Hegel’s highly rated H90 integrated amplifier (which we tested back in issue 152) is one of most popular amps Hegel ever made. So popular, in fact that Hegel found itself constantly running out of products to supply. Most companies would think this a chance to rest on their laurels and keep supplying that popular product until sales began to dip but instead Hegel released the H95 replacement.
There’s a lot of “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” about the H95, which is in part because the H90 remained no bad place for an amp maker to be in 2020. Nevertheless, Hegel felt that its overall balance of streaming, digital audio, and connectivity options were slowly approaching obsolescence. It’s an indication of just how fast-moving parts of the audio industry have become that 2017’s shiny new digital platform in an amplifier looks like becoming old news by 2020/21. In fact, I think Hegel is jumping the gun a little here, but it’s true that UPnP in its 2020 form is a lot more stable than it was even 18 months ago, so capitalising on that improvement means a more robust network streaming option, which means fewer drop-outs and that means more smiles per cubic listener!
In short, what Hegel did in the H95 was significantly improve the on-board DAC (learning much from developing products like the H120 and H190 along the way), at the expense of the Control 4 home automation architecture that featured in the H90 and Hegel’s Röst. Both these products have been discontinued, and although an ambitious project in its own right, the Röst’s role as ‘the dream audio amp for the integrated home’ has disappeared from the line-up.
However, in a way, this streamlined product approach might prove better both for Hegel and potential owners, as there’s no poetential confusion between two seemingly similar but conflicting entry-points to the Hegel line. Instead, it’s just the H95.
The H95 retains a lot of what worked on the H90, especially the SoundEngine2 local error cancelling topology. And while the output stage is slightly improved over the H90, the H95 still delivers a 2x60 Watt Class AB power output. In fact, putting the two amps side-by-side, you might struggle to spot the difference at first glance. Like its predecessor, it has two sets of analogue RCA inputs and a variable analogue output, a trio of TOSLink optical inputs and a single RCA/coaxial S/PDIF input, a USB and Ethernet inputs. Excepting the home automation pathways, you’d be hard pressed to spot the difference.
Things change fast when you power the H95 up, as you are presented with the more comprehensive functionality of the digital engine of more up-scale Hegels. With that comes Apple Legacy AirPlay and Spotify Connect premium, and should those be updated, that digital platform is firmware-driven.