With so much diversity of functionality in the world of streaming audio, the usual question when confronted with a new product concerns what it can do. However, with the RS150, the flagship product from Korean company Hi-Fi Rose, it might actually be quicker to list what it doesn’t do, so comprehensive is the specification here. In fact, there’s nothing else on the market quite like it!
You see, as well as a being a network audio player, able to play everything up to the highest resolutions most of us will ever encounter – including 384kHz/24bit PCM and DSD512 – and a wide range of streaming services, it can also play and stream video files all the way up to 4K resolution. They can be shown either on its huge full-width 14.9in – almost 38cm – wide front-panel touchscreen display, which also controls all the functions, or out to a suitable TV. It can accept digital audio from a computer via USB or a video source such as TV via HDMI and, as if all that wasn’t enough, has a choice of fixed analogue output to connect to an amplifier or hi-fi system, or variable output to drive straight into a power amp or a pair of active speakers.
By any standards, that makes it something of a digital audio/video powerhouse – player, preamplifier and system hub – but just when you think you’ve got a handle on everything it can do, there are more surprises to encounter: unscrew a panel in the base of the unit, and you can install an SSD storage drive. This takes no computer knowledge at all, being a simple plug-in task, but it enables the RS150 to become a complete all-in one music storage/playback solution. Or you can plug in a storage device into one of the USB ports provided on the back panel, or simply stream direct to it using Bluetooth or Apple AirPlay – provided you don’t mind only scratching the surface of the capabilities here. If you just want to play music from your phone, you really don’t need something this advanced!
There’s even more hidden away here, from the ability to upsample or downsample files to a wide choice of display modes, from retro alarm clock to high-end amplifier power meter emulation, and it’s all made possible by the fact the RS150 is effectively a very powerful music-playing computer, running an in-house-designed customised Android operating system on a fast, and highly flexible, processing platform. In fact, your only problem with the RS150 might be that you spend too much time exploring all the functions – and you’ll keep discovering new ones – rather than playing music!
Of course, there wouldn’t be much point to all this cleverness if the RS150 didn’t have the performance to back it up, particularly as this flagship model from a new brand is pitched up against some very accomplished rivals from long-established manufacturers. Fortunately, this remarkably flexible player has all the musical ability it needs to make it a real contender in this very competitive arena, with a big, bold presentation packed with detail, whether with simple recordings of acoustic instruments or powerful rock or orchestral works of real complexity. There’s a slight bloom of warmth to the sound, though this can be dialled out using all that digital signal processing if it troubles you, but however you play music – via the network or digital inputs, the internal streaming or even an onboard hard drive – the sound is rich, dynamic and consistently rewarding, with excellent focus on the musicians and what they’re playing, which is really what it’s all about. Even when partnered with high-end amplification and speakers, this is an entirely convincing performer, and will please anyone wanting to take their streaming beyond the basics of Bluetoothing music from their phone or simply summing up a spot of Spotify.
The Hi-Fi Rose flagship is certainly an eye-catcher, and this combines with excellent performance to make it a fine centrepiece for any digital-based hi-fi system. Control it with the slick Rose app, designed alongside the player, for a smooth route into all its capabilities, and look forward to future software upgrades to make it do even more!
This is some début for the Korean brand; rather than start simple, the designers and engineers have come out with all guns blazing, and have delivered a product as impressive for its sonic performance as it is for its seemingly limitless range of features and functions.
Peter Takács Beethoven: Sonata No. 29 in B-flat major
Taken from the mighty 11-album Complete Beethoven Piano Sonatas set, now available in DSD64 quality via c, this recording of the ‘Hammerklavier’ sonata shows both the wonderful technique and expression of the playing of Takács, but also the way the RS150 can take the listener deep into the heart of a piece of music.
Alan Parsons You Are The Light
The return of the famous progmeister and legendary Pink Floyd producer is a lot more easygoing and gentler than the pomp of previous outings, but the RS150 is perfectly at home with the soft rock, fine harmonies and meticulous recording in evidence here.
If you want to hear the RS150 thumping out a deep bassline while unravelling an ‘everything but the kitchen sink’ dense production job, look no further than this track from the single-named one’s current About Last Night… album. Just about everything from the voice backwards is processed, but the player still keeps it bouncing infectiously
Watch a movie clip playing on that wide, high-resolution screen, and you’ll probably be sold on the RS150, but there’s a lot more here than just that clever trick; ask yourself what you want your network player to do, and it’s available here, along with much more – all backed up with excellent sound quality with everything from mp3 files to ultra-high-res DSDs.