I’m writing these two up as one review as they are both similar in a lot of ways and I wouldn’t want to write two reviews where I appear to repeat myself a lot! Here are my thoughts in regards to two very impressive products…
From left to right we have the RS201e & the RS250.
Simon at Henley Audio and the team at HiFi Rose kindly allowed me to review both of these items and have been extremely patient while I catch up on a backlog.
Although I am sponsored by Henley Audio, the thoughts and opinions in this review are my own honest take on these two devices.
Both the RS250 & RS201e can be found at Henley Audio & I will leave links to both just below.
The RS250 retails at £1,949
The RS201e retails at £1,749
Review equipment & software:
HiFi Rose RS250.
HiFi Rose RS201e.
iPad Pro running Rose software.
Technics SL1200 MKII.
Ortofon Quintet Red.
Musical Fidelity Vinyl.
Cyrus ONE. ( In AV/Power amp mode )
Bowers & Wilkins DM601 / S3.
Ophidian Minimo 2.
Ophidian Mojo 2.
Klipsch The Fives.
Edifier S3000 Pro.
Q Acoustics Q3060s.
Audiowalle TP1000 mains conditioners.
All cables are supplied by AFAudio.
A plethora of Hi-Res files on Qobuz Studio Premier.
Various Hi-Res files on my home network.
A mix of genres on vinyl.
What’s in the box:
HiFi Rose RS250.
AAA Battery x2.
SSD mounting screws x4.
HiFis Rose RS201e.
AAA Battery x2.
SSD mounting screws x4.
Both packages from Hi-Fi Rose / Henley Audio arrived safely and well packed.
HiFi Rose includes everything you could want to get started, including the Bluetooth remote.
If you’re like me, and you’re one of those people who ignore the instruction manual a lot…
Please take my advice and DON’T skip the manual to either of these devices.
The feature set and functionality are vast and having the manual handy will make your life a lot easier in the long run!
Below you see the RS201e being unboxed.
The RS250 comes in the same packaging.
HiFi Rose was an unknown brand to me before I was sent these two devices to review, so I was unsure what to expect.
I was not disappointed with either the RS250 or the RS201e.
Aside from one having an onboard integrated amplifier, the other a Hi-Res sticker and two different volume controls, these two are almost identical in the way they look.
And they look stunning!
The subtle lines and silver finish compliment my system perfectly, fitting in with my aesthetic.
Both units have some heft to them and the build quality is second to none.
Everything from the volume knobs to the connections around the rear is solid and robust, including the well thought out SSD trap doors and mounting hardware.
The screens are nicely fitted, smooth to touch and have a fast and natural feeling response.
The display quality is superb and the settings can be tweaked.
I could be here all day as the list of functions these two devices have is almost endless, but I would like to note that font size can be increased so that the screen is easier to view from across the room.
This was one thing I was concerned about due to my slightly impaired vision, knowing this would also be a flag for a few friends of mine who have moderate to severe visual impairment.
I’d like to say that this was something that wasn’t a problem.
Being able to use the app makes life so much easier anyway!
Unfortunately, the photos here don’t do the display any justice.
The top row images are of the RS250 and the bottom row the RS201e.
You’re going to want to put some time aside for this.
And you want to have the manual handy.
As long as you follow the manual, setup is easy and the time it takes will depend on your intentions for the device.
If you’re fitting a hard drive, I would do this first as you will need to access the trap door on the underside of the unit.
Fitting a drive is easy and takes no time at all.
The RS250 and RS201e both run on Android operating systems so be sure to upgrade the software before going any further.
The RS250 and 201e differ here in a few ways.
For example, the RS201e has a built-in EQ whereas the RS250 does not.
You will also notice that the VU meters on the RS250 will respond to any source, whether digital or analogue.
The VU meters on the RS201e will only come to life when streaming digital content. This is not a fault, as I made the mistake of thinking when first noticing it.
Both units have a plethora of inputs and outputs so connectivity isn’t going to be an issue, whichever one you choose.
Just bear in mind that the RS201e has an integrated amplifier as well as a streamer, DAC, preamp & headphone amplifier. It does however lose the coax input that the RS250 sports.
Hifi Rose supplies a Bluetooth remote and a remote app that goes along with your RS of choice.
The Bluetooth remote is easy to pair and remains stable once connected.
The app is available on iOS, Android, Mac OS and Windows and is relatively easy to get up and running.
You can do almost everything from the comfort of your listening spot, however, some of the deeper menu options and settings will need to be accessed on the device itself.
From the app, you can access a number of streaming services as well as your own network and music sources. Personally, I use Qobuz and this is one of the services available within the HiFi Rose app.
One thing I would like to note here is Apple Music and airplay.
You won’t be able to access either through the software, however, you are able to stream from Apple Music to your device through airplay.
Internet radio is accessible with a fair amount of stations at your fingertips.
They had no problems feeding any of the active speaker systems with a good solid signal.
It helps that both can be switched from pre-out to line out.
I was able to run my Cyrus ONE as an integrated amplifier and as a power amp in its AV mode.
Whether you are going to be running one of these through speakers, active speakers or headphones, you’re covered.
I will leave this section here as if I went into any more detail I could possibly be here all day!
And here we come to the most important part of any audio review.
How does it sound? Or in this case, how do “they” sound?
As you can see in my gear listing, I had the opportunity & privilege to test both of these out with a wide selection of amps, speakers, active speakers and headphones, along with a wide and varied selection of music from different sources.
There are differences in the way both perform dependent on whether the source is digital or analogue, however, both performed exceptionally well with great dynamic range, spacious soundstage, depth and phenomenal separation.
Highs are beautifully crisp and sparkly and the mids are quite flat but sound natural and silky smooth.
Bass reproduction was fast, full-bodied and textured with sharp definition.
As a streamer, DAC, preamp and headphone amplifier they both create a detailed, lively tone.
This can be expanded on further again with the RS201e using the onboard EQ, although I will state here that I found that I prefer the RS201e with the EQ off. But that’s down to personal preference.
With the RS201e also being an integrated amplifier I need to touch on its performance driving passive speakers. I paired the amp with the Bowers & Wilkins DM601 / S3, Ophidian Minimo 2 & Ophidian Mojo 2.
The B&Ws were on speaker stands only. Both pairs of Ophidian speakers are bookshelf size so I tried them out both on the stands and on my shelves in my office space.
I compared this also to using my Cyrus ONE in AV mode.
The RS201e is a capable integrated amp and ran all three sets of speakers into decent listening levels without breaking a sweat.
Although the Cyrus ONE has more power here, it can’t quite match the RS201e in terms of overall sound quality and listening experience and seemed to take away from the enjoyment of listening to the HiFi Rose.
Out of the passive speakers I tested, the Ophidian Mojo II were the clear winner for me with a tight, punchy performance that made me want to keep coming back for more.
I have also been able to demo mainly three pairs of active speaker systems with both devices.
Airpulse’s A200, the Edifier S3000 Pro & most recently Klipsch’s “The Fives”. ( Please note that the RS250 was returned prior to the Klipsch system arriving )
I would rate The Fives the best performer here with the sharpest sound signature and being able to fill my listening space with a lively sound and superior 3D image.
Bear in mind, all performed and sounded amazing here. The Fives just took the edge in this regard.
I did demo all configurations with and without my Q Acoustics Q3060s sub.
The sub made the most sense with the Ophidian Minimo II speakers as they have the least presence of bass out of the 6 speaker setups I tried out.
In the “Headphone and IEM” rounds I would put the following items as the best performers:
These aren’t a clear winner as they’re currently the only over-ear electrostatic ear speakers I have here.
But my oh my did they sound amazing paired with the RS250 and RS201e!
These get a lot of beef in the community but I have a fondness for them.
Both devices drove the HD820s really well and made them sing.
Meze Audio Rai Penta.
I used the RS250 as part of my review of the Rai Pentas and they sounded superb when connected to this device, outperforming every other amplification method I used. It introduced me to a newfound love of driving IEMs with full-sized amplifiers.
These are two extremely well made and exquisite looking devices.
Their functionality is vast and nicely implemented.
Once set up they are straightforward & enjoyable to use.
The companion app is thoroughly designed and its connection is fast and stable.
The aesthetics are further boosted with some properly cool VU meters. I specifically like a certain “blue” VU meter and believe it would help either device fit in with a McIntosh system quite nicely.
All of this aside, they both sound fabulous and the RS201e is especially a very capable and high performance integrated amplifier.
Are they both worth their respective price tags?
Absolutely, without question. And I do believe they come in at less than a lot of the competition.
I enjoyed them both enough that I decided to bite the bullet and purchase the RS201e.
I would have bought the RS250 just as easily.
My deciding factor was the integrated amplifier on the RS201e.
A huge thank you to my readers for staying with me and continuing to support the blog.
Please remember to like, follow, subscribe and share.
A massive thank you to Simon, Molly and Kathryn at Henley Audio and to HiFi Rose for giving me this opportunity to review two amazing products!
My warmest regards.