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Rotel RSX-965 Receiver Print E-mail
Wednesday, 01 November 2000
ImageJust what we needed, another audio/video receiver. In a marketplace full of products with brand names such as Sony, Yamaha, Denon and the like – names that we are familiar with – names that give us that warm fuzzy feeling; what business does the $1,200.00 RSX-965 have jumping into this already crowded pool? Plenty.

The RSX-965 is a five-channel audio/video receiver that carries a boatload of features. From ground zero; the unit offers a bruising 75 watts RMS per channel for all five channels that are driven into eight ohms with a frequency range of 20Hz - 20kHz with less than 0.005%THD. The power is fed by your choice of four audio signal formats; Dolby Digital, DTS, Dolby Pro-logic and two-channel stereo. These four choices can be manipulated to suit ones' taste by using the digital signal processing presets; Theater, Stadium, Hall effects, and one of my personal favorite TV watching modes: Dolby Stereo 3. (Dolby Stereo 3 mixes surround sound into the front main and center channel speakers).

The back panel hosts a bunch-o-inputs and outputs, including: an impressive five video inputs (all which contain both composite and S-video, as well as accompanying stereo audio pairs). In addition, there is a group of RCA jacks including; CD, two sets of tape deck recording loops (tape 1 and tape 2) allowing you to record on either deck – there is even a pair MM (moving magnet) compatible phono inputs. Moving to the digital side of the spectrum, the RSX-965 has four digital inputs; two optical and two coax. And for those of you worried about future format additions, the unit carries DB-25 input. There is also a DB-25 output terminal if you ever were to upgrade to an external multichannel amplifier. And yes there's more. A pre-amp section allows for independent power amplification to a variety of set-ups including a subwoofer pre-out and center pre-out. Binding post type speaker terminals are used for the speaker output section. There is a FM tuner 75-ohm unbalanced antenna input and AM tuner loop antenna. The RSX-965 includes 30 presets for radio station memory.
Rotel has included all of the controls that reside on the remote control on the, black – brushed aluminum finished – front panel. It is neatly layed-out with all nomenclature clear and easy to read.

For you control freaks, the RSX-965 includes the RR-939; a programmable universal remote that can control up to eight audio/video components not to mention that you can program eight commands into one macro button. There is a total of four macro buttons. If my math is right, instead of pressing 32 separate buttons you only have to press four.

Before we dive into the evaluation, my reference system for the review was as follows: I used the Onkyo DV-C600 CD/DVD for my software source, Energy e:XL-28Ps and e:XL-C for the main and center channels respectively. For rear surround and subwoofer signals I used the Mirage AVS Series. Everything was strung together using high-quality Camelot cables. My listening environment is relatively small with highly reflective surfaces (hardwood floors and plaster walls).

Hooking up the unit was a snap. However, while many other products use a plug and play philosophy, Rotel has left much of the set-up to the end user. The upside: the unit remains flexible. The downside: I really recommend that you crack-open the comprehensive owner's manual to see what's what. An on-screen display is featured with the RSX-965 that's really pretty cool and the owner's manual walks you through it step by step. It facilitates the initial set-up by allowing you to run a test tone for volume balance, tweak tone and balance, select speaker size parameters and choose whether or not you want the subwoofer section operational.

I tested the waters and slid the DTS version of Amistad (Universal) into my DV-C600. Now I've seen Amistad before, I just hadn't heard it quite like this. The horrific sound of the captured African natives on their way to slavery was uncanny; from the subtle timber creaks of the beams and faint moans to the thunderous roar of the high seas and warrior yawps of the Africans later overtaking the ship. Unbelievable not only in content but in delivery. I couldn't wait to hit the beach, so I placed (DTS) Saving Private Ryan (Universal) into the disc tray and let it rip. And rip it did. As the spray of the ocean and bullets splashed onto our boys storming the beach the RSX-965 fed the onslaught undaunted with realism and clarity that was almost too accurate.

I had a blast with the two-channel application. First, I listened to Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, a.k.a. Steely Dan, Two Against Nature (Giant/Reprise Records). The cut Gaslight Abbie displays a chest-thumping syncopated bass line that made my big toe hit the top of my boot. Oh so cozy. The title track, Two Against Nature, carried that classic Steely Dan tonal quality; cool but with a stitch of melancholy. It was nice listening to the boys again, and those silky tones were ever so rich through the RSX-965. On the edgier side I reviewed the latest from Violent Femmes, Freak Magnet (BMG/Beyond). Not my favorite type of music, however, the RSX-965 has no prejudice. I felt the garage band sounding presence was replicated true to form; from the manic upright bass to the trashcan lid sounding high-hat. When I really put this unit through its paces was when I packed it up a dragged a system down to the Christening of my little niece/godchild Anastasia. I hooked the unit up to a pair of old JBL Control 10 speakers. The hall was filled with everything from Garth Brooks and Frank Sinatra to Greek folk music. Everyone was impressed. A big thumbs-up from everyone at the St. Katherine's Community Center.

The Downside
Like the fat kid who cannon balls into the shallow end and splashes everyone, there is always something to complain about. So, I'll pick on a couple of minor issues. First, Rotel left out component video inputs. Second, there isn't an RF input for those of you with Dolby Digital on Laserdiscs. Personally, this is no big deal and it wouldn't stop me from investing in this unit.

The Rotel RSX-965 acts like a stack of high-end processing gear disguised as a receiver. The sound is warm and natural with a hint of honey.

If you're just starting to wade into the home theater market, it can be a little scary shoveling out $1,200.00 for one component. Well, Rotel has a lot of confidence in the RSX-965, and they've put their money where their warranty is – they include a five-year warranty.

Now even if you've listened to a few systems, take a look and listen to the RSX-965; it might be the best receiver you've never heard of. After that, close your eyes – hold your breath – and jump-in. The water is fine. Nice work Rotel.

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