Rotel CD11/A11 Tribute CD Player/Integrated Amplifer Page 2

As you might expect from the frill-free designs – the only extras here extend to some provision for custom installation, in the form of RS232 control sockets, a cabled Rotel Link connection for unified remote control and 12V trigger switching – this Rotel duo is designed to do a basic job, and do it well. So, while there's no stump-pulling, 'drive any speakers' capability in the amplifier, pair these two components sensibly – the 603 S2 Anniversary Edition models from UK partner B&W would be a slightly tough but interesting start – and throw in a modest expenditure on interconnects and speaker cable, and you won't go far wrong.

sqnote Clear To Hear
The claim for the sonic gains here is 'an increase in resolution and detail while delivering a more musical presentation with improved rhythm and timing', and it's beyond a doubt that the changes have built on what was already a very musical pairing to deliver added musicality and involvement. Editor PM's Lab Report tells its own story of the differences (and similarities) between original and Tribute versions, but the immediate impression when listening to the duo with a variety of speakers is of a system that's all about conveying performances while bringing out the quality of recordings, and doing so without any suggestion of the electronic and mechanical processes involved.


The Rotel Tribute's combination of warmth, detail and precise soundstaging plays well with a set such as Tim Minchin's quirky Apart Together [BMG Australia 538621052], giving a wonderfully focused view of the singer and the accompanying instrumentation, which is not without its oddities in terms of electronic effects and sounds. Even with an up-tempo number such as 'Airport Piano', with its driving rhythms and processed lead vocals, the CD11/A11 Tributes keep the lyrics clear.

Deft Touch
Meanwhile the thematically linked, but wistfully simple, 'If This Plane Goes Down' shows well the ability of this pairing to bring out the ambience and drama of nothing more than voice and piano, with minimal additional instrumentation.

Playing the richer textures of Parry's sprightly First Suite for String Orchestra, from British Music For Strings, Vol 1 [CPO 555382-2] highlights this duo's deft touch with the gorgeous playing of these distinctly non-German musicians – the Südwestdeutsches Kammerorchester Pforzheim, under Douglas Bostock. The speed and precision of the player and amplifier are much in evidence, and what little ultimate bass weight is absent is more than compensated for by the warmth and richness on offer, without impeding the flow of the music.


Storm Seeker
That ability with instruments and voices is also much in evidence on Neil Diamond's surprisingly successful Classic Diamonds set [Capitol 00602435318059], where he's backed by a little band you may have heard of – the London Symphony Orchestra. This version of 'Holly Holy', complete with choir and Indian instruments, is gorgeously lush and exotic, the Rotel Tribute's delivering an expansive, but well-focused soundstage. Even when used with speakers way above their pay-grade – in this case Neat's Iota Xplorers [HFN Jul '18] – they succeed in maintaining a persuasive view of Diamond's voice, which is still in pretty good shape for a chap about to move into his ninth decade.

While the little Rotel amplifier might not be the clubber's choice, for the reasons I have already mentioned, it's still capable of kicking up a storm with a punchy set such as Deacon Blue's Live At The Glasgow Barrowlands [Ear Music 0211866EMU], on which tracks such as 'Real Gone Kid' and 'Fergus Sings The Blues' bubble with the sense of an exuberant performance in front of an enthusiastic hometown crowd. Keep the levels just on the slightly sensible side of bonkers, and this Rotel duo will crash the music out in hugely enjoyable fashion while holding it all together and showing little signs of stress.


Even with vintage recordings the CD11/A11 Tributes deliver that combination of warmth and scale, plus a relentless focus, as was clear when wrapping up the listening with Julie London's 'Come On-A My House', from the richly bejewelled 3CD compilation Ultimate Collection [Not Now Music NOT3CD170].

With nothing more than bass and percussion behind London's voice, the track showcases the player and amplifier's vocal sympathy. Similarly so, I might add, with the more lushly orchestrated 'Desafinado', which opens the collection's second disc, putting the voice right up in front of the listener. Spine-tingling stuff…

Hi-Fi News Verdict
An impressive score at the very affordable end of the market, but then the CD11 and A11 Tribute models are very special. They build on already accomplished platforms with more warmth and definition, and above all that intangible quality: soul. Nevertheless, plaudits should be shared by both the original engineers and tuning team – for this duo is unmistakably created by people who love music.

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