Even if it weren’t a star player, the Hegel Mohican would get credit for having a delicious name. With a touch of wry Scandinavian humour, Hegel’s ultimate CD player is named after that final leader of that part-fictional native American tribe in the title of James Fennimore Cooper’s classic 19th Century novel, The Last of the Mohicans. Meaning this is the last – and best – CD player Hegel will ever make.
This is something of an about face for Hegel. The company has long been involved with digital audio and its CDP2A Mk 2 and CDP4A disc players are both highly respected and have been unchanged in the Hegel catalogue for many years. And that’s part of the problem, or rather ‘parts’ of the problem. You see, a lot of the traditional high-performance components used in the best CD players of a few years ago are becoming very hard to find. Any product, for example, that relies on the near-legendary Philips CDM Pro series transport mechanisms is relying on a disc-spinning device that has not been in production for several years, and supplies are dwindling. The Mohican is Hegel’s response, building a player from first principles, leveraging much of the technology and development that has gone into its current line of DACs and sourcing those last, best CD components.
This is resolutely CD in approach, though. The transport mechanism isn’t a computer blu-ray writer press-ganged into CD use. It’s not even a computer-based CD device or a CD/SACD player, it’s a dedicated audio CD transport mechanism. This is coupled to Hegel’s own servo control logic circuits, and a converter, filter, and output stage that bear a striking resemblance to Hegel’s top HD30 converter with 32bit AKM DAC chips. But where the HD30 can process everything to DSD, the Mohican cruises in a low gear by playing 16-bit, 44.1kHz files as 16-bit, 44.1kHz files, so where the HD30 had low noise, the Mohican has extremely low phase noise, and even uses Hegel’s patented SoundEngine output stage (which successfully attempts to move the crossover distortion of Class AB out of band without the attendant inefficiency and heat generation of Class A) to drive the transistors that manage the clock crystal, thereby reducing the potential for error in that stage still further. It’s also, by 2016 standards, minimalist in the extreme. No upsampling, no digital inputs, no frills, no crazy overclocking, not even magic filters to alter the sound of the player’s output. You have the choice of XLR or RCA stereo outputs and a solid 75-ohm BNC connector for digital output, should you be disturbed enough to want to try the Mohican with an off-board DAC.
The layout of the player is classic Hegel; a central mounted transport mechanism atop a medium sized blue LED read-out. Flanking this are two large dials, although in reality they are both three-way control buttons for opening and closing the CD drawer, play, and stop (to the right of the transport/display block) and track forward, track back, and power on (to the left). Play, track navigation (including FF and REW within a track) and a two-step repeat function are included on the supplied handset (which also controls the volume, source, and mute functions of a Hegel amplifier). Pause is actioned by pressing play while the track is playing. If you access ‘repeat’, the Mohican shifts from its regular track number and time display to ‘RE P tr’ (single track repeat) or ‘RE P cd’ (whole CD repeat) on the front panel LED screen every 10 seconds. As display dimming is a martyr to the cause of minimalism, this blinked away in my peripheral vision for a week or so of running in.