Hegel H390 Integrated Amplifier/Network DAC Page 2

And the main (power) amplification? Well, it's less powerful than that in the H590 – but not hugely so, rated at 250W/8ohm per channel against the 590's 310W – and uses Hegel's 'SoundEngine 2' topology, which the company explains as working in a similar manner to noise cancelling headphones. This is its own take on feedforward, or other compensation regimes, deriving an error signal from the difference between the amplifier input and output. Feeding this difference back to the output, with phase reversed, helps cancel distortion. That's the theory anyway, and PM discusses distortion performance in his Lab Report.

Quoting Hegel further, it says that in tests with internal and external listeners, some themes emerged: that the H390 makes the amp it replaces, the H360, sound 'like there is something wrong', and that the scale of difference from the H190 is such that the H390 makes the lesser amp 'look stupid'. But it addresses the closeness to the H590 by quoting a comment that 'as good as the H390 is, when you switch to the H590 you just lean back and go – OK. That is something else'.

sqnote Nordic But Nice

So, I bet there were some sighs of relief in Oslo when that last rejoinder came in, but I wouldn't be so sure on that point. I didn't have an old H360, an H190 or an H590 to hand for direct comparisons, but I did have my listening notes from last October's H590 test, and I have to say what I was hearing through the H390 was very similar indeed to what I'd written. I even played some of the same tracks by way of reference, so I'm pretty confident anyone in the market for an upscale integrated would be more than satisfied with the H390.

1019hegel.remI used the amp in a variety of configurations, fed from my usual Naim ND555/555PS network player [HFN Apr '19] employed as an analogue source, with the Melco N100 [HFN Jun '19] used both as a UPnP store via the H390's onboard streaming section and as a source for the USB audio input. In every case the H390 came up shining across a range of loudspeakers from a pair of little B&Ws, passing through at the time, on to my usual Neats and PMCs. What this amp does is the 'Hegel thing' – it vanishes.

Of course, that's easier for the slimmer H390 than it is for the AV-receiver-sized H590, although the smaller amp does sit on almost comically tall feet, which at least make it easier to access the power switch hidden under the front panel. But you know what I mean about vanishing: it's not a physical thing, as after all the H390 is still a sizeable chunk of 'Nordic noir', but rather a sonic one.

Simply, this amp – like the H590 that preceded it in these pages – just delivers music without any hint of processing, mechanics or effort going on. There's that old saying about 'playing music with disdainful ease', but that's not quite what's happening here for, instead, the H390 has an enthusiasm, a vitality and sheer style about its sound that conveys the sense of an amp very comfortable in its skin.

Playing A J Croce's vibrant Cantos set [Seedling Records SDL0003] the Hegel H390 sounds sparky, fast and punchy, yet with good weight in both the left hand of the piano and the backing band, while Croce's voice has fine intimacy and presence, especially in the cover of 'Maybe I'm Amazed', while the chiming piano figure underpinning 'All I Have' glows out of the mix. By contrast, the explosive orchestrations of the final movement of Copland's Third Symphony [Orchestra Of The Americas/Prieto; Linn CKD604 192kHz/24-bit] are delivered with breathtaking slam, that opening phrase presaging 'Fanfare For The Common Man' suddenly bursting into full orchestral life and then redoubling its efforts to become even more massive. The recording is jaw-dropping and this new Hegel amp is more than up to the task – and then some!


Getting to the heart of the music is what this amplifier does without fail, and never is this more obvious than with the remarkable live field recordings of Alan Lomax on the 2003 Blues Songbook compilation [Rounder Select 82161-1866-2]. These tracks have amazing immediacy, which the H390 communicates in a very satisfying manner. The same goes for a similar, if more recent project, Billy Bragg and Joe Henry's Shine A Light railway odyssey, recording as they went [Cooking Vinyl COOKCD623], which again shows how well this amp can deliver ambience and atmosphere.

Yes, the H390 can turn on the drama with the best of them: the recent Prince compilation, Originals [NPG Records] is packed with big, lush arrangements and snappy, deeply-extended rhythms, but even when played at very high levels all of this fazes the Hegel not one jot. H590? It's snapping at your heels!

Hi-Fi News Verdict

When building a range of products, it's always advisable to have some clear model differentiation, but Hegel may just have dropped the ball on this one: the H390 is sensationally good value, with a clean, powerful sound and bags of musicality, not to mention exceptional flexibility including onboard network streaming. And all this for just over half the price of the H590 flagship...

Hegel Music Systems AS
Oslo, Norway
Supplied by: Hegel Music Systems AS
+47 22 605660