Here’s how you make a good modern integrated amplifier. Start with the best bits from the last generation of good modern integrated amplifier and mix in many of the best bits of the new flagship integrated amplifier. In the case of Hegel Audio Systems, that means putting the older Hegel H360 in a room with Hegel’s current top of the tree H590, dim the lights, put on some Barry White, and let nature take its course. The result is the Hegel Audio Systems H390 amplifier.
OK that’s too simplistic and more than a little too odd to think about in any kind of deeper sense, but there’s a grain of truth in this. No, not in the Barry White way, but the notion that this is pretty much the amplifier component of the H360 spliced with the digital platform first seen in the Hegel Röst and H190 – and taken to its ultimate in the H590 – is not so far-fetched. Roll that round your brain-pan for a few moments; a lot of Hegel’s H590, a product so good the company had to work out whether or not it would cannibalise sales of its own popular HD30 DAC, exists in the H390.
Granted the H590’s DAC section is more advanced than the one in the H390, but not by much. In fact, the only real limitation made to the H390 from previous models and what marks it out against the H590 is the big boy uses a full aluminium chassis, and the H390 saves weight and cost by going for some moulded parts in less sonically critical areas. Little wonder then that Hegel gave this project the code-name ‘Robin Hood’ during its development because it really does take from the rich... not that you’d call putting that richesse of technology in a five grand amp ‘giving to the poor’, but you get Hegel’s drift.
We could just say baby H590 and stop there, but there is more to it than that. Even though the H390 uses a slightly simplified version of the H590 DAC there are a few bits of the design that are actually taken further too, as reflects another year down the digital rabbit hole. In the H390, all digital inputs are given the same extra jitter reduction treatment as used in the USB and Network inputs. This means lower jitter on S/PDIF inputs too. The H390 supports MQA, DSD64 on S/PDIF inputs, and USB up to DSD256. The H390 also supports internet updates, like the H590, so you can update via the menu. Developing this upgradablility allowed the technology to trickle down to the H190 (it will be available after you install firmware update v.20). This also unlocks aspects like adding a Roon endpoint, improvements to MQA and DSD replay, and better sounding Ethernet streaming. Add in AirPlay 2, UPnP, Control 4 conectivity, and volume control from USB, and you have an extremely flexible platform.