Peer Review: Rotel RT-1084 HD Tuner
Jeffrey Anderson reviews the Rotel RT-1084 HD Tuner.
My Pick: The Rotel RT-1084 HD Radio/Sirius/AM-FM Tuner
List Price: $899
What I Like About It: Usually, any multipurpose device is a compromise of the individual components. Not the case here. Taking up only one input on a standalone system preamp, this is the best sounding Sirius tuner I've yet to hear, and as good a high-definition and FM tuner as is available. It's great looking, has both a 12-volt trigger and RS232 control, will accept up to three Sirius tuners, and all for under $900. I expect this product will do especially well for my retail sales staff.
I Would Change: For standalone systems I would not change much. On the custom side, I might wish the Sirius tuners were not separate units. You have to buy separate tuners from Sirius for about $50 each. Then, without an active splitter, you could wind up with three antennas. More importantly, the Crestron feedback is not great. As is often the case when working with products that are not designed specifically for distributed systems, there isn't sufficient graphical feedback information. In the case of the RT-1084, there are two lines of information when there should be four.
Where I Used It: I've used the RT-1084 in everything from two-channel, high-performance listening systems to racks for distributed systems. The highest-end system we put it in was with two Classe CA-M400 amps, a Classe CP-700 preamp and Wilson Watt Puppies, all connected with Transparent Ultra level cabling. A typical application is with all Rotel gear and B&W speakers.
My Results: Where we've put it in a rack for distributed systems, we've been challenged. We tend to use a user-based architecture with one centrally mounted source for each user. At first glance, the RT-1084 looks like a great source for this application because it supports three Sirius tuners. The problem arises when you realize there are not simultaneously three high-definition and three FM sources. We like to keep all the users relatively the same in terms of sources, so with the RT-1084, everyone in a three-member family will get a Sirius tuner. But we'd have to buy two additional high-definition and FM tuners to have parity.
Consequently, when we've used it in distributed systems, we've only used one Sirius channel. Even then there is a challenge, because there are only two lines of feedback information via Crestron control. Still, it has proven to be a very functional, great-sounding source.
Perhaps most important is how it sounds, which is great. Most other tuners sound compressed or noisy or both, but the RT-1084 is clean and deep. In a way, it's unfair to compare it to other products; it's really in a category by itself, and that category is not defined only by the three-in-one approach, but also by the audio performance standard that most other digital-tuner designers ignore.