HiFi Rose RS250A Network Attached DAC Page 2

There are also dedicated apps onboard the RS250A for Apple Music, Qobuz, Spotify Connect and Tidal, along with full MQA decoding. Music can also be played from attached USB storage, and there's the facility to fit internal SSD storage of up to 4TB via a hatch in the baseplate, which takes moments. With such storage connected or onboard, a CD drive can be plugged into one of the USB ports for the ripping or playback of discs.

sqnote Read The Roon
There's a huge choice of 'sound-tailoring' options here, from upsampling to a stack of digital filters, but regular readers will know I don't have much faith in any of these having a consistent effect across a wide sweep of genres and sample rates. In the event, I left HiFi Rose's RS250A to do things 'as is' and got on with listening to some music. For the same reasons I kept it simple with the playback control, so having tried both analogue and digital inputs, all of which seemed perfectly respectable, I concentrated instead on streaming to the player using mConnect and – mainly – Roon, as these offered the slickest, typically seamless operation. And with those few caveats, it's all good news from here.


Line ins and outs (RCAs) are joined by digital coaxial and optical in/outs and video on HDMI. There's wired and wireless Ethernet, and BT, one USB-A port for external media (and space for an internal HDD) and USB-B for computer connection plus a USB-A output for connection to an external DAC

The RS250A offers the usual HiFi Rose combination of civility and musical excitement and is as adept with a large-scale classical recording or a heavy rock track as with audiophile-approved small ensemble content. Thus the calypso take on Cole Porter's 'Night And Day' on Everybody Digs Bill Evans, in its 2007 remastered release [Riverside Records RLP-1129], found the player probing deep into the track's knockout bass and drums – there are times when the pianist seems almost like a passenger. Yet it did so without calling attention to itself, allowing the listener to enjoy the virtuoso playing.

Even with the slightly rough sound of ELP's At The Surgery release of live broadcasts dating back almost 50 years [X-Ray XRYCD015], which is a counterpoint to the whistle-clean Brain Salad Surgery album of the same time, the RS250A is all about the main event here – the musicianship and tightly locked interplay of the trio. Emerson's whizzing and whirring synths mesh with Lake's taut, unflashy bass playing and Palmer's 'max attack with total control' mastery of his massive kit. This is the band at the peak of its pomp, for better or worse, and the massive sound was conveyed convincingly by the RS250A, bringing waves of nostalgia to this 'I was there' – well, at some point of the massive tour – listener. There's even an 18-minute gallop through 'Pictures At An Exhibition' here, and a Palmer drum solo running to almost 12 minutes until it segues into a breakneck 'Rondo'.

The Force Awakens
Back on safer ground, but still on the theme of music taken at pace, the Swedish Chamber Orchestra/Dausgaard reading of the first Brahms Symphony [BIS1756] captivated from the off. The clarity of the scaled-down musical forces revealed by the RS250A dispel any doubts that one might be missing some of the subtleties of the score – the conductor and orchestra aiming for a record time that's surely some 25% faster than typical. However, the player's control and resolution ensure the effect is more one of sprightliness than undue haste.

It's easy to warm to the way this player delivers music, simply because the character is that of the recordings, not anything imposed by the hardware. Yes, if memory serves, there's a little less bass weight than the more expensive models in the range can deliver, but it's a close-run thing. Otherwise, used with a decent amplifier – which in my case included my normal Naim reference set-up, and a couple of well-used Marantz MusicLink monoblocks pressed into service to test the player's capabilities when used as a preamp straight into power amps – the RS250A gave a very good account of itself.


Although the RS250A can be accessed via the Rose Connect app, this handset also offers comprehensive control, with operations navigated via the large colour display

In fact, given its dimensions, using it with a hidden-away power amp or active speakers would make it quite an attractive prospect as a 'stealth' system. Moreover, with a 4TB SSD drive – think in the region of an extra £250-£300 – inserted into that bay in the baseplate it could be a compelling music library/player set-up, as well as quite an 'is that it?' talking point.

Whether you use it with Roon or controlled via an app such as mConnect, or indeed just concentrate on streaming services, this is something of a small wonder. It sounds generous and detailed with everything from CD-quality streams to hi-res offerings from Tidal and Qobuz. The RS250A is yet another example of how HiFi Rose manages to blend its flexibility with access to new developments by way of birthing more products to fill niches in the market.

A Winning Team
Certainly the change of DAC, new output devices and improvements to the power supply seem to come together to give this player greater clarity and rhythmic acuity. This was clear with the close-focused horn and piano on Hervé Joulain and Silke Avehaus's Essentials! album [Cobra Records COBRA0086; DSD256], with both instruments having superb character and the recording plenty of space and ambience. But it was just as attention-grabbing with the intimate voice of Natalie Merchant on Leave Your Sleep [Nonesuch 522304-2], with its combination of poetry about childhood set to music played on stripped-back folk-influenced instrumentation.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
HiFi Rose's ability to reinvent and refine continues apace with this compact network player/DAC/preamp. The Rose Connect app offers excellent flexibility while the RS250A is memorable for its 'widescreen' user-interface and, above all, highly competitive sound. Packed with detail and real insight into what's being played, it has an even-handed approach with all kinds of music, and is a hugely involving listen.

Citech Co., Ltd
South Korea
Supplied by: Henley Audio Ltd, UK
01235 511166