Clarity and Detail from Hegel

Hegel provided a great demonstration on the effects of jitter. Using a Logitech Squeezebox Touch ($299) as a source we listened to a track first through the onboard DAC in Hegel’s entry-level 70Wpc A70 integrated amplifier ($2000) and then through their outboard HD10 DAC ($1200). Speakers were the B&W 802 Diamonds ($15,000/pair).

First of all, the sound, in general, as I have come to expect from Hegel, was very good. Clean and detailed and involving.

Moving from the onboard DAC to the outboard DAC resulted in a greater sense of ease and more low-level resolution. The Hegel HD10 includes a built-in soundcard and has coaxial, optical, and USB inputs. It supports up to 24-bit/192kHz resolution. When asked, Hegel’s Anders Ertzeid confessed that the HD10 does not utilize the now popular asynchronous operation. In certain circumstances, he explained, asynchronous operation is “the right thing to do,” but, if designing to a specific price point, asynchronous technology can be superfluous. That is, all elements of a design must complement one another, working together to perform optimally. Starting with asynchronous technology, simply for the sake of it, would therefore be misguided, except when cost is not a concern. (This is an argument I heard from more than one manufacturer at the show.)

Hegel’s designer, Bent Holter, further explained that the company wants to make products that sound fantastic at more affordable prices. “We feel there is greater potential for outstanding performance at more affordable price points.”

Hegel then offered a second, similar demo, this time playing a track first through the A70 integrated amplifier and then through the separate P4A preamplifier ($4650) and 300Wpc H4A power amplifier ($5750). Moving to the more powerful amplifier not only resulted in greater bass weight and impact, there seemed to be improved clarity and ease, with longer decays and a more nuanced overall sound.

Hegel’s room, it’s fair to mention, was covered in strips of long white cloth, creating a very serene environment, and I wonder what effect, if any, this had on the listener.

Hegel now has six US dealers, including the Audio Doctor in Jersey City, NJ. I’ll have to visit!