Streaming with the Hegel H390

I recently acquired an H390; pairing it with Wilson Sabrinas. I stream directly with the H390. It works seamlessly with all the working parts in one unit. Frankly, I can't imagine getting more for what I spent. 

While the digital setup in the H390 is top notch, I have noticed that many of the reviews of the H390 pairs it with a separate streamer/DAC. So my question is, at what level of upgrade would it be worth the squeeze to just let the H390 be an amp and invest in a separate streamer/DAC?

Thank you for your input.



depends very much how you are sending the source signal to the h390 dac... and alternative streamer/dac setup

Good choice with the Sabrina! My only problem with the onboard streaming/airplay is the airplay implementation is AP 1. Minor thing, but does make a difference. Otherwise the on board DAC is hard to beat.

When we add a stand alone dac we add a power supply and  another pair of coax cables. I tried a project s2 digital with my h360 to get full mqa capability but the h390 already has it.

The DAC in the H390 is good.  I had a 390 briefly and have a 590 I use frequently.  I have had issues with Airplay and it constantly dropping.  I assume you aren't using Airplay.  How are you getting a signal to it currently?

There are much better external DACs that will deliver better staging and will be more detailed.  They are not inexpensive though.  I would put the on-board DAC in the same league as the Chord Qutest or Questyle CMA 12.  Good DACs but you can do better in terms of staging and/or detail. 

A big part is budget and then what do you think might be missing with what you are hearing now?


scott, i think they just released the firmware update for 390 & 590 for roon readiness... (i don't have either anymore so i can't be 100% certain myself, but i have read this on the fb groups for hegel) --- so one doesn't need to fuss with airplay garbage streaming straight into the big hegels

@jjss49 That would be great.  I know the 190 was Roon ready earlier in the year but couldn't find an update on 390 and 590.  I hope you are right. I am experimenting with two DACs right now (Jadis JS1 MKV and the Playback MPS-6) and am curious how the Hegel will handle these elite DACs vs. the other amps I have around.  Will probably get my 590 out tomorrow for testing.   

The 120 and 190 got the Roon ready update early March, but unfortunately nothing yet for the 390 or 590. Hopefully soon. 

I had and enjoyed the H390, and currently have Wilson Tunetots, though not both at the same time.  If I had put to a $ figure on the performance of the DAC and streamer sections of the H390 I'd say about $1k and $500, respectively.  They are pretty good as part of an all-in-one solution but you can certainly do better.  The nice thing about the H390/590 is the DAC loop feature, so you can upgrade just the DAC for now and feed it from the H390's streamer via BNC, then have the option to upgrade to an external streamer later.  Don't skimp on the digital cable though.

It's a wide world of digital out there.  On the "lower" end of upgrades for the H390 I like the MHDT Orchid DAC and SOtM sMS-200ultra streamer.  I also used it with a dCS Paganini DAC and Network Bridge, which was better overall to my ears, though not as rich sounding.  I think your speakers can really take advantage of what a higher end DAC has to offer, namely soundstage depth and inner detail, and the H390 will deliver those attributes.

Generally, based on my extensive experience, stand alone DACs always seem to out perform integrated DACs.  I use an Ayre Acoustic QX-5 Twenty DAC with my Hegel H390 with stunning results.  Using the internal DAC that came with a component is usually, as with you, a cost saving measure.       

I also have the H390 and used the USB input from my Innuos Zenith/PhoenixUSB source quite happily for a year or so.

However, I had the itch to upgrade, so took a risk on the Denafrips Pontus 12th DAC, plus Cardas Clear Reflection XLR and an old Ecosse power cable.  

Having thoroughly allowed the DAC to settle I have been doing a little AB comparison, and can confirm that the Denafips is a step-up from the Hegel's internal DAC.  Deeper bass, more resolution and detail without fatigue are the most obvious benefits.

Of course, the combined cost of the Pontus and Cardas is not insignificant, and I could quite happily have lived with the H390 by itself.   

Another consideration here is the new big brother, the H600 which early reviews indicate it has a much improved DAC.  Comparing the H390 and DAC with the H600 without external DAC would be interesting

DACs rely almost entirely upon a persons cognitive dissonance to perform, thats why the recommendations get better and better as they go up in price.  If you really want to find out for yourself buy a few streamers and DAC models at various price points off Amazon.  Make sure they are models that offer free returns and have yourself a big old shootout.  Load up the analog inputs on the 390 so you can test a few at the same time. With free shipping there’s no risk or cost and you can decide for yourself rather then rely on someone else’s opinion.