This review page is supported in part by the sponsors whose ad banners are displayed below

This review first appeared in the November 2011 issue of hi-end hifi magazine High Fidelity of Poland. You can also read it in its original Polish version here. We publish its English translation in a mutual syndication arrangement with publisher Wojciech Pacula. As is customary for our own articles, the writer's signature at review's end shows an e-mail address should you have questions or wish to send feedback. All images contained in this review are the property of High Fidelity or Hegel. - Ed

Reviewer: Wojciech Pacuła
CD player
: Ancient Audio Lektor Air
Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Cartridges: Air Tight Supreme, Miyajima Laboratory Waza
Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III with Regenerator power supply version II
Power amplifier: Tenor Audio 175S, Soulution 710
Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom version
Loudspeakers: Harpia Acoustics Dobermann
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro
Interconnects: CD-preamp Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, preamp-power amp Wireworld Platinum Eclipse
Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx
Power cables: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
Power conditioning: Gigawatt PF-2
Audio stand: Base
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD player, Pro Audio Bono platform under CD player
Review component retail in Poland: 23.500zł + 46.500zł

Hegel is the surprise company I mentioned in last month’s editorial. Since mid October they have gained official Polish dealer Hegel Polska established especially for this import connection. There also is a beautiful and very good Polish website designed by Piksel Studio, the same company which maintains our High Fidelity pages.

Hegel is a Norwegian company and rather small if we consider just their number of employees. But step by step they’ve established their position first in the Scandinavian countries, then globally beginning with—take note—Japan. Engineers who simultaneously are music lovers are Hegel’s moving force and guiding light. That’s why here we won’t find components with hollow theories or pseudo-inventive solutions. Here we find true patents in which Hegel resembles another company I admire, Swiss Soulution (I use their model 710 amplifier in my reference system).

Hegel merely allowed themselves one exception from utter laboratory correctness when choosing names for their patents - SoundEngine, DualPower or DualAmp just to remain with those related to amplification solutions. These aren’t things we haven’t seen before. They respectively refer to minimizing crossover distortion; using separate power supplies for the right and left channel front to back; and something special, separating the voltage and current gain stages not only electrically (without negative feedback but separate power supplies) but also physically with discrete PCBs. Despite the names, none of this is mumbo jumbo, simply clever usage of basic tools engineering provides.

The system under review is one of Hegel’s latest offerings and their to date most technologically advanced. The company calls this group of components NextGen in an obvious nod to the famous WBT wire terminals (a pity those were not used here) but also to signify a certain change and something new for Hegel. The components introduced in November and December of 2010 are the reference models of these Norwegians.


Sound - recordings used for the listening session: Abba, Gold. Complete Edition, Polar Music International AB/Universal Music [Japan], UICY-91318/9, 2008, 2 x SHM-CD (2008); Audiofeels, Uncovered, Penguin Records, 5865033, CD (2009); Clifford Brown, Memorial, Prestige/JVC, VICJ-41562, K2 CD (1999); Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong, Ella and Louis, Verve/Lasting Impression Music, LIM UHD 045, UltraHD CD (2010); Glen Gould, Bach: The Art Of The Fugue, Sony Music/Sony Classical, SMK 52 595, The Glen Gould Edition, SBM CD (1997); Jean Michel Jarré, Magnetic Fields, Epic/Sony Music, 488138 2, CD (1997); John Coltrane, Coltrane’s Sound, Atlantic/Rhino, R2 75588, CD (1999)...

... Miles Davis, Seven Steps To Heaven, Columbia/Sony Music/Analogue Productions, CAPJ-8851, SACD/CD (2010); Nat King Cole, Love is the Thing, Capitol/Analogue Productions, CAPP 824 SA, SACD/CD (2010); Peter Gabriel, So, RealWorld/Virgin, SAPGCD 5, SACD/CD (2003); Pink Floyd, The Wall, EMI Records/EMI Music Japan, TOCP-71142-43, 2 x CD (2011); Radiohead, The King of Limbs, Ticker Tape Ltd., TICK-001CDJ, Blu-spec CD (2011); The Dave Brubeck Quartet, Time Out, Columbia/Sony Music/Sony Entertainment Hong Kong, 8835321, No. 0055, K2HD CD (2011); Thelonious Monk, Brilliant Corners, Riverside/Universal Music Japan, UCCO-9220, CD (2007).

This Hegel system offers such an advanced mature sound that it is not easy to dismantle it during the first or even second approach. It can be assessed fairly quickly and one immediately hears what one deals with. But to answer the question why and how it fares against the reference system and other good amplifiers was at least for me rather more difficult. This is not a one-dimensional or even ‘characteristic’ sound. Of course you can isolate certain aspects that are special and can only be attributed to it but the core sound is really more about a set of characteristics and the way they are combined rather than individual assets or shortcomings.

The amplifier under review is an example of how close transistor technology has now come to tube technology in terms of timbre, engagement and transparency. I already stated this during assignments of amplifiers from Vitus, Lavardin or BFA. Here it was even more significant. That’s because this was evidently not the result of deliberately attempting to clone valve sound. Instead I felt reminded that when properly applied and taking into account hard engineering principles connected to a music lover’s sensitivity and extensive listening experience, transistors can produce very similar results to what traditionally drove people to tubes. Valves had these traits from the beginning. It now appears as though core traits of solid-state technology long viewed as intrinsic flaws were actually not problems with the parts themselves. They were due to a certain design incompetence or immaturity i.e. lack of experience.

The pre/power Hegel duo sounds slightly warm and as such is warmer than my reference Soulution 710 yet less so than the Vitus SS-101, Lavardin IT-15 and Beyond Frontiers Audio Tulip. Warmer even than those three would be the ASR Emitter II to establish a frame work. Even so most transistor amplifiers will sound brighter than the Hegel and more aggressive. The valve flavour I am talking of is not carelessly written into this sound. As such it is not a wide bandwidth fingerprint or pervasive blanket. It rather manifests differently in the bass region than the midrange and treble.