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This review first appeared in the February 2012 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 Pacula
CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition
Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC
Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory Shilabe, Miyajima Laboratory Kansui
Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III Signature Version with Regenerator power
Power amplifier: Soulution 710
Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom Version
Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic
Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro 600Ω version
Interconnects: CD-preamp: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300, preamp-power amp Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo
Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx
Power cables (on all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
Power strip: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu Ultimate
Stand: Base under all components
Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD player, Acoustic Revive RAF-48 platform under the CD player and preamplifier. Pro Audio Bono platform under Leben CS300
Review component retail in Poland: zł5.990

Hegel is Hegel
. There is not much more to say seeing how most of the necessary company information can be found in the introduction of my review about their top pre/power combo. Despite being a small company which isn’t yet as known as certain other Scandinavian manufacturers, Hegel has already established a reputation for very stable, predictable and intelligent product. There’s no need to rehash things. Suffice it to say that Hegel is held in particular esteem by listeners in the very demanding and nearly hermetically sealed-off Japanese audiophile market.

The H70 under review today is the most affordable amplifier made by this Norwegian manufacturer. The company claims an output power of 2 x 70W. Besides standard analog RCA line inputs we also get a stereo pair of balanced inputs. And something extra – an integrated DAC with coax, Toslink ands USB inputs. The S/PDIF inputs accept up to 24/192 signal, USB is limited to 16/48.

Sound - a selection of recordings used in this testT-TOC Data Collection Vol. 1, T-TOC Records, DATA-0001, 24/96+24/192, WAV, rip from DVD-R; Vinyl Magic for High Fidelity, sampler, DVD-R,16-24-32/44.1, WAV, rip from DVD-R; Audiofeels, Uncovered, Penguin Records, 5865033, CD (2009); Brian Eno, Craft On A Milk Sea, Warp Records, WARPCDD207, 2 x 180g LP + 2 x CD + 24/44,1 WAV; Cassandra Wilson, Silver Pony, Blue Note, 29752, CD; rip FLAC; Charlie Haden & Antonio Forcione, Heartplay, Naim Label, 24/96 FLAC; Depeche Mode, Fragile Tension/Hole to Feed, Mute Records, CDBONG42, maxi-SP (2009); George Michael, Faith, Epic/Sony Music, 7753020, Special Edition 2 x CD+DVD (2010); Kankawa, Organist, T-TOC Records, UMVD-0001-0004, Ultimate Master Vinyl, 4 x 45 rpm 180g LP + CD-RIIα + 24/192 WAV; Kay Starr, Blue Starr, RCA Records/BMG Japan, BVCJ-37389, K2HD (2005); Lars Danielsson & Leszek Możdżer, Pasodoble, ACT Music, ACT 9458-2, CD; rip FLAC; Michael Jackson, Thriller. 25th Anniversary, Epic/Sony Music Japan, EICP-963-4, CD+DVD; Mikołaj Bugajak, Strange Sounds and Inconceivable Deeds, Nowe Nagrania 001, 45 rpm LP+CD+WAV 24/44.1; Nosowska, 8, Supersam Music, SM 01, CD (2011); Patricia Barber, Companion, Premonition Records/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, UDSACD 2023, SACD/CD (2003); Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here, Experience Edition, EMI/EMI Music Japan, TOCP-71169-90, 2 x CD (2011); Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends, Columbia/Sony Music Japan International, SICP 1484, CD; rip FLAC; Stardelay A New High Fidelity, Ozella Music, OZL22006CD, FLAC 24/44,1 (2008).

Together with a few other amplifiers known to me, the Hegel H70 occupies a type of axis I shall call an axis of goodness and internal warmth (I apologize to purists for such anthropomorphisms but I cannot get around them). If we place the Xindak MT-2 amplifier at its beginning and the Lavardin IT-15 and Hegel P30+H30 combo at the far end, the H70 would belong on exactly the same axis.

What would be its characteristics? If I were to describe it on timbre, it would sit a bit left on the warmer side of another axis called neutral. It would be on the axis associated with naturalness. What does this mean? It means—keeping in mind proper proportions—that the H70 is a bit warm, not overly detailed and does not differentiate as well as amplifiers closer to the neutrality axis or even to the right of it, on its colder much more detailed side. The Norwegian amplifier sounds different. It is phenomenally saturated, smooth and coherent but lacks extraordinary detail. The H70 will not punish us for the errors of sound engineers and recording companies. It adds some mass to the sound because its upper bass is quite strong, stronger in fact than my reference system. We thus get really large images as clearly shown by mono records like Blue Starr by Kay Starr. The vocalist’s voice occupied a lot of space between the loudspeakers. It was expansive to not resemble a thin copy or empty egg shell. I could feel the power of the band behind the singer, the double bass attacks and more. The sound did not arise in front of the ground line but wasn’t pushed back behind it either.