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Integrated amplifier
Hegel H70

Price (in Poland): 5990 zł

Manufacturer: Hegel Music Systems

P.O. Box 2 Torshov | NO-0412 Oslo, Norway
tel.: +47 22 60 56 60 | fax: +47 22 69 91 56


Country of origin: Norway

Text: Wojciech Pacuła
Pictures: Piksel Studio | Wojciech Pacuła
Translation: Krzysztof Kalinkowski

Date of publication: 01. March 2012, No. 94

Hegel is Hegel and there is not much to write about that – most of useful information can be found in the introduction to my review of the top combination HERE. Despite the fact that this is a small company, not as known as some other Scandinavian manufacturers, it has an established reputation of a very stable, predictable and intelligent project. So there is no sense in stirring things up. Suffice it to say that it is regarded with special esteem by customers in the very demanding, hermetic, Japanese market.
The reviewed H70 is the cheapest amplifier made by this Norwegian manufacturer. The company materials claim an output power of 2 x 70W. Besides classic analog RCA line inputs we also have here a stereo pair of balanced inputs. And something extra – an integrated DAC with RCA and TOSLINK inputs, as well as a USB one. The S/PDIF inputs accept signals up to 24/192, while the USB only 16/48.

To date we reviewed:

  • line preamplifier + power amplifier Hegel P30+H30, review HERE


A selection of recordings used in the test:

  • T-TOC Data Collection Vol. 1, T-TOC Records, DATA-0001, 24/96+24/192, WAV, ripy z DVD-R.
  • Vinyl Magic for High Fidelity, sampler, DVD-R,, 16-24-32/44,1, WAV, ripy z DVD-R.
  • Audiofeels, Uncovered, Penguin Records, 5865033, CD (2009).
  • Brian Eno, Craft On A Milk Sea, Warp Records, WARPCDD207, 2 x 180 g LP + 2 x CD + 24/44,1 WAV;
  • Cassandra Wilson, Silver Pony, Blue Note, 29752, CD; rip FLAC.
  • Charlie Haden & Antonio Forcione, Heartplay, Naim Label, 24/96 FLAC.
  • Depeche Mode, Fragile Tension/Hole to Feed, Mute Records, CDBONG42, maxi-SP (2009).
  • George Michael, Faith, Epic/Sony Music, 7753020, Special Edition 2 x CD+DVD (2010).
  • Kankawa, Organist, T-TOC Records, UMVD-0001-0004, Ultimate Master Vinyl, 4 x 45 rpm 180 g LP + CD-RIIα + 24/192 WAV;
  • Kay Starr, Blue Starr, RCA Records/BMG Japan, BVCJ-37389, K2HD (2005).
  • Lars Danielsson & Leszek Możdżer, Pasodoble, ACT Music, ACT 9458-2, CD; rip FLAC.
  • Michael Jackson, Thriller. 25th Anniversary, Epic/Sony Music Japan, EICP-963-4, CD+DVD.
  • Mikołaj Bugajak, Strange Sounds and Inconceivable Deeds, Nowe Nagrania 001, 45 rpm LP+CD+WAV 24/44,1;
  • Nosowska, 8, Supersam Music, SM 01, CD (2011).
  • Patricia Barber, Companion, Premonition Records/Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab, UDSACD 2023, SACD/CD (2003).
  • Pink Floyd, Wish You Were Here, Experience Edition, EMI/EMI Music Japan, TOCP-71169-90, 2 x CD (2011).
  • Simon & Garfunkel, Bookends, Columbia/Sony Music Japan International, SICP 1484, CD; rip FLAC.
  • Stardelay A New High Fidelity, Ozella Music, OZL22006CD, FLAC 24/44,1 (2008).
Japanese versions of the discs are available from CD Japan

The Hegel H70, together with some other amplifiers I know, creates a kind of axis; let’s call it “an axis of goodness and internal warmth” (I apologize to purists for the anthropomorphisms, but I cannot get around them). If we put the Xindak MT-2 amplifier on its beginning, and the IT-15 Lavardin and the Hegel P30+H30 system at the other end, then the H70 would be on exactly the same axis.
What would be the axis characteristics? If I were to describe it regarding the timbre, it would be a bit to the left on the warmer side of another axis, called “neutral”; it would be on the axis associated with “naturalness”. What does this mean? It means that – keeping proportions – the H70 sounds a bit warm, is not overly detailed and does not differentiate sound as well as amplifiers closer to the “neutrality” axis, or even to the right of it, on its colder, but much more detailed side. The Norwegian amplifier sounds different – in an incredibly, really incredibly saturated, smooth and coherent way, but without extraordinary detailedness. The H70 will not punish us for the errors of sound engineers and record companies. It adds some mass to the sound, because its upper bass is quite strong, stronger than in the reference system. We thus get really big virtual sources, as clearly shown by monophonic discs, just to mention, as example, the Blue Starr by Kay Starr. The vocalist’s voice occupied a lot of space between the loudspeakers, it was expansive and did not resemble a thin copy or a blown egg shell. You could feel the strength of the band accompanying the vocalist, with hits of the contrabass, etc. The sound did not come in front of the line connecting the loudspeakers, but it wasn’t pushed back, either.
These two elements, mass and volume, were confirmed in newer recordings where it is often their to be or not to be, where it is such an important part of music that without it they sound castrated, incomplete. I am talking about The Wall by Pink Floyd, George Michael’s Faith, and Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Different discs, different music, but the same need of a clear pulse, good base and splendid connection with the midrange.

I already mentioned vocals in the context of volume – its placement will depend on the sound engineer and hence a given recording. When, like with Kay Starr, vocal is in the front and the rest of the band in one line behind it, then we get it a bit closer and it slightly dominates the rest. On the other hand, when it is a bit more hidden, like on the other three mentioned CDs, then it gets less pronounced, is placed slightly to the back. Not too much, as this is not an amplifier that will reproduce spatial depth in an extraordinary way, beyond average in this price range. But the proportions will be kept; the difference coming from the concept of a given disc will be heard.
It seems more important that the midrange is not shown apart, separated from the bass; the amplifier shows the whole frequency spectrum in an incredibly even way. I mean, not in an equally strong way, I will say about that in a moment, but a coherent way. Although the upper bass is more energetic than the midrange itself, although the treble is rounded and slightly warm (exactly as from an EL34 tube amplifier), everything cooperates with each other, creates a “greater good”, does not work alone.
Maybe we lose something with this, in the sense that differentiation and detailedness of the H70 are not as good as of clean, transparent amplifiers for comparable money – you have to take that into account when making your choice. But it is worth asking ourselves what we really want. If we like to be all the time excited with the events in front of us, when we like to hear as much of HOW things happen, then probably we need to search elsewhere. The Hegel amplifier is for people who like to sit in front of the loudspeakers like a cat, find a nice spot there and purr to themselves; people who want to know WHAT is happening in front of them, not caring too much about the process of how it is done. Without a rush, with the awareness that nothing will escape us, that everything is ours.

With what?
This is why I clearly see what kinds of loudspeakers the H70 should sound best with (I am writing “should”, because everything will depend on a given room acoustics, personal tastes and expectations). On the one hand they will be loudspeakers like Xavian, with which probably most of the presentations will be conducted. These Czech loudspeakers with an Italian heart are very precise, splendidly balanced, but sometimes they just scream for something like the H70. I am sure that their creator, Mr. Roberto Barletta, listens to them and tunes them using this kind of electronics. Or that this is the result he cares about.
On the other hand it is hard for me not to mention Harbeth loudspeakers, with which the Hegel amplifier, just like the Lavardin before, communicates with ease. I would start with the tiny P3ESR - a strong bass base from the amplifier will put a new spirit into them, and the loudspeakers will repay with precision and refinement. The H70 has very good pace, it is very rhythmical, it does not allow to lose temperature even from recordings like club versions of Depeche Mode tracks from the double maxi-single Fragile Tension/Hole to Feed. However I would avoid clearly warm loudspeakers, like for example the Castle. This combination may be too syrupy.
And the source? There are a few possibilities. When we think about a classic CD player, there are a lot of possibilities, but with one restriction. I would avoid warm sources that do well to bright systems. Therefore, Xindak CD06 and similar are out. On the other hand bright devices will not be fully fitting, because although they will lighten the treble a bit, they will also average the things Hegel excels in – the energy of the bass. So I would listen to CD players from Cambridge Audio, Cyrus, Music Hall, etc. I do not know the Hegel CD player, so this combination is for you to try.

Digital inputs
The H70 also accepts digital signals, using the built-in DAC. I listened to a few CD players and transports in this combination, as well as to a few file players.
If we are attached to the physical disc and see the future in it, and want to use files only sporadically, then we should think about a good CD transport – we can play files using the USB input. The H70 built-in DAC is really very nice, but it has a clearly shaped sound. The sound is delivered close to us, in a big way. The bass is very strong and we should check if it combines well with our loudspeakers and listening room. The resolution is nice, on the level of a 2000zł CD player, but the bass in not very differentiated. Yet the whole thing sounds in a very coherent way – this is in common with the amplifier section. That allows to use a really good CD transport and to think about buying an external DAC later, maybe not really soon; perhaps even a Hegel DAC. If we think like that, the best propositions will be the CD Transport from Cyrus or CDT100 Stello (test HERE). Both are on the smaller side, but very good. What’s more – the Hegel amplifier sounded very well on the Acoustic Revive RST-38 platform. I also tried the Pro Audio Bono platforms (with experimental suspension using ball bearings – it worked splendidly with the Mach Audio amplifier) and the RAF-48 AR, but in this case the RST-38 was bull’s-eye.

Expensive? Well, everything has its price, and I gave up devoting a certain amount of money for a change in the system a long time ago – if the change brings the desired improvement then it is worth it. The H70, as well as other devices from this manufacturer, is designed in such a way that controlling chassis vibration is easy. Its three, metal feet are mechanically coupled directly with the foundation, and allow for development of the chassis mechanics further, onto a platform, which becomes a mechanical whole with the amplifier. As I said, both proposed transports are small. And Acoustic Revive offers the TB-38H platform – a smaller version of the RST-38, which will fit both transports ideally. There are no coincidences…

There is however another possibility – a file player. Here, the possibilities are many; however I see mostly one – the NP30 Cambridge Audio. This is a small and sleek unit, which can be operated easily.
And the USB input? It sounds a bit different than the S/PDIF – not as massive, and with less treble. The resolution is lower. But as for a 16/48 input, with an old receiver, the sound is nice, resembling what I heard with the KingRex UD-1 Pro. Fluent, smooth, warm. If this is to be an auxiliary input – then it is OK.
But when we want to use a PC more often, it is worth thinking about an external USB-S/PDIF converter, or – perhaps even better – the HD2 from Hegel, a small box, a DAC with USB input. My son uses it in his system and is very happy with it.

„Is the Hegel H70 truly balanced?
The balanced inputs of the H70 are, like in all other Hegel gear, truly balanced inputs.”
I start with this question, coming from the FAQ section of the Polish language (beautifully made!) web page from this manufacturer, because the presence of balanced inputs might suggest that this kind of connection will be better. Please note that the quoted response is completely true but it answers another question. The H70 is not a balanced amplifier! It has truly balanced inputs, but the signal is de-symmetrized just behind them and then processed in a classic, unbalanced way. That is why, in my opinion, the RCA connections will be better used for connecting the sources. This way, the amplifier sounds like honey, so to speak. It is a fluent sound, held together by some bigger clamp, with strong bass and delicate treble. Its midrange is ideally melted with the bass, which makes vocals big and fleshy and you can almost feel the blood pulsating in their hearts. The resolution and differentiation are good, but not in the whole frequency range and they will not be the reason to choose the H70.
At the same time I know exactly who will not like this amplifier. When somebody wants to “know” everything very precisely, prefers attack, contour, detail above saturation, this is not an amplifier for him or her. Also when we like the sound of strong cymbals, or the lightening of the sound stage is more important for us than its continuity (unfortunately, as always, we need to choose, compromises are inevitable), then we need to search elsewhere.
But when we like fullness, smoothness, naturalness and above all when in our music collection it is rock, electronics, etc., that dominate and we want to hear it in full glory, the Hegel should be a mandatory listen. And we get a good DAC for free, as well as an USB input.

The amplifier receives the RED FINGERPRINT distinction.
Previously this distinction was awarded to:

  • Dynaudio Focus 260 floor standing loudspeakers; review HERE
  • Musica Ibuki Digital USB DAC; review HERE
  • JPLAY audio file software player, review HERE
  • Pro Audio Bono Acrylic AP anti-vibration platform, review HERE

Review conditions
The Hegel amplifier stood on the Acoustic Revive RST-38 anti-vibration platform. Unlike usually, I did not use the Tara Labs Omega to connect the amplifier with the loudspeakers, but the Norwegian Skogrand Cables SC Air, which turned out to be incredibly coherent with the Hegel sound. The devices were interconnected with the balanced XLR Oyaide AR-910 cables and the unbalanced RCA Oyaide Tunami Terzo RR. The digital RCA-RCA cable was the Oyaide DR-510 and the USB cable was the Acoustic Revive USB-5.0PL. The Hegel amplifier was powered by the Sablon Audio The Robusto cable.


H70 is an integrated stereo amplifier with an integrated DAC with S/PDIF (x2) and USB inputs. This cannot be seen at first glance – it is a classic, purist device, with only a volume control knob and an input selector knob on the front. There are blue LEDs around the latter. In the middle there is another blue LED and a mechanical power switch below. The enclosure is made of rigid, steel plates, and the front panel of a nicely shaped aluminum profile. Just like the three feet – one in the back and two in the front (similar to Primare).

The back plate tells us that we are in the 21st century. There we can find the mentioned digital inputs – USB, RCA (S/PDIF) and optical TOSLINK (S/PDIF). The first one is handled by an old receiver chip, because it accepts only signals up to 16 bit and 32/44.1/48kHz sampling frequencies. The RCA accepts up to 24/192, however I do not know about the optical input, I did not have the capability to check it. You can select between the optical and electrical inputs using a small switch located between them.
Next we have two pairs of gold plated loudspeaker terminals. They are close together, so it is best to use banana plugs. And there is also an IEC socket with an integrated fuse. It is worth changing the latter to a Create Audio or similar one. To the left we have three analog RCA inputs and one balanced. The RCA input sockets are quite common and placed close together, this is why we will not be able to use cables with thick plugs (like Acrolink). The XLRs have the pin 2 set as hot.

The individual sections of the H70 are located a bit different than usual in such kind of product. In the front we have the heat sink for the power stage, and the rest of the circuits behind it. There are two PCBs: a big one, with the preamplifier and power amplifier and a second, smaller one, with the DAC.
The RCA inputs are not gold plated, neither are the XLRs. Behind the latter we have two chips per channel – the NE5532 which de-symmetrize the signal, and another one which is part of the power supply. Inputs are switched by hermetically sealed relays. The signal through small Nichicon caps is buffered in another NE5532. This is also where the signal from the DAC arrives.
The converter is based on the AKM PCM1754 Burr Brown chip, preceded by the AKM 4114 receiver. ‘1754’ is a medium class DAC chip, 24/192, with a quite low SNR of 106dB. The USB input is handled by the Burr Brown PCM2704 converter/DAC. Only its USB-to-S/PDIF section is used here. I do not see a word clock for the DAC anywhere, so probably the needed frequencies are derived from the USB converter clock.
The power stage is made with transistors. In its input we can see blue, multi-pin SE3909 ICs from Hegel. This is the so called SoundEngine, a circuit based on FET transistors, designed by Hegel engineers. The H70 sports a new generation of this circuit (NextGen). The current stage is based on a pair of 2SA1943+2SC5200 Toshiba transistors per channel. They work in the AB class and push-pull setting. Next to them we see empty space for another pair of transistors, probably used in the H100. This allows to increase the output power, but aggravates issues with transistor matching. A pair of transistors is the best push-pull configuration, unless a company invests in pairing parallel working units, which costs a lot. Most components are surface mounted, except for a few resistors and capacitors. Volume is controlled using a black Alps potentiometer. The signal running to it is taken directly after the inputs, using a long computer tape, and via another one back to the PCB.
The power supply is quite big. This is a solid toroidal transformer with three secondary windings – separate for the left and right channel of the power section, and one for the preamplifier. Voltage filtering is achieved in four big capacitors.

Remote controller
The amplifier is supplied with the RC3 remote, working with Philips RC-5 codes. It is flat like a credit card and has membrane buttons. It is a system remote, so we can also use it to control the Hegel CD player.

Technical data (according to manufacturer):
Output power: 2x70W/8Ω
Volume, Input source and muting controlled by (optional) Hegel RC3 remote
Inputs: 3 x unbalanced (RCA), 1 x balanced (XLR)
Digital inputs: 1 x USB + 2 x Digital S/PDIF - Coaxial or Toslink (hard switch on the back)
USB resolution: 16 bit / 48 kHz, Plug & Play. No drivers needed
SPDIF resolution: 24 bit / 192 kHz
Analog frequency response: 1 Hz - 100.000 Hz
Signal to noise ratio: >100dB
Crosstalk: < -100dB
Distortion (THD): < 0.005 % /50W/8Ω
Intermodulation: < 0.01 % (19kHz + 20kHz)
Damping factor: > 1000
Output stage: four 15A 150W high speed bipolar transistors
Power consumption: 30W idle, switched on
Dimensions/weight: 80 x 430 x 415mm (HxWxD),
Weight: 12kg

Distribution in Poland:
Hegel Polska



  • CD player: Ancient Audio Lektor Air V-edition, review HERE
  • Phono preamplifier: RCM Audio Sensor Prelude IC, review HERE
  • Cartridges: Miyajima Laboratory SHILABE, review HERE), Miyajima Laboratory KANSUI, review HERE
  • Preamplifier: Ayon Audio Polaris III [Signature Version] with Re-generator Power Supply
  • Power amplifier: Soulution 710
  • Integrated amplifier/headphone amplifier: Leben CS300 XS Custom Version, review HERE
  • Loudspeakers: Harbeth M40.1 Domestic, review HERE
  • Headphones: Sennheiser HD800, AKG K701, Ultrasone PROLine 2500, Beyerdynamic DT-990 Pro; 600 &#8486; version, review HERE, HERE, and HERE
  • Interconnect: CD-preamp: Acrolink Mexcel 7N-DA6300 (article HERE, preamp-power amp: Acrolink 8N-A2080III Evo, review HERE
  • Speaker cable: Tara Labs Omega Onyx, review HERE
  • Power cables AC (all equipment): Acrolink Mexcel 7N-PC9300
  • Power strip: Acoustic Revive RTP-4eu ULTIMATE
  • Stand: Base; under all components
  • Resonance control: Finite Elemente Ceraball under the CD, Audio Revive RAF-48 platform under the CD and preamplifier
  • Pro Audio Bono platform under Leben CS300