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Rotel RX-1052 review: Rotel RX-1052

Rotel RX-1052

Steve Guttenberg
Ex-movie theater projectionist Steve Guttenberg has also worked as a high-end audio salesman, and as a record producer. Steve currently reviews audio products for CNET and works as a freelance writer for Stereophile.
Steve Guttenberg
3 min read
Review summary
It's almost as if the Rotel RX-1052 was built to answer the question, "what would a high-end stereo receiver look and sound like?" Sure, mainstream manufacturers' stereo receivers, such as the Denon DRA-685 and the Harman Kardon HK 3840, look nice and perform well enough, but if you really care about sound, you'll want the Rotel. Priced at $899, this 2.0-channel receiver costs more than most surround models, and compared to those receivers, the Rotel lacks connectivity, processing power, and wattage. None of that matters, however, if you're just in it for the sound. The Rotel RX-1052 certainly looks like the real deal. Its satin-aluminum faceplate and extruded end pieces stand out from the pack of generically styled receivers crowding the market. The Rotel is also available in black.
This 100-watt stereo receiver weighs 30.4 pounds--heavier than most midpriced 100-watt 6.1/7.1 channel receivers. Its beefy construction and massive power transformer and power supply humble the competition. Better yet, at 17 inches wide, 4.75 inches high, and 14.2 inches deep, the RX-1052 is a bit smaller than the majority of A/V receivers.
The skinny plastic remote breaks the high-end spell, but its buttons are logically arranged, and it's easy to use. A lot of Rotel RX-1052 buyers will use the receiver in a single room, but it can serve as the centerpiece of a four-room A/V system. It can route stereo-audio and composite-video signals to a second, a third, and a fourth room, or even be operated via home automation systems such as Xantech. You can select the source, control the volume, and select AM or FM radio stations from any wired location. To implement multiroom functionality, you'll need to run cables, buy additional amplifiers to power the speakers in each zone, and get the requisite IR repeater equipment, and you'll probably need to hire a custom installer to make it all work. We'd guess most of you will opt for Plan B, which forfeits most of the flexibility but remains a whole lot easier and more cost-effective: run a second set of speakers from the B connectors.
Beyond its multiroom capabilities, the RX-1052's connectivity options run to a total of seven stereo inputs, including provisions for a turntable, four composite-video connections, and three record loops (two with video). It's just too bad about the composite-only video switching. We know the Rotel is intended primarily for music-lovers, but at this price, we still expect S-Video or even component-video switching. On a positive note, the A/B speaker connectors deserve special mention: they're the sort of gold-plated, extrasturdy, solid-metal, banana-plug-compatible binding posts we see on high-end power amplifiers.
Finally, you can't beat the hands-on functionality of the RX 1052's rotary bass and treble controls. Power is rated at 100 watts per channel for 8-ohm speakers. The Rotel RX-1052 is pricey. It's almost twice as expensive Denon's DRA-685 and Harman Kardon's HK 3840 stereo receivers, but during our comparison of the three, the RX-1052's sonic superiority became clear. James Taylor's vocals and guitar sounded more believably present, and the stereo imaging was more spacious. The RX-1052's advantages were even more obvious when we indulged in our rock & roll fantasies with Aerosmith's Honkin' On Bobo CD. The Denon and the HK never flinched, but the Rotel's greater bass oomph came to the fore, and Joe Perry's guitar jumped out of the dense mix with greater precision. Once we got used to the Rotel, there was no turning back.
Convinced of the RX-1052's soul-satisfying musicality, we moved onto the home-theater portion of the review with the Spider-Man 2 DVD. It was a real test of the RX-1052's stamina, but the receiver's 100 watts per channel felt very powerful, and kept us fully immersed in Peter Parker's world. The low-level ambience of the street noise in those early scenes in Peter's Queens, NY neighborhood sounded especially realistic, and the extended glass-smashing, twisted-metal ruckus on the speeding subway car made us forget we weren't listening in surround. No, we didn't hear sounds coming directly from the sides and behind, but we didn't really miss them either. Straight dramas such as The Godfather and The Shawshank Redemption were likewise enjoyable over the RX-1052.

Rotel RX-1052

Score Breakdown

Design 7Features 7Performance 9