We Ask 10 Questions For High-End
During Enjoy the Music.com's very special 25th Anniversary we're asking various high-end audio manufacturers to answer the same ten questions. Their answers may surprise you! This month we're featuring Daren Orth, Rotel's Chief Technology Officer. Since 1961, Rotel audio products are known worldwide for their quality, reliability, value, and, above all, exceptional sound reproduction. There is no substitute for experience. Rotel has over 55 years experience in designing, engineering, and manufacturing audio/video components. The origins of Rotel (originally called Roland) date back to a contract to distribute USA-made Sylvania television sets throughout Japan. This was in the early 1950s, before the growth of Japanese-manufactured sets by Sony, Panasonic, Toshiba, and other brands. Their excellent products have earned the company many awards and accolades. Rotel has always been a family-owned business. That is why they take the time to build, test, and critically evaluate each new model before it goes into production. Rotel's reputation is personal..
Q. What is your first memory of falling in love with music?
A. Growing up in a house with six older siblings (all sisters) there was always music playing from early in the mornings through late at night. The genre, volume level, and source varied but there was always music. Music became a natural extension of life and I quickly gained an appreciation for all genres of music from the 1960s Motown to 1980s pop-rock to jazz, blues, classical, and more.
Q. How did you first get introduced to high-fidelity audio gear?
A. I was introduced to the electronics of audio when I installed an 8-Track player in my sister's car when I was 11 years old. I thought "How hard can it be? Back wire to black wire and red wire to red wire". While not technically high-fidelity it was my first real hands-on with audio equipment. The installation was successful, but the car never fully recovered with squeaks and rattles in the dash for the duration of its life. Over the years following I gained more experience with high-fidelity and a better understanding of differences in source medium of the audio, equipment used to playback the audio, the frequency response of different speakers, and varying quality of the music recordings. I was hooked and the rest – is history.
Q. What is your favorite piece of vintage hi-fi, and why?
A. I am a big fan of access to music anywhere and anytime without fuss. The convenience of streaming music at home, in the car, or anyplace on the go is the ultimate in convenience. But – there is something about the tactile feeling of holding music. The music and artist feel a bit closer when I hold a piece of vinyl and to me even more so with reel-to-reel. While I have long since parted ways reel-to-reel I still enjoy opening the jacket and sliding out a piece of vinyl.
Q. When did you decide to start a high-end audio company?
Q. What, and when, was your company's first product?
A. The first models from Rotel models were AM/FM Tuners in 1961 followed by Integrated AM/FM Tuners. These models quickly found success due to the build quality and attractive price points.
Q. What challenges did you face during those early years?
A. Technology changes are constant and welcomed as they drive innovation. Rotel was comfortably engineering and delivering analog products to the market but found the introduction of digital technology required a shift in the business model and engineering skillsets. The change happened quickly when Mr. Tachikawa bring his son Bob into the business to enact these changes. The resulting products included several highly successful CD Players and paved the way for Rotel's multi-channel home theater products.
Q. How have your products evolved over the years?
A. The mechanical design of Rotel products has evolved over the years providing attractive, contemporary aesthetics complimenting advancements in the selection of critical audio components, power supplies designs, and circuit layout technologies delivering improved sonic performance. Series after series and model over model the improvements continue building on over 6 decades of audio engineering expertise.
Q. What is your company's most popular product(s)?
A. Rotel has had many popular models but of special note is the RCD-855 CD Player receiving multiple audio industry and music awards and was certainly a fan favorite. This model was key in the transition to digital audio and instrumental for Rotel. The RSP-1098 Surround Sound Processor was also popular with its iconic front panel 7" LCD display supporting video preview. With over 120 different models of tuners, 30+ CD players, and more than 300 models of amplifiers, integrated amplifiers, and home theater products there have been and continue to be many popular models and favorites in our growing family of satisfied Rotel customers.
Q. What is your next planned product offering and its' features?
A. Rotel continues to innovate and push the envelope of high-performance, high-value products. The relaunch of Michi in 2019 after 30 years in the shadows show the dedication, passion, and commitment of this family-owned and 3rd generation family operated audio brand. We have many new models in development for the stereo / two-channel market, home theater market, and custom installation market. And aligned with its namesake the Japanese word Michi means "pathway" and we are excited to continue on the path with new products launching under the Michi brand.
Q. What advancements do you speculate high-end audio will offer ten years from now?
A. Streaming audio provides access to a near limitless library of music literally at the touch of a button. The quality of streaming audio continues to improve and the ease of searching and selecting music from this vast collection is also improving. I believe these services will continue to evolve requiring an even higher level of performance be it a simple bookshelf system or a full audiophile grade HiFi music system. I also hope there continues to be an appreciation for physical contact with music medium and the Vinyl Revolution continues to inspire and deliver an appreciation for the heritage of music.
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