Ayre v Hegel sound

My setup is comprised of a Roon-ready Ayre QX-5 Twenty DAC, Ayre DX-5 DSD disc player, Ayre KX-5 Twenty preamp and VX-5 Twenty amp driving a pair of KEF Reference 1s augmented below 80 Hz with s pair of acoustic room corrected Velodyne HGS-15s.  The speakers are high-passed at 80 Hz by a Marchand filter.  I've been mulling over the idea of replacing the DAC, preamp, and amp with a Hegel H390 integrated for simplicity and downsizing , but I have no idea what effect that might have on the sound.  Anyone out there know or have an opinion? 

Ag insider logo xs@2xdbphd

very similar sonic profiles up the frequency range, smooth refined well detailed treble and silky yet textured voices and mids, both are holographic and well defined with soundstage/imaging -- hegel will have superb bass control (among the very best out there), ayre a touch looser, boomier in midbass, hegel will dig deeper into deep bass but the overall bass presentation will be a touch drier... so preferences and speaker/room choice will dictate what sounds better

we are a kef and Hegel dealer so we can give you some feedback


the hegel and Ayre both lean towards meutral and clesn type of sound the hegel has a higher damping factor so its bass will be tighter


Dave and Troy

Audio intellect nj

Kef and Hegel dealers

@dbphd "Anyone out there have an opinion?"  That had me laughing.  I have owned the H390 and found it a wonderful amp.  Did everything and did it well.  You don't indicate if you are looking at new or used equipment.  If new, I would encourage you to look for a lightly used H590.  Dollar for dollar the 390 is the much better deal, but the 590 is the better overall package.  Used may bring the cost in line?

slightly off topic to the op's query, but i would agree, a used h590 at a good (current) price is an excellent buy if you have the budget

the used price delta between the 390 and 590 currently makes the 590 well worth having -- by my estimation, it is better by about 10-15%, so not really worth what was the 2x msrp difference, but at $4500 vs $6500, the 590 is compelling imo, it is simply superb

The dacs in any of the h3xx integrateds are not that good. I used to own a Hegel h3xx integrated and used the dac for maybe 1 hour in the years that I owned it. I used a dac that cost more than the Hegel integrated itself and it blew away the internal dac.

At rmaf, I had the Hegel room compare the internal dac in the h360 to their standalone dac, it wasn’t even close in sq. But I do like the sound of the hegels they just didn’t have the power I need

i have a different point of view... in the h390 and h590 i feel the dacs are quite good, especially the 590, where they integrated the sound quite synergistically with the pre/power sections ... to my ear, certainly as good as the better stand alone dacs up to roughly $1000 (which is a pretty high standard sonically these days)... my experience is based on running roon, using the streaming function, with a well cleansed lan feed (good switch, well filtered, linear power supplies)

in my opinion one has to spend more than $1000 to noticeably better the sonics of the internal dacs in the upper hegels... (think modded mhdt orchid, dena pontus/venus, chord qutest and higher...)

The hHegel is nowhere near as refined. Acoustic instruments will not sound nearly as natural. I couldn’t stand Hegel myself. It sounds coarse in comparison. Maybe more dynamic. If I only listened to Electronic music, with synths I was unfamiliar with, maybe.

I’m spoiled though, I mostly listen to the AX-5 fronted by a Bartók Apex.



An AYRE AX-5 Twenty will give you 90% presentation and sound of the KX-5 twenty/VX-5 twenty combo. Specifically, DX-5 (DSD) and AX-5 Twenty makes for a superb combination.


Happy Listening!

If Ayre added streaming to the AX-5 I'd be a buyer.  I really like the Ayre sound.  All my Ayre gear except the amp fits in a single Salamander rack and the amp sits between the speakers, so I think I'll forget about downsizing for now.

I will agree with  the other Hegel owners.  I really like the amp, but the DAC is not as good. So I am using one that sounds more natural.

I have the kef blades and the dealer I bought the h590 from also had some hi end Ayre components on the floor. The ayre had a more open soundstage and nice top end. The H590 in comparison was tight. On its own I find the presentation from the h590 to be all I could ask for, but compared to the $40k ayre separates the ayre just sounded a touch more relaxed. I bought the hegel because the price was about a third of the Ayre and the control the 590 has is impressive. The H590 does a great job with Kef ref and the dac in the 590 is much more capable than the h360 which I also have, 


I can only speak about the Hegel H390 that I’ve had for almost 2 years. I’m running the KEF Reference 5’s and I am still very pleased with the sound, but I upgraded the streamer Node N130 streamer because I use Amazon HD music and the Hegel doesn’t.  There’s nothing really wrong with the DAC, but you can do much better, so I did with a Denafrips Pontus ll.

All the best.

Through personal comparisons I agree with posters who point out the firmer bass sound of the Hegel (I understand that Ayre uses lower global feedback which usually means less firmness in the bass). I also agree that the H590 is a superior Hegel product. It’s DAC has no limitations or faults. Neither does the H390 DAC, albeit the H590 amplification sound quality is higher. As for Amazon Music HD the Hegels do not have built in streamers for any service, but serve as network endpoints that you can stream to for playback. The USB input of the 590/390 is also very capable. 


If what you are missing is streaming, consider adding a pure streamer such as the iFi Zen Stream or similar to your Ayre stack.

I have noticed that at KEF demos they use Hegel amplifiers so I would surmise this would be a nice pairing. I cannot speak to if the switch would be better or not but just the Hegel would pair nicely with the Reference 1 speakers.

kef and harbeth are just two well established successful speaker makers that consistently use big hegels at shows

my sense is that this is because they feel hegels control their speakers very well while not otherwise editorializing on the music played through them, even at significant show demo volumes, thus allowing the speakers to be at their best for demo listeners

not to say hegel is the only amplifier line that can do this, but it is instructive for amplifier buyers to note this fact