My class of D. Our hifi cemetery aka spare bathroom converted to reviewer storage houses a Purifi demonstrator amp, a pair of early UcD-based Auralic Merak monos and Nord Acoustic nCore monos. That's three examples of PDM amps gathering dust. A pair of OEM Pascal-based Gold Note PA-10 Evo runs my 2×15" cardioid sub. That's one class D example in play. Why no mas? On our speakers, the high-feedback/high-damping signature of these class D implementations is too dry, chalky and mechanical by varying degrees when run full range. I prefer our Kinki Studio 2.5MHz direct-coupled class AB circuits; or Enleum's AMP-23R on my desktop. However, below 100Hz/4th-order off a Lifesaver Audio active analog xover, the Gold Note minis are truly ace at stopping the large AudioTechnology cellulose woofers in their circular tracks. If you now raise two eyebrows vis-à-vis my earlier claim of class D progress, relax again. Already years ago I heard two class D amps in full-range mode which I adored. One was Merrill Audio's €15K Element 114 which I reviewed in October 2019. The other was the $15K/pr AGD Vivace I wrote up a year later. Both used GaNFet outputs. Aha, our shared lightbulb moment. If at 1/5th coin the RA280 also running GaNFets could if not exactly equal my memories of them then at least make 2024 class D competitive with advanced class AB across midrange and particularly treble to not register overdamped and stark, I'd consider it a real find.

That would be extra so for bolting on remote-controlled preamplitude and quality tone controls. This line of thought is predicated upon a belief. The AGD/Merrill amps were so superior because of their gallium nitride parts. How could I possibly know that whilst disregarding general quality of implementation then power-supply execution? I obviously couldn't. The belief in a silver bullet is as puerile as arguing who is cooler, Wolverine or Cat Woman. If GaN were the be-all end-all, wouldn't ICEpower, Pascal and Purifi have all switched by now? I've not heard that. Perhaps in our space it's still early days for GaN. Just so, spotting its three letters in the RA280 specs, then the price then recalling my prior two GaN meets – you can appreciate why I pursued this gig. Again, on efficiency and power/£ ratio, class D won long ago. Could the RA280 now level up to my favourite class AB specimens on across-the-board sonics? Time for a mini rant. Tone controls. They used to be common with Japanese mega receivers à la Sansui and Yamaha way back when. Then they turned into dirty words with purist audiophiles. Their classical kind still prefers tweaking with separate accessories. The current generation might prefer digital EQ embedded in their streamers. Those in the middle appreciate that wherever implemented well and applied sparingly, tone controls can be far more predictable—and defeat instantly—than tuning a system's sound with cables and sundry footers. It's why even a storied brand like Luxman has tone controls again; and with the obligatory bypass toggle just like the RA280. It's a very practical real-world feature out of the signal path when not used. On the Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe which in our video 2.0 system powers Zu Soul VI, I use its analogue bass boost to compensate the VI's roll-off set by its size against its beefy driver's true ability. It was such an easy instantly meaningful adjustment to make that I really can't hate on tone controls. More kit should fit them in fact. End of rant.

How about VU aka volume unit meters? The church of McIntosh is founded upon them. FutureFi stores multiple software-driven VU meters for its touch screens from which we can pick style or backlight colour. Some punters adore meters. Others abhor them. I'm cold. I dislike most all idiot lights when I can tell perfectly well that the hifi is 'on' because I hear tunes. I need no meters to tell me how loud or quiet things are. And why do I want to see actual power delivery? Seeing whether I forgot to turn it all off afterwards because sundry small LED say so is obviously useful. Ideally I like for power lights and displays to be extinguishable or dimmable especially for night sessions. Wherever there's no numerical volume to support precisely repeatable settings, I fancy a knob whose position I can see from the seat to avoid surprises during a later session. Team Hifi Rose must have studied my secret wish list because whilst the RA280 omits numerical volume but adds meters, the knob's setting is lit and the meters have a dimmer. I find that thoughtful. Ditto for a magnetic circuit breaker such as costly AC conditioners might sport. If we can remove the mini resistor of a sacrificial safety fuse and duplicate its function with a resettable part, that's a win. Likewise for a ground post and sub out. These are small things but if the devil is in the details, it all adds up. Well before the RA280 landed, I thought that it showed a lot of consideration for industrial design and user-friendly featurization. In the same vein of fine detail are the hexagonal not round IR eye; and the 3D not engraved Rose logo in the fascia's upper left corner. I suspect that Hifi Rose enjoy styling in metal and pushing what's possible at this sell price. Going the extra mile even reflected in including generic power cords with EU, US and UK wall plugs. I wish everyone did. It's not as though garden-variety AC cables cost much. It's simply ace to see someone care enough to insure we can plug 'n' play right away. That even rhymes.

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For my first station the RA280 displaced the desktop's Enleum AMP-23R. Its size simply prevented it from actually tossing out the other Korean from beneath the curved computer monitor. Instead it went on a side table next to the left speaker. In the second upstairs station, it really bumped Kinki's EX-M7 stereo amp off its shelf.