Hegel Launches New Amp at White Plains, NY Event

It was like going from a screening of 2001: A Space Odyssey to a lecture by Stanley Kubrick: at a press event centered around the North American premiere of Hegel's new flagship integrated amplifier, the H590 ($US11,000/$CAD13,500), the company's founder and chief designer, Bent Holter, stood before the audience and began by offering a few basic facts about the amp. Then, just a few minutes into his talk, the youthful Holter seemed inspired, and he asked for someone to bring him a whiteboard.

Anders Ertzeid, who serves as the Norwegian manufacturer's vice president of marketing and sales, did so, and for the next 25 minutes, fellow attendee Herb Reichert and I were enchanted: Blue marker in hand, Holter began by explaining the most recent refinement of Hegel's core amplifier technology, now called SoundEngine2: "The main reason Hegel amps sound different," Holter said, "is that our amps are geared to handle asymmetrical signals." He pointed to dynamic crossover distortion as the main impediment to low-distortion playback of asymmetrical waveforms, and went on to describe, in words and diagrams, how it is that traditional feedback schemes lower one kind of distortion at the expense of another, and how his patented take on feed-forward technology is more effective at cancelling-out most distortion products.

All of this took place on Thursday, August 23rd, in the Sapphire Room of the Ritz Carlton Hotel in White Plains, NY—a once-dull bedroom community and commerce district that, in recent years, has apparently done reasonably well for itself. (I lived in the pre-boom White Plains from 1986 to 1991.) It was like the world's most manageable audio show: a one-brand affair in a remarkably luxurious setting, where speeches, presentations, demonstrations, and even a live performance were punctuated with fine wines and rare meats, à la Keith Reid's "Grand Hotel."

A bit earlier in the day, Anders Ertzeid described the new flagship's essential features, including its uniquely designed D/A processor—"We don't run Linux: we've written our own proprietary operating system." The 301Wpc H590 is MQA-ready, and its USB input supports up to DSD256 and PCM 32/384. It's also Hegel's most powerful domestic amp to date: "The idea was to make a reference, a big power amp," Ertzeid said, "but we thought, who really wants just a power amp when we can make an integrated amp?"

Before dinner, which was indeed grand, and with the help of a pair of KEF Blade loudspeakers, Anders played excerpts from a few different tracks, including one by the saxophonist Jan Garbarek that sounded appealingly like a late-period Roxy Music instrumental. The system, inasmuch as I could tell from my seat at the far end of the sixth row, was fine—and was indeed free from any detectable distortions.

Speaking of music, the Hegel event actually began with a live performance, by the Norwegian singer Anette Askvik, who sang and accompanied herself on an electric keyboard (and, on one very interesting number, with a wash of celestial sounds derived from a recording made by NASA). It seemed to me her compositions and her singing style were influenced by Kate Bush and Joanna Newsom—nothing wrong with that—and her chord progressions often veered in pleasantly unexpected directions. Askvik mentioned that she has two albums out—one is called Liberty and the other one isn't (though her English is good, I didn't catch everything she said)—and she's working on a third. Good stuff, and worth looking into.

Ortofan's picture

I'll take the Marantz PM-10, which is capable of twice that output:

If you need AirPlay access, you can add the Marantz NA7004:

We're still over $2K less than the price of the Hegel.

Incidentally, did anyone at the product launch ask Bent Holter if his "reference" amp includes a phono preamp?
Or would such an omission not be of concern to AD or HR?

Charles E Flynn's picture


funambulistic's picture

Not 20 minutes away (Dallas, TX)!

The Marantz PM-10 is rated at 200wpc and the Hegel 301 (both into 8 Ohms) so I do not see how the Marantz is "capable of twice the output". It does not seem, though, that Hegel is interested in vinyl as none of their products have a phono input...

Though the H590 is WAY out of my price range (as is the Marantz) I am very impressed with their offerings. I got to listen to their H190 (150 wpc) hooked up to a pair of KEF Blade IIs (also above my budget). the little sibling of the 590 had an iron grip on the large speakers and sounded awesome.

Ortofan's picture

... (link provided) that showed the PM-10 was capable of an output exceeding 600W into both 8Ω and 4Ω loads?

For under $5K, you could get the Rotel RB-1590 and the matching preamp - just add the streaming device of your choice. Almost 500W into 8Ω and over 800W into 4Ω.

funambulistic's picture

I was being silly and going by the manufacturer's published specifications for comparison as I believe that is only fair unless there was a database of, say, Hi-Fi News test bench results (assuming all tests were performed with the exact same equipment and methods) to compare the Marantz, Rotel and Hegel models in question.

Yes, I realize the Hegel H590 is more expensive than the Marantz (though I would say the H190 is closer in [manufacturer] spec - and cheaper to boot) and, of course, the Rotel. At the same time, even though I have the greatest respect for Marantz and Rotel, if I could afford to do so, I would go for the Hegel - crazy, right? But continuing your point, why stop at Rotel? I can pick up a Behringer EP4000 at Musician's Friend for $329. Rated at 550 wpc into 8 Ohms (this is from the manufacturer, mind you - who knows how much it actually puts out?!) it is all the amplifier anyone could ever want or need! /s

Ortofan's picture

... but some manufacturers are more conservative than others and sometimes products barely meet their published specifications:

Regarding the Behringer (and other sound reinforcement type amps), one might ask why Stereophile doesn't review any of them? Would the order of the audiophile universe suffer a severe and permanent disruption if it was determined that a $329 power amp was found to be, as you suggest, "all the amplifier anyone could ever want or need"?

supamark's picture

he was being sarcastic (the /s gave it away), because Behringer makes pretty awful stuff (it's all knockoffs, sometimes knockoffs of knockoffs). Stereophile has reviewed pro audio equipment in the (sometimes deep) past - mulitple Crown amps, Westlake speakers, et.al.

Pro audio (recording, and increasingly live) is almost entirely active monitors and mixing is moving "in the box" (all inside a computer) - I am a little surprised they never reviewed the Genelec 1031A, since most popular music from ~95 to ~2010 was mixed on them.

johnnythunder's picture

for sound quality to be the deciding factor in a piece of equipments rating on their Recommended recordings list. A quick look in A rated components can show a wide price disparity (and sometimes all are pricey I understand that.) So unlikely that a bargain piece of equipment would cause "severe and permanent disruption" in the audiophile world. I have some pieces of equipment on their list (a Linn LP12 and an EAR 834P phono stage. Hardly excessive. Other pieces I own are smaller European manufacturers whose pieces to me sound warm and natural and look great. I don't bargain hunt for audio bargains nor do most readers of Stereophile. And utilitarian non-artisinal black boxes that look like office PA equipment - once again, if you want to live with that be my guest. I prefer a little more elevated industrial design. More elevated sound design too - better internal components and external upgraded power cords and associated equipment.

supamark's picture

they're like the Pro-ject of the (semi) pro audio world.

Makin' cheap knock-offs of much better and more successful equipment.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Rotel lab tests do not mention anything about pre-condtioning the power amp at 1/3 power into 8 Ohm load ............

Ortofan's picture

... and you might be able find a test report such as this one:


Bogolu Haranath's picture

This model is a different one ........ RB-1090 .......

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Fu? ......... Kung-Fu? :-) ........

"Kung Fu Fighting" ........ Carl Douglas :-) ........

johnnythunder's picture

Marantz is 2k less. So what? Advocating for Marantz of all brands is hardly an edgy statement. It's also a Class D amp. I know Class D has come a long way but I'll wait. And wattage isn't an "arbiter" of "reference" (ask Nelson Pass.) The Marantz also sounds like something you'd get at Best Buy. It's big. It's sold by Crutchfield. The Hegel isn't a swiss army knife type of product but if like other Hegel amps, sounds incredibly clear, clean and dynamic. Lacks the last bit of "warmth" for my tastes but to many that type of sound is exactly what they want.

Ortofan's picture

... still be apparent when the distortion increases as the amplifier warms up?
Or, maybe by now the Hegel's designer has determined how to provide adequate heatsinking for his "big" "reference" amp?

If Marantz is too mundane a brand for you and/or you disdain class D amps, then for the same $8K price as the Marantz amp, theres's the McIntosh MA8000, with its 300W output rating (and over 400W as demonstrated in test reports).

What precisely is your objection to merchandise available at either Best Buy or Crutchfield?
IMO a rather satisfactory system could be assembled even given the restriction to shop at only Best Buy and Crutchfield.
Best Buy could supply the B&W 800 D3 speakers and a Pro-Ject Signature 12 turntable equipped with a Sumiko Palos Santos Presentation MC phono cartridge.
Crutchfield could supply from McIntosh the C47 preamp, a pair of the MC301 monoblock power amps and an MCD350 CD player.
Would you not consider such a system to be acceptable?

johnnythunder's picture

considering a piece of Macintosh equipment (except the 275 amp.) Not my style and don't have room.
If it makes you feel any better, I think D'Agostino amps are also an acquired taste visually too.
We speak a different sonic language. Pro-ject makes nice tts and I'd consider owning one but i have 1989 Linn LP12 which still plays beautifully. No B+W for me either as I do not care for speakers with metal drivers. As far as the Hegel amp, distortion and running warm when pushed to its max party db levels - I cannot play music that loud so it isn't even a major concern for me nor did JA think so either. The amp didn't clip or shut down. I don't purchase my equipment based on measurements rather on how things sound to me in my own home after an audition.

Ortofan's picture

... occurred when it was run at only 50W - one-third of its full power rating.

Which driver in the B&W 800 D3 has a metal cone?

johnnythunder's picture

from B+W - "an internal structure that works like the bracing of a ship's hull." I prefer my speakers to be built like largely a guitar or a violin and from similar materials. Herb R. says he can hear the sound of the material a driver is made from. I agree with him totally on this point and I simply do not like sound of certain drivers. I love JA's ears and trust them but I never warmed to the sound of his fave Celestion SL600's. I found the treble very clear but too "sharp" for me. Honestly, you won't change my mind about equipment and I won't change yours. It's pointless. It's personal opinions and preferences. No one can make me prefer the taste of Chicago Deep Dish pizza vs. thin crust New York coal oven pizza. I can enjoy both but I prefer one over the other.

johnnythunder's picture

SL600 speakers - "I" found the treble sharp. Many people didn't. But I'm a guy who was raised on his dad's Bozak speakers and my own first high end system which included Spica TC-50s. My ears are used to a softer - perhaps rolled off - tweeter sound.

Ortofan's picture

has a metal cone?
Aerofoil refers to the shape of the cone and Continuum is a woven fabric.

FWIW, since you "love JA's ears and trust them", note that the speakers he uses at home are the KEF LS50, which have a magnesium/aluminium alloy low/mid frequency driver and an aluminium dome high frequency driver.

supamark's picture

he says "no B+W for me" because of metal drivers, and you jump to a specific model that doesn't use them (ignoring that some B&W speakers, like the 600 series and I think the Nautilus, use metal dome tweeters and/or cones as well as previous models). This is behavior/"logic" normally seen only in the worst of internet (and talk radio/cable news) commenters.

Oh, and as you (should) know 1/3 power is the worst case scenario for a class A/B amp (as JA states on pretty much every amp review's measurments section). Simaudio's Moon amps seem to have some similar problems at a much higher price point.

If you're gonna troll (and you do, poorly) at least step up your game and try to be a bit more entertaining.

And as for the discussion about Watts - what's actually important is how the amp interacts with your speakers and maybe (depending on respective in/out impedences) your preamp. That Marantz amp you keep touting is probably based on a McIntosh circuit (Harmon Group siblings) but without the same parts quality or the McIntosh autoformers on the outputs. Rotel is solid mid-fi equipment, the amp probably won't do well w/ difficult to drive speakers (which requires mo' money on power supply than you can put into a ~$1,500 amp and still turn a profit) and would probably crap the bed trying to drive something like Wilson speakers to a loud level.

Ortofan's picture

... and you will discover that the B&W 800D3 was identified before "johnnythunder" expressed a dislike for speakers with metal drivers.

It's not a secret that JA runs amplifiers under test for an hour at one-third power into an 8Ω load. One would suppose that any manufacturer who submits a unit for evaluation would check it beforehand to ensure it passes this test - even if it does represent a worst-case condition.

Sorry you don't find my posts entertaining - but that was never their intent.

Evidently you didn't read the linked report on the Marantz amp, otherwise you would have learned that it uses Hypex Ncore modules.

FWIW, B&W and Rotel are part of the same corporate group and B&W regularly uses Rotel electronics to demonstrate their speakers.

How did Wilson speakers enter into this discussion?

Next time, before you post, consider doing more investigation and less speculation.

johnnythunder's picture

Truly one of the ugliest speakers ever made. Looks like a sci-fi trash can. Well out of my price range too. But if i did have that kind of disposable income I'd be buying speakers that would not sound like or resemble those. Sorry.

funambulistic's picture

… is called Multiverse. Very nice.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be JVS could review the Hegel? ......... He seems to me, the right person with the right associated equipment ........ IMHO :-) ............

monetschemist's picture

Mr. Ertzeid says "We don't run Linux: we've written our own proprietary operating system". I struggle to understand how this is supposed to make me feel good about this product. Writing one's own proprietary operating system is not a small project; maintaining it even less so. Even Apple, who controls things pretty tightly in their product line, incorporates a lot of open source into their operating system.

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Are we comparing Apples with Apples? :-) ...........

ok's picture

any pointless “mine is bigger” wattage debate by stamping a tongue-in-cheek "-01" on H590's official power rating specifications ;-}

Bogolu Haranath's picture

This Hegel integrated amp has similar power rating and similar price as class-A rated Mark Levinson integrated amp ...........

Ortofan's picture

... another product with an overheating problem:

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Adcom (now, probably under new ownership) makes a flagship amp GFA-585se, with specs 450 watts into 8 Ohms for $3000 ......... Do you know about any reviews with measurements of this amp? .........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

May be Stereophile could review this amp? ...........

Bogolu Haranath's picture

Parasound Halo has come up with a new stereo amp JC-5 ....... 400 watts 8 Ohms $6000 ....... with John Curl signature on the front panel ..........

Ortofan's picture

... on the test bench.

Australian Hi-Fi tested the H80 (rated for 75W into 8 Ω) and found that it could put out exactly 75W into 8 Ω. Output into 4Ω was between 106W and 114W. Maximum power into 2Ω was only 25W.

It'll be interesting to find out how this H590 unit handles lower impedance loads.