Hegel H160 -> Hegel H390 upgrade suggestion

Hi - I am driving H160 with Focal Electra 1008Be bookshelves with Rythmik F12SE sub woofer for the low end. I was curious if upgrade to H390 which is almost double the power that H160 provides would make any difference to my bookshelves for which H160 (power wise) seems adequate. 


Apparently Hegel has tweaked their house sound a bit with the H390 (and H590) to skew a little smoother and less incisive so that’s something to consider. Here’s a review with some thoughts on the H360 versus the H390…


You might also consider adding a second sub that’d likely bring sizable improvements and be around $5000 less expensive. Just another option to chew on FWIW and hope this helps at least somewhat.

@soix thanks for the reply. 

My concern was primarily going from H160 to H390 because my bookshelves dont even need so much power and hence i was wondering if it even made sense to do so. My Focal Electra bookshelves only need max 150W power which H160 already provides. 

Also did you mean adding a second sub might be a better option vs going with the amp upgrade? 

Well, in addition to the power differential with the H390 you’re also getting overall higher parts quality in both the preamp and amp sections (don’t discount that as it’s huge), a much better DAC (if that’s even an issue), and apparently a smoother-sounding device, which is different.  Will it be significantly better to you?  I’d tend to think so but who knows?  My only point about the additional sub is you’ll most certainly experience improvements that would come at a much lower cost than an H390.  Which would be better or more significant to you in your room and system and for your tastes is an unknown.  I just wanted to bring the sub option up as another possibility you’d probably want to implement at some point anyway because two subs are just flat-out better than one.  If it was me I think I’d add a second F12 first (used if possible) and live with that for a while and see what that does for you, plus it’s much cheaper and may delay “the itch” to upgrade further for a while.  Plus, and as I mentioned earlier, you’ll likely wanna add a second sub anyway at some point so why not just start there?  Honestly, I don’t think you can go wrong either way, so it really comes down to a matter of budget and priorities. 

All that said and because I’m very good at making things more complicated, here’s a nice used H390 at a good discount that you could try, and if it doesn’t provide significant improvements you can just turn around and sell it for little/no loss. 

And to make matters even more complicated, here’s an F12G SE for sale as well.  

You must really hate me at this point, and I wouldn’t blame you. If I was to try to put lipstick on this pig I’d say you could buy both these used pieces for less than a new H390 alone with relatively little risk if either or both don’t blow you away.  Ok, I’ll leave you alone now but hope this at least gives you some useful things to think about. 

Hegal is just coming out, with the New 600 so I imagine the newer better smaller version will be out too.

You have pass labs, and Luxman ,as well as Ayre .

the assembly in China with the Hegel totally turned me off  when I was  found that out a couple years ago  the above don’t have a inner dac but higher quality layout inside  imo.

@audioman58 I agree with you on that. How do you compare say vintage sansui or pioneers (ofcourse without the dac) vs Hegel or amps today rather in general? Do you think they (vintage) amps still stand a chance knowing not much has evolved in terms of "amplification" over the years.

@soix thanks much Soix that was quite an indepth recommendation. I think I might consider starting with a second sub but do you think a second sub would make that much of a difference when the lower frequencies are directionless anyways? I am anyways not using the Hegel DAC. I am using CS4398 in my SA8005 Marantz SACD player and send analog over to Hegel except when I do stream Spotify which is very occasionally. Also as I just asked Audioman above, do you think giving Vintage amps a shot is also a good idea esp when Sansui also used feedforward mechanism that Hegel essentially employs in its amps? 


No vintage equipment can go toe to toe with the New Hegel integrated amps ,

pits very respectable , my only knock is that they assemble in China ,no need for Thst just to make much bigger profit ,

Luxman don’t ,or Pass Labs and the  Krell 300i is excellent  I forgot 

and my dealer gave my friend a good deal on his  for under $8k a great piece of engineering.and made in U.S.A.

thanks @audioman58 makes sense. I will try them out and keep you guys posted. Luxman and Pass are indeed very sought after if price is ofcourse not the concern. The build quality speaks for itself.

+1 on a second sub either way, as @soix has stated.  

but do you think a second sub would make that much of a difference when the lower frequencies are directionless anyways?

This is sort of true.  Very very low bass can be directionless.  Try this: stand in your room, close your eyes, and point to the sub.  You can pick out a single sub almost every time.  Having two subs allows the integration to be almost seamless.  I am a REL fan, but you can integrate most subs easily.  First, set each sub's phase for maximum bass response.  They may be different  Then, set the sub volume where you can hear it,  and adjust the low frequencies until they just disappear.  Then turn down the volume until you can barely hear it.  do this one at a time; you may need to go back and forth a bit.  Properly adjusted, not only will the bass fill in the lows, it will more effectively support the soundstage and improve the midrange of your speakers. And they will disappear much more readily.  At least this all did for me.  You may even find experimenting with different sub positions helps.  

@fastfreight I guess I should try that with one sub like you advised and then get the second one as advised. I never thought of adjustment in that sense ever honestly.

Do not confuse speaker "rated" power with what you need.  Do they play loud enough for you?  Any hint of clipping on a loud transient? Cymbal crash etc? Be realistic in the peak level you actually play at. Movie special effects or symphony front row?  WHO concert level?  ( For the latter case you probably have hearing damage and it does not matter) 

You can get an idea by using various on-line calculators that input speaker efficiency, listening distance, desired overhead, etc.  Decent understanding, but it does not take into account the effective impedance, and hence current requirement due to phase vs impedance.  Some speakers, like the Keff R3 are absolutely brutal and bigger power is needed.

I run my bookshelves in a large room with a 60W MOSFET with a HUGE power supply and filter bank.  For fun, I tried my Schiit REKKR  (2W) and it did folk music just fine. I also tried my workshop amp, FOSI V3 which is in reality about 30W and it fell on it's face, not for power, but for load variance issues. Well, it is an $80 amp!

You can also give the Hegel power supply some breathing room by putting a good correctly sized cap in-line with the amp input.  Depending on input impedance, give a 20 Hz first order roll-off.  This will help with reducing compression from transients, though the Hegel does have a decent power supply. Far more critical on a Rotel or something where the forgot about putting in filter caps.

I also support multiple subs. Not for power, punch, or distortion, but for smoothing out the room nodes.  A single 12 will play loud enough to bust your ear drums. It is smoothing the response that matters. 

Any wavelength smaller than the box dimension is basically omnidirectional.  Just to be clear. 


FORGET all that, and dump the 160 to me for a couple hundred bucks  and buy a 1000W Crown :)    

I have the Focal 1008Be Electra’s as well.  I drive them with a 40 WPC AEC/Cary tube amp/preamp and they sound wonderful, in my opinion.  Focal’s are fairly efficient.   

I have tried them with up to 225 WPC amps and unless I’m trying to have a VERY loud concert, I find that I don’t need anything more than the 40 WPC tubes.  They are magical with the tubes.  In addition, I do use a separate sub with them.

Cheers, from The Woodlands, Texas

I had the H160,360, and H190 at the same time and loved the 190, but bought the 360 for the big power rating...The 160 is an older dac and you would hear the difference moving to the h190. I bought a project pre s2 digital to get hi rez streaming from my h360 and saved some money. 

As they say, and from my own personal experience, you can never have enough head-room.  Not to mention the much improved sound quality you'll experience.  So yes, absolutely, go with the H390, as it will "Knock your socks off.".