|Rotel RB-976 Multi-channel Power Amplifier|
|Home Theater Power Amplifiers Multi-Channel Amplifiers|
|Written by Tony Kaklamanos|
|Thursday, 01 January 1998|
The Rotel RB-976 is a 60W (x6) power amplifier that combines the strength of a workhorse with the flexibility and finesse of a thorough bred. This unit is modestly priced at $600.
Out of the gate: Rotel has been manufacturing high performance electronics for more than 35 years. World renown for not only the company's passion for sound and music, Rotel has also received over 200 international awards. They've poured this love, knowledge and breeding into the RB-976.
Heading into the first turn: The power supply comes from a custom made high capacity toroidal power transformer that is highly regulated and contains a substantial filter capacitor bank to ensure maximum power capability. The power delivered in the 6-channel mode is 60W per channel (20 Hz to 20 kHz @ 0.03 THD into 8 ohms). In the 5-channel mode the unit can deliver 70W per channel. And that's not all. The three amplifier input pairs can be bridged via switches resulting in an internal daisy chain that delivers 150W (x3). Whew!
The unit can be used for bi- or tri-amping bi-wire (2-way) or tri-wire (3-way) high performance loudspeakers, as well as surround sound or custom multiroom installation applications.
Coming down the backstretch: The rear panel is cleanly layed out offering three stereo pair inputs and six binding post speaker terminals. The input pairs are labeled A, B and C which make connections easy to identify. In addition, there is a Link switch that allows the input of amplifier "A" to be shared with the "B" or "C" amplifiers. (The "B" or "C" amplifier switch must be set in the Link position). In other words, one stereo pair of inputs from you preamp or processor can drive any or all of the RB-976s channels – hence the "daisy chain" application mentioned above.
The front panel includes three input level controls and an extensive nine LED indicator array for system adjustment and monitoring. The black anodized finish is machine brushed.
Hooking up the unit was easy enough. There is no real reason to go into much detail. For reference I used a Sherwood Newcastle R-725 receiver, Yamaha’s DVD-S700 DVD player as my source, NHT Super Twos for the front mains, Mirage's AVS 200s for rear surround and the Mirage FRx-S8 for the subwoofer.
Entering turn two, the unit didn't show any signs of fading into the pack. The RB-976 has an overall delivery of power that is second to none of the amplifiers that I have reviewed. Clean and smooth. The unit kept stride with any software I could throw her way. I even tried some analog VHS signal, specifically "Saving Private Ryan" (Dreamworks and Paramount Pictures). Groans, moans, bullet ricochets, the rockets red glare and all that kind of stuff. The reproduction was smooth and unadulterated.
This velvet like sounding beast took on the best of what I had to offer. "L.A. Confidential" (Warner Bros.) was over powering for me but not for the RB-976. I had to turn down the volume to lower my blood pressure.
Musically, you couldn't ask for a more natural sound. No brassy edginess here, just a warm flow of acoustic blues while I listened to Eric Clapton's "Unplugged" (Reprise Records). In addition, I checked-out local Los Angeles artist Michael Sherwood's "Tangletown" (Skywriter Records). The multi-layered voicing of Michael's keyboards in concert with this balladeers vocal styling and championship arranging were superb and true to form.
For the mainstream, this unit may be a bit overkill. Many of us have no real need for the capability to get as dialed-in as this product allows. However, for those of you knob-twisters who want the flexibility for both today and tomorrow the only noticeable pitfall is that his unit seems to run a little on the warm side. Make sure that the RB-976 has enough room to breathe.
Coming down the home stretch: This filly was borne from a stable of designers and engineers who have seemed to prove themselves time and time again. The flexibility that the RB-976 has to offer in both surround applications and multi-room environments is outstanding and is only surpassed by its sonic quality and bang for your buck ratio. Bet on this one to show if not to win.