Rotel RB-985 Power Amp $395

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Rotel RB-985 Power Amp  $395

Five channels of amplification, THX certified, 100 watts rms output per channel at 8 Ohms, Frequency response 10 Hz - 80 kHz plus or minus 0.5 dB, harmonic distortion less than 0.03%, input impedance 27 kOhm, damping factor 180, size 5 1/2"H x 17 3/8"W x 15 5/8"D, weight 34 pounds. Black metal chassis, non-grounded AC plug. $999. Rotel of America, 54 Concord Street, North Reading, Massachusetts 01864, Phone (508) 664-3820.

Rotel is no newcomer to audio electronics, having been in manufacturing for more than 30 years. The RB 985 is their multi-channel power amplifier entry into the home theater market. Our unit for review arrived in a carefully insulated double carton which gives it some added shielding to bumps and knocks in the delivery van. It is, like many such units, contained within a black metal chassis, having an on/off switch on the front, and five LEDs which flash at power on, and then turn off to indicate all is well. They will light if there is an overheating problem or shorted outputs. Thus, the unit appears from the front as unobtrusive and blends well into any hi-fi home theater system from an appearance standpoint.

The rear of the unit has the input jacks (RCA unbalanced) arranged, from left to right (looking over the top at the back of the amplifier), as left rear surround, left front, center, right front, and right rear surround. There is also a multi-pin port on the rear for connecting the RB 985 inputs using a single cable which would contain all the leads from the surround sound processor/preamplifier. This saves having to weave your way through five separate cables that would otherwise be necessary for connecting five RCA output jacks on the processor to the five RCA input jacks on the RB 985. Of course, the processor must also have the appropriate multi-pin port. Such processors are on the way to your local dealer now. The three-way binding posts for theoutputs to speakers are arranged in the same order, underneath the respective inputs. The outputs are color coded with blue, green, and red posts for the positive leads, and black for the negative. This helps a bit when leaning over the amp to make speaker connections. The metal threaded posts are a little thin for our tastes, as they are easily bent if the user is not careful.

Beneath the hood lurks a big toroidal power transformer (shaped like a doughnut). Toroidal designs are quite vogue these days, having greater efficiency for their size, compared to the older style iron core types. There are four bipolar output devices (transistors) per channel. There are no individual input level (volume) controls for the channels. We prefer input level controls because they allow more flexibility in adjusting the balance of sound in the room - not necessarily a feature available on every surround sound processor. Also, the AC input plug is ungrounded. The amp, thus, is very basic - no frills, no flash - just plenty of power (a total of 500 watts rms). It is THX certified, meaning that the amp has at least 100 watts rms per channel for high intensity sound tracks all the way around. This will become even more important should you buy this amp for AC-3 use.

MSRP $1000. Selling price is: $395

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