It’s a testament to the success of the vinyl revival that a company that has been making audio electronics for nearly 30 years has decided to make a product specifically to use with this remarkably resilient medium. Hegel has carved out a strong position in the audio market with several series of streaming amplifiers distinguished by curved front panels and minimalist aesthetics. It now competes with the biggest brands in the sector but founder Bent Holter has apparently long been wanting to build his own phono preamplifier, presumably he knows that vinyl still does things that digital audio struggles to deliver. I suspect that this is because of its simplicity, there is no buffering, oversampling or processing with the medium, it’s an analogue signal from needle to loudspeaker, you don’t get signal paths like that in digital.
The V10 is quite a radical move for Hegel and a fairly radical phono stage in its own right. As much becomes apparent when you try to set it up and discover that there are no power inlets on the back panel and that the plug-top power supply’s cable is split into two outputs. Flip the V10 over and you can see a large bay with a pair of small power sockets on one of the vertical faces. I thought initially that this space might be to house a battery supply but when I asked Hegel they said that this was an interesting idea but not the purpose of the strange construction. If you take the lid off the V10, it becomes apparent that this bay is part of a barrier that separates the power circuit from the signal circuitry that’s entirely at the back of the box. It makes for an elaborate box and a strange system for power connection but shields the tiny signal from an MM or MC cartridge from any stray emissions created by the power supply.
The plug-top supply is a linear type that provides 18 volts to run a circuit powered by JFET transistors that offer up to 60dB of gain for moving coils (40dB MM) with the option to add up to 12dB more via dip switches on the back panel. If that’s not enough there is the option to add a further 6dB by swapping a jumper inside the box, you are encouraged to have the dealer do this, I guess for warranty purposes, but it requires little more than a good light and a steady hand. Likewise there are two standard settings for impedance on the back panel, 100 and 300 Ohms, but inside the box a tiny rotary allows you to choose any level between 50 and 550 Ohms.