You get the distinct ‘you are there’ feeling with the H80, as if the electronics are out of the way. You put on Schiff or Brendel, and you are in the audience. You put on ZZ Top and you are either in the studio or in the bar. You put on Kraftwerk and you are inside the oscillator. This is not an uncommon impression in the high-end, but it usually comes when components are more divided up than this.
I’m not wholly convinced this is a Class A sound from a Class AB amplifier, but it gets closer than most. Where the H80 wins though it the bass; if it has some of the ease of listening of Class A in the mids and treble, the bass is powerful, deep and satisfyingly ‘chewy’. It grips hold of the drivers to ensure they give good account of their actions, but does so in the kind of way where you just start reaching out for old reggae recordings for the fun of it. There probably won’t be that many Hegel/Raidho combinations that punt out Burning Spear’s Garvey’s Ghost dub remix of the Marcus Garvey album, but it worked. OK, ‘it worked’ is subject to this not being the kind of club rig that can play bass so deep it dislocates knee joints at 30 paces, but ‘surprisingly deep and loud’ for domestic use does it for me.
I play a little game with myself during reviews. Where possible, I try to avoid discovering the price of a product until the end of the review, and I see if I can guess correctly. Usually, I’m in the right ball-park. With the H80, I got this spectacularly wrong. I put this at about the £5,000+ mark, in among some serious top-end integrated amp peers. It’s why I happily drove this amp through a pair of Raidho D1, completely unconscious of just how much of a ‘mullet’ system I had created in the process. The thing is though, the H80 is so ‘right’ sounding, with such good bass control and so much in its favour with such a partnership, it seemed the most natural thing to put this little amp with a pair of speakers that cost more than 10x as much. I can’t think of a higher recommendation than that.
Hegel is one of those brands that deserve to be better known. Products like the H80 make all the right noises and tick all the right boxes for a ‘now’ product. It’s a well-built, deceptively powerful amplifier with an excellent digital audio stage. ‘It fights above its weight’ is a cliché of the highest order, but it really applies here. Excellent!