HiFi Rose RA280 Integrated Amplifier Page 2

There's no power or agility lacking here, so the RA280 typically communicates dynamics and excitement without edging into extreme warmth or betraying an undue focus on high treble detail. However, what might be described as a pleasantly 'organic' sound can have its balance tipped by the speaker. Its coupling with the DALI Rubicon 2s appeared a little lighter-sounding than usual, for example.

If it wasn't for Damon Albarn standing in as producer, Bobby Womack's The Bravest Man In The Universe [XLCD561] wouldn't have sounded like the album it does. Or even existed, as the soul crooner seemed to be fin de carrière until he met with Albarn on the Gorillaz project. Fortunately, the record came to be, and contains some fabulous tracks, including 'Dayglo Reflection' featuring the backing vocals of Lana Del Rey. Here, the RA280 floated her typically languid voice above the electronic beat and grittier lines sung by Womack.

Heartfelt Hi-Fi
Clarity was good, with Del Rey hitting her high notes in a convincing manner, while on the sparse production of 'Please Forgive My Heart' the amp shone a spotlight on Womack's weathered voice. This felt intimate, albeit part of a grander image where the ticks and blips of the electronic percussion were placed discretely around the edges of the soundstage. Delivering definition and spaciousness is something of a calling card for the RA280.


The one balanced XLR/three RCA line inputs are joined by an MM phono input (with separate earth), subwoofer output and a pair of 4mm speaker cable posts. The '+ve' and '–ve' outputs are floating so must never be connected to ground

The 2021 release As The Love Continues [Rock Action Records ROCKACT140LP] from Mogwai heralded a course correction for the Glaswegian purveyors of noisy guitars, introducing more emotional warmth and electronics into the mix. Listening to the third LP bundled in the vinyl boxset, played on a Pro-Ject X1 [HFN Aug '19] to the MM phono input on the RA280, made that abundantly clear. 'To The Bin My Friend, Tonight We Vacate Earth' and 'Here We, Here We, Here We Go Forever' – not only do Mogwai have song titles as long as their running times, but they also possess an intimacy this amplifier deftly extracted from the recording.

The RA280 does not highlight every detail, that's for certain, but there is drive and oodles of excitement on offer to compensate. There's a slightly laidback 'feel' to the lowest frequencies, but nothing that really undermines the sense of rhythm or pace, so the familiar Mogwain massive guitar wall on 'Drive The Nail' still powered through my loudspeakers.

Rough And Tumble
Anyone who has ever attended a live gig of the band will know the sensation of being overwhelmed by the sheer scale (and volume!) of their music, an experience the RA280 had a fair stab at emulating. This is a track in particular that benefits from a bit of roughness, and it's testament to the RA280 that it doesn't try and smooth things over too much. The amplifier packed a punch, especially with the large Focal Sopra No2s floorstanders.

Back to DALI's Rubicon 2s and the Womack set sounded more reserved on these smaller, nominal 4ohm speakers, with the amp's reduced bass emphasis being apparent. Yet there was still lots to love, such as the way it put all the intricacies of the violin playing of Janine Jansen, on the familiar 'La Primavera' of Vivaldi's The Four Seasons [Decca 475 6293; 96kHz/24-bit], on show.


Sleek and very simple – the Rose remote offers power on/standby, mute and volume adjustment only

Playing around with the RA280's bass control also added a bit more body to the cello and double bass on 'III. Allegro', which made my listening session more engaging. However, if tempted, do use a very light touch when drafting in these tone controls, as a half circle of movement encompasses a hefty increase (or decrease) in bass and treble. After further careful tweaking I arrived at a result more to my liking, with the RA280 still bringing out the full delicacy of this more refined rendition of Vivaldi's classic and portraying it across a deliciously broad stereo image.

A Touch Of Class D
The marriage of KEF R3s and RA280 was arguably more harmonious, providing a rousing rendition of Light, Dark, Light Again [Gracie Music; 96kHz/24-bit] from Australian singer-songwriter Angie McMahon. Starting with the soft piano during the intro of 'Fireball Whiskey', and effortlessly building to a more expansive sonic panorama featuring a dreamy electric guitar and backing vocals, Hi-Fi Rose's amplifier showed itself to be a stirring performer that never loses its fine touch.

Hi-Fi News Verdict
The RA280 is an affordable and more straightforward alternative to the eccentric RA180. It boasts greater power without sacrificing refinement which, like its exceptional build quality, sets a high bar at this price point. Balanced, detailed, and with pin-sharp imaging – but with careful speaker pairing a priority – the RA280 is a great choice for music enthusiasts seeking a closer connection to their collection.

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