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Hegel H95 Review (Streaming Amplifier)

killdozzer

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Have You actually handled the Hegel? The build quality is easily on par with most amplifiers in the same price category. Yes, the measurements are mediocre, but to say that it is extremely low budget and poorly executed is exaggeration.

Regarding the sound quality, I doubt very much if many of us could detect it to sound inferior to other USD $2K amplifiers in a controlled blind test.
I think you and DSJR got @Geert wrong (of course, this is just a stab in the dark, I may be wrong as well) I think his "low budget and poor execution" refers to the way it was slapped together to perform so lousy, not the feeling of the knob. I know, usually people associate build quality only with face-plate and heavy turning knobs. Perhaps he should have said "design quality is extremely low budget and poorly executed"
 

tvrgeek

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Very disappointing as a local high end shop was suggesting I look at one. Surprised as what they had on the floor, Atoll and Sim, were very good.
 

mlilliman

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Thank you for the test and review, @amirm. I bought this amp 6 months prior, haha.

When you buy something at such cost (despite it being an entry level product for Hegel), and you enjoy how it performs, then it's a little like hearing someone insult your wife/kids/pets, etc.! I thought I had done the necessary diligence before buying; I had looked into Hegel's 'distortion reducing' SoundEngine technology (explain by Ben Holter below), and I'd read and watched countless glowing reviews. Alas, it appears that I bought a turkey.


I felt that way for a couple of days. I can truly say this review affected my enjoyment of the product. I cringe as I write that, an admittance of my insecurities in needing to see a golf club swinging pink panther to affirm my buying decision.

That was until I considered my subjective experience of the product vs the measured performance. Why was there such a contradiction?

Part of the answer is the cost; it's expensive so it must be good/better. But I'm a data analyst by profession and think I can reduce that factor in my critical thought process. In several cases, I've gone back to a cheaper product because I think it sounds/performs better. So I trawled through every page and every post of this review trying to find an explanation, and I think I've found the reason(s) why.

1. The digital input signal needed to be attenuated -24dB due to the high gain of the amplifier section, effectively raising the noise floor of the DAC. Had a 0dB full scale signal been input and the volume pot reduced, the measured S/N ratio would be ~90dB. While not great, this is unlikely to be audible with music.

2. My modest speakers (Wharfedale 12.3's) are a straight forward load with an 8 ohm nominal impedance, dipping to 4.4 ohms in the bass. Sensitivity is high at 88dB from one nominal Watt (2.8V) of input, so no more than 50 Watts or so is needed to go very loud. For context, around 40-50 on the volume pot.

3. I don't use the line outs, instead connecting my sub to the high level binding posts. (Pure luck rather than a conscious decision.)

I totally get that the testing process should be standardised. Amir has more than enough on his plate than to start customising the testing process to produce each product's optimal results.

While I haven't got the best value for money proposition out there, my use cases haven't stressed the Hegel and it's operating comfortably within it's performance envelope. I just wish I could send Amir many of the other desirable hi-fi brands when the upgrade bug next bites!
 
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tvrgeek

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I know the question will upset some, but if you can get past the measurements, how does it sound? Did you listen to it before reading the review?
I have been disappointed in some highly review equipment, and quite impresses by some so-so reviewed. Kind of suggest there are more things to measure if what you hear does not correlate with the static bench measures.

They do have a good reputation and the technology they employ can work very well. Of course, anything can be screwed up.
 

amper42

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I know the question will upset some, but if you can get past the measurements, how does it sound? Did you listen to it before reading the review?
I have been disappointed in some highly review equipment, and quite impresses by some so-so reviewed. Kind of suggest there are more things to measure if what you hear does not correlate with the static bench measures.

They do have a good reputation and the technology they employ can work very well. Of course, anything can be screwed up.

The Hegel H90 sounds great with my BMR monitors. From my listening tests I would rate it above my Denon 4700 but slightly below my RME ADI-2 DAC FS with these speakers. As long as I avoid its three main limitations I'm totally happy with its sound quality.

Limitations:
1. Don't use the variable line outs. Insufficient gain for sub or 2nd pair of speakers. Standard pre-out would be superior.
2. Don't expect it to drive a large floor standing speaker. I tried it with Revel F328Be. The Purifi amp with RME ADI-2 DAC was clean while Hegel H90 offered much higher distortion levels with the F328Be. But with the BMR's it sounded totally great.
3. Don't rely on the low performing Hegel wifi connectivity. It's weak and dropouts can easily occur. I use the USB input to my MacBook Pro running Audirvana. The connection is solid and it sounds great.


H90Back.jpg
 
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Klonatans

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Back in 2020 I owned a Hegel H160 amp for about a month. I bought a second hand unit after reading a lot of overwhelmingly positive feedback online. To my disappointment both with its built-in DAC (coax connection) and in analogue mode it sounded somehow dull and lifeless and despite its claimed 150 W per channel (8 Ohm) was not able to produce enough bass with my relatively easy to drive Quadral Chromium Style 8 speakers (there's a lot of hype about them too). I really wanted to like the Hegel but it was imposible so I sold the amp with some loss and later got rid of the Quadral speakers too.
 

tvrgeek

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Rated at 60W. Maybe optimistic. Those Revels claim to be very efficient, which we also know tends to be very optimistic! I drive my monitors with 60W, but with a massive power supply and lots of caps. Shame, always looking for that sleeper, but seems this one is not it.
Atoll and Exposure are the other two brands I had not heard of.

I concluded, no matter what brand, avoid the on-board dac. A $100 external invariablly beats them. Some want the convivence.
 

mlilliman

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Aghast! The "hype level" that Hegel has been able to build up is unbelievable. It's a sort of "would be" MacIntosh. It's (or rather was) a status symbol. It was unquestionable and unquestioned.

The H95 was the entry level model. But... 50-60w (when they claimed 75wpc), "low noise technology" totally dashed, dismal dac...and on and on.

I wonder how the upper reaches of the range perform. Probably acceptably well, this is a VERY expensive, very exclusive brand. Ditch the H95, focus on the high end and survive.

The intelligent user will get MUCH better results from the new Topping PA5 at about a quarter of the price. Forget the H95 and get a PA5. You'll be glad you did.
Why let facts spoil your faux anger? Hegel state 60wpc into 8 ohms (1% THD), not 75wpc.
 

jmillar

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Why let facts spoil your faux anger? Hegel state 60wpc into 8 ohms (1% THD), not 75wpc.
Great surprise at the results, rather. And even that is "on hold" after seeing another set of measurements. I always believed the H90/95 was overpriced for what you got, but NOT that it was a terrible amp. I will delete my post and inquire further.

As to power you are absolutely right, 75 was claimed for the H120 (IIRC). The H95 is very similar to the H90, that delivered 60wpc.
It IS true that the DAC is decidedly "low end" and no true "headphone amp" is included. The H120 DID have one (IIRC). The H95 delivers "entry level basics" acceptably well, albeit at 1800-2000€. It's up to the prospective customer to decide "value". "Preamp outs" are weak and seem to have been at the root of many subsequent misunderstandings.
Let's say that I have now returned to my position of "amp that I would accept as a gift" but that I would not personally opt for. For 2000€ I would probably opt for the NAD C298, (or any number of others).
For H90/95 ruggedness, QC, failure rate, extended warranty (reflecting actuarial confidence in product) would be tangible assets, but AFAIK there are no published stats.
 
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