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Digital inputs.
The H70 accepts digital signals with its built-in DAC. I listened to a few CD players and transports into it as well as a few file players. If we remain attached to the physical disc and see a future for it to stream files only sporadically, we should think about a good CD transport and play files via USB. The built-in DAC is very nice but has a clearly shaped sound delivered in a big fashion and close proximity. The bass is very strong so that we should check whether it mates well with our loudspeakers and room. The resolution is on the level of a zł 2.000 CD player but the bass is not very differentiated. Yet the whole affair sounds very coherent just like the amplifier section itself. That allows us to use a really good CD transport and think about adding an external DAC later, perhaps not really soon and eventually perhaps even a Hegel DAC. If we think like that, the best propositions for a CD transport would come from Cyrus and April Music (Stello CDT100). Both are on the smaller side but very good. What’s more, the Hegel worked very well on the Acoustic Revive RST-38 platform. I also tried the Pro Audio Bono platforms (with experimental suspension using ball bearings which worked splendidly with a Mach Audio amplifier) and the RAF-48 AR but in this case the RST-38 took home the bacon.

Expensive supports? Well, everything has its price. I gave up devoting only a certain amount of money for a system ‘tweak’ a long time ago. If the change brings the desired improvement, it is worthwhile. The H70 as well as other models from Hegel are designed such that controlling chassis vibration is easy. The three metal feet are mechanically coupled to the base to allow for interfacing the chassis with a platform which then becomes a mechanical extension of the amplifier. As I said, both the suggested CD transports are small. Acoustic Revive offers the TB-38H platform as a smaller version of the RST-38, which will fit either transport perfectly. There are no coincidences.

Another source option would be a file player. Here the choices are many but I see mostly one – the Cambridge Audio NP30. This is a small sleek unit that’s easily operated. Hegel's own USB input performs a bit differently than the S/PDIF sockets. It’s not as massive and exhibits less treble and lower resolution. But as a 16/48 input as on an old receiver the sound is nice, resembling what I heard with the KingRex UD-1 Pro - fluent, smooth and warm. If it is to be an auxiliary and only occasional input, it’s sufficient. If we want to use a PC more often, it is worth thinking about an external USB-S/PDIF converter or—perhaps even better—the HD2 from Hegel, a small DAC with a USB input. My son uses it in his system and is very happy with it.

Summary. "Is the Hegel H70 truly balanced? The balanced inputs of the H70 are, like in all other Hegel gear, truly balanced inputs.” I start this paragraph with this question from the FAQ section of Hegel’s beautifully rendered Polish website because the presence of balanced inputs might suggest a superior connection. Please note that the quoted explanation is true but answers another question. The H70 is not a balanced amplifier! It has a truly balanced input but it is immediately desymmetrized and processed in classic unbalanced fashion. That’s why in my opinion the RCA connections will be better. That’s how the amplifier sounds like honey so to speak. It is a fluent sound held together by a bigger clamp of strong bass and delicate treble. The midrange is ideally merged with the bass to draw big and fleshy vocals where you can almost feel the blood pulsating in their veins. Resolution and differentiation are good but not even across the audible range. Those are not the virtues one would choose the H70 for.

I know exactly who won’t like this amplifier. When somebody wants to know everything very precisely to prefer transient contours and detail above saturation, this is not the amplifier. When we fancy the sound of strong cymbals; or the complete lighting of the soundstage is more important to us than its continuity (unfortunately and as always, we need to choose as compromises are inevitable); we need to search elsewhere. But when we like fullness, smoothness, naturalness and above all when our music collection is dominated by rock and electronica which we want to hear in their full glory, this Hegel becomes a mandatory audition. And, we get a good DAC for free as well as an USB input with it.