Hegel comparison

I have the opportunity to buy either a Hegel 390 or 590.  Pricing to be negotiated, and there are no dealerships anywhere in my region that would allow me to hear either one before making a decision.

Does anybody have an opinion, based on live auditioning, re: the relative sonic profiles of these two products?

Thanks for any opinions based on first-hand experience.



Audio Excellence Canada did a youtube video comparing the H390 and H590.


Hope you find this helpful!  




I think this review could pretty clearly answer your question…


I think this extract from the conclusion pretty much says it all…

“With Hegel Music Systems’ H390 integrated-DAC having so much in common with their H590 at so much lower a price, I couldn’t help wondering, after having finished listening to the H390, if Hans Wetzel had jumped the gun by buying the H590. After all, regardless of the H590’s high quality -- it does seem like a killer product -- $11,000 is a lot of money, and Hans is no big spender. In fact, he’s such a cheapskate that at times it gets him in trouble, as he admitted in September 2018 in “The High Cost of Cheap.” Plus, the speakers he uses don’t need all that much power -- does he reallyneed more than the H390’s 250Wpc?

So after finishing my evaluation I phoned him, told him what I thought of the H390, then asked if he’d wished he’d waited for it. He told me that he’s happy with his purchase of the H590, but that, yes, had he known how good the H390 would turn out to be, he probably would have waited for it -- if only because it costs a lot less. Well, who wouldn’t want to get the most sound quality for the least cost?”

@stuartk  and @soix  Thanks so much for the quick response.  I'll check out those links.


Is this the same Stu that was selling an H590 a few months ago? 

@cundare2  I have owned both the 390 and 590. While the 390 is an excellent amp, the 590 just took everything to that next level of performance.  The video posted by @stuartk is on point.  From a value standpoint the 390 is hard to beat. 

Both are great amps.  I've spent quite a bit of time with both and also the new 600.  The 590 will drive the bass harder and tighter but the 590 has a small dip in the midrange which makes the 390 sound "warmer" side by side.  I think it's the DAC in the 590 that causes the midrange dip.  I used an external DAC on the 590 and the dip vanished.  Good luck and cheers.  

They do sound a little different. I believe the 390 is a touch cooler sounding. 
the 590 is a big deal because it has true balance and an extra XLR input. Plus since they just came out with the 600 you should get a better discount percentage on the 590. Most people are working their way up the line from the 95 up. So why not just get the best. If you are near Chicago you can go to Holm Audio. You might want to call for prices anyways. They will ship it to you and have a great relationship with Hegel. I hope this helps. 

I really think the question is new or used?  From what I understand the 590 is reduced to around $8K since the release of the 600.  Close to the same as the 390 new.  Used the 390 is in the low $4K range, dipping into high $3K recently, the 590 in the mid-high $5K range.  I have both and bought both used.  Some say night and day, others and I hear subtle differences, leaning to the 590.  I have heard a few who prefer the 390.  Strongly suspect if I plugged the 390 back in I would forget the differences in a few days.

US Audio Mart has a 590 rated excellant for $5500. I would not hesitate to buy a Hegel amp used.  IMHO

The dacs inside the Hegels are a comprised version of their standalone dac. I had multiple top of the line Hegel integrated amps in the past and never used their internal dacs. I actually had Hegel at an audio show compare the difference between the internal dac and their standalone and they were miles apart in sq. But very nice integrated amps.

Without question, go for the the far more powerful, detailed and transparent Hegel H590!!!  I've owned both and now own the H590.  I strongly believe that the H590 is superior to the H390 in every way.  I use an external DAC with my H590 to drive an inefficient pair of Revel Salon 2 speakers, in my smaller room, with incredible results.     

All these comments are very helpful -- thanks!

It seems like the decision is mutating into 590 v. 600.  I've heard nothing better than lukewarm comments about the 590's DAC, so maybe the decision is "590+outboard DAC" or 600...

Yeah, but by then my question will have morphed into: "How does the H600 compare to the H620?" 😉

But seriously, let’s say that I do go for a used $5500-7000 H590 plus outboard DAC. I’ve always like the HiFi Rose front-end, but, correct me if you think I’m off-base, I don’t think that any HFR DAC would be a significant upgrade from the Hegel integrated DAC. Any suggestions for a better fit in, I dunno, the $2-3000 range? I hate to spend a lot of money on a DAC b/c the technology is still improving every year.

And since DAC/streamers (like HFR) are now in the conversation, does anybody have first-hand feedback about the H590’s streaming capabilities (or lack of)? The only audio streaming services I ever use are Tidal & YouTube. My only functionality constraint is that I’d need to stream over 500Gbps+ Wifi. So any DAC purchase decision would primarily be a function of sonics & UI.


The DACs in the 390 and 590 are very good. It’s nice having one box for everything. I stream from my iPhone via airplay and it sounds great. Any subtle improvement gained by an external DAC are likely lost in the extra set  of cables. IMO. 

Maybe consider the H600 someday as it appears to have a much better DAC than the 390/590 as per this reviewer Hifinews here and seemingly by this reviewer theEar here.  


Yeah, I’ve heard consistently that the 600 DAC is a big upgrade. Not sure if it’s worth the $4-5000 price difference between a used 590 & a new 600, though.  E.g., I may be able to pick up a like-new PS Audio DirectWave (the first model, not the new MkII) for half that cost, including warranty.

It’s so tough having to buy these types of components with no opportunity to ever hear them first-hand. I miss the old days when there were hifi stores on every corner. But today, the closest dealers (and shows) would require a day in the air to reach.


I have heard the H590 and bought the H390  a couple of years ago, but with the H600 out, Hegel is selling the H590’s for almost the same price as the H390. If I didn’t already have the H390, I would have jumped on the H590! The DAC’s are basically the same, but the preamp and amp section is far superior.

All the best

Looks like my PS Audio DAC deal fell through, and TBH I’m not broken-hearted NOT to be buying a DAC based on, what, a five-year-old design?

So now the question remains whether to pick up a 590 and an outboard DAC and/or streamer -- or just spend the bucks upfront for a 600.

To tell the truth, if I could find an Ayre EX-8 II integrated, with its highly praised internal DAC, that would be a perfectly acceptable single-purchase Plan B. Unfortunately, EX-8’s have suddenly become hard to find for some reason (even stores that advertise it as being available don’t actually have any in inventory), so I’m hesitant about buying one until I’m sure that this model is not about to be replaced. One more reason why a Hegel still seems like my best $10,000-ish option.

I guess nothing is simple when you’re buying audiophile gear w/o being able to hear it first. But maybe that’s just one more reason why I love this hobby. Sometimes "simple" is over-rated.


Besides the DAC differences, I’m curious to find out the “Sonic” difference in the amplifiers between the h390/h590 vs h600.  I know that the 390/590 is an ideal match for Harbeth, wondering about the h600 and Harbeth.

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I’ve spoken offline to several people who have owned both and the general gist of what they tell me is consistent: Although the H600 DAC is a big step up from the 590 DAC, there's not a huge difference between the 590's & 600's output in other ways.  And the H390, while still a fine-sounding amp, is a bit outclassed by its two siblings in both analog & digital domains.

This is all just hearsay, of course, what other people are telling me. Maybe somebody here with first-hand experience can answer kennyC’s question more authoritatively than I.



Excellent discussion on the value(s) of Hegel Amps H390 and H590- Guys.


Happy Listening!

cundare2, I have a h360  and a h590. Before buying a h590 I tried a stand alone dac for the h360. It has the latest sabre chipset(like the h600).  If you can confirm the 590 and 600 are different because of the dac imo you'd be smart to save the money on the h590 and enjoy it. I'll say the dac in the h590 is good enough that you won't think to replace the onboard dac, but the option's always there.  

What Are you running for speakers? I demoed a Hegel 190, and found it to be dull and flat. just my opinion. Do a live demo.

I could be wrong but I believe the DAC is basically the same between the 2. In a technical sense the notable upgrade is 50 more watts. And a slightly beefier power supply. 

Count me as not being a fan of the Hegel sound.  I have heard their integrated and power amps on at least 5 occasions at dealers with various sources and speakers and the sound ranged from bland and lifeless to overly punchy and bass heavy to unrefined and overly detailed and bright.  

Since a Hegel amp in a system never demonstrated acceptable sound to my ears I cannot recommend them, especially without you hearing them. 


I’m using Harbeths. I’ve heard many times over the years that they mate particularly well with Hegel & Ayre electronics.

What speakers / associated eqpt / sources gave you that "dull and flat" sound with the Hegel?  What other electronics worked better in your system?

This is useful information, thanks.




>I could be wrong but I believe the DAC is basically the same between the 2. In a technical sense the notable upgrade is 50 more watts. And a slightly beefier power supply. 

As I'm sure you'd agree, it's tough to sort through the responses to a question like this.  There are so many variables in everybody's system, power, and room, too many to list in most postings.

What I've gathered, by aggregating comments & reviews here & elsewhere, is that the H590's analog sound is a big step up from that of the H390; and that the H600's DAC is a big step up from the H590 DAC.

There doesn't seem to be consistency in what people hear re: other criteria.



>the sound ranged from bland and lifeless to overly punchy and bass heavy to unrefined and overly detailed and bright.  


Whoa!  Is it even possible for one component to be flawed in ALL those ways?

I've never owned or heard Hegel gear, so I don't have a horse in this race.  The Hegel integrateds are contenders for me b/c of their superb connectivity, generally excellent reputation for sound quality, and relatively light weight (300 wpc Class A/B, 49lbs).  My integrated would have to fit into a complex-topology surround system, and laugh if you must, but 49 pounds for this much non-ClassD power makes a big difference to these old bones.

Your observations don't jibe with those of most Hegel owners I've spoken to.  But, hey, maybe a corollary to the Anthropic Principle could be at play.  People who own and love Hegel gear may just be self-selected from a subset of listeners who originally liked Hegel enough to buy it!  So your comments, as a non-owner who has heard Hegel in a variety of systems, are certainly valuable.

But could you expand a bit on your comments? What other components were configured when the Hegels sounded lifeless, overly detailed, bass heavy, bright, etc.?  I'm still trying to wrap my mind around those seemingly mutually-exclusive characteristics.

FWIW, as I mentioned above, Hegel and Ayre -- my two top contenders at the moment -- are both reputed to pair well with Harbeths.  In fact, I've been told that Harbeth uses Hegel electronics in its show rooms.


@avanti1960   It's funny how people obviously hear different things.  I have owned the 390, 590 and currently run a pair of the H30s.  You can see my system in my details.  The sound is warm, luscious and several other superlatives I could throw in.  None of your criticisms have been apparent in my system(s) using Hegel amps.  I have combined them with GoldenEar Triton Reference,  Acoustic Zen Crescendo Mark ll, Focal Sopra 2 and lastly with SoundLab Majestic 745 speakers.  I'm not saying you didn't hear faults in dealer systems, just saying others couldn't disagree more.  That's why I find it so hard for anyone to be giving advice here.  There's just no guarantee the next person or the next system or the next listening room is going to prove a recommendation is correct.  IMHO.  Cheers. 

You can never take one opinion too seriously. What you CAN do is look at the trend or the majority of opinions. And that seems to show you get a lot of power, great sound, connectivity from the 390, 590. I don’t care what piece of audio equipment you’re talking about, there’s always a few guys who will proudly stand up and say it’s utter crap. No matter how good it is. Presumably to show how deeply golden their ears alone are. 

The Hegel I borrowed, I had paired with a set of Dynaudio Special 40's The Hegel sounded damn near the same as my Arcam A-49 Amp. Both dull and flat. The Arcam is now out in my Garage/cigar lounge. With a pair of Dynaudio Emit 20's  Its tolerable

My fave was a Krell kav 300il that had a habit of baking itself. I was using an old pair of revel salon 1's when I brought home everything up to $6k price range. My main music was live recordings 1 specifically being 'big head todd and the monsters'. The Parasound A21 was thick in the mids, Anthem 225i, B&K 4420, Peachtree nova 300. sunfire, older Jeff Rowland mono's. The H360 stood out using my radioshack analog db meter to level volume the h360 was the most dynamic and neutral also offering a large soundstage with better image placement and bass. At the time the H190 just came out and while it offered a bit more top end resolution bringing brushes and cymbals into the listening room and more of the audiences cheering into the room I still settled on the h360 for the added 100 wpc thinking I could always upgrade the dac down the road. I would add not all amps have the same impact on speakers. 


i think everyone hears similarly but the Hegels have sounded so different in different systems that a prospective owner really needs to hear it before making a decision.  With the H390 integrated it sounded punchy and dynamic with some Sonus Faber floorstanders but the midrsnge was recessed.  This was the best I heard it sound.  With Harbeth speakers it was so soft and dull.  

The P20 power amp sounded hyper real and threadbare bright powering a set of KEF R11 towers.  They need to be auditioned at home or subject to a generous return policy IMHO.  But why bother, there are plenty of excellent amps available at competitive prices.  


@avanti1960   We simply hear different things.  I believe the vast majority of comments on Hegel amps run to the positive.  I have never read a review of Hegel amps that ran to the negative.  I know many put no faith in reviews but that's another story.  You don't like Hegel amps, don't buy one.  I take all recommendations with a gain of salt as the variables are so many.  Cheers. 

@avanti1960  I'm sure we could do this all day.  Here's what The Absolute Sound had to say about the H30



The Hegel H30 is not just a great-sounding amplifier, it’s also a tremendous bargain. I know I’ll get letters complaining that a $15k power amplifier by definition can’t be a bargain. But what else can you call a $15,000 amplifier with massive output power, unflappable stability, and a gorgeous musical presentation that vaults it into a select league of world-class power amplifiers? Or one that is fully at home in the context of my reference system that includes the $54,000 Basis Inspiration turntable and $94,000 Focal Stella Utopia EM loudspeakers?

As adept the H30 is at all aspects of portraying the music, it’s the H30’s rendering of midrange and treble textures that makes this amplifier a standout. The Hegel coupled a warmth and lushness of timbre with tremendous clarity and resolution, a combination that is rare in an amplifier of any price. The sense of timbral realism and palpability was world-class by any measure. Moreover, it’s difficult to overstate just how greatly these qualities induced a sense of ease and deep musical involvement.

If your amplifier budget is anywhere near $15k, the Hegel H30 should be on your short list of products to audition. You may find, as I did, that this unassuming and understated black box contains a Scandinavian surprise.

I owned three different Hegel amps and loved them all.  

I'm a Hegel H590 owner who just recently had an opportunity to have an extended listening session with the new H600 (I use a separate external DAC) .  I can tell you that based on just the amp/preamp sections of the two, I didn't hear a significant enough improvement in the SQ of the two to make me want to run out and buy the H600.  I'm sure that there is SQ improvement, but not nearly enough to make me want to switch.  Not at all.  So, I'll be holding on to my H590 for the foreseeable future.  I have no experience with the H590s internal DAC, but the improved DAC in the H600 may be the ultimate determining factor for some. I good.        

@kennymacc   I'm confused by your statement "I have no experience with the H590s internal DAC"   Are you saying in all the time you've owned the 590, you've never run your digital feed through it and compared the sound to whatever DAC you are using?  That just strikes me as rather strange. IMHO

@bigtwin    No, I never used, nor did I ever intended on using the internal DAC of my H590.  I never us the internal DACs that come with any component.  I've invested in a great deal into a stand-alone, reference caliber DAC that I believe to be superior to the internal DACs of the H590 and the H600.  So, obviously, I felt that any comparisons between my reference DAC and the H590s internal DAC would be quite futile.  Happy listening.

@kennymacc   Ok, I get your point, but aren't you just the least bit curious as to how the 590 DAC compares to your reference DAC?  I have done the comparison with DACs that were supposed to be on a whole other level, only to find I couldn't hear the difference.  Maybe it's just my ears.  I would be interested in your detailed comparison between the 590 and whatever your reference DAC is.  I suspect others who are considering the 590 would also benefit from your comparison.   But hey, that's just me.  Cheers.

@bigtwin Your point is well taken. I’m sure that if there were no other options, I could live happily ever after with the H590s or the H600s internal DACs, because on their own merits, they do sounds quite outstanding. Heck, for years and years, well before outboard DACs became so popular, I immensely enjoyed the DACs that came with my high end CD players without a second thought. So, I hear where you’re coming from. I’m sure that the internal DACs of the H590/H600 will easily equal or outperforms many, many higher priced stand-alone DACs on the market. However, there’s good reasons why so very many well versed audiophiles have opted to go with external DACs. There are levels of proficiency, at various price points, in all things high end audio and DACs are no exception. Based on my experience, extensive listing sessions, comparison after comparison, etc., I felt that the DAC of my choosing, consistently outperformed every internal, and most other outboard DACs I compared it to, even some that were far more expensive, so I ran with it and never looked back. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to spend my whole life doing a/b comparisons. I just want to lay back, be content with my audio system and enjoy the fruits of my labor. At some point, you have to trust your own ears, be confident and content with your audio choices. I’m not one who enjoys digging deep into my wallet every time a new shiny penny comes along. My audio purchases are intended to be for the long-haul. Despite the constantly changing technology of current DACs, I’m confident that my Ayre Acoustics QX-5 Twenty Streaming DAC, at it’s elevated level of proficiency, will stand the test of time, and will be with me for years and years to come, simply because, to my ears, it outperformed most everything else (within my budget, whether new or pre-owned). Happy listening.


So you're saying that after many hours of A-B'ing, you thought that the Ayre DAC was the best you heard, at least at a halfway similar price point?  And that you'd rank the Hegel only slightly below the Ayre?

Of course, a lot depends on associated equipment, power, and room, but what you say is consistent with much of what I've heard from other users who have gone out & actively auditioned DACs.


Ayre had a bit more open 'stage and a bit more top octave energy without sounding bright while the H590 just has a solid grip on everything. thr h360 was a little less in control that could be better with some music than other. I consider Hegel int's good value for the money. Avanti the p20 is a pre amp, you probably meant the H20.