This whole system is particularly good-looking. The lavender-shaded aluminum faces of the components look very expensive, and the blue LED displays and lights are tasteful. These components may not win any awards for daring industrial-design, but their elegant appearance will make them a graceful fit for any upscale environment. Note, though, that the controller is fairly large and tall, so plan on leaving some extra room on the shelf for it. The controller provides individual source-selection controls on the front panel below the large central LED display and a large volume-knob to the right. The rest of the secondary controls are hidden behind a powered panel along the bottom half of the faceplate. The universal player is also a large one, with transport control buttons illuminated by blue LEDs. The blue displays look great, but are just not as visible as the white displays used on the Anthem Statement D1. System setup was pretty straightforward, and for my tests I used my reference B&W 800 series speaker system (reviewed in Issue 64), a 50-inch Fujitsu plasma display, a Monster HTS7000 power conditioner, and a combination of WireWorld and Tributaries cables. To judge these components on their own merits, I first introduced them into my system one by one, and then used them all together as an integrated system.
Integra Research’s “Build to Order” A/V Controller
I started with the RDC-7.1 controller, and fairly quickly added the RDV-1.1 universal player. The RDC-7.1 is very easy to set up, and its menus are fairly intuitive; the only things missing are microphone-based automated speaker set-up and calibration functions. The backlit remote is a mixed bag. It is full of buttons, which are just too close together and not intuitive enough, and provides a central scroll wheel that allows you to select sources, or to determine whether to control source components or the controller, itself (labeled “AMP”). I found the system less than intuitive, and somewhat cumbersome, but eventually got used to it. The remote’s aluminum faceplate matches that of the processor, and is quite the nice upgrade over Integra’s previous plastic remotes.
But the great news is that this controller has never sounded better. With its integrated Apogee clock to prevent jitter, and its audiophile-grade Wolfson DACs, as well as an excellent analog section, this controller is as smooth as James Bond. The top end is just marvelous, detailed, never harsh, and on the smooth side of crisp. The overall feel is of a slightly laid-back midrange, with strong bass response. The soundstage was very full, and well delineated.
Using the controller as a stereo DAC provided a showcase of the excellent analog-section performance, which, although not quite as impressive as a Krell HTS 7.1, comes close enough that the Integra’s lower price becomes significant.
The digital front-end never skips a beat on movie playback, and its performance is top notch. One mild irritation was the fact that the RDC-7.1 does not pass through HDMI signals when it is turned off; further, the unit only supports basic HDMI and not HDMI Version 1.1.
This means that only two-channel digital- audio data is passed via HDMI, and not a multichannel signal. I’m sure this can be fixed in the future with a firmware update, but it is not a big deal as a digital- audio cable can be used, and— when the RDV-1.1 player is used—multichannel- audio data can be transferred via the i.LINK (Fire Wire) interface.
A “Do-All” Player
Adding the RDV-1.1 was a total pleasure. All I needed to do was plug in one Tributaries HDMI cable, an included i.LINK cable, and a power cord, and I was ready to play. I turned on i.LINK in the processor menu, and off I went. The process was so easy I’m confident even a layperson could do it, thus harnessing the performance of this powerful duo. This really is a top-notch universal player. The Silicon Image chipset provides excellent deinterlacing, the OPlus FlexScale internal scaler can put out 720p and 1080i signals (or other native resolutions), the internal Apogee clock decreases jitter, and the i.LINK interface to the RDC- 7.1 allows users to tap the controller’s powerful time-alignment, bass-man-agement, and notch-filter features when listening to high-resolution multichannel music material (DVD-A and SACD). The i.LINK connection worked flawlessly, passing DVD-A and SACD data to the controller without a problem, and the resulting musical performance was simply excellent.
The picture quality is very, very good, and worthy of a $4000 player. The only problem I had was a picture that always showed the edge (with multicolored border) on the screen, as if the picture size was a bit too small. No matter which way I positioned the picture on my plasma display, there was always an edge visible on one side or the other. This was not present through the component outputs, so I imagine it was either a bug in the switching or in the HDMI output. Although the problem was sent on to the Integra Research engineers for resolution, at press time I had not heard back. I believe this to be an isolated problem unique to my sample, so I did not let it affect my overall review of this player.