Integra Research RDC-7 AV Preamp Reviewed

Published On: April 18, 2003
Last Updated on: October 31, 2020
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Integra Research RDC-7 AV Preamp Reviewed

Integra is the installer based version of Onkyo and the RDC-7 is a solid performer for the money in it's day. While not offering HDMI switching or decoding of the new uncompressed codecs offered by Blu-ray this is a piece built to last and you will see them around for some time. Read a full review here.

Integra Research RDC-7 AV Preamp Reviewed

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Integra-RDC-7-av-preamp-reviewed.gifIntegra Research is the up-market division of Onkyo, and concentrates mainly on the high-end home theater market. To this point, they have produced three products: the RDV-1 DVD player, the RDA-7 amplifier, and the RDC-7 processor.

Read more high end AV Preamp reviews from Integra, Anthem, Arcam, Meridian, Krell, Lexicon, Mark Levinson and more by clicking here.

The $4,500 RDC-7 processor from Integra Research (IR) has been around for about two years now, which seems an eternity in these days of yearly introductions of new surround formats and updates. IR has been very intelligent about the design of their processor; as it is upgradeable not only in software form, but also in hardware form--something that is not all that common. To drive this point home, IR has recently released an upgrade for the RDC-7 that incorporates THX Ultra 2 Certification, decoding capability for the new DTS 24/96 format, allowing for setting of flexible subwoofer crossover points, and increased bandwidth of the component video switching to 60+ MHz. This is quite an update and, added to prior updates, certainly puts the RDC-7 at the head of the pack for features. The RDC-7 7.1 processor decodes Dolby Digital, Dolby Digital EX, DTS, DTS-ES, Dolby Pro Logic II, DTS Neo:6, and has the prerequisite multi-channel input for DVD-Audio and SACD.

Unique Features - The RDC-7 is an impressive looking piece. It is HUGE. In fact, it is so big that I had to re-arrange my shelves to fit it, leaving some cooling space above it (as it runs on the warm side). It is also quite heavy at 40 pounds, and seems to use the same chassis as Onkyo's flagship 989 receiver. On the RDC-7, the color is a very attractive pewter, and the front panel is made of aluminum. The buttons are chrome, the central display is very large, and clearly legible in blue, and the input selection buttons are also surrounded by blue light when activated, with a red LED above them. The bottom part of the processor has a motorized door that slides down to reveal controls. The overall effect is very pleasing, and the Lady Jacqueline Aesthetic Factor rang in at 8, with the main negative being the large size. The remote is gray, back-lit in green, and although quite thorough, looks just a little too much like a receiver remote.

Installation/Setup/Ease of Use - The back panel has balanced outputs, five digital coaxial inputs and one output, four optical Toslink inputs and one output, three component inputs and one output, six analog inputs with S-Video and composite inputs, a phone input, a separate DVD and CD input and, of course, S-Video and composite outputs. There is a DB-25 connector for multi-channel input, for which IR supplies a breakout connector that will connect to six RCA tipped interconnects. Instead of using this, the folks at Tributaries Cable were kind enough to send over a DB-25 to 6 RCA interconnect breakout cable, which I hooked up to my Marantz DV8300 as my audio source. I used Tributaries interconnects to hook up the RDC-7 to my Classé CAV-150 amp, connected the component and S-Video outputs to my Pioneer Elite 520 TV, and the system would not be complete without my B&W Nautilus 804/805/HTM2 speaker set.

It was during the setup that I hit my first snag. The RDC-7 is very flexible using assignable video and digital inputs for every connection, but to set the parameters for these you have to hit each individual input as you are setting it up. (The Krell Showcase processor, that preceded the RDC-7 in my system, could complete the entire setup through just one input.) This became an issue because the onscreen display is not visible through component inputs which is what I used to set up my Replay, DVD player, and HD cable box. I had to revert to using the processor display, which was not as easy due the extensive branching of the setup menus. Understanding the setup and completing it ended up taking the better part of the afternoon, but it did allow me to see how extensive and complete the menu and feature system is.

Read The Final Take on Page 2


Final Take
So how does it perform? This definitely was an interesting situation, as I was able to put the RDC-7 in immediately after the Krell Showcase Processor had been in my system. My overwhelming impression of the RDC-7 is that it does all things smoothly, extremely competently, and rarely offends. On 2-channel music, the RDC-7 automatically up-samples all sources and uses anti-jitter technology from class-leader Apogee Electronics to deliver a smooth, soft, delicate, and warm sound. The treble is well controlled, the midrange clear and delicate, and the bass fast and dynamic. The imaging is excellent, the soundstage large, but not quite as wide or deep as the Krell's. On SACD and DVD-Audio music, the RDC-7 does an excellent job as a pre-amp, and the sound is soft, detailed, and slightly warm.

Moving onto movie soundtracks, the RDC-7 does a very good job creating a smooth sound- field with movies, and steering is excellent. Vocals are clear, and even bright movie soundtracks were easily tamed with the THX processing. The bass is fast, dynamic, and strong. My impression was one of immense smoothness and competence. I did notice, in darkened rooms, that the dimmer for the display does not dim the blue lights surrounding the selected input, which stay quite bright.

The comparison with the Showcase processor is very telling as both units are excellent, but have different personalities. The RDC-7 does all things well, but is extremely polite in the process. All the detail is present in the sound as in the Showcase, but the Showcase's presentation of the detail with its larger soundstage and tendency toward a crisper rather than warmer midrange is more passionate and dramatic, while the RDC7 is softer, kinder, and gentler. The downside to the Krell's passion is that it will sometimes accentuate the bad in poor recordings, while the RDC-7 does not seem to trip up often at all. The same bright Billy Holiday SACD recording that I mention in the Krell review was not as fatiguing through the RDC-7 as it was through the Krell Showcase processor.

Integra Research has created a processor that does an absolutely excellent job at just about everything. It is interesting that what really sets the RDC-7 and Krell apart is the presentation, leaving it up to the listener to choose what fits their tastes. The copious features and thorough upgradeability of the RDC-7 are class- leading, and deserve serious attention. This is definitely a processor worth considering, and is easily among the best in its category.

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Read more high end AV Preamp reviews from Integra, Anthem, Arcam, Meridian, Krell, Lexicon, Mark Levinson and more by clicking here.

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