Hegel H2 Power Amp Mini-Review

Discussion in 'Power Amps' started by purr1n, Jan 25, 2017.

  1. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Hegel H2 Power Amp Mini-Review

    Oftentimes I am succinct because a product sucks: I just want to get it over with, without the effort of another fifty lines of damning praise. The Hegel H2 is not such as product. Hegel is a Norwegian brand. Like Eddie Current. Or at least Craig Uthus is Norwegian. That's why he's tall, has stringy muscles, and can lift heavy amps all day. I believe his original surname wasn't Uthus, but his parents changed it to Uthus because that was the town they came from, and Americans back then, like Americans now, were slightly retarded and couldn't pronounce his real Norwegian surname. I apologize if Americans think I am dissing them, but seriously, when people keep getting Taiwan and Thailand mixed up, I start to wonder. It's the schools. Too much time on Sumerians and too little time on current events, geography, and culture.

    But I digress. I was offered the chance to borrow this amp and I accepted once I was assured that it did not sound like shit. This amp was stored in a dank closet, partially off the shelf. I assumed it was a piece of shit, although the Hegel name did ring a bell. Maybe I was thinking of Katherine Heigl. Or maybe because @jelt2359 might have mentioned he had a Hegel or was dating Heigl in some post buried somewhere. The chassis is plain grey. It's very plain and utilitarian. A large circular power button rests on the front panel. The Hegel logo is silkscreened on top of the power button. Kind of reminds me of Schiit. Although it's my understanding that these amps are priced quite high!

    IMG_20170125_204129995.jpg
    IMG_20170125_204153058.jpg

    OK, let's get down to it. The Hegel H2 is absolutely fantastic. I honestly don't have many words for it. The tonal balance is bright. We are not talking HD800 bright, or HD800 glare. Just tipped up in the treble. It's not mid-forward. It's not aggressive. It's not lean. It's just slightly bright. (I consider the Crest CA2 neutral, it's always seems to be in the middle of various amps I've auditioned). The bass is very well extended and has a nice growl to it. The H2 seems to bring the Fostex BLH's bass extension down half an octave (not in a measurement sense, but in a subjective sense). The tonal balance is nothing that cannot be worked around with appropriate tweaks: cables, preamp tubes, speaker placement, etc. But this is something that I did want to mention.

    So getting past this, what we have is magic! This is the magic that I've been looking for in solid-state amps. Magic in sense that the gear transcends technicalities and sonic descriptions, and only leaves us with feeling. You know, the kind of feeling that makes our eyes well up with tears. Yep. This is it. The Guaravidian meter is registering with this one (and how often do I say that?)

    To sum up with a few points:

    • Great sense of flow. Not in the sense of fluidity or liquidity for DACs, but in the sense of feeling. There's a flow and a rhythm, a life pulse that especially goes with vocals.
    • Growl and crunch.
    • Projection of attack. Not quite macrodynamics and not quite microdynamics. But little things like rimshots on the drums in the background, or picks on the guitar strings - these sounds are thrown at us. With most other gear, they just happen on the stage. With the H2, the soundwave is thrown at us from the stage.
    • Palpability and tactility. Not only do we hear the body of instruments, but we feel the vibrations. With my hand on the couch, I can feel the vibrations, like a live event, as if vibrations from instruments are illuminating the room and everything in the room.
    • Fast attacks and transients, but not artificially so. Lines are not artificially straight or narrow. Very natural, but fast. Hegel totally nailed this.
    • Sweetness to timbre. Reminds me of 45 tube.
    • Well defined bass and great textures. "Phat" with sustain when music calls for it.
    • Chameleon like tone: Trebly when music is trebly. Bassy when music is bassy. I really like that there is no tonal pervasiveness.
    • Ease. This is the better version of "powerful".
    • Glorious soundstage! IMAX huge and enveloping with precision and no a wall of fuzzy diffusion effect.
    • NONE OF TECHNICALITIES GET IN THE WAY. We are left with only music. I don't think I am listening to the Hegel H2. I don't think about plankton, resolution, dynamics, blah, blah, blah.
    One downside: Ton of gain. Some buzz heard on the high-efficiency Fostex BLH ~92db with Freya tube which has another 14db of gain. No annoying and difficult to hear noise at listening position, but one is aware of it.

    Another note: The amp runs fairly cool. That is maybe slightly warm to the touch.


    Associated Gear:

    Schiit Freya Preamp
    Schiit Gungnir Multibit DAC (output stage bypass)
    Marantz CD5004 CDP (modified for use purely as a transport)
    Fostex FE108 Sigma in BK-16 BLH Enclosure
    Fostex T90A Supertweeters
    Crest CA2 Power Amp

    Hegel H2 Internals. Bigger than it looks. The chassis is 19" across. The internals look very similar to that of the H20.
    Hegel H2 internals .JPG

     
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    Last edited: Feb 5, 2017
  2. ohhgourami

    ohhgourami Friend

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    You just described the sound of a big boy amp. How long have I been talking about this sound? 2 years+ but everyone keeps on thinking I'm a nutjob.
     
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  3. Rotijon

    Rotijon Friend

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    I was the guy who brought jelt's hegel H20 to his place. And had the pleasure of using it for a day. It was a great amp, a little bright, but the good kind.

    For a warmer amp, id suggest the modwright KWA200SE.
     
  4. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Added a few more items to the points.
     
  5. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Big boy price. Actually I have no idea how much this thing costs, but I believe it is up there. It certainly weighs it. I am glad I have it because the Vidar will have some competition. From what I have heard of the prototype, the Vidar is close, but still doesn't get that last 5-15% of musicality. Hard to say though. The Vidar in its new chassis appears to give Schiit more option for biasing. Might be interesting.
     
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  6. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Indeed, it is a "good" bright. I really do not want people to get the wrong idea. It's just something to be aware of for component matching, synergies, etc.
     
  7. jelt2359

    jelt2359 Friend

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    When I first acquired my H20 to use with my HE6 a year ago I thought it was a fine amp, and told HE6 messiah @ohhgourami so as well. Very natural sound, with an awesome sense of flow, aka Gauravidians. Everything sounds incredibly effortless. The bass control is tight and full, but it's not tripped up like a Flo Rida song; aka bass-bass-bass, bass-bass-yes.

    Holographic soundstage, clean sound, yet involving and musical. The treble is clean and not peaky. As Marvey said, there is a slight upward-tilt that may need to be tweaked for personal tastes. My H20 is definitely a keeper.
     
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    Last edited: Jan 25, 2017
  8. ohhgourami

    ohhgourami Friend

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    My research shows somewhere in the around 3-3.5k range (used). Definitely big boy price. Still a bargain considering some headphone amps can go for double with really laughable performance. Oh and holds value (that's a big plus).
     
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  9. purr1n

    purr1n Finding his inner redneck

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    Technically everything is there leaving you with nothing wanting. That's why I said so little on sonic properties (dynamics, plankton, clarity, soundstage, etc.) In the technical sense, the Crest CA2 also meets these requirements. However the H2 goes above and beyond, bringing that something extra. With more listening, it just grows and grows on you.

    Thanks for bringing this up. That's what disturbs me more about the headphone and personal audio market. There's quite a bit of very good "magickal" sounding two-channel stuff that can be found between $3k-$5k; but 95% of the $3k-$5k gear in the personal audio world is soulless sounding or can't even meet basic requirements for sound reproduction. Just go to a CanJam.
     
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  10. jelt2359

    jelt2359 Friend

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    With my H20 you will hear the hiss of preamps that are not dead quiet. I imagine my situation is worse because I am using the HE6 and not speakers.

    With the Taurus MK2 as a preamp for example it hissed like mad, even at zero volume. OTOH the Moon 430HAD was very much quieter.
     
  11. Poleepkwa

    Poleepkwa Friend

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    Hegel does make some good dacs too. Hopefully you get to hear some one day.
     
  12. ohhgourami

    ohhgourami Friend

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    That's for the H20 by the way. H2 has very little info.
     
  13. Rotijon

    Rotijon Friend

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    I think @jelt2359 has one =P
     
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  14. Aklegal

    Aklegal Almost "Made"

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    No one seems to dislike any Hegel amps, I don't think I have ever read a slightly negative review. There was one I read where a Hegel H100 integrated was compared to the more expensive Hegel integrated, the H300 I think, so obviously negative things were said about the H100 (I'm willing to bet they are way more alike than different though).

    Regarding the price - used is obvious but since Hegel does not sell direct there are probably alot of demo units out there if you are willing to call the stateside dealers.
     
  15. EraserXIV

    EraserXIV Friend

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    I can't stop seeing Kegel, as in Kegel exercises.
     
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  16. ak2angel

    ak2angel Acquaintance

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    According to a Japan online shop, the H2 retailed for ~ 550000 yen, which roughly translate into ~$5500 at the time. Their list price now is 178000 yen ~ $1500 today.
    http://www.audiounion.jp/ct/detail/used/131535/
     
  17. Clemmaster

    Clemmaster Friend

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    The H80 was bright and boring... Albeit with Focal Electra, which are bright as well (not boring).
     
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  18. cizx

    cizx Friend

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    Don't hang a 70lb amp from your vagina.
     
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  19. Prydz

    Prydz Friend

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    As a Norwegian who has owned Hegel, I dont like Hegel at all. Many Norwegians think the same.
    But their newer products are suppose to be better. Ever opened one up? They look like shit inside!
    One of their top amps actually went up in smoke inside a norwegian hifi dealer.
    As mentioned, it would be interesting to hear your opinion on the Hegel DACs.
     
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  20. cizx

    cizx Friend

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    Details, please. Why do you dislike Hegel? What did you own? What specifically did you dislike? What about the insides look like "shit?"

    Link to the news story about the amp going up in smoke, please.

    You need to back up your claims, sir.
     

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