Hegel H600 Network-Attached Amp

hfnoutstandingBuilt into an enhanced H590 chassis but featuring 'sound tuning' from the P30A/H30A pre/power, Hegel's fully-networked flagship integrated gets off to a flying start

After an extended period of Covid and component shortage-related calm, Oslo-based Hegel has seemingly shifted into overdrive, launching multiple new products in just half a year. First up in 2023 was a major update to its flagship pre/power system in the form of the P30A and H30A [HFN Jun '23], followed by the Viking CD player [HFN Sep '23]. The third act is the launch of the H600, which takes over from Hegel's popular, top-tier H590 integrated streaming amp, and sells for £10,500 in a very dark grey, almost matt black finish.

With the H590 only five years old, few were expecting it to be replaced so quickly – especially by a product that at first glance seems quasi-identical to the unit it supersedes. But Hegel, owned by electronics wizard Bent Holter, is very much an engineering-driven company. So, if you're an H590 owner looking for change, look for it under the hood…

More Power... Just
Sure, there are familiar sights, such as the dual-mono Class A/B amp stage, powered by a huge toroidal transformer and now rated – with a touch of Nordic humour – to deliver 2x303W/8ohm rather than the 2x301W of the H590 [although, as shown by PM's Lab Report, this powerhouse is capable of more]. Hegel's bespoke SoundEngine 2 error-correcting circuit regime also remains, as does the brand's obsession with achieving a high damping factor. But there are other enhancements, foremost of which is a new DAC stage supported by a fresh streamer board.

Hegel's love of minimalist design is very much on show here. As with all its products, the Norwegian marque isn't aiming to capture the hearts of nostalgic hi-fi buffs, nor those who prefer their amplifiers fitted with touchscreens and more functionality than a sonic screwdriver. This subdued, nearly austere design approach results in an amp with a clutter-free fascia. It will blend into most interiors, making the H600 especially attractive to the crowd that believes hi-fi should be heard but not seen.


Six pairs of ultra-fast high current power transistors are deployed per channel [heatsinks, left and right], fed from a huge toroidal transformer and linear PSU. The new digital board [bottom] offers USB and network access

Switching the amplifier on – or rather, waking it from sleep mode – is done by reaching underneath, leaving only two large rotary knobs visible on the front. These flank a white OLED screen which is used to display the selected input and volume level – just don't expect any metadata to be shown when streaming. There are some subtle modifications, however. The controls are slightly larger than before and have a smoother action thanks to new rotary encoders, and when turning the volume knob, changes are made by an analogue attenuator inherited from Hegel's P30A reference preamplifier.

A special mention should be made of the RC10 remote, which is a Hegel regular bundled with its more expensive hardware. This might be slender and the buttons tiny, but it is a neat unit that feels as sturdy as the amp itself. Don't drop it on the floor, it might crack the tiles.

Board Games
In the past, Hegel tended to prefer AKM DAC chips, but the component shortages plaguing the hi-fi industry forced the company to explore alternative options. This has led to the design of a DAC stage based around an ESS ES9038Q2M device, which is compatible with inputs up to 384kHz/32-bit and DSD256 (DoP) via the USB-B port on the rear or 192kHz/24-bit and DSD64 via network streaming.

Talking of which, the H600's new streaming board supports Tidal Connect, Apple AirPlay 2, and UPnP at launch, with Roon certification and Spotify Connect due to follow soon. Hegel says this is 'only the beginning', as its new 'highly advanced streaming engine will ensure the amplifier is always up to date with the latest options'. However, there's no company-specific playback app, so you'll need to use a generic UPnP controller. I had no issues with either BubbleUPnP or mconnect Player.

Although integrated streaming is a large part of the H600's appeal, there are physical inputs in abundance too. These include two sets of XLRs, which pair nicely with the balanced/dual-mono circuit design, plus optical and (RCA/BNC) coaxial ins. Added to this are two input-related functions I particularly liked on the H590: the amp's ability to understand the IR commands of a TV remote, and a 'DAC-Loop' to connect an outboard DAC with two cables. This way you can use the streaming input of the H600, send the digital signal to the DAC, and play the analogue output via the amp – bypassing the internal DAC stage, should you wish for an upgrade.

sqnote Purity And Authority
Hegel's H590 has been my daily driver for my Focal Sopra No2 floorstanders [HFN Sep '15] for a few years now, so swapping in the H600 allowed for an intriguing comparison between old and new. In terms of sound signature the new amplifier is still recognisably 'Hegel', offering an honest and detailed depiction underpinned by a purity and authority, but there's now an even greater sense of detail and nuance. It's as fine-sounding as the price tag suggests.

Hegel Music Systems AS
Oslo, Norway
Supplied by: Auden Distribution Ltd, Lancs
+47 22 605660