HiFi Rose is a Korean software company founded in the ‘60s which gives it a key advantage in entering the streaming HiFi world because, as we all know, being able to navigate easily your online or networked music is just about as important as the quality of the music these days.
The key thing you need to know about the new HiFi Rose RS250 Streaming DAC is it is simply a high-class streamer with a very slick OS, be that Android or Apple iOS. It also has the latest ES9038Q2M Sabre DAC that supports most formats with PCM to 32 bit/768kHz and Native DSD512 (22.5792MHz). The HiFi Rose RS250 also has an HDMI output which means if you can put it next to a projector it is absolutely crazy fun with Tidal Videos and YouTube.
The HiFi Rose RS250 is a streaming DAC with HDMI output and loads of great toys on top. It has preamplification control so you can run it straight into a power amplifier, as I am doing or use an integrated solution or maybe even just an active speaker. Of course, this means it is not an all-in-one streamer as there is no amplifier built-in.
The HiFi Rose RS250 is a more affordable alternative to the recently launched ‘flagship’ RS150 and yet it boasts many of the same features with some reduction in inputs/outputs. It is housed in a smaller chassis inspired by the RS201 E design.
Inside, the RS250 has a full linear power circuit which HiFi Rose claim:
results in the minimisation of noise inflow significantly, and the ideal circuit layout employed eliminates electrical noise, and creates dramatically improved sound quality without distortion.
In terms of connectivity, it has Wi-Fi, an Ethernet Port and it takes Bluetooth 4.0. Inputs include USB B for computers etc. and a USB A; it also has a single L/R analogue RCA style line-in, and one digital TOSLINK optical and one digital coaxial input. The streamer has Airplay, is Roon Ready and has Spotify Connect streaming included there are integrated Apps for Qobuz and Tidal. It is an MQA certified device.
Outputs include a 3.5mm headphone jack at the front, a 4K HDMI output and an optical and coaxial output as well, there is also a USB A 3.0.
The HiFi Rose RS250 has an 8.8” wide multi-touch colour touchscreen at the front that is as intuitive to manage as any smartphone out there. There is a bespoke RoseOS that is similarly easy to use and this runs on Android or iOS. The RoseOS is quick, but there are some weird Korean options in places, otherwise, it is a terrific OS, and it is up there with the Lightning DS and Bluesound Apps.
There is a Radio App that is terrific fun (see below) as well as a CD ripping App that needs an external device. There is even room in the 278 x 202 x 76 mm chassis to take an SSD if you so choose. The box is just 3.2kg.
The HiFi Rose RS250 is retailing with Henley Audio at £1949.00 (SRP).
The HiFi Rose RS250 is a diminutive but solid little thing, and it is 8 stacked CD boxes high and two CD cases front-on wide. The electronics are housed in an aluminium enclosure front and top with a plastic ribbed side and a metallic backplate where the connections are housed, there is plenty of room at the back there.
The front panel is dominated by the 8.8″ screen that gives you all your settings and other options as well a choice of artwork, a fancy clock or VU Meters to delight us all. The VU meters come in a choice of many colours and cheekily include a Macintosh version, in VU Blue!
I was given an early sighter of this RS250 and as such had no booklet or any heads up. In any case, we never read the instructions, do we? The HiFi Rose RS250 was easy to set up, it is simply intuitive, and the touch screen was a delight because it is that bit bigger than a smartphone, for example. There is a useful Tutorial once you are up and running but the fun was in playing and discovering the different settings available.
Once I set myself up it was of course time for an update and reboot which was a full firmware and software update, but it all seemed to pass quickly, then it was the usual process of logging into Qobuz, Tidal, YouTube, etc.
As you can tell I found it all dead easy, and I have not had a single hitch out of the box, in the last 10 days or so. Accessing the rear with coaxial inputs, my USB library backup on a Seagate SSD, RCA outputs to a power amplifier, have all been seamless.
There is a remote control in the box; it is connected via Bluetooth but I have barely used it as the App is terrific and renders the remote superfluous. Otherwise, it works well and has a good solid feel.
Fun with RoseTube
This HiFi Rose RS250 is just really good fun when connected to a projector. I happen to have a short throw projector behind my listening equipment so hooking up the HDMI was a no brainer. A quick jump onto the iPad HiFi Rose App and then onto the RoseTube tab you can find at the top there YouTube. The beauty of this is watching YouTube videos on this streamer is I am getting a full and wonderful sound with my HiFi set up. So, for me, it is straight to Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood’s acoustic version of The Numbers, glorious.
More fun is to be had with the projector with Tidal videos, a service I have not looked at ever in my time, but it is similarly excellent, and the sound quality is very acceptable indeed. I have not seen any streamer do this before.
Finally, there is a Radio App that has everything you can find on the internet but there is also something called Rose FM which looks like an old-style dial-in-your-frequency FM tuner. It is nuts because as you turn the dial on the touchscreen or the iPad (or smartphone), it plays you static until you hit a frequency, like Radio 4, at which point it plays you the internet feed anyway as far as I can tell! Love it!
Also, and finally, on the fun stuff, the clock has 8 widescreen settings if you prefer that to the artwork or the VU meters, from fully proper digital with weather updates to the analogue flip board style that I really like from the 70s films.
I have a full backup of my Naim Server on a Seagate USB drive and inserting this library into the rear USB A input port prompted a full import and since this was several hundred CDs it took over an hour I think, I was busy playing with the Tidal videos for this time.
The headphone output is good enough, it pauses the track playing on connection which is eminently sensible.
So, at the end of the day, what does Qobuz and Tidal sound like? I have the HiFi Rose RS250 slipping into the place of an Auralic Vega G1 with the RCA output running into the stunning Chord Étude stereo power amplifier driving the stunning Kudos Cardea C10 standmounted speakers. This system has just had a recent upgrade and the speaker cable is now Tellurium Q Ultra Black II.
If I listen to Miles Davis’ So What (Qobuz 24bit/96kHz) the track is balanced perfectly, and the pacing is clean. The cymbals are decaying wonderfully at 1’31”. I always love the space presented in this track and wandering across the soundstage between Paul Chamber’s double bass and Bill Evans’ piano is something I always do. The straining saxophone at 4’02″ is really rather softly handled. This ESS DAC is delivering a fine performance here.
Turning to Miles Kane’s crackling track Don’t Forget Who You Are (Qobuz, 16bit/44.1kHz) the track has its characteristic snap and bounce between the bass and the snare and the energy in the track is really well delivered by the RS250.
Hooking up my (very) old Yamaha CD player with a Chord coaxial digital input gave me a bright and lively performance, particularly, from REM’s Automatic for the People. Find the River is my go-to track here and the DAC is not leaving anything behind. Really this is a new CD player if you think about it with a shiny new DAC chip offered by the RS250.
Taking a feed using the Music App from the Seagate SSD, my 16bit/44.1kHz ‘bit perfect’ WAV copy of Amos Lee’s Keep It Loose, Keep It Tight had all the incredible guitar finger resolution is in there and it is pure heaven.
I have genuinely not had this much HiFi fun for years, the HiFi Rose RS250 has been an absolute blast
I have genuinely not had this much HiFi fun for years, the HiFi Rose RS250 has been an absolute blast. The highly musical audiophile performance from the Sabre DAC chip in here is the main take away but the video fun, enjoyment and ease of use all add up to a fantastic piece of equipment and I could imagine it forming the basis of any HiFi/TV Room. If this is the first touchscreen ‘smartstreamer’, this is a high standard set and many streaming DACs will be looking enviously at the VU meters on this HiFi Rose RS250.
The video interface
The VU Meters
Crazy Rose FM
Clocks, all of them
Keep the clock when it is Off!
Full details of the Specification are on the Distributor’s site.
About HiFi Rose
HiFi Rose aims to take you “beyond audio”. They make products that sound exceptional, but they also make products that are a joy to experience in both their aesthetic and their operation. The flagship RS150 streamer, DAC and pre-amplifier sets the standard for this aim and delivers on all fronts one of the most innovative streaming devices the hi-fi industry has seen in recent years. HiFi Rose is a division of Citech, a Korean software company that was originally founded during the 1960s. All HiFi Rose products are assembled in Korea.