Hegel Music Systems Röst
Input: 1x balanced (XLR), 2x unbalanced (RCA), 1x coaxial S/PDIF, 3x optical S/PDIF, 1x USB, 1x Network, AirPlay
Output: speaker out, 3/4" headphone jack, 1x unbalanced variable (RCA)
Dimensions (H x W x D): 3.15" (3.93" w/feet) x 16.93" x 12.20"
Weight:26.46lbs shipment weight
Availability: through authorized dealers
Hegel Walks The Walk
And that walk is decidedly, and refreshingly, their own. The Röst offers 75wpc into 8 Ohms, a DAC which supports PCM-only data and maxes out at 24/96 via USB and 24/192 via S/PDIF and the unit's network connection. Octuple-rate DSD lovers and 32-bit/384kHz hunters need not apply. The real question, with apologies to the company's name, being; does this walk take us down the high or low road toward musical nirvana or does it overcome this dualism?
Hegel does not talk about the DAC chip they use in the Röst and my guess is they'd rather have you focus on the fact that knowing which DAC chip they use doesn't really tell you much about how the Röst sounds (I tend to agree with this sentiment). Hegel does talk about their approach to amplification to some extent, which I'll summarize as a hybrid Class A/A/B design ("SoundEngine"), that incorporates a number of the company's core technologies. These include "DualAmp" a term used to describe the fact that the amplifier's voltage and gain stages are separate and "DualPower" referring to the use of separate power supplies for the input and voltage gain stages and for the current output stages. According to Hegel, these things make their amplifiers sound better than more traditional approaches.
You can connect a computer or network endpoint-type device like the microRendu to the unit's USB input, and/or wire up your network to the Röst via a run of Ethernet, and/or go wireless via Apple's AirPlay. Since the Röst's network input supports DLNA, you can use any DLNA control software to control playback. I would love, i.e. love, to see Hegel reach out and touch someone by adding Roon to the Röst because to my mind Roon is the cat's meow when it comes to control software. As it is, I wrestled with Linn Kinsky, Hegel uses Kinsky in their Apple setup guide, for the purposes of this review. I also gave the USB input a workout using my microRendu running Roon. Meow.
The Röst's wavy aluminum faceplate is an off-white white while the metal chassis is white-er. This makes the faceplate look less crisp to my eyes and I'd prefer it if the entire Röst was the same, exact, color. Color me picky. There are two, big, aluminum knobs up front; source select on the left, and volume on the right. The display sits dead center and shows the selected source and volume level. The headphone jack sits far right while the on/off switch is hidden under the unit's left side. I took this placement as an invitation to leave the Röst powered on, and so it remained so for the duration of its stay in-barn. All said and done, the Röst exudes care and quality. Hegel includes a nice, black, remote that offers your basic remote functionality.
The Röst powered my DeVore gibbon X speakers and the AudioQuest NightOwl 'phones.
Röst (havskanal i Island)
Disclosure: I like Hegel. While the Röst is the first product from the company to spend time in-barn, I always enjoy the Hegel demos I've sat in on at hi-fi shows. I also know people, real people, who own Hegel amps and their systems sound enjoyable. When I see a Hegel amp, I think—smart choice.
As I eluded to in my review of the Lumin M1, the Röst piqued my comparative interest early on, "...the Röst sounds like the best of both, nova300 + M1. There's the control and resolution of the M1 coupled with the warmer, richer sound of the nova300...I will say that it has captured my ear and is working its way into my heart." Now that I've had more time, much more time, I can be more forthright and say that the Hegel Röst is, in fact, a smart choice.
From a practical price perspective, I look at the Röst's network connection as the smart choice seeing as all you need to add is your network-attached music. In my case the Synology NAS that houses my music collection is ready to roll, i.e. it's connected to my network and has minimserver installed and running, so all I had to do was open Kinsky and tell it what and where to play. But I did leave well enough alone and also played music, the same music, through my microRendu which sent its bits to the Röst via USB. This allowed me to use Roon to control playback (meow) but strictly on a sound quality basis I did not have a clear preference. Either Ethernet or USB would do for the long listening haul for me.
The Röst strikes me as a very well balanced music maker. It is neither too hot nor too cold, or too wet or too dry, too fat or too skinny. It is, like perfect porridge, just right. This rightness translates into well-controlled reproduction from the bottom to the tippy top with no parts sticking out unduly. Music is presented as a nice, big, whole with enough resolution to draw one in but not so much apparent detail as to push one away. Tone colors are natural if not as real as those portrayed by more expensive separates like my resident totaldac and Ayre AX-5 Twenty. While we're here, I'll also point out that the totaldac/Ayre combo paint a much more wow-inducing sound image akin to the real whereas the Hegel presents a very nice stereo imagining of the real.
Röst does delicate nicely. Arvo Pärt's otherworldly Da Pacem performed by Paul Hillier leading the Estonian Philharmonic Chamber Choir and organist Christopher Bowers-Broadbent can grab your guts from the get-go with its sheer quiet intense beauty. This recording, available as a high-res download from HDtracks, has a lovely softness about it where the choir and organ unfold in an almost liquid space, the air being thick with reverence, and the Röst reconstructs this atmosphere in a moving manner. Delicate and glorious about sums things up. Of course this recording/music isn't exactly a torture test but it will tell you if your system has any warts. I've heard other like-components harden things up to the point of making the music feel somewhat impenetrable. If you're wondering which integrated player I'm referring to, it's the one that didn't get a Greatest Bit award (these things do mean something).
Röst also rocks. "Since I've Been Loving You" from III rarely fails to light my adrenaline but what I want, and what I got, is Jimmy Page in his blues-soaked Gibson'd glory screeching and fretting about his baby over John Henry Bonham's squeaky thunder. But, there's always a but isn't there, for more grunt, more color, and more grab, I found the soon-to-be-reviewed Simaudio Moon Neo Ace (what is with all those names?) offered more of each; more power, drive, and Plant, too. The Ace also gives you a MM phono input, up to 32/384 and DSD256 via USB or 24/192 and DSD64 via Ethernet while adding $500 to the Hegel's price tag. The Ace may not offer the same degree of sweetness as the Röst's upper end, the Ace sounding a tad harder by comparison, but overall if you like your music on the ballsier and grittier than thou side, you may want to lend the Ace your ear(s).
Just for fun, I also spent many an hour digging through Tidal which meant I went back to my microRendu and Roon (meow) feeding the Röst via USB. I do this daily; looking for the old and new to me and what should happen is the system in play should be able to play along with any and every choice. While I'll go back to my system, totaldac/Ayre, just to ground my comments about the Röst in the fact that there's another level of musical goodness to be had for much more money, for the money and wonderful all-in-oneness, the Röst is a perfect antidote to relatively trivial pursuits including "should I get the DSD?", "what about DXD?", "but the USB is only 96k", and so on. The real hurdle for me is the fact that I have to deal with the DLNA remote handicap if I want to benefit from the Röst's network capabilities.
I like the AudioQuest NightOwls even more than I like the AudioQuest NightHawks. The Röst paired up very well the 'Owls, driving them to similarly well-balanced heights as my loudspeakers. While I do not spend a lot of time with eargoggles strapped to my head, there was no thing in this pairing that made me want to stop. On the contrary; Thievery Corporation's Saudade was simply seductive.
I also AirPlay'd some tunes from my iPhone and the sound was such that I would do this again if I lived with the Röst. Better yet, iPhone toting family members and friends could play their music through my hi-fi. Have you ever heard people ask, "How can we get more people interested in hi-fi?" One answer is to let them play their music through your hi-fi. Preferably during a party. Speaking of parties, I listened to my new LP, The Entire Musical Work of Marcel Duchamp played on my recently borrowed-from-a-friend Well Tempered Amadeus turntable (sporting my Denon 103/Auditorium 23 Step Up/Sugden Phono stage) and relished the perpetually winking Duchamp and his pre-Cage (we're talking 1913!) chance-induced follies.
No Man Is An I Land
The Hegel Music Systems Röst is a smart choice for people looking to buy one device that let's you play your stored and streamed digital music, music from other sources like CD spinners and turntables (you'll have to add your own phono amp), while driving any reasonable speaker and 'phones to musically balanced and delicate satisfaction. Dare I say that the Röst seems to be a smart choice for people who are more interested in the enjoyment of their music than their ideas about music reproduction.
Also in-use during the Röst review: Lumin M1, Simaudio Moon Neo Ace