Hegel Audio may or may not be named for the (in)famous 19th century philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel. As some of you may or may not know, I spent a happy decade bouncing around the halls of higher education seeking a degree in Philosophy. During that time, I may or may not have obsessed over Hegel. Really, there’s no other way to “do” Hegel — reading his work is very much like falling through the Looking Glass. Simplicity, brevity and clarity were really not his style. I cannot overemphasize the word ‘not’ in that last sentence. Pardon me while I have an existentialist shudder.
With this as my own personal albatross, I also cannot overstate how perplexing it is for me to see Hegel Audio’s creations. For one, the complete lack of Byzantine, Rube Goldberg-like structure is entirely disconcerting. There is no thesis. No antithesis. Just, simple, straightforward, synthesis. It’s like someone predigested everything Hegel ever wrote (and given that Hegel was one of the most prolific writers in the history of Humanity, that’s saying something) and just delivered the punch line. It’s almost unseemly. The case work for Hegel is silver or black, and that’s really all there is to say about it. It’s … solid. Functional. Almost utilitarian. Pardon me while I shudder again. There’s really just not much to see — all the magical confection is on the inside. And let me be plain, because apparently, simply invoking the ghost of Hegel is enough to twist my mind and speech, this stuff is just great.
One of my all-time favorite amplifiers is the Hegel H30. It’s like a neutron star. Like most Hegel gear, there’s not much to look at, except for its appearance of an absurd concentration of mass. But that amplifier has the almost unique ability, to my admittedly limited experience, of making the “everything else” sound so much better. It’s a polisher, in the best possible way. At $15k, it’s nowhere near cheap, but that’s like saying that paying 1/10th the sticker price for a brand new Ferrari is “too much”. Yes, it’s expensive. But it’s also a supercar that we’re talking about and it compares directly and favorably with gear costing fantastically more. Me? I like to call that little ratio, “value”. Maybe there’s something to this “deceptively simple appearance” thing? Hmm. Power rating on the amp is a bit hard to track down as the website talks about the amp almost exclusively as a mono-bridged setup, where two of these are used. I don’t know anyone that’s done that (but it seems like a smashingly good idea, and will yield over 1kW when run this way), but according to my erstwhile publisher, you can expect 350 watts into 8Ω when running it in stereo. Seeing it here in New York kinda makes me all happy inside.
Fronting the Black Beauty was the matching preamplifier, the synergistically and stylistically compatible P30 preamplifier ($7,500). A H300 integrated amplifier ($5,500) sat underneath a now-discontinued H70 integrated (the new model, the H80, is priced at $2,000) that they were offering a sweetheart deal on. The new H80 does include a full 24bit/192kHz DAC (USB is limited to 96kHz). A CDP2a ($2,650) was sitting atop the rack for those silver-disc lovers that haven’t fully gone digital.
Speaking of which, that brings me to the star of this particular show, the HD12. The HD12 ($1,400) replaces the outgoing HD11, and I adds “true” DSD64 capability (with no PCM conversion) to the already excellent sonic brew. A fully balanced design (with volume controls), the HD12 includes a headphone output (¼” TRS plug) on the front and a digital display walking you through the menu, replacing the old push-button input selection from the outgoing model. Notably, the USB input has been significantly upgraded and now supports 24bit/192kHz in addition to DSD support. The noise floor on the new DAC hits -145dB.
Eileen Gosvig of Hegel was on hand to do the demo, and quickly walked us through an A/B listening session between the HD12 and the HD11 — the new DAC is much quieter, with far better detail retrieval than the outgoing model, but still has that natural, non-fatiguing Hegel sound that I love. I’m going to have to get one of these at some point to explore it more fully.
On a side note, Eileen also let me peek at her personal Hegel Super USB Headphone amplifier/DAC ($299). Super-quiet, the Super does 24/96 over USB and includes an optical/mini-jack combo output.
The room also had a pair of loudspeakers, did I mention them? Ha! Yes, GamuT M’inenT M7 ($16,490/pair), a bass-reflex design with curved side walls of veneer-over-MDF, was shown with the Hegel gear, and this pair came in a sexy, matching, matte black. The M7 is a 4Ω nominal loudspeaker with a 90dB sensitivity and a frequency response between 29Hz and 50kHz. Two 7″ wood-fiber (!) woofers, a 7″ “sliced cone” mid and a double-ring radiator tweeter complete the picture. The finish was extraordinary — very clean, very modern.
I am quite partial to the sound in this room, so I feel a bit biased. I’ve been very impressed with GamuT generally, and hearing them driven by Hegel electronics was a special treat.
I’d happily take home any and all of this stuff. Hook it up!