Hegel Music Systems has come up against the Law of Unintended Consequences with its new Röst integrated amplifier. The flexible, easily networkable, white-fronted integrated amplifier came as a result of direct requests from the iChummy North Americans and style-conscious Danes, and it has sold extremely well everywhere in the world… except for North America and Denmark! Give people what they want, it seems, and they always want something else.
Those two countries dismissing Röst (pronounced somewhere between ‘roost’ and ‘rust’ for non-Scandi ears) are missing a trick, because this is a truly outstanding one box, does-almost-everything device. How much of an ‘everything’ largely depends on you. If you have a Control4 multiroom system, Röst is one IP address away from seamlessly joining in a two-way conversation with your home. If you have Apple devices, you can connect using AirPlay, or you can use Röst with any sort of network storage, even Sonos Connect.
The 75W per channel Röst is also a distillation of all the best bits of Hegel’s recent highlights; it has the latest version of the company’s SoundEngine localised feed-forward amplifier design from the H360, and applying that to something very close to the popular H80 amplifier chassis and circuit and running with it. This meets what is basically the DAC and headphone amp stage of the H160, and then mixes its own special sauce into the recipe for connectivity to Ethernet connection for all those next-generation audio sources.
Röst has two potential ‘bonuses’, which can go either way on the ‘bonus’ continuum. Living so much of its life through Ethernet, Röst has no need of any kind of wireless connectivity, as it’s expected that wireless access occurs upstream at the Wi-Fi router point. By not including its own wireless connectivity, Röst is preventing possible wireless clashes on a network. That all being said, the inclusion of some kind of Bluetooth receiver would be useful, for those short-range signals that won’t be transmitted across a network, but are mandatory for all teenagers.
Next, Hegel’s built-in digital converters support 24-bit, 192kHz PCM audio files through coaxial, optical, and Ethernet connections, and only 24/94 through its USB input. Unlike the company’s standalone HD12 and HD30 DACs, Röst and the other Hegel integrated amps do not support DSD. This, however, fits well into an Ethernet view of the world, as the ability to stream DSD files across a LAN is not entirely robust. The fact USB is capped at 96kHz probably also fits in with the intended customer base for Röst: this is an audiophile-grade product for people who would never consider themselves audiophiles, rather than those who are prepared to faff around with dedicated drivers for higher resolution audio. In other words, it’s the high-performance sounding amplifier for system integrators and the multiroom systems they provide, and it’s the one visible box in a more comprehensive system hidden away in a plant room somewhere. That is not to say Röst cannot be used in a more conventional audio setting, but those self-evident strengths are as much about its ease of integration into a larger network as they are as a great sounding amplifier.