Let me begin this by stating that the route I chose in procuring this piece is not to be recommended, as I braved the dark waters of Fleabay with more than a few red flags dotting the landscape. As it was, the Rotel RB-980BX could be had for a few ducets off the normal "going rate", if one were willing to risk it's "sold as-is" status from a mass Ebay vendor providing limited pictures (one) and absolutely no means of hooking up the unit to determine functionality. This could very well have been a lame duck, and it seemed that I wasn't the only one harboring these thoughts. So it sat... largely unnoticed.
"Other items for sale", though not directly linked to any particular individual, included a Rotel Pre-Amp and a dedicated CDP, while the rest of the vendor's wares looked to be more of the figurine and babydoll variety. So I defended my interest by telling myself that if an individual was dumping a dog, he was more than likely dumping three. Plus, the one picture showed an original manual and no noticable wear and/or tear.
So I took a chance, got the unit for a fair price --- and stewed with apprehension, as my "all sales are final" showpiece made it's way to Kentucky courtesy of FedEx. My first fears concerning cosmetics were immediately stifled upon opening the package. I think it is very possible this unit had been used once, maybe twice, and then stored away. It is pristine!!!! Sparkling! Beautiful for a piece as old at is. Someone really provided this unit with TLC above and beyond the call of duty, or forgot it even existed and relegated it to the attic upon purchase. Stroke of luck, I say (and I won't test it twice). Even the original manual had nary a crack on the binding.
As for the meat and potatos of its performance.....
I know this is where the elders generally chime in with their "wow, gotta get me one of those amp thingys". As you should, because it must be an absolute mystery as to how one can go so long without one. My 70's are unbelievably open now. The additional headroom was more than expected, and the detail coming from these oft-derided speakers is absolutely startling. Sure, I threw in the CD's that have always sounded good (my references, if you will). Stop Making Sense (remastered) by the Talking Heads. At Dawn by My Morning Jacket.
But the true test came with those favorites of mine that just sounded like garbage before due to the limited capabilities of my system. Most notable of these is Up the Bracket by the Libertines. Lo-fi, independent offerings are often limited by their lo-fi, independent nature. Part of their charm, and I generally overlook these shortcomings. Truth is, these recordings tend to sound like garbage on my system, and transitively, make my system sound like garbage.
So you can imagine my sheer delight when CD's by the likes of the Libertines, the Cramps, and the Raveonettes suddenly came alive. No longer was I listening to a two-dimensional wall of guitar distortion. There was actually crystal clear dilineation between the vocals and all the instruments. Performances came alive, and the presentations was absolutely effortless. The amp has yet to break a sweat.
The most obvious improvement came in way of the left/right channel separation (don't know the proper term...). Where before, I would become obsessed with adjusting the levels between the two channels due to the fact that my listening position is "off-center", now there is so much separation that I can still enjoy music with both channels running on the same level (if that makes sense...) This translates to a beefed-up sweetspot, and less stress over speaker placement.
Of course, I noticed sounds I hadn't noticed before. Highs had that extra shimmer and glimmer. And for once, the two lower "sub" drivers on the 70's came alive and ate up my PSW10 and rendered it obsolete. Oh well.... I guess it's time for a new sub.
Last but not least, if the Rotel is meant to be "warm sounding" or as the local dealer here in town likes to say --- "European", than the Harman Kardon is biscuits and butter. Whereas, I thought my system would sound even more laid back (if not more powerful) with the addition of a Rotel component, it actually headed a litte in the other direction, if not by much. That being said, the two are a match made in Heaven.
I could go on for much longer.. but as many before me have said in one form or another
"sorry for the long post, but...."