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Rotel 1080 and Pioneer 47A compared

Discussion in 'Archived Threads 2001-2004' started by Eric T, Jul 24, 2002.

  1. Eric T

    Eric T Second Unit

    Apr 1, 2001
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    I went to my local HT shop today to check out some DVD players for a possible upgrade. My current unit is a JVC D723, which has a great picture but so-so audio. My main goal for the upgrade is to improve the CD and DVD audio performance of my system. The rest of my system consists of a Mitsubishi WS-55807 RPTV, Denon 3802 receiver, and Polk Audio speakers with a Velodyne sub.
    First I compared the video of the two units, on a very large Pioneer Elite RPTV that was set up in the store (not sure of the model). Sound was handled by a Pioneer Elite 49TX receiver through Definitive speakers.
    The first film being played was Driven, not my favorite movie, but that's beside the point. In both cases, the video and audio were nearly indistinguishable between the two units. They both looked and sounded very good. When the Rotel unit was hooked up and powered on, imagine my surprise to see the exact same on-screen menu display as my JVC - only the logo was different. I have heard that the video of the 1080 is based on the 723, but now I'm wondering exactly how different it could be.
    The second DVD played was Toy Story, since I wanted to look for chroma bug and any other such edginess. The Pioneer displayed the chroma bug in chapter 4 on the microphone, and the menu screen had lots of jagged edges (especially on the lower portion of the red box in the Toy Story logo). By comparison, the Rotel looked very smooth, although the edge of the red portion of the microphone appeared a bit fuzzy. But overall, the picture seemed better on the Rotel.
    Next, we went into another demo room to test the units with a demo CD containing some R&B tune that I'd never heard before (not my style of music, but I didn't mind because I wanted to have completely fresh ears during the comparison). The CD's were played with analog outputs feeding a Macintosh integrated amp and some 5-foot tall membrane speakers (didn't get the model).
    We played the same track several times back and forth on both units. At first I could hear a difference between the Rotel and Pioneer, but I couldn't really pin down what the difference was and if it was good or bad. That's how close they seemed at first listen.
    The track we played had a couple of good features, however, that allowed me to pinpoint the differences. One was the drummer's hi-hat cymbals which would occasionally open for that "swish" sound. Another was the very dynamic mixing of the lead vocal, which apparently was recorded with very little compression and a large-diaphragm microphone. And lastly was the harmonica solo which came in after about the first minute of the track.
    After a couple of repetitions of the track, I found that the Rotel had a bit more detail overall. The high-hat sounded very clean, and you could hear little bits of dynamic changes in it as the cymbals struck one another, whereas on the Pioneer, it sounded like a more even "swish". The vocals sounded slightly more lively and up-front on the Rotel as well, especially with "s" sounds. Ditto with the harmonica...it just seemed to jump out more from the background with the Rotel, and it had more texutre, as if you could almost hear the reeds vibrating.
    I didn't have the opportunity to test the DVD-A capabilities of the players, nor the SACD sound of the Pioneer unit. The salesman was a bit unenthusiastic about the paces I was putting him through, so I didn't bother to ask.
    On paper, and in regards to features, the Pioneer wins hands down. It can play just about any disc imaginable, including SACD. It has 12-bit/108kHz video versus 10-bit/54kHz on the Rotel. The back panel has TWO sets of 2-channel outputs in addition to the 6.1 outs, whereas the Rotel has only 6.1 outputs. S/N ratio is 118 dB vs. 110 dB on the Rotel. I guess this goes to show that you can't shop based on stats alone, since the Rotel looked and sounded better.
    This is another area where the Rotel wins. It's a beautiful, hefty-looking unit, with an attractive brushed face and typical Rotel simplicity in the controls.
    The Pioneer 47A, on the other hand, has been criticized about it's less-than-typical chassis for the Elite series. It was very light and seemed not nearly as solid as the Rotel.
    After this albeit-limited comparison, I'm tempted to go with the Rotel 1080. It performed very well in every category. The Pioneer's video performance was a bit of disappointment due to the edge effects and chroma bug I witnessed. I wonder if this could be fixed by spending some time tweaking the set-up of the unit, because I have read reviews that said that the video of this model is very good. Unfortunately I have no idea what type of cables were being used, or how the display was set up. But in any case, the Rotel looked better under the same conditions.
    However, I am not going to make a decision yet. That's because this dealer (who sold me my Denon 3802) has decided NOT to carry the Denon 3800 [​IMG] The 3800 is the other unit that I am very interested to demo and compare to these other fine players. If anyone has any experience with the 3800 versus the Rotel or Pioneer, please post your comments, I'm very interested.
    The dealer I went to has the Rotel and Pioneer both listed for $999, but I imagine I can get them for less than that. The 47A goes for $850-$900 online, the 3800 for $975 advertised (perhaps a better deal can be had through 6ave.com?). I can't find the Rotel available anywhere online (anyone know of an online or mail-order source?).
    Until I get more info on the 3800, I'll stick with the JVC.
  2. KeithH

    KeithH Lead Actor

    Mar 28, 2000
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    Eric, thanks for sharing the results of your detailed comparison. I am not so surprised by the results. Rotel makes excellent products, and I would expect the '1080 to outdo the '47A with CDs. Everything I have read about the audio capabilities of the '1080 have been positive, and I have demoed it in stores as well and found it to be excellent for a DVD player in its price range. The '47A, by contrast, has gotten mixed reviews in print and on message boards such as this one. the abso!ute sound has a review of the '47A in the July/August issue that I would consider lukewarm. See www.absolutesound.com for details.
    Now you see what I mean by the Rotel player being designed after your JVC player. In addition to the similar on-screen menu you observed, you noted that the Rotel also lacks dedicated stereo analog outputs. The Rotel has some shortcomings since it was designed after the JVC player, but it is a quality component overall.
    I would have been interested to hear your thoughts on the two players with DVD-Audio, but I know what you mean by the salesman being bothered. I've been there (as the customer).

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