The Hegel H190 hi-fi stereo amplifier is a very powerful model featuring an integrated DAC and DLNA streaming module. Developing up to 2×150 W into 8 Ohms and 2×250 W into 4 Ohms, it is capable of driving demanding compact and floorstanding speakers.
The Hegel H190 amplifier is equipped with a proprietary amplification system called the Hegel SoundEngine which, according to the manufacturer, combines the advantages of class-AB and class-A amplifiers. In other words, the H190 is very powerful, yet it also offers an attractive signal-to-noise ratio. The H190’s refined, almost austere design is in line with the philosophy which Hegel is known for: consecrate every effort only to sound and nothing else. With this in mind, two dials are found along the amplifier’s front panel: one to select the source and the other to adjust the volume. The power switch is located beneath the amplifier, below the dial on the left.
Hegel H190: inputs
The rear panel of the Hegel H190 amplifier is home to a comprehensive array of connectors: three analog line inputs (of which one is a balanced XLR input), a fixed level line output and a variable line output (to connect the H190’s preamp to a power amplifier or subwoofer). The amplifier’s digital inputs are even more plentiful, with 3 optical inputs, a coaxial RCA input, a USB type B input (for a computer) and an RJ45 Ethernet port (for streaming). A wide variety of sources may thus be connected: CD player, network player, TV, computer, DAP, etc.
The amplifier’s digital inputs are compatible with PCM signals up to 24-bit/192 kHz, while the USB-B input is limited to 24-bit/96 kHz. This is a deliberate decision on Hegel’s part, as it allows the brand to make its amplifier completely plug-and-play, without any need to download and install a driver for Windows. The analog conversion of incoming digital signals includes upsampling to 24/192.
Hegel H190: HD streaming
The Hegel H190 amplifier is Airplay compatible and can thus play music files stored on an iPhone, an iPad or a computer running iOS via your home network (a wired connection from the amplifier to your box or router is necessary). The “Network” input must be selected in this case. AirPlay streaming is lossless, but limited to 16-bit/44.1 kHz. For devices running iOS, compatible mobile apps include Qobuz, Spotify, Deezer, Tidal, and Apple Music. The Hegel H190 amplifier may thus be used to listen to any of these online music services.
The Hegel H190 also handles a second streaming protocol: UPnP/DLNA. Since Hegel hasn’t developed its own app, you’ll have to use one proposed by a third party. If you own a Synology NAS, for example, the DSAudio mobile app will let you stream audio files from the NAS to the Hegel H190, losslessly and up to 24-bit/192kHz. For devices running Android, the BubbleUPnP app will allow you to stream audio files from your smartphone to the Hegel amp, once again up to 24-bit/192kHz. This app handles files streamed from Qobuz (24-bit) and Google Music. In practice, many audio playback apps for Android enable DLNA streaming.
Hegel H190: test conditions and listening impressions
We primarily listened to the Hegel H190 amplifier with digital sources via Airplay and DLNA streaming, and we notably used FLAC files, but we also used a variety of video players fitted with optical audio outputs to enjoy a few stereo home theater sessions.
The Hegel H190 is a perfect example of quiet strength. When powered on, it makes absolutely no noise, even when paired with high sensitivity speakers. Calm at low volume, this amplifier never flexes its muscles and judiciously distributes its energy as the volume is turned up. The H190 doesn’t seek to “wow” the listener, as it never strains and always stays in control. What does this mean exactly? The amplifier’s sense of control means that it can consistently offer a spacious and well-arranged soundstage, completely free of dynamic compression.
We listened to the Hegel H190 with a number of different speakers, including the Focal Kanta n°2, the Jean-Marie Reynaud Cantabile Jubilé, the Jamo S 809, Focal Aria 906 and the Elipson Prestige Facet 6B, to name but a few. The amplifier accompanied our listening sessions over the course of several months. Our impressions were consistently positive, and none of the speakers seemed to call for a better pairing.
The Hegel H190’s neutrality in the mids and highs and power in the lows–which never trail behind–make it a versatile amplifier which is unlikely to provoke turbulent tweeters or oversized bass reflex ports. The amplifier pampered each pair of speakers that we connected it to. Every time, the Hegel H190 demonstrated a consistent sense of scale.
Lows: authoritative (but controlled) at high volume, with a balanced distribution of energy in the infrabass, midbass and upper bass.
Mids: relaxed and natural, contributing to a broadening of the soundstage.
Highs: discreet and smooth, with pleasing timbres for the brass sections.
Serene, never assertive at high volume, capable of powering speakers with very low impedance levels and large ports, these are some reasons why the Hegel H190 amplifier succeeded in winning us over. We find it hard to imagine this amplifier not getting along with most any speaker, including the most demanding ones. Its neutrality (not bland) makes it a great choice for those who would regret buying an amplifier with a distinct sound signature. The integrated streamer is a real advantage.
What we liked:
- The sense of scale
- The energy
- The capacity to drive large floorstanders in the lows
- The integrated streamer
What we would have liked:
- A control app or Google Chromecast compatibility