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Rotel A11 Tribute & CD11 Tribute

Wil

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It's good to see Ken's children, Miki and Jun supporting the completion of this Rotel set:

"The aim of the CD 11 (£399, $599, €449, AU$649) and A11 (£499, $799, €599, AU$1099) Tribute models is a presentation with significantly greater detail, rhythmic sense and resolution than their predecessors."

KI himself often explained:
"In truth, I prefer working in the budget arena. That has a wider audience… How much you can enjoy your music shouldn't be governed by how much money you have to spend."
 
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Al ears

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I am sure they will sell as well as his Marantz products.
Rotel has always been a very underrated manufacturer but they can produce real classics, see their latest and previous Michi offerings for example and the much cheaper RA-1062 that I currently have in my second set-up.
In it's day the 1062, in group tests, easily bettered the likes of Arcam A80, Creek A50IR and Roksan Kandy KA-1 mk3 and it will probably give today's £500 amps a good run for their money.
 
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plastic penguin

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It's a pity they get overlooked. Always produced good sounding amps and CDPs. My favourite affaordable Rotel was the RA-03. The balance on that amp was just right.

Remember, also, I owned the RCD 975. Great sounding CDP for the money, let down only by iffy transport mechanism.
 
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Wil

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I am sure they will sell as well as his Marantz products.
Many readers may wonder 'What's it with Ken Ishiwata tuning-a-product?'

The simple answer is that he begins with the outcome in mind, of how it replays a number of his go-to recordings. For example, the Marantz-sound Ken presided over these past decades "isn't to [his] personal taste."

From a 2005 Italian interview I once looked into:
"My personal taste is a smooth sound... like the Model 7 or Model 9. Very smooth, simple and warm. This is the sound that I like and represents the direction in which I always move. Unfortunately this kind of sound is a bit too refined for most of the audience and we are not in a position to make this kind of change. At Marantz we have developed a very different sound characteristic that does not coincide much with my personal taste, except for the KI line, where the dynamics are always respected but in a more harmonious way. You see, I respect what Saul B Marantz has created, it has timeless features that still live in our products. We must honour and respect the roots and that is what I try to do as well when developing our production lines."

So, auditioning the Rotel Tributes, one can assess especially whether their performance has a smooth, simple and warm characteristic.


Link to full Italian interview:

Exact original words:
"Il mio gusto personale è un suono morbido… come il Model 7 o il 9. Molto morbido, semplice e caldo. Questo è il suono che mi piace e rappresenta la direzione verso la quale mi muovo sempre. Sfortunatamente questo tipo di suono è un po’ troppo raffinato per la maggior parte del pubblico e noi non siamo nella posizione di fare questo tipo di cambiamento. Alla Marantz abbiamo sviluppato una caratteristica di suono molto diversa che non coincide molto col mio gusto personale, tranne che per la linea KI, dove le dinamiche sono sempre rispettate ma in modo più armonioso. Vede io rispetto ciò che Saul B Marantz ha creato perché possiede delle caratteristiche senza tempo che vivono ancora nei nostri prodotti. Dobbiamo onorare e rispettare le radici ed è ciò che cerco di fare anch’io quando sviluppiamo le nostre linee produttive."
 

Wil

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May 8, 2020
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We should keep in mind, quoting from Miki's Remembrance-Page, that it was Karl-Heinz Fink who finished this Tribute Set:
"After the changes of the first prototypes were approved & before the project could be completed, Ken sadly passed away. In his memory, Rotel worked closely with his dear friend Karl-Heinz Fink to complete the products to fulfill Ken’s original vision."

And in short, I do believe KHF's work is worthy of closer consideration, auditioning. But let's talk about him at:


So, my thoughts on the player, "CD 11 (£399, $599, €449, AU$649)"

At that price, rather than high-end… we expect it to be fun-and-engaging-listening?

Rotel's listing said:
"The CD11 Tribute includes critical changes to the power supply, DAC circuits and precise selection of components in the audio signal path delivering an increased sense of space, improved accuracy, detail, and genuineness of the audio."

Sharp-eyed consumers will note that their internal view contradicts the change-of-components pic, note RCA out:
RotelParts-Specs-cdpreamp_4.png
CD11 Tribute internal.jpg
CD11 Tribute_back.jpg

CD11 Tribute basically plays only CDs. No USB flash drive, no external DAC inputs.
CD11 Tribute_silver.jpg
 
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manicm

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May 1, 2008
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We should keep in mind, quoting from Miki's Remembrance-Page, that it was Karl-Heinz Fink who finished this Tribute Set:
"After the changes of the first prototypes were approved & before the project could be completed, Ken sadly passed away. In his memory, Rotel worked closely with his dear friend Karl-Heinz Fink to complete the products to fulfill Ken’s original vision."

And in short, I do believe KHF's work is worthy of closer consideration, auditioning. But let's talk about him at:


So, my thoughts on the player, "CD 11 (£399, $599, €449, AU$649)"

At that price, rather than high-end… we expect it to be fun-and-engaging-listening?

Rotel's listing said:
"The CD11 Tribute includes critical changes to the power supply, DAC circuits and precise selection of components in the audio signal path delivering an increased sense of space, improved accuracy, detail, and genuineness of the audio."

Sharp-eyed consumers will note that their internal view contradicts the change-of-components pic, note RCA out:
View attachment 1608
View attachment 1609
View attachment 1610

CD11 Tribute basically plays only CDs. No USB flash drive, no external DAC inputs.
View attachment 1611
What about the RCA out seems contradictory?
 

Al ears

Moderator
We should keep in mind, quoting from Miki's Remembrance-Page, that it was Karl-Heinz Fink who finished this Tribute Set:
"After the changes of the first prototypes were approved & before the project could be completed, Ken sadly passed away. In his memory, Rotel worked closely with his dear friend Karl-Heinz Fink to complete the products to fulfill Ken’s original vision."

And in short, I do believe KHF's work is worthy of closer consideration, auditioning. But let's talk about him at:


So, my thoughts on the player, "CD 11 (£399, $599, €449, AU$649)"

At that price, rather than high-end… we expect it to be fun-and-engaging-listening?

Rotel's listing said:
"The CD11 Tribute includes critical changes to the power supply, DAC circuits and precise selection of components in the audio signal path delivering an increased sense of space, improved accuracy, detail, and genuineness of the audio."

Sharp-eyed consumers will note that their internal view contradicts the change-of-components pic, note RCA out:
View attachment 1608
View attachment 1609
View attachment 1610

CD11 Tribute basically plays only CDs. No USB flash drive, no external DAC inputs.
View attachment 1611
It's true that the circuit board shown does not appear in the CDP internals photo however it's not something I am going to get grey hair over....... oh, hang on..... ;-)
 
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Wil

Well-known member
May 8, 2020
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CD11 Tribute internal.jpg
Some people will be misled when judging by Rotel's own info.

It's true that the circuit board shown does not appear in the CDP internals photo however it's not something I am going to get grey hair over....... oh, hang on..... ;-)

And if indeed this upgrade, then no room for bulky interconnnects:
RotelParts-Specs-cdpreamp_4.png
 
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Wil

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May 8, 2020
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Before next time with some thoughts on A11 Tribute Amp, here's the reason why I don't mind how CD11 Tribute hasn't an Optical Out:
Screen Shot.png

Because Ken said "As you may know" I didn't try to take more of his time asking him to explain, but I did Google why "almost every optical connection is not working properly…" However, I've misplaced the bookmark of the best answer I found. A reader may be able to provide a link or two.

And Ken then was hinting at release of SA-10
 

plus 1

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Dec 5, 2019
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Before next time with some thoughts on A11 Tribute Amp, here's the reason why I don't mind how CD11 Tribute hasn't an Optical Out:
View attachment 1614

Because Ken said "As you may know" I didn't try to take more of his time asking him to explain, but I did Google why "almost every optical connection is not working properly…" However, I've misplaced the bookmark of the best answer I found. A reader may be able to provide a link or two.

And Ken then was hinting at release of SA-10
interesting that ken thought analogue was the best connection choice but which one - rca, xlr or din ?!
 

Wil

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May 8, 2020
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"As you may know, many so-called balanced Pre-amp internally at the Volume Control they're convert[ing] to the single-ended because it is easier. So then they convert back to balanced. This for me is crazy.":

interesting that ken thought analogue was the best connection choice but which one - rca, xlr or din ?!
 

plus 1

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Dec 5, 2019
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"As you may know, many so-called balanced Pre-amp internally at the Volume Control they're convert[ing] to the single-ended because it is easier. So then they convert back to balanced. This for me is crazy.":
so in this particular design example its rca !
i wonder what the patented connection that ken was working on actually was, and, if will feature on future marantz or rotel equipment ?
 

Wil

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May 8, 2020
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I gather that Ken, generally, to reach the most number of consumers, price-wise, he does the best he can for connecting through RCA.

Of that vid, his message was if to do XLR properly, not only do volume control of the pre-amp need to maintain the balanced signal, the power amps should be push-pull too. Otherwise, doing half-assed XLR "is crazy" even though result-may-be-pleasing to certain listeners.

Likewise, Toslink may give you a more enjoyable result vs Coaxial Digital, but still "almost every optical connection is not working properly…"

so in this particular design example its rca !
i wonder what the patented connection that ken was working on actually was, and, if will feature on future marantz or rotel equipment ?
I had cut out the first paragraph of Ken's 2016 reply, but did try say that his concluding comment was referring to SA-10, its DAC approach, upsampling everything to DSD. Yet final performance is down to tuning e.g. he said SA-12 wasn't suitable for European tastes:
And proof to existence of regional sound-performance tastes, especially "European" here's a 2018 reply from Ken:
 
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matthewpiano

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Nov 23, 2007
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I now have the A11 Tribute amplifier, and over its first couple of days I have thoroughly enjoyed it. It's very nicely made and good to use, and strikes a good balance between the warmth that became a KI trademark, and detail.

I'm considering the CD11 Tribute to go with it, but I'm currently weighing it up against the Marantz CD6007. My experience has generally been that I prefer Rotel's amplifiers, but Marantz CD players, and some comments in various places about Rotels more recent transports do push me in the Marantz direction.
 

Wil

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May 8, 2020
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Ah, thanks, good of you to share your experience. It's pleasing to know that Rotel's specific entry-level Hi-Fi dedication to Ken's work and legacy is, simply say, worthy.

I now have the A11 Tribute amplifier, and over its first couple of days I have thoroughly enjoyed it. It's very nicely made and good to use, and strikes a good balance between the warmth that became a KI trademark, and detail.

I'm considering the CD11 Tribute to go with it, but I'm currently weighing it up against the Marantz CD6007. My experience has generally been that I prefer Rotel's amplifiers, but Marantz CD players, and some comments in various places about Rotels more recent transports do push me in the Marantz direction.
I've taken a quick look into CD6007, there happens to be this on-site review:

Firstly, its priced the same as CD11 Tribute. Secondly, I zoned-in to:
"The older [CD6006 UK Edition] player has more solidity through the midband and gives Irie’s voice a sense of body and natural warmth the CD6007 doesn’t quite match."

Let's say whoever has the sway now at Marantz to finalise-the-sound is proving to shift the emphasis away from Ken's keenness to maintain a-warmer-midband. Will this destabilising be in a good way or bad? Depends on our personal definition of success, does the product sell (brand's criterion), or does (preferably the performance rather than look of) the product move our emotions (consumer's criterion).

Are you in a position with your dealer to borrow the 2 players home for auditioning?

And for readers who haven't seen A11 Tribute:

Amp has an "apt-X and AAC wireless Bluetooth" feature.
 
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shadders

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Nov 19, 2009
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Before next time with some thoughts on A11 Tribute Amp, here's the reason why I don't mind how CD11 Tribute hasn't an Optical Out:
View attachment 1614

Because Ken said "As you may know" I didn't try to take more of his time asking him to explain, but I did Google why "almost every optical connection is not working properly…" However, I've misplaced the bookmark of the best answer I found. A reader may be able to provide a link or two.

And Ken then was hinting at release of SA-10
Hi,
I would disagree with that optical is the worst. In fact it is the best. There is no electrical connection between the two units, so noise is not an issue.

I have seen it written on another forum that optical connections also transmits noise between units, and this is, quite simply, utter rot.

There is phase noise possible with optical, as with all systems, but as long as the transmitter and receiver are implemented correctly, then there are no data errors. The phase noise has to be very high for bit errors, or synchronisation/clock recovery problems.

At the end of the statement, there is talk of a patent. Is this discussion a precursor to presenting a fix for a problem that does not exist ?

Regards,
Shadders.
 
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Wil

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This may be a typo, but I wouldn’t expect a DAC *input* on a CD player, just a digital *output* to a DAC, if an external model was felt to be superior.
It was a rushed kinda day. Perhaps my mind's not completely on writing in Hi-Fi terminology right now either.



I meant no Digital Audio In aka Inputs for external-digital-sources to make use of the DAC. And I'll add that CD11 Tribute also hasn't a Headphones feature.

If you're using your SA-14S1 SE as a DAC… have you read their White Paper?

Hi,
I would disagree with that optical is the worst…
I can leave it to each listener to decide. Ken as their chief engineer should've known better, don't you think?
 
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shadders

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Nov 19, 2009
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I can leave it to each listener to decide. Ken as their chief engineer should've known better, don't you think?
Hi,
It depends on the context - was it a subjective view, or objective ? Where is the references that optical connections are the worst ?. Was it related to a forthcoming patent ?

We have multi gigabit optical fibre communications, so it cannot be all that bad ?

Regards,
Shadders.
 

Wil

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May 8, 2020
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Context, my reckoning, is limited to standardised consumer-audio-connections in analogue and digital i.e RCA, Coax, Toslink. Ken rates Toslink last or 3rd, that "almost every optical connection is not working properly…"

I'll re-link the Screen Shot for referral:


Hi,
It depends on the context - was it a subjective view, or objective ? Where is the references that optical connections are the worst ?. Was it related to a forthcoming patent ?

We have multi gigabit optical fibre communications, so it cannot be all that bad ?

Regards,
Shadders.
I should've cut the last paragraph too. Readers are mistaking Ken's hint to me of SA-10 DAC approach…
 
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nopiano

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I meant no Digital Audio In aka Inputs for external-digital-sources to make use of the DAC. And I'll add that CD11 Tribute also hasn't a Headphones feature.

If you're using your SA-14S1 SE as a DAC… have you read their White Paper?
Ah, I see what you mean. I’ve never seen that on a budget player, hence my confusion.
Thanks for the link, which I read a while back. I didn’t find the USB input on the Marantz especially helpful tbh, as I’d hoped the few hires files on my MacBook might be stream-able via the Marantz, but it was limited to CD resolution. Additional software might’ve solved that, but I can now do so wirelessly via my Linn streamer. I’ve not had much luck with the thumb drive either, but it’s not important, I was just curious to experiment!
Essentially I use it as a stand alone CD and SACD player, period.
 
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Wil

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German online Hi-Fi mag LowBeats published its review of the set on Monday:

I read it with Google Translate and understood most of it, their conclusion: "audiophile bargains."

CD player's RCA outs are shown to be spaced out… That separate PCB mentioned in #6 perhaps is in amp? Rotel uses same upgrade-parts pic in both listings.
 
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Wil

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KI 99.JPG
More of the above interview, from 1999, can be found here.

Me, there's been no urgency to buy Rotel's Tribute 11 set because I own 4 previous matching Signature sets Ken had worked on. Simply, their behaviour was finalised to be all-rounders. Indeed, sophistication-of-performance correlates to price—but having lived some time with each coupling, there are specific tracks/albums that I definitely prefer from a lower price-point set e.g. original 66KI Amp with 63KI Player are still often rotated into use.

No urgency, but I can't forget that it'll be fun to spend some months playing Tribute 11s. So, someday, I'll likely own them too.
 
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