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Rotel RDV-1050

Rotel RDV-1050 DVD Audio Player

By Jim Bray

With DVD players selling for under a hundred bucks these days, who in his right mind would spend $700 on one?

If you have to ask that question, you’ve never had the chance to sample a player such as Rotel’s RDV-1050 connected with a good audio and video setup.

This is a wonderful player, both for audio and for video, and it takes our reference system to new heights of performance that our players to date had no idea even existed.

The RDV-1050 is a single disc progressive scan DVD and DVD Audio player. It handles DVD Audio and Video, and also plays DVD-R/RW, Video CD, SVCD, JPEG-format photo discs, conventional music CDs, CD-R/RW and MP3 or WMA-encoded music files. Not only that but it seems to get the most out of those digital bits and bytes in a most pleasing manner. Okay, it won’t turn “Plan 9 From Outer Space” into “Casablanca” but what will?

On the video side, the 1050 offers progressive scan or interlaced output, which you can switch via the rear panel and/or remote control. It also includes variable and slow search (including a 1.5 times forward search with audio) 6-step zoom, strobe play, and resume functions. The latter is kind of neat; you can get the player to remember where you were on a disc even after you’ve taken it out (most players will resume a disc that’s stopped, but not once you’ve removed it from the player); it’ll remember up to 30 discs, which is more than I can remember on any particular day.

Video outputs include component, S and composite, though of course progressive scan only works via the component video output and even if you’re running it interlaced the component outputs are the preferred choice. I ran it in progressive mode mostly, switching via the remote to interlaced when I wanted to output the menus of a DVD-Audio disc to Rotel’s snazzy RSP-1098 preamp/processor as well as or instead of the TV.

For audio outputs you get an optical and a coaxial digital socket, as well as analog audio for DVD-A or music CD’s if you want to play them that way. I wish there were a set of stereo analog outputs as well, for even more flexibility, but this isn’t a big deal since as mentioned you can output stereo from the 5.1 jacks and it sounds just fine thank you very much.

Setup is a breeze. Rotel’s menus are very straightforward. You hit the “choice” button on the remote and go through the simple screens, setting such stuff as languages, aspect ratio and progressive/interlaced, digital audio output, levels, disc resume and the like. The screens have a pleasant blue background and are very easy to figure out.

The menus that are accessible when you’re playing a disc (time elapsed, etc.) are also simple and easy to navigate. They only take up the top area of the screen, too, which is nice. I wish there were a “time” button on the remote by which you could quickly scroll through the various elapsed/remaining time options, but this isn’t a big deal.

Put in a DVD and the Rotel leaps into action, heading straight for the menu or whatever other part of the disc is programmed in, whereas if you’re playing an audio CD it doesn’t presume to start before you have a chance to get back to the easy chair and press “play.” This is a nice touch.

Naturally, the first things I put into the RDV-1050 were such home theater treats as Pixar/Disney’s Finding Nemo and the DVD-A version of the Doobie Brothers Captain and Me. My goodness, the digital fish looked positively 3D on our big Sony and if you closed your eyes during a song such as “South City Midnight Lady” the enveloping presence of the Doobies washes over you in a marvelous way.

“Film like,” though such a term can’t rightly be applied to the all-digital Nemo, is the description that kept coming to mind when watching DVD movies played on this thing. There’s an apparent depth to the image, color, and detail, that gives you the richness of film without its softness. The result is a spectacular viewing experience that would be enough reason to buy this player even if it had no audio outputs at all.


When I first hooked up the RDV-1050 I thought the image was a tad dark, and as it turns out it was. The reason for this is that they undoubtedly have the player tuned for TV’s that haven’t been tweaked since they were unpacked. Fresh TV’s are set far too bright and you need to do even a quick calibration using the Digital Video Essentials or one of its competitors. You end up turning the picture down substantially and that in itself helps give a more realistic look to the picture.

But the Big Sony has not only been "Video Essentialsed," it’s been ISF calibrated as well (which involves bringing in a professional technician and then sitting there in impatient awe as he caresses the TV until it’s performing like a thoroughbred), and therefore the default setting on the Rotel player was too dark for our terrifically tweaked TV.

Ah, but they have that covered.

Press “VFP” on the remote (the same button you use to switch from Progressive to Interlaced) and up pops a menu giving you all kinds of neat picture adjustments just like you’d see on the TV itself. You get stuff like gamma and brightness and color and sharpness and the like. And if you scroll away from the default setting you immediately come across one labeled “cinema” and blimey if the picture doesn’t suddenly improve appreciably, brighter and even more lifelike.

I ended up tweaking it even more and saving that in one of the customizable user settings memories.

So I started watching movies all over again and the more I watched the more I liked it.

I dunno if this is a comment on the quality of the HD broadcasts I get via satellite, but I had a chance to try an experiment: when the first Harry Potter movie ran in HD on TV I put in the DVD and played it back along side, switching back and forth between them. Alas, I couldn’t get a completely “apples to apples” comparison because the TV version was cropped to 16x9 instead of the DVD’s 2.35:1, but overall I preferred the DVD’s picture. It seemed no less sharp than the 1080i and I thought the colors as transmitted via the Rotel RDV-1050 were actually richer.

As I sit here I’m listening to the remastered Jethro Tull Thick as a Brick and it’s amazing. The soundstage is marvelously wide and deep; and that’s only a CD! DVD-Audios are really this machine’s sonic tour de force and I threw a whack of them at the RDV-1050.

One of my favorites was Led Zeppelin’s How The West Was Won, which is a terrific recording culled from a couple of nights when Zep was at the height of its powers. The liveness of the performance is enhanced by the clearness, the cleanness of the Rotel player's own performance.

Sinatra Live at the Sands is also wonderful concert experience, completely different from the “Big Venue” sound of the Zep disc.

One thing I really, really liked about this Rotel was that it doesn’t add an artificial pause between continuous tracks on a DVD-A disc. Our previous reference player did exactly that (though it didn’t mess with the Dolby Digital audio track versions), and it drove me nuts (yeah, yeah, I know…). It was just enough of a pause to ruin the mood and the flow – and this Rotel doesn’t do it!

Another feature that's worth the price of admission.

You also don’t have to keep switching from one output to another, as you did with our old player. On that player, I had to activate the 5.1 analog outputs from the menus every time I played a DVD-A, which was a real pain in the neck. But once you’ve configured the Rotel via its setup menus, there’s absolutely no fuss; it knows what type of disc you’re playing and acts accordingly.

And there are other little things to love about this player, too, such as a front panel display with four different brightness settings including OFF.

One thing I wished for was illuminated buttons on the remote. The disc control buttons (Play, pause, etc.) look like they should light up, but they don’t; they may be glow in the dark, but if so they don't glow very much either. And I wish they’d have swapped their location with the cursor control buttons, but that’s pretty nitpicky.

A larger oversight is that the RDV-1050 doesn’t play SACD discs other than as straight CD’s. But this feature is also comparatively rare at the time of this writing. Hopefully Rotel will add this feature to its next generation because if they do that this could very well be the best audio/video bargain around, all things considered.

Bottom line? Even without SACD this Rotel is a marvelous player. I loved what it did to my discs, my TV and my audio system.

And now you know why people spend $700US on a player.

Manufacturer's information here.


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