The German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel, what’s in a name, probably never thought that his name would be used by a Scandinavian audio manufacturer. Nevertheless, we think he would have agreed with the “philosophy” of the company. Hegel himself aspired a kind of total thinking in which he considered philosophy, science, religion and aesthetics as a kind of whole. Let that be the strenght of Ben Holter. Put as many different functions as possible into one device and let them all perform equally well. We are testing the Hegel H120
The Hegel H120 we’re testing today is the newest addition in the line-up of Norwegian Hegel Music Systems. The H120 is an integrated amplifier, dac, streamer and headphone amplifier and when unpacking we immediately notice this is a serious device. To blame are the two power supplies inside. What’s else is hidden in this well filled box and how this translates into the performance we’ll be explaining in this article.
Construction and appearance
Typically Hegel, the appearance has been kept very sober. Fortunately, since the Röst we now have the choice between black and white, a fine addition as far as we’re concerned.
We see a black casing with a clean front and clear connections on the back. The front is nicely balanced with the two large rotary knobs that flank the rectangular screen. The info on that Oled screen, volume and input, is easy to read from our listening position. This info can be turned off completely with the remote control if desired
The full 6.3 mm headphone jack at the bottom right is the only element that breaks the symmetry. The power button is hidden at the bottom of the unit and thus hidden from view. At the back – on the left – we see an analog output (variable) and three analog inputs (1x xlr, 2x rca), in the middle the speaker connections and on the right the digital inputs (1x coax, 3x optical, 1x usb) and the network connection. Enough connections, although we would have liked to see a second coaxial input
As said, there is a double power supply, one for the analog part and one for the digital part. We do not see that often in this price range.
We get quite some power with 2×75 watts in 8 ohms and because of the high dampingfactor ( around 2000) it will handle most speakers just fine. Of course this H120 has the SoundEngine 2 on board which reduces all kinds of annoying distortion, noise and disturbances to a minimum. We already explained the principle in detail in the presentation by Bent Holter.
Besides a solid amplifier, there is also a new d/a converter in this H120, the biggest change compared to the Röst. That converter was already very good but this one has an even better AK4490 chip. The same as in the H190. The separate power supply also contributes to a better sound. With the H120, however, you get no native DSD or MQA but these are acceptable concessions, in our opinion.
The Hegel H120 uses Airplay, Spotify Connect, IP Control, Control 4 and UPnP streaming but for us it’s mainly waiting for Roon integration. All inputs can be set to home theatre mode and additional options can be added via software updates. We updated the H120 once via the menu and that was fast and painless.
The remote control is nicely made and feels comfortable. But we are less fond of the small buttons. They feel a bit loose and are – in our opinion – not ideal to work with. You can’t power on the device with it either and that’s annoying because the H120 goes into standby every 10 minutes when it doesn’t receive a signal anymore.
An e-mail to the importer fortunately helps us out. You can deactivate the standby function by pressing the ‘computer play’ button on the remote control for 5 seconds. In this way you enter the menu and you can adjust the ‘sleep’ function. The volume can be adjusted very precisely and has a range from 0 to 99. Why not 100? Well: it doesn’t fit. Simple as that. From volume 40 onwards, our Vienna Acoustics Haydn Jubilee monitors will get you up to speed, which means there is still a lot of headroom left.