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Let’s start with the foundation and the bass. Looking at the H30’s technical specifications and most of all trying to move it about, one subconsciously expects grand bass fireworks, massive attacks and hellacious low-frequency passages. I’d held similar expectations ahead of my Soulution 710 review for Audio but it’s actually nothing but an oft-repeated though mechanical stereotype left over from certain few muscle amps of the 90s. When everything is in its proper place, today things happen very differently.

No doubt about it, the H30’s bass is deep and fleshy. But it is very natural and properly proportioned to the remainder of the spectrum. Looking at this range we recognize the same quantity as in my 710 reference. Similarly weighted the Vitus had a stronger bass to accentuate the attacks and their details and edges more. This would certainly please many music lovers. The Hegel meanwhile appeared more similar to my Soulution in this regard. As such its low frequencies were more coherent, controlled and far better defined than in the Lavardin or BFA. Knowing their circuitry and specifications it’s easy to guess why. It’s harder to get why the Hegel’s midbass—the predominant region of the bass guitar and partly of the contrabass—is so very special even when compared to such highly praised competitors.

This band is a very important sonic contributor. It influences our perception of the overall sound to a great extent. Here I must state that I’ve heard such well-controlled bass with this level of fluid integration to the midrange (not the entire bass range which I’ll say more about later) only once in my home before the Soulution. That was a Krell system consisting of the EVO 222/402 pre/power combo. I still remember my excitement whilst listening to Lars Danielsson and Leszek Możdżer’s Pasodoble. It was an almost mystical event. The Norwegian tandem repeated it now but added better integration with the rest of the spectrum. This was confirmed with the new remaster of the Dave Brubeck Quartet’s Take Five and with recordings like Peter Gabriel’s So or Radiohead’s The King of Limbs. Bull’s eye!

Again, this is a slightly soft but as such very natural bass with splendid control – two aspects that often are mutually exclusive. The lowest reach wasn’t as legible as with the 710 Soulution or as physical and clear but to date I’ve not encountered an amplifier that was the Swiss’ equal in that regard. Once we consider the higher segments of the bass beyond the very abyss, the Hegel becomes one of the absolute top amplifiers I know of regardless of technology or cost.

While the bass—not completely but still quite similar to the Soulution—is thus spectacular, it’s the midrange that moves the Hegel closer to the other amps previously mentioned. Its general character doesn’t shift as this is a very consistent sound. Even so the top end for example does seem quite powerful and energetic whilst at the same time being slightly sweet and anything but bright. There’s simply a considerable amount of treble whereby the Hegel can elucidate soundstage layers, chord structures and harmonics in a way we would not usually expect from transistors but only attribute to valves. With cymbals set far back into the stage or electronically generated micro detail, the Hegel’s definition in fact outshone the Soulution’s. These sounds were more saturated and substantial with the Norwegian.

Curiously when cymbals and related details were recorded more upfront to be placed on the first plane, they became less spectacular. Here the far higher resolution of my Swiss amp allowed those elements to shine stronger and with more certainty whilst retaining proper proportions with the rest of the audible range. At least compared to my reference the Hegel treated the first plane more conservatively.

This discrepancy intrigued me. After giving it some thought I felt that it resulted from a minor emphasis of backstage information and extraordinary vividness there. As one of two amps comparable without hesitation to the Hegel—the other would be the Vitus—the Soulution here seemed a little drier and more withdrawn. Though the Swiss is ultimately more precise and as such closer to reality, one cannot fail but appreciate what the Norwegian engineers managed to achieve.