Hegel Music Systems Mohican CD player

Someone on Audio Asylum wrote, "When it comes to hi-res audio, Herb is a babe in the woods." This is true, though probably not in the way this person imagined. High-resolution master David Chesky has been my friend forever, and I used to write for his website HDtracks.com. Todd Garfinkle, founder of and producer for M•A Recordings, and Kavichandran Alexander, of Water Lily Acoustics, are not only valued friends, but I own most of their stunning recordings. In short, I'm no stranger to SACD or 24-bit/192kHz playback. But compared to most audiophiles, I've been a bit slow in appreciating the intricacies and virtues of hi-rez computer audio.

Even today, most of my digital listening is spent with the unstressed flow of Tidal HiFi, "Red Book" CDs, and 16/44.1kHz downloads. Not only that, but I almost always prefer my music in the format in which it was originally released. Very often, I find remastered versions of the music I've known since my youth to sound weird, soulless, and distracting. After hearing the Beatles and Dylan a thousand times, my DNA has become wired to the original Capitol and Columbia versions played on the radio in the 1960s. That's why I collect first-pressing LPs and 7" 45s.

After two days of listening to dozens of fancy audio systems at the 2016 Rocky Mountain Audio Fest, I realized that, in all the best-sounding rooms, I'd seen "44.1" beaming from the DACs' displays. When I asked one especially high-profile exhibitor, "Why not hi-rez?," he coyly smiled and said, "I play what sounds good . . . that's my job!"

At that show, Hegel Music Systems' US distributor, Eileen Gosvig, and Anders Ertzeid, Hegel's VP of sales and marketing, took me by both arms and led me to a rack of gear sitting between a pair of KEF speakers. "Look. What do you see?"

My glasses were pretty grease-smeared. I frowned dumbly and said, "Duh . . . I don't know." Wondering what they expected me to notice, I went on: "Looks like a rack of Hegels with a CD player on top." Then I tried, unsuccessfully, to remember the names of Hegel's two CD players: the entry-level CDP2A and their well-regarded statement model, the CDP4A (both about to be discontinued at time of writing).

Leatherstocking Tales
As I cleaned my glasses, Anders Ertzeid explained that the dark metal box atop the stack was Hegel's new CD player, designed as a special love-project by Hegel's founder and chief engineer, Bent Holter. Ertzeid said that Holter named it Mohican (as in James Fenimore Cooper's The Last of the . . .) because it plays only "Red Book" CDs—no SACDs, no digital input—and so is among the last of a dying breed. He said that Holter had engineered it to last a long time, and quoted him: "'I don't care if I sell only seven! I want to put my best effort and everything I got into making the highest-quality CD player I can.'"

My mind drifted to memories of classic machines . . . Linn's CD12, Accuphase's DP-90 . . . I grasped where Holter was coming from, and admired his heretical ambition. My glasses still off, I looked Eileen Gosvig straight in the eye and squinted. "What do I have to do to get a review sample?"

The Hegel Mohican is a starkly elegant steel box weighing 14.3 lbs and measuring 16.93" wide by 3.14" high by 11.42" deep. It has a Sanyo disc transport, and an AKM AK4490 32-bit digital-to-analog converter to decode the 16/44.1 CD data without upsampling. This Mohican is made in Norway, and has the look and feel of a high-quality Scandinavian product.

On its dark faceplate are two large knobs. You don't turn them—you push. Press the top of the left knob to turn the player on. Push the top of the right knob to open or close the disc drawer, then push the bottom-right portion of the same knob to Play, or at the bottom-left portion to Stop. Press the left-hand knob at the bottom-right or -left to respectively play the next or previous track. It's all very solid and simple. The narrow rectangular display tells you only which track is selected and how long it's been playing.


The Mohican's rear panel is even simpler: pairs of unbalanced (RCA) and balanced (XLR) analog outputs, an IEC power-cord inlet, and a digital output (true 75-ohm BNC).

I used the Hegel Mohican for several months, and was daily struck by how military-grade strong it felt to the touch. I used it with a wide variety of review gear, but for the sake of this review and my listening impressions, I used only my best reference system: DeVore Fidelity Orangutan O/93 speakers driven by a Pass Labs HPA-1 preamplifier and headphone amp and a First Watt J2 stereo power amplifier. I then double-checked what I'd heard by listening again, through headphones: Audeze LCD-X, HiFiMan HE1000 V2, and Sony MDR-Z1R.


When I review a loudspeaker, the first thing I do is play some well-recorded solo piano. This shows me how the speaker delivers weight, momentum, and tone. With a DAC or CD player, I begin with music that's huge and complex, with punched-out bass, hypertextured midrange, solo and massed voices, aggressive percussion, and light-speed synthesizer highs. Then, right away, I can tell if its systems of digital preservation and analog restoration are delivering a well-sorted illusion. If a DAC or CD player sounds thick, hard, opaque, or confused, then every recording thereafter will suffer in (more or less) the same manner.

In that spirit, the music from the artful, Cirque du Soleil–like theater of FuerzaBruta, or Brute Force (CD, Ozono 7794440 002399) was the perfect way to begin my analysis of the Hegel Mohican. FuerzaBruta is a high-energy, constantly morphing kaleidoscope of sound. If the Mohican could navigate it without midrange mud, vapid bass, or metallic synths, then it would get at least one gold star. Only minutes into the first track, "Playero," I awarded the Hegel two stars—the second was for style and coherence. The Mohican didn't just sort its way through this sonic extravagance—it navigated it with a gymnast's attention to proper form.


Northern Light: Supposedly, Icelandic singer-composer Jón Pór "Jónsi" Birgisson named his band after his sister Sigurrós Elín—but the group's name, Sigur Rós, means, literally, victory rose. I first discovered Sigur Rós via my love for and study of the music of Björk Gudmundsdóttir, which is beyond fantastic. Seeking music even more difficult than FuerzaBruta, I chose Sigur Rós's beautifully packaged Takk . . . (CD, Geffen B0005345-02). No English is sung on this 2005 album, which features strings, brass, diverse percussion, synthesizers, weird noises, a choir, and Jónsi's wordless, falsetto vocalizing. Takk . . . is my best test of any CD player—a spectacularly dynamic sound collage that not only shifts beats and tempos with numbing frequency, but occasionally drifts into extended periods of what sounds like radio interstation hiss or a hairball on my cartridge's stylus. When this album is reproduced properly, those fuzzy distortions become meaningful, electronically textured communication.

Hegel Music Systems
US distributor: Hegel Music Systems USA
Baldwin Street
East Long Meadow, MA 01028
(413) 224-2480

es347's picture

..but I just can't see buying a CD player these days especially one that costs five grand

volvic's picture

I would buy one if it had capacity to connect from external sources to its DAC. If not, not sure why anyone would pay $5k for a CD player without that feature. Even a late adopter like myself to computer audio now sees the need for all new CD players to offer. Still, nice machine and quality made in Norway, suppose Hegel thinks there are still people who only listen to CD's, in fact, they are not the only manufacturers that offer a stand alone CD player, I recall Parasound offering a CD player without any inputs for external computer sources, wonder how well they sell. I do hope Hegel sells more than seven.

Allen Fant's picture

I am right there with ya- HR.
I collect 1st pressing CDs for the same reason you collect the Vinyl editions. Very nice coverage and review of the Hegel cd spinner.
Good to read about it being made in Norway and NOT junk-sourced to china (like so many of its competitors).

es347's picture

..but the way I listen is ripping them and loading on a NAS drive connected to a music server. Much easier to navigate your music and with a super high quality DAC better sound..

volvic's picture

I do the same, trounces my pricey CD players.

Allen Fant's picture


what is the Signal-to-Noise (S/N) ratio on this player?
Whom can suggest a U.S. dealer/retailer for a demo?


recorded from 10' mics sounds a lot like the definition of distortion.

allhifi's picture

Mr. Reichert: Now this (review) was much better; deftly navigating the torturous waters of both reviewing sensitivity and drawing comparisons.

But here, you've done reasonably well (as opposed to the other one I lambasted you on).

It would have been instructive if you experimented with PC's, IC's or other combinations with the Hegel Mohican.

I'm not even sure if you referenced the DAC-chip employed , or any other notable feature of the Mohican. I don't recall anything memorable.

In any case, the rightful 'takeaway' from this review is that the very 'up-to-date" Mytek "Brooklyn" slapped the Mohican back into yester-century, at less than half the price of the clearly over-priced Hegel.

Perhaps that eager show "smile" was meant to soften you up to some nice words about the Mohican, I'm pleased to see you did both that, and the right thing in drawing some comparisons.

peter jasz