This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below
The overall sound of the Hegel duo was very coherent, clean and dynamic. The H30 thus reacted quite fussily to recorded dynamic compression on discs from Abba or Peter Gabriel. There it slowed down the sound a bit and didn’t allow it to fully develop. That said it was one of very few amplifiers over which So sound very good. This was mostly due to filling in the obvious gaps in the sounds of that disc and neutralizing the overall recorded dryness. Whilst the lowest bass wasn’t as palpable and physical as the Soulution, its upper range was very colourful and alive.
The Hegel system is quite a chameleon whose presentation reflect the recordings. Yet there is something dominant like the fingerprint of superior technology. That fingerprint is fullness and maturity. Despite its enormous power rating, the result is not a flamboyant or ruthless sound. The bass is an integral part of the whole and not running off on its own. I don’t believe there are loudspeakers beyond the Hegel’s power capacity starting with the Franco Serblin Ktêma through the German Physiks HRS 120 Carbon to the Ascendo System ZF3 S.E. and Avalons ending with the Sonus Faber Elipsa and Stradivari.
Interestingly warmer loudspeakers like my Harbeths performed incredibly and brilliantly well despite overall mimicking the Hegels’ core traits a bit. Needless to say the Norwegians aren’t the 8th wonder of the world and the very best SETs for example will have an even more nuanced sound. But here we’re dealing with an amplifier that sells for about half or one third of what I compared it to (and the speakers that performed well with it). It thus took deliberate restraint on my part not to gush with the emotions I encountered during this review.
Review conditions. The Hegel amplifier was placed on thick plywood and decoupled from the floor with Finite Elemente Cerapuc footers. The preamplifier sat on the Acoustic Revive RAF-48 air platform. Different from my customary habit I connected the power amplifier to the loudspeakers not with Tara Labs Omega cables but via another wonderful Norwegian discovery, the SC Air Markarian 421 from Skogrand Cables. This turned out to make for an incredibly coherent sound with the Hegel electronics. The connections between the latter came by way of balanced Acrolink 7N-AD5100 and Oyaide Tsunami Terzo cables. Similar to the speaker cables the better result was with the cheaper Oyaide set. That’s how things can go. One has to experiment with many combinations to identify the best one. This needn’t be the costliest by definition.
Besides my Ancient Audio Air V-edition CD player I also used the Transrotor ZET1 turntable with the Miyajima Labs Kansui cartridge and RCM Audio phono stage with true balanced outputs. That was important since the Hegel seems to perform better with balanced signal. I am usually not a fan of balanced connections because most components do not handle the recombining of positive and negative phase halves well. But here everything was fine and analog sounded even deeper and closer to the heart of things than the digital source.
Description.P30. This preamplifier is relatively small and shallow but counters with a slightly bulging sculpted fascia. More surprising is its substantial weight. This derives from the hefty transformer and a very solid thick chassis of bolted aluminium panels. The review loaner was black and the whole affair stands on three aluminium footers with semi-spherical rubber bumpers. The metal wand is small but sports quality buttons. It would be nicer still to better distinguish the volume up/down controls since those aren’t completely intuitively located and need to be searched for each time. Beside volume and mute the remote will change inputs and double as controller for the matching CD player.
Front. Here we only get two knobs and a big central power button with an associated blue LED above. The right input selector is surrounded by medium-sized blue LEDs. This knob rotates endlessly to likely be a form of encoder that triggers relays. The volume control meanwhile rotates across a limited range to suggest a standard pot behind it. The entire affair looks very solid and elegantly understated.
Back. Looking at the back we see evidence of balanced circuitry. Besides 3/2 RCA i/o ports we get a matching pair of XLR inputs and outputs. Whilst the RCA sockets are medium class and spaced quite narrowly, the XLRs are superior Neutrik units. There’s also a pass-through input for AV processor/home theatre integration; two mini jacks to leash together Hegel components for complete system control; and the IEC power inlet.
Inside. The circuitry mounts on three PCBs. The motherboard occupies almost the entire chassis and then there are two smaller ones. Conceptually quite simple, the execution is very sophisticated and extends to a quite advanced power supply with control logic. The input signal encounters sealed Omron relays whereby the active source gets selected. The same relays at the outputs protect the power amps.