Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.
The recent introduction of Rotel’s brand-new Diamond Series comprises only two components: the RA-6000 integrated amplifier–DAC, which I previously reviewed, and the subject of this review, the DT-6000 CD player–DAC. And while the RA-6000 ($4499, all prices in USD) will likely garner more attention, the DT-6000, at a retail price of only $2299, has the potential to provide a lot of value for those seeking a high-performance CD player–DAC.
So, after listening to the RA-6000 amp for an extended period of time and completing its review—and only listening casually to the DT-6000 from time to time—I set out to put Rotel’s new Diamond Series CD player–DAC through its paces.
The Diamond Series DT-6000 has the same aesthetic cues as the RA-6000; as such, it looks like a beefed-up but slightly fancier version of the company’s RCD-1572MKII CD player. I really like the look of the DT-6000. It is not as tall and heavy as the RA-6000, but still looks and feels very solid. Sharing a similar front-panel layout to that of its RCD counterpart, the DT-6000 has a centrally located matrix display that shows track details and running times, input source names, and type of digital signal being received, including word length and sampling frequency. The bottom row displays CD-Text information.
As with the RA-6000, the thick faceplate has an attractive brushed-aluminum finish with “DIAMOND SERIES” embossed on the top surface, and deeply grooved, chromed end caps. The end result is similar to but more solid and stylish than most Rotel components. The disc drawer is situated directly below the display, with round, machined-aluminum operating buttons to the right of it. To the left are similar buttons to select input source, repeat, random, and time display. Even further to the left are the power button, surrounded by a blue LED indicator, and an IR remote sensor.
The rear panel is relatively sparsely populated. The analog stereo RCA and XLR outputs on the left have plenty of space between them, so beefy interconnects can be attached with ease. Nearer to the center are coaxial (RCA) and optical (TosLink) digital inputs, and a USB Type-B port, labeled PC-USB. A USB-A connection is provided for software updates, along with an RS-232 port, as well as a 12V trigger input and an input for an external IR remote sensor. The two-pronged IEC power inlet is located on the right side for the provided power cord. The overall build quality is solid, but not overbuilt—like products from some other high-end manufacturers, or even Rotel’s own Michi line. The DT-6000 is relatively heavy for an optical disc player–DAC, weighing nearly 18 pounds and measuring 17″W × 4″H × 12.6″D. It is available in silver or black finishes.
The interior reveals an extremely tidy circuit-board layout and a large, bespoke, encased toroidal transformer with “Diamond Series” silk-screened on the top. The eight-channel ESS ES9028PRO DAC is implemented in a fully balanced configuration, with boards featuring symmetrical circuit traces, metal-film resistors, and polystyrene or polypropylene capacitors in the important signal paths. An example of this can be seen in the custom-designed output filtering stage, which has 16 capacitors arranged symmetrically around the DAC chip.
Although the disc mechanism only reads CD media, the DAC section can decode PCM data up to 24-bit/192kHz through the coaxial and optical inputs and 32/384 through the PC-USB input. The DT-6000 is Roon Tested; the PC-USB input can accept native DSD up to 11.2MHz, including DoP, and supports MQA and MQA Studio up to 24/384. Rotel specifies the frequency response as 20Hz to 20kHz, +0, ‑0.15dB and 10Hz to 70kHz, +0, ‑3dB; channel balance ±0.5dB; channel separation >115dB @ 10kHz; signal-to-noise ratio (IHF A-weighted) >115dB; and dynamic range >99dB. The analog output/impedance (0dBfs) is said to be 2.1V/10 ohms (unbalanced) and 4.3V/20 ohms (balanced).
The provided RR-D150 remote is plastic and has quite a few buttons, but not as many as the confusing and busy-looking remotes included with many components in this price range. This, along with the positive feel of the thick, rubberized, backlit buttons and a good weight make the remote relatively easy to use. There are numbered buttons to directly access tracks and others to select the input. The Setup button is used to enter the menu system, where the user can select the type of USB decoding (32-bit PCM, 24-bit PCM, or DSD/MQA), dim the display or power indicator, display the firmware version, perform a software update, or reset the unit to the factory defaults. The menu system can also be accessed on the front panel of the DT-6000 by holding down the Stop button and then using the track buttons for navigation.
Other than not reading high-resolution physical media such as SACDs and DVD-Audio discs, the only omissions I would highlight in the DT-6000’s feature set are the lack of a volume control to enable it to be used as a digital preamp, and the absence of user-selectable digital filters. Depending on your use case, these features may not be important to you, and considering its relatively low price, the DT-6000 is quite a bargain considering all that it does do.
I connected the DT-6000 to the Anthem STR preamplifier in my reference system using Shunyata Research Venom-X XLR interconnects and a Clarus Aqua power cord. While I did play back some CDs, I did most of my listening by using it as a DAC; my Intel NUC computer, running Roon and streaming Tidal, was connected via an AudioQuest Carbon USB cable and a JitterBug jitter reducer. The rest of the system comprised Anthem M1 monoblock power amplifiers, a pair of MartinLogan Masterpiece Classic ESL 9 loudspeakers, and dual JL Audio E-Sub e112 powered subwoofers, all integrated by the STR preamplifier’s bass management and room correction systems. Other cabling and power products were from Analysis Plus, Clarus, ESP, Zero Surge, and Blue Circle Audio.
Rotel’s USB Audio Class 2.0 driver, which is required to take advantage of higher digital resolutions, was already installed on my Windows computer for use with the RA-6000 amp I reviewed earlier. I do not have any 32-bit recordings, but do have DSD files and can utilize MQA with Tidal, so I configured digital decoding to 24-bit and MQA/DSD in the USB driver’s settings for the DT-6000.
Although the DT-6000 worked very well during my time with it, there were a few quirks that I noticed in day-to-day use. First, it takes about ten seconds to load a disc. While I didn’t do that very often, you might find it a bit tedious if you play a lot of CDs. (On the plus side, disc playback was otherwise pretty responsive, and the operation of the tray mechanism was quite smooth.) Second, during playback of CD-Text encoded discs, the album and track names continuously scrolled across the bottom row of the display, even if all the information could be displayed on one line; there was no way to stop it scrolling. For discs without CD-Text encoding, “No CD-TEXT” was constantly displayed on the bottom row. I found the CD-Text display distracting, but could not find a way to disable it. When using the DT-6000 as a DAC, the bottom row of the display indicated the type of digital signal, the word length, and the sampling frequency.
Having been satisfied with performance of the built-in DAC on my reference Anthem STR preamp for the past few years, and similarly with an Anthem D2 surround-sound preamplifier/processor before that, I haven’t given much thought to using an external DAC or optical disc player as my main digital source. So, while I was assuming the DT-6000 would perform well in my system, I wasn’t really expecting it to improve the performance.
I often describe powerful amplifiers as having a big, bold sound when they are dynamic and well controlled. This is also how I would describe the sound of the DT-6000. I was a bit taken aback when I first started listening to it in my reference system; the highly detailed sound I am accustomed to was still there, but there was a bit more weight and a livelier, more dynamic quality. The differences weren’t huge, but they were evident with everything I played through the DT-6000. My system just sounded a tad more satisfying.
From Beyoncé’s very first, echoey vocals on “Break My Soul (The Queens Remix)” (24/44.1 MQA, Columbia Records / Tidal), the music washed luxuriously over me, filling my room with wave after wave of pulsating sound. While the imaging extended well beyond the outside edges of the speakers, the placement of each voice and instrument was still ultraprecise. When the electric bass comes in at 0:48, it was tightly focused and placed directly between the speakers, but with a super-solid and hard-hitting quality. The quick-fire rapping in the background that follows sounded crystal clear, even though it is at a relatively low volume compared to the rest of the mix, which includes all kinds of finger-snapping and frenzied percussion placed throughout the soundstage. Samples of Madonna’s “Vogue” are featured prominently in the track. Even though they too are set slightly back in the soundstage and presented at a lower volume, the DT-6000 integrated them perfectly; they always remained distinct and did not become lost in the busy EDM mix.
Lang Lang’s “Somewhere (Dirty Blvd.)” with Robbie Robertson (24/44.1 MQA, Sony / Tidal) starts out as an intimate yet extremely robust recording of a solo piano, but quickly changes character to a large-scale orchestral presentation with some very deep timpani rolls. It then transitions to what sounds like a multitrack studio recording; Robertson’s spoken-word rendition of Lou Reed’s “Dirty Blvd.” is layered on top of a mélange of electronic instruments that are themselves layered upon various sections of the orchestra. Robertson’s vocals were placed up front with great presence. I could hear the different instruments pop delightfully in and out of the soundstage, with the piano keeping excellent pace in the background. And just when you think that there couldn’t be any more creativity in this already brimming recording, Lisa Fischer’s gorgeous and powerful vocals for Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim’s “Somewhere” add yet another layer of complexity to the mix. This is a thrilling but challenging recording to reproduce, with huge dynamics and minute spatial cues in the differing arrangements that make up the composition, all of which the DT-6000 was able to handle with ease.
I also played some of my DSF and DFF files to see how the Rotel would handle DSD data. “Solsbury Hill” from 1977’s Peter Gabriel 1 (DSD64 DSF, Geffen) sounded excellent. Even though I find this recording to be a bit opaque and flat-sounding, with the kick drum lacking some definition, the bouncy pacing was tight and the vocals were exceptionally clear and up front. The production on “Here Comes the Flood” is completely different, sounding like it might belong on an entirely different album. The crystal-clear piano and guitar, interspersed with sparse percussion, were placed precisely within a deep soundstage. Through the DT-6000, Gabriel’s vocals had a relaxed and melodic quality, with their lyrical ebbs and flows drifting hauntingly into the darkness. The vocals on “Family Snapshot” from Peter Gabriel 3 (DSD64 DSF, Geffen) sounded raspier and less echoey, but the piano, synth, and horns had the same crystalline quality I had heard on “Here Comes the Flood.” I have never really loved these early Gabriel albums, finding their sound to be a little muddy on many of the tracks; but playing them back as DSF files through the DT-6000, they sounded as good as I have ever heard on my system.
Unsurprisingly, the DT-6000 was also a fantastic CD player, wringing every last little bit of performance out of Red Book CDs. The opening heartbeat-like, rumbling drums on “Fallen Angel” from Robbie Robertson’s eponymous album (Geffen / Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab UDCD 618) were deep and well defined. Not only was the bass taut and concussive, but Robertson’s vocals hung in space between the speakers with astonishing palpability, and there was a delicate distinction between his voice and the overdubbed backing vocals. Even with the playback of CDs and standard-resolution digital files, there was a real sense of control with the DT-6000’s performance and nary a hint of compression or strain when the sound got really loud, nor any lack of control in the bass region.
My long-time reference disc player has been Oppo Digital’s UDP-205 ($1299 when available). It’s an outstanding 4K UltraHD universal Blu-ray player–DAC with excellent video and audio quality, including 7.1-channel analog outputs for multichannel recordings. The DT-6000 costs quite a bit more and lacks video and multichannel capability, and perhaps more importantly to some, the ability to play back SACDs and DVD-Audio discs. The Oppo uses a similar, but more advanced DAC chip from ESS Technology, the ES9038PRO; two of them in fact, with its analog XLR outputs having a fully balanced circuit design.
However, the Oppo must distribute its hardware resources between the stereo and multichannel audio boards and the video board, and its power supply has to drive all that additional circuitry. With only stereo audio outputs, Rotel has lavished much more attention on the DT-6000’s analog output stage and it shows. Listening to “Here Comes the Flood” on the Oppo, Gabriel’s vocals were a little diffuse. So were the instruments, which all seemed to originate from roughly the same plane behind the speakers; on the Rotel they were placed at different depths on the soundstage. I heard similar things with Lang’s piano, various instruments in the orchestra, and Fischer’s and Robertson’s vocals on “Somewhere (Dirty Blvd.)” There was noticeably less space between the images through the Oppo, where they were clustered more closely together and toward the midpoint of the speakers.
The DT-6000 not only improved the sound of my system when compared to the less expensive Oppo player-DAC, but it also afforded some improvements over sending digital signals directly to the STR preamplifier ($4299.99). With the DT-6000 performing the digital-to-analog conversion, the dynamics were improved; there was a little more weight to the sound. This did come at the cost of a very slight loss of transparency, but the overall outcome was a more solid and satisfying sound—despite the fact that the STR preamp was still converting incoming analog signals from the DT-6000 to apply bass management and room correction in the digital domain.
With the DT-6000 in the signal chain, the sound was also a tad smoother than it was just through the STR’s DAC. When I played the live concert recording of “Thunder Road” by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band from The Roxy, West Hollywood, CA: Oct 18, 1975 (24/192 FLAC, nugs.net), the dense mugginess of the atmosphere in the Roxy Theater was nicely captured by the Rotel, with the audience placed realistically in close proximity to the players. And when Springsteen belts out “Show a little faith, there’s magic in the night,” there was less sibilance and bite, which made his voice sound less shouty and jarring. There was a bit less differentiation and distance between Danny Federici’s glockenspiel and Roy Bittan’s piano when compared to the Anthem preamp, but overall, the performance of the DT-6000 was simply fantastic.
A diamond is forever
There aren’t a lot of options when purchasing an optical disc player these days. While Rotel’s Diamond Series DT-6000 only plays CDs, it is also a fully featured DAC, supporting both DSD and MQA, at an extremely attractive price. It outperformed my reference Oppo UDP-205 universal Blu-ray player–DAC by a wide margin. And even though I didn’t think that it would improve the performance of my system when used with the high-performance Anthem STR preamplifier-DAC, it did. Rotel has packed a ton of performance into the DT-6000 and is offering it at a price that makes it an incredible bargain.
. . . Roger Kanno
Note: for the full suite of measurements from the SoundStage! Audio-Electronics Lab, click this link.
- Speakers: MartinLogan Masterpiece Classic ESL 9.
- Preamplifier: Anthem STR.
- Power amplifier: Anthem M1 (monoblocks).
- Digital sources: Intel NUC computer running Windows 10, Roon, and Tidal; AudioQuest JitterBug jitter reducer, Oppo Digital UDP-205 4K UltraHD universal Blu-ray player.
- Speaker cables: Analysis Plus Silver Apex.
- XLR interconnects: Analysis Plus Silver Apex, Shunyata Research Venom-X.
- USB link: AudioQuest Carbon.
- Power cords: Clarus Cable Aqua, Essential Sound Products MusicCord-Pro ES.
- Power conditioners: Blue Circle Audio PLC Thingee FX-2 with X0e low-frequency filter module, Zero Surge 1MOD15WI.
Rotel Diamond Series DT-6000 CD Player–DAC
Warranty: Five years, parts and labor.
The Rotel Co. Ltd.
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Tokyo, Japan 152-0031
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