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Hegel H95 Review (Streaming Amplifier)

amper42

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The SoundStage H95 measurement results are stellar compared to the ASR review. My guess is it's because they didn't measure using the variable line outs.
 

juliangst

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The SoundStage H95 measurement results are stellar compared to the ASR review. My guess is it's because they didn't measure using the variable line outs.
Now I wonder how well their power amps/ mono blocks measure. They should be the better buy without the weak performing streamer/DAC build in
 

mlilliman

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The SoundStage H95 measurement results are stellar compared to the ASR review. My guess is it's because they didn't measure using the variable line outs.
They did, and noticed the increase in THD+N above 0.6 Vrms.

“This behaviour of more than a 20dB increase in THD+N between 0.6 and 2Vrms is curious; however, in most home-use cases, analog levels from the variable line outputs of the H95 driving most power amplifiers would not exceed 0.6Vrms.”
 

amper42

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They did, and noticed the increase in THD+N above 0.6 Vrms.

“This behaviour of more than a 20dB increase in THD+N between 0.6 and 2Vrms is curious; however, in most home-use cases, analog levels from the variable line outputs of the H95 driving most power amplifiers would not exceed 0.6Vrms.”

I missed that part of the long review. I find the conclusion not valid.

When I connected a powered sub with the Hegel H90 variable gain RCA the output was too low to be useful for a sub without an additional gain stage. And if I by passed the Hegel amp and used the H90 as a pre-amp with the variable outs I was definitely exceeding 0.6V trying to get enough output to power a 25.5dB gain NC502MP. As far as I'm concerned, the Hegel H90 works great as long as you don't use or need the under powered variable gain pre-outs. Once you try to utilize them it opens up a rabbit hole of problems. :D
 

LarsF

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This is a review and detailed measurements of the Hegel H95 integrated amplifier with DAC and streaming support. It is on kind loan from a member and costs US $2000.

The H95 looks pretty nice:
View attachment 167912

I really like the large, high resolution and very responsive graphic display. What I don't like is the absence of power button on the front face. After some research I found out it is on the bottom. I realize without it there is symmetry but the one or two times that you play something super loud and want to rush to shut it off, you will hate the fact that it will take some effort to reach under to power it down. Another thing I didn't like is lack of acceleration on volume control. You have to crank and crank it to turn it all the way up and down.

The back panel shows the extra connectively over a standard analog amplifier:
View attachment 167913

Very nice to see built-in DAC and Ethernet streaming. What is not is the maximum supported sample rate of 96 kHz over USB. This tells me they are using ancient and obsolete USB interface. They say they did this for ease of design and to save money to put toward making the DAC itself better. We will see about that.

A simple plastic remote control is provided which is very similar to what we see from Chinese desktop manufacturers. I tend to like it but it is unusual for such an expensive product to come with this kind of remote. Usually they include some heavy but harder to use remote.

Hegel H95 DAC Measurements
This being an amplifier, I immediately jumped to measuring that part of it first. But then I had to backtrack when I noticed digital input performance was worse than analog. Given the line out, I decided to measure the DAC using coax input. For some reason, like a Hegel DAC I tested in the past, my ASIO4ALL interface would not see the USB input so I decided to test with Coax. Here is our dashboard with volume control adjusted to produce the nominal 2 volts:

View attachment 167914

I don't need to tell you that this is stunning high level of distortion, landing the H95 seven from the bottom list of some 350 DACs tested:
View attachment 167915
When sweeping IMD distortion level, we can see part of the problem:

View attachment 167916

This is something we see in Audio/Video receivers where they set the optimal gain to drive their amplifiers and not the 2 volts we are looking for. Even then performance is not good, barely showing less noise than a $9 phone dongle! We can measure the noise itself:

View attachment 167917

This is horrid performance in any modern DAC.

Back to distortion, we see that again in multitone test:

View attachment 167918

Jitter performance is lackluster and what I would expect to see from random ebay DAC:

View attachment 167919

To finish our suffering, here is poor linearity measurement:
View attachment 167920

I think they may have unseated Schiit with their multibit DACs and poor linearity!

Really, really bad showing.

Hegel H95 Amplifier Measurements
I first started with line in and adjusted the volume to get the nominal gain of 29 dB we use in integrated amplifier tests:

View attachment 167921

Noise and distortion is just above average:
View attachment 167922

I expected a lot better as the company's claim to fame is a comparator which supposedly detects distortion and sends an inverted signal to the amp to correct. We see plenty of amplifiers without such circuit performing far better as you can see in above graph. And of course we have products that use true feed forward technology such as Benchmark AHB2 currently occupying #1 spot in above graph.

What's more, there are stability issues with that circuit (my guess). Check out the warm up performance of this amplifier:


View attachment 167923

I have never seen anything like this. Variations are quite large (as much as 3 dB) with two very large spikes. It never stabilized even though I let it warm up far longer than other amps to tune of 17 minutes. Best case performance was actually when the amplifier was just powered on at 80.5 dB SIAND but then finishing at 79.5.

Switching to DAC input which one would hope would eliminate source of external noise made things worse, not better in that regard:

View attachment 167924

You are losing 9 dB in SINAD due to much higher noise floor. Why or why? Again, AV receivers do this but I don't think I have measured this kind of degradation before when using digital input.

So from here on I focused on analog input. Here is our dynamic range:

View attachment 167925

I like to see 96 dB at 5 watts but 91 is fine. The max power performance doesn't improve much because this is not a very powerful amplifier.

Crosstalk is also good:

View attachment 167926

Frequency response is flat in audible band:

View attachment 167931

Power output is just 63 watts into 4 ohm at the knee of the distortion curve:
View attachment 167927

Allowing for more distortion and busting sharply increased available power:
View attachment 167929

Power into 8 ohm is very low for this expensive of an amplifier:
View attachment 167930

Checking for frequency dependency we see something limiting power before the amplifier naturally doing so:

View attachment 167932

Hegel H95 Headphone Amplifier
I usually don't bother testing headphone output on this type of amplifier as it is usually an afterthought. But company talks about improving its output and noise level relative to prior products so I decided to test it some. Here is our power curve into 300 ohm:

View attachment 167933

I like to see 100 milliwatts of power here and 80 is close enough. Switching to low impedance, we should get a lot more power but we do not:


View attachment 167934

The guarantee reason is high output impedance and that is precisely what we have:


View attachment 167935

I am amazed that in this day and age companies like Hegel are not aware of the fact that high impedance is bad for many headphones (changes their tonality) and that even budget headphone amps have impedance below 1 ohm. 77 ohm is just out of the question.

Conclusions
Let's quickly agree that both the DAC and headphone amplifiers are junk. They are better off leaving both out. You can do better with hundreds of products that cost the same as the shipping or tax of the H95. I watched one video where the youtuber said he preferred the sound of Hegel DAC to his Chord Mojo in some ways. Wonder what he thinks now.

The amplifier in H95 is good as far as noise and distortion but nothing to write home about. Continuous power is very low for an amplifier costing $2000 however.

This is just a bad attempt all around.

I can't see any reason to recommend Hegel H95. Company needs to go back to the drawing board and design performant DACs and headphone amplifiers as a minimum. On amplification, they are being left behind by proper feedforward designs and excellent class D with tons of power.

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As always, questions, comments, recommendations, etc. are welcome.

Any donations are much appreciated using: https://www.audiosciencereview.com/forum/index.php?threads/how-to-support-audio-science-review.8150/
I have to defend my Hegel a bit here, I have not read the all the post's in this thred so maybe I'm not alone. But I think you judge this as an DAC, but in my mind it's an amplifier. and as an amplifier it's ok I think.
 

Temple

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So I just purchased the H95 and now found this thread. Would it best to use an external DAC? I am going to be either running a BlueSound Node or the internal streamer of the H95. If I use the Node I will probably use a R2R DAC with with it. Any input would be great.
 

amper42

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So I just purchased the H95 and now found this thread. Would it best to use an external DAC? I am going to be either running a BlueSound Node or the internal streamer of the H95. If I use the Node I will probably use a R2R DAC with with it. Any input would be great.

I run the Hegel H90 with the USB port into the MacBook Pro. It sounds great to me with Audirvana. I tried using the Topping E30 with it and didn't enjoy the sound as well as the built-in USB port with the MacBook Pro. You'll need to decide what works best with your speakers.
 

dshreter

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So I just purchased the H95 and now found this thread. Would it best to use an external DAC? I am going to be either running a BlueSound Node or the internal streamer of the H95. If I use the Node I will probably use a R2R DAC with with it. Any input would be great.
The best thing to do is just listen to it and enjoy it, unless you can return for a refund. There are better value products out there, but nothing about the H95 should get in the way of your music sounding great.
 

Temple

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The best thing to do is just listen to it and enjoy it, unless you can return for a refund. There are better value products out there, but nothing about the H95 should get in the way of your music sounding great.
I just got it used for a good deal but might build a pair of Amp Camp mono blocks and sell the H95. It will be here tomorrow so will test out then.
 

amper42

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I just got it used for a good deal but might build a pair of Amp Camp mono blocks and sell the H95. It will be here tomorrow so will test out then.
I like the Hegel H90 for an office setup. Amp/preamp built into one nice integrated package with USB input that acts as a sound card for the computer. The remote feels good in the hand and works well over a wide range. It's not as powerful as my RME ADI-2 DAC FS paired with a Buckeye NC502MP amp streaming via Moode using an RPI4 but it's still a nice tool. At $1,000 or less used or on sale the Hegel H90 or H95 is a keeper for a medium to small room.

The worst function is the variable line out RCA on the back. A standard pre-out port for proper gain would be preferred. If you don't use the variable line out or the weak airplay function it's a rock solid device. Using the USB input allows me to avoid the Airplay function.

Yes - the RCA (analog) , Optical and Coax inputs all work fine. Easy switching between them via remote or front knob. I never had an issue with the various Hegel H90 inputs. At one time, I had the Topping E30 DAC on Analog #1, a Denon CD player on the optical input plus the MBP running Audirvana on the USB input.

H90Back.jpg
 
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Rja4000

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You have basically 2 options:

Either you decide you care little about the review.
You'll then have an integrated box that is doing its job, not too well, but still.
If that's not for critical listening, you may favor practicality over critical performance.
Of course, if you have that goal in mind, you don't want to add more external components to it.
And don't tell anyone about this review

Either you're looking for a good, cost optimized, system.
In that case, send it back or sale it, and chose one high performance system from the various good performance components you may find tested here.
For the kind of money we speak here, you should be able to find a better system.
 

JiiPee

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Unless You feel that it is important to participate in "Who's got the best SINAD pissing contest", there is no need for external DAC. You would not hear any difference in a properly conducted blind test. H95 - DAC included - is easily good enough. Just avoid using the variable level rca-output.
 

MarcosCh

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Unless You feel that it is important to participate in "Who's got the best SINAD pissing contest", there is no need for external DAC. You would not hear any difference in a properly conducted blind test. H95 - DAC included - is easily good enough. Just avoid using the variable level rca-output.

Agree, the thing is, the headphone out is crap too (too noisy, i guess depending on the headphone you use) and you can't really use the line out to plug a headphone amp.... This was one of the reasons i sold mine (H90) back in the day. The flaws are obvious, i didn't need amir measurements no notice them, and there is no easy solution for this use case.

But other than that, great to use streamer/amp.
 

Rja4000

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Unless You feel that it is important to participate in "Who's got the best SINAD pissing contest"
Well, there are more sins than just low SINAD here...

Amp seems reasonably good (if you forget the instability), but in no way better than a 400€ Hypex NCore NC122MP based amp
 
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ENG

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I have had Hegel H80, H190 and H390. There are all sold and I bought the much cheaper NAD C298, NAD C399 and Topping MP5 instead. And they run cool even with heavy load. I use Toppings unsurpassed DAC's to feed them. I can hear difference and the measurements prove it. Hegel is way to expensive for what they offer. And Hegel producs consume to much kWh, which is very, very expensive in Denmark. 1 kWh costs between half and one US$ pr. kWh in average.
 

JiiPee

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I use Toppings unsurpassed DAC's to feed them. I can hear difference and the measurements prove it.
No offence meant, and I don't dispute Your experience, but as has been pointed out on several threads on this forum, it is likely the other way round: You know the measurements show that this particular DAC is good, and because of that, Your mind is preprogrammed to prove it to You when You listen that DAC.
 
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