. The bass guitar backing on Steely Dan's 'Jack Of Speed' from their album Two Against Nature [Giant 924719-2] seemed to have an unnecessary bounce to its notes, making them sound deep at the expense of some tunefulness. This effect was absent when I auditioned the amp's Bluetooth and vinyl inputs, pointing a provocative finger at the CD11. Nevertheless, the track at no time sounded boomy or out of control, even if it was a little over-enthusiastic at times.


Moving away from the CD11, I was pleased to find that the A11's other inputs were just as capable. The Bluetooth option appeared promptly on my smartphone once selected and connected without fuss, and when playing commenced the A11's display confirmed the sampling frequency and type of transmission. As expected, the performance could not match that available from the CD player, but it really wasn't all that far off. While suffering a foreshortening of depth perspective and less space within the recording, the A11 still maintained a dynamism and clarity that made sure the lesser source was allowed to shine.

Most encouragingly, the bottom end retained a good deal of its impact and weight. I find this is often one of the first aspects to suffer with lossy source materials, but the A11 was having none of it.

King of the hill, however, was the phono stage. Here the amp really opened up to propel the main action into the room while still maintaining its fine abilities in terms of instrument placement.

Kacey Musgraves sounded suitably jolly on her foot-stomping anthem 'Follow Your Arrow' from her Same Trailer, Different Park LP [Mercury B0018029-01]. The drums pounded along while the guitar strings were crisp and taut. It was a delight to discover that the phono stage here is no afterthought, and Rotel should be rightly proud of it.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
Rotel has come up with another excellent pairing in the CD11 CD player and A11 amplifier. The two are natural companions, working to deliver an even-handed and musically satisfying sound at a highly competitive price. In addition, the amplifier's feature set and impressive Bluetooth and vinyl replay performances mean that it will likely form the basis of a larger system if desired, and a highly versatile one at that.

The Rotel Co. Ltd
Supplied by: Rotel Europe/B&W Group, West Sussex
01903 221500