The Hifi Rose RS150B Streamer and DAC Review.
By Steve Huff
Welcome back readers! Today I will be writing about a relatively new music streamer, which is the HiFi Rose 150B. This is a feature packed all in one streamer, DAC and it even can be used as a pre-amp direct to amp if you so desire. It’s not brand new, but has been out for about a year. Even so, it is very popular and has been getting some very positive press.
Over the last two years I have been using my beloved Lumin U1 Mini Streamer and have had no issues with it at all. Besides being small and having no real display (that I can see from across the room anyway) I enjoyed this little capable streamer for some time.
My video review of the HiFi Rose 150B Streamer/DAC
HiFi Rose is a new company from South Korea and they are making some incredible LOOKING audio gear. Some of the coolest I have seen in a while.
Take a look at the integrated they just released. It seems they are going for a Nagra feel for much less.
The new HiFi Rose integrated amplifier looks pretty crazy…but Crazy Cool!
I hesitated on buying the 150B Streamer for the last year due to this flagship streamer having a few bugs at launch. I kept my eyes on the forums and user reports and with the last firmware update it appeared 99% of the bugs were ironed out. While I still discovered a bug that really, well, “bugs me”… it is not a deal breaker as I am sure it will be rectified in a future update.
I will talk about this one sole “bug” I encountered even after I did the update later in this review.
I acquired a Hifi Rose 150B for a 60 day test and I wanted to compare it to my Lumin U1 Mini for streaming duties alone. I also wanted to compare the DAC in the ROSE to the other heavy hitters I have been listening to for the last several months. DACs like the Denafrips Terminator Plus (Over $6k), Weiss 501 (Over $9k) and others.
I told myself I would keep it and purchase if it could better my Lumin as a streamer or better yet, if its internal DAC could equal or best the current big super DAC’s I have here.
The Hifi Rose RS150B is a tour de force streamer. Its large massive almost 15″ touch screen means those of you like me, with aging eyes, can see it from across the room without issue.
This streamer can also stream 4K video. Not only does it play videos on the large display, you can also output this video with the HDMI out on the 150B. So if you have a TV setup with your 2 channel system, this is fantastic as you can stream music videos directly from the 150B.
There is also a radio feature and it’s pretty cool. Rose has adopted an old school radio/tuner display that activates the radio, with old school dial as well. It looks awesome, and we even get the static in between stations. With the radio on, it does indeed look like an old school tuner.
There are many VU meter options that look very realistic. This piece is based on an Android operating system and should be familiar to anyone who has used a smartphone.
The 150B is built to a very high level as well, and is constructed in a way that would make me believe this was more in line with a $8500 piece rather than a $4995 piece. Yep, $5k is a ton of cash to ME but I give credit where it is due, and this HiFi Rose 150B’s build, design and feel are up there with others at the top of the heap. But are looks deceiving? That is what I asked myself as I awaited to listen to this beautiful piece of gear.
Sometimes pieces that appear to be gimmicky are just that. Sometimes though, they really deliver.
The all metal enclosure on the 150b is solid, thick and substantial. Nothing here feels cheap besides the remote, which is a very cheap plastic deal. Since I have no use for the remote, I left it in the box when I installed the 150b into my reference system.
When I plugged in the 150B I was blown away by the beauty of this all in one streamer and DAC. The massive display is astonishing and while it may feel gimmicky at first (I wasn’t a fan the first two days of using the 150B) once you read the manual and dig into the settings you quickly start to understand the capabilities of this flagship unit from Hifi Rose.
What I didn’t like at first was all of the options made it seem overwhelming and I Just wanted to LISTEN!
It really isn’t complicated but it seems that way as there is a lot packed in with this piece that we may not be used to. When you power it up you will see a bunch of apps installed. The radio tuner is there, Spotify, Tidal and Qobuz are there. We see “Rose Tube” which is an app that brings up music videos from YouTube. There are clocks, settings for inputs and outs, as well as network settings and filter settings. The cool thing is the 150B makes it easy to change and customize the unit so once I learned it all, it was a piece of cake.
Before I go further, Hifi Rose makes these pieces in South Korea.
This is a good thing IMO as I recently reviewed (and purchased) the Enleum AMP-23R integrated amp for my reference system. The Enleum amp is also made in South Korea and it blew away all of my expectations (and most competitors) in such a tiny package. The little Enleum performed as well or better than some of the integrated amps I have tested or owned that cost 2-3X its cost. The Amp 23-R is built extremely well and is pure reference if one has easy to drive speakers. The Enleum is my Audio Product of the Year so far for 2022.
In any case it has been wonderful seeing the quality coming from South Korea in the audiophile realm and the Hifi Rose is no exception.
It took me a week or so to get into this piece though! It was after I learned it’s menu system, set it up to my liking, and after I let it run in for a few weeks (it opens up dramatically during the first 100 hours) that I discovered I would not want to be without it. The first few days the unit sounded overly warm in my system, a touch dull when used as streamer and DAC. After a week or two it opened up and sounded absolutely lovely, keeping some warmth but bringing in some decent transparency and spatial rendering as well.
In recent moths I have tested the very high end DCS Bartok streamer/DAC as seen above. The Bartok comes in at over $15,000 or 3X the cost of the ROSE. After some time with the DCS I sent it back without a review as I could not recommend it for what it costs. Sure the Bartok is beautiful and sounds lovely but so does the HiFi Rose 150B, for so much less. Is it worth over $10k extra for a slight sound change? Well, not for me but for you, maybe it would be.
This Hifi Rose RS150b for me bests the DCS in style, function and video abilities. Sound goes to the DCS slightly but you can beat the DCS by adding a nice external DAC like the Denafrips T + to the Rose if you want that super high end sound.
As I always say, audio is personal. All I can do in my reviews is tell you what a piece sounds like in my space and with my associated gear. After hearing over a dozen high end DAC’s over the last year though, I feel I have a good handle on what is amazing, what is good and what is a bad value.
I will start off by saying the HiFi Rose RS150B is an astonishing value, even at $4995.
The truth is that for a high end 2 channel audio system we really start to see a jump in sound quality once we get past the $3500 price point. After this price point for an amp, DAC, streamer, speakers or whatever the quality starts to get into the higher end realm. After $3500 the higher you climb the price ladder the less improvements you will see. It’s called diminishing returns. We pay much more for only a 3-5% change in sound (notice I didn’t say improvement) when we go up the audio price ladder.
This is why I feel the Hifi Rose is a such a deal at $4995. Because it performs at a higher level than its price would dictate. It offers a big bang for the buck in digital streaming as the streamer is exceptional. The DAC is also quite nice even though it uses the latest and greatest chip from SABRE which many feel are analytical sounding chips.
I used to dislike DAC’s that used SABRE chips as they always tended to be more on the bright side (at least they did quite a few years ago). Here though, Hifi Rose managed to implement it in a way that brings out warmth. There is a “wet” juicy presence and a very nice spatial rendering that allows your speakers to disappear from the room. This means the music will sound more like it is coming from the space in your room than the speakers themselves. This of course would happen only if you have your speakers set up properly and have a nice quality amp as well. The 150B is up to the task.
I was not a huge fan using the 150B as a preamp as it did not sound as good as the PASS LABS or CARY preamps I have on hand. As a streamer though, it surpassed the Lumin U1 that has been my reference for a while now. As a DAC it did not surpass the Chord DAVE, Denafrips Terminator PLUS or Weiss 501 in all areas but it was close, and in one area it did best those other DACS.
Warmth and the overall musical vibe.
The Rose 150B, within my system, is slightly warm leaning which to me means it has a nice big midrange that has body but also has a dose of nice transparency. The details are there, but they are not exaggerated or as present as some of the premium DAC’s I have tested. Even so, there is a very open and spatial presentation going on that is crazy musical and has a big dose of all of those audiophile traits we like. They are just not as prevalent as with other more revealing DAC’s. This is not a bright or thin DAC. It’s “juicy” and spacious. It’s big and fluid with some weight to the sound that never sounds dull (after some burn in).
I love the sound of the 150B and while I think other DAC’s do some of these things even better, to get there we have to pay dearly for those small improvements.
To get a world class streamer, top tier DAC, huge touch display and even a great APP to go along with it is almost unheard of at $5k.
I have tested other all in ones like this before. Let’s take a look at the Cary DMS650 which offers up a decent display, decent build, a DAC and preamp just as the Rose does. I enjoyed the Cary, but in a direct comparison I can see the Rose looks and sounds more like a high end piece.
The Cary DMS 650 is a competitor to the Rose
The Rose is also more spatial in its audio presentation where the Cary is more about bass weight and impact. The display is no contest, the Rose wins. In the build quality dept. both are nice but I give the nod to the Rose here. It is gorgeous in the flesh. Sound, well, that’s a personal preference. I do prefer the ROSE sound but some may like the Cary for it’s added big bass weight it brings to the table. This makes the Cary GREAT for rock, metal, classic 70’s tunes, etc.
The Cary is more dense and less spatial. The ROSE is more transparent and detailed, yet still has some warmth and is very spatial. It’s not as dense or beefy as the Cary but this makes the Rose sound more delicate and real. The Rose has muscle too but it is not used in the same way as the Cary.
The Rose, again, is $4995. The Cary DMS 650 is their Starter Streamer/DAC and comes in at $6k retail but can be had for around $4800, or very close to the same price as the Rose. It’s interesting that the Hifi Rose flagship is $4995 and the Cary flagship streamer is $15k (DMS 800). Dollar for Dollar though, the ROSE flagship looks mighty good next to the Cary starter streamer for the same cost.
The APP and the SERVER
When I test streamers it always seems like the one thing that is lacking is the app support. Meaning, most apps made for streamers are hit or miss, mostly miss. I wasn’t a huge fan of the Lumin app nor the Cary app. I mean, they work and can be used but the are not pleasant to use when you are used to much more responsive and easy to use apps for music streaming.
The ROSE on the other hand has a fabulous app and I never had one issue or snag. It works, and is a joy to use with Qobuz or Tidal. BTW, this 150B streamer also fully decodes MQA files when streaming from Tidal HiFi.
The 150B can also be used as a server. On the bottom there is a slot to add your own 2.5″ SSD drive, so you can add your music directly to the drive and serve it up within your system. This is an awesome feature as it is a piece of cake to set up and get started.
ALL IN THE TOUCH
The Hifi Rose is based on a touchscreen so it will operate much like your smartphone. There are icons, which can be changed in style and color and you can add or remove apps to the unit. You have access to input and output settings, volume settings, and you can easily activate or deactivate inputs and outputs if you are not using them for even a slightly better sound.
The large display can show you album art or VU meters. The built in DAC can be set to oversampling or you can leave that off. You can set filters and choose what sounds best to you.
The Rose has WiFi and Direct Ethernet connection. I always use and recommend a direct ethernet connection if possible but the WiFi implantation seemed to work very well. I had no issues using either and it had no issue picking up our WiFi from across the house.
For me, this Hifi Rose 150B sounds incredible, and at its best, when streaming Qobuz. I use Tidal and Spotify as well and those sound beautiful too, but Qobuz seems to be made for the HiFi Rose 150B. Streaming direct from the ROSE app was painless, glitch free and fluid. As for the unit itself, I love VU meters but seem to prefer the way the 150B displays the album art. It is a gorgeous display indeed.
The Cons of the HiFi Rose 150b
There are cons to this piece and even though I purchased it to replace my Lumin U1 Mini, I will not pretend there are no cons, so here they are:
First off, I keep experiencing this bug that changes the time on the clock to an hour earlier than it really is. I have turned off the auto clock time set, and manually set my time zone and time. It works for a while, then soon it changes the time! Every time I walk in and see the clock display it has the wrong time. I have reset it several times and if I use the auto time set with my time zone, it’s still wrong!
This seems to be a bug or something I am not doing correctly, but I do not see anything I have missed.
This is also an advanced piece of tech and with the big fancy display. Who knows how long these displays last? Most people update their phones every couple of years so what exactly is the lifespan of a high touch panel like this? Maybe it will last 20 years..maybe 10…who knows. I don’t.
The remote is cheap. I love the remote from the Enleum AMP 23-R. All metal, small, functional. The HiFi Rose remote is small, cheap and all plastic. It works, but for $5k it should have been a metal remote.
HiFi Rose is a new company and while I feel they will be around a long time due to the quality gear they create, who knows? Will they be able to nestle their way in and be a long term audio company? I think so but we should think of these things when we spend this kind of cash.
As for the internal DAC, when I compare it against the top external DACs, it can sound a little more closed in during a direct comparison. When I listen on its own I really DIG it and tell myself I need nothing more.
Finally, you will not be able to use the VU meters when listening to Spotify or using ROON. They just will not work. No biggie, but had to point this one out. Rose says this should come in an update down the road, and I believe they will do this as their updates have been wonderful and constant.
BTW, this DAC sounds AMAZING with Spotify (not all do) and uses Spotify Connect. This means you just open up your Spotify app and choose the ROSE to stream to. Easy as it gets.
The HiFi Rose 150B Streamer and DAC is another one of those special pieces that I have come across. It joins the ranks of the Enleum AMP 23-R as a true powerhouse performer.
This one does it all but it’s also refined, smooth, velvety and rich in sound. This brings a big dose of real high end audio but with a musical twist. The presentation in sound is spatial, big, transparent but with some body and warmth as well. Nothing here is sterile and while the DAC here doesn’t beat out some of the $10k DAC’s in all out detail retrieval, depth and realism it gets close for half the cost.
This DAC is also very musical and never induces fatigue. It’s a very pleasant experience and when you listen to it for a while it grows on you. It makes you realize just how good it is when you sit and listen to it. It made me understand that while there are many streamers out there in this price range and well above, I have never seen or experienced one THIS GOOD for THIS KIND OF MONEY or a few grand above it.
The display makes it very attractive as the WAF is strong with this one as well. The ROSE also allows you to use it as a streamer only. It can be used as a DAC only. A streamer and DAC or even a Preamp. It has VU meters of all colors and types. You can add in an affordable $100 SSD Drive quickly and add your own tunes to the device. With digital outs it’s easy to add an external DAC.
This means you can improve the sound of the Rose by adding a premium external DAC, one that bests the internal DAC. When I added the Denafrips Terminator PLUS I was in Audio Nirvana and tis combo bested just about any streamer/DAC conbo I have come across. It was amazing…that combo of the Rose and Denafrips.
The usual inputs and outputs are here. XLR, RCA, AES, USB, OPTICAL, Etc. All of these inputs and outputs can be turned on and off within the menu as well.
The HiFi Rose 150B streamer is fantastic and the unit has had many updates already to make it even better. More are on the way. The 150B makes streaming easy and offers up something for everyone. Use it as a server by adding your own SSD Drive. Use it on its own with just a power amp and speakers. Use it as a Streamer and DAC and you will be rewarded with his quality digital reproduction. Add an external super DAC like a Chord DAVE or Denafrips Pontus II or T+ and your music can get even better sounding.
My reference system has simplified over the last few months and it sounds even better than it used to. It’s now the HIFi Rose 150B with an Enelum AMP 23-R powering my Fleetwood Deville SQ speakers. All plugged into a PS Audio PP20. That’s it, and it brings audio nirvana to me daily. Yes, I purchased the Rose to replace my Lumin U1 Mini.
I will sometimes add a separate DAC but I have been enjoying the ROSE with its built in DAC almost just as much. Yep I have access to some pretty mighty and costly DACs but right now I am listening to the HiFi Rose as is, and I am not missing anything when it comes to musical enjoyment.
With that said, the combo of the Rose and Denafrips T+ is stunning and does best the internal DAC with ease when it comes to 3D, depth, texture and detail.
I can highly recommend the HiFi Rose 150B Streamer and DAC. It’s well worth the asking price, and that is without question. Go see your dealer now and check it out if you can!