Hegel H-300 250×2 Stereo Integrated Amp, $5500
Hegel’s H-300 is its top of the line integrated amp. It is a dynamite value! Pun intended. Yep, it has loads of TNT on board to drive the most demanding of loudspeakers with beauty and power.
While I love integrated amps as a category, we always end up saying, “For the money..” this or that is a good deal. It will drive up to a certain level of speaker very nicely. It’s a good performer for the price. Nice.
That’s not what I’m saying with H-300. What I’m saying with H-300 is, you have a lovely tyrannosaurs on your hands!
H-300 is 57 pounds of Class AB design with an enormous damping factor (exceeds 1000!). H-300 throws thunder (250×2 @8 ohms, 430×2 @4 ohms!) and lightning as the music demands. H-300 has a huge, dual mono toroidal transformer (1000va), massive power supply caps of 90,000 UF, and twenty output transistors under the hood. It starts/stops transients and grips the bass foundation like no other integrated I’ve ever heard. To beat H-300, you have to go to a stack of Bryston for $10k. H-300 gives you a real taste of the best performance money can buy at $5500.
H-300 has a fine DAC section on board. Hegel has its proprietary re-clocking circuitry along with a 32bit AKM DAC. The upgrade in performance over your CD player or Sonos Connect for example, is substantial. It has one USB-B input on the rear for your computer. It has two Coax ins, two OPT ins, two RCA analog ins, and a HT pass through.
H-300 also has a set of XLR inputs that provides startlingly clear analog transmission. It will leave your jaw on the floor! The noise floor is like Bryston, as silent and black as it gets. You don’t have a disc player with XLR outs? Why not?! Marantz makes its UD-7007 for only $1200 that plays SACDs, CDs, Blu-ray and DVDs. When run via the XLR path, the video isn’t in the circuit and UD-7007 is an analog bargain. If you can swing it, step up to Marantz’s SA-11S3. At $4k it is absolutely unsurpassed, offering state of the art build and sound quality.
Hegel employs a couple of “tricks.” Hegel uses its DualAmp design. This is feed forward CURRENT DUMPING technology. One stage is for voltage, the next for current. It doesn’t use feedback to reduce distortion- and squelch musical life. Why? Because Hegel has another trick up its sleeve, its patented SoundEngine technology. SoundEngine is an error-canceling, comparative circuit that eliminates distortion. You’ll really be surprised how the lack of THD makes the music more clear. For years we have thought that customary amounts of THD are low enough to be moot. Think, and LISTEN again!
In addition to having big time bass kahunas, the H-300 has an ocean of QUIETUDE. Huh, what’s that?
H-300 provides nuanced, crystalline detail and dynamic contrast in spades. The combination of low level clarity along with a big wallop when the music calls for it, gets more out of your speakers than you knew they had. Piano attack, even in the lowest registers, is under vice-grip control. Percussion is taut and exciting, not sluggish. H-300 is fully in its wheelhouse to wake up and manhandle fine speakers like Brystons, Maggies and Paradigms. What a great combination of beauty and courage!
Arcadi Volodos is a Russian pianist with world class chops. His SACD of Liszt compositions is to die for. Vallee d’Obermann begins with quiet, thoughtful ruminating. H-300 with MG-3.7i lets you into Liszt’s world more intimately than we a have a right to ask. You really feel like you’ve been allowed into a music place you haven’t been before. The piece builds to a frightening crescendo with fistfuls of chords. H-300 grips this bucking bronco and doesn’t let go! The trail, from introspective noodling to dynamic conclusion, authored by some of the world’s best hands, is sheer piano magic. It takes about 13 and a half minutes to take it all in. We can spend a lifetime appreciating how lucky we are to get a front row seat!
If you hear this recording on a mid-fi system, you’ll still like it. But you would miss the immaculate touch, clever twists, pauses, thoughts and fireworks. Another example? Beethoven’s 32nd piano sonata, second movement, is centuries ahead of its time. Numerous pianists play it well. They hit all the right notes. Then there is the version by Claudio Arrau. HIS playing of this most enigmatic of LVB piano works takes us to a new level of interpretation. He goes down nooks, crannies and cul de sacs with night vision. You can hear him breath and think, letting us hear what we didn’t know was there. It happens again with Kempff’s version of Schubert’s sonata D959, second movement. Playing these great works through the H-300 and revealing speakers allows us to peer into intimate musical air. The H-300 is as important as the speakers to this experience.
Hegel is made in Oslo, Norway and earning praise all over the world. You’ll be hearing more and more of Hegel as the rest of the world catches on. What’s scary for the other guys is that Hegel makes two other integrated amps as well! We’ve got them all!
H-80, $2000, 80×2 AB Design with on board DAC
H-160, $3500, 150×2, AB Design with on board DAC, Airplay & DLNA