Hegel H100 Review Keene NH
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Hampton Falls, NH
Hegel H100 Review
December 14, 2009 By Geoffrey Morrison
Mix together one part amp and one part DAC and you get Hegel's H100 Integrated Amp.
I am loving the influx of high-end audio gear that plays nice with computers.
It's taken long enough, but it seems like the audiophile companies are embracing computer-based digital audio for the future that it is.
Whch brings us to this, the Hegel H100 Integrated Amp.
Hegel is a small Norwegian company, and you're forgiven if you haven't heard of them. They only recently opened distribution in the U.S. Hegel is very much the baby and brainchild of founder Bent Holter. In college, Holter made amplifiers for his teachers and fellow students in his free time. I look back on what I was doing in my spare time in college, and I can tell you that all those hours of Counter-Strike really paid off getting me good at...well, playing Counter-Strike.
The H100 is based on their H1 integrated amp, but adds in a USB jack and a corresponding DAC. Hegel's philosophy is that you're going to have most of your music on your computer, not just on your iPod, so why not go to the source? Also, it's difficult to get a digital signal from the iPod, and hooking up via USB will let your computer do the codec decoding, and the Hegel do the digital-to-analog conversion. The DACs, called SyncroDAC by Hegel, are designed by them, as are most of the other parts in the amp.
The 120-watts-per-channel amp stage uses Hegel's patented SoundEngine technology, which is a "local error cancelling system." Hegel describes this as a way to minimize the high frequency distortion found in typical amp stages while increasing the control over the speakers.
There's a classy, stark, beauty to the H100. The smooth and curvy front panel has a, no exaggeration, beautiful finish. Apparently it's made by blasting a piece of aluminum with glass particles and then anodizing it.
You only get volume and source controls, plus the power button, on the front panel. In addition to the USB connector, the back panel has one balanced and four unbalanced inputs along with two unbalanced pre-outs and a record output.
Also included is a "Home Theater" input that allows you to use the H100 as an amp for the front speakers in a 5.1 setup. The remote isn't going to win any ergonomic awards, but it's pretty and matches the H100’s finish.
One quirk: The inputs don't loop around, so when you get to one end, if you keep pressing the Next Input button, you're just going to look silly. Trust me, I know.
Hooking up the H100 to my laptop was as simple as plugging in any other USB device. The components talked to each other for a moment, and then I had all my computer audio via my speakers.
I couldn't help but start with the audiophile-friendly Radka Toneff, who was, of course, Norwegian. "The Moon is a Harsh Mistress" from her Fairy Tales album (and more directly, the Burmester Demo-CD 2) is a rather hauntin...