Hardware Reviews

Hegel H190v streaming amp for vinyl lovers

Hegel H190v streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net/

Hegel H190v streaming amplifier

Having secured the very first UK review sample of the Hegel’s new H190v (v for vinyl), the immediate observation is that a moving magnet phono stage has been added and so we have an additional pair of RCA connectors alongside a ground tag on the rear panel. Other than that it’s cosmetically identical except that this one is in matte black whereas my reference H190 is white. That’s coming soon for the revised design although I think I prefer the black, it’s more discreet.

Hegel’s history

This revised H190v is the latest in a long line of electronics from a company started back in 1988 when Bent Holter, a student at the Technical University in Trondheim, decided to do a thesis on the original design of the audio transistor. The aim being to cure the problems of traditional hi-fi systems. Enemy number one was distortion. Holter could not accept the fact that when we supply a simple signal to an amplifier, the output reproduces that signal plus distortion. From those humble beginnings Hegel was born, outgrew its first factory and moved to new premises as a sales, R&D and technology centre with production undertaken in China although carefully controlled from Oslo.

Hegel H190v streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net/

Design and features

The H190 might be the company’s best-selling product of all time but it was getting rather long in the tooth and needed some kind of a refresh, if only for marketing purposes. Mine dates from the summer of 2019 and has served me well ever since, being my go-to for reviewing mid-price loudspeakers. A firmware update made the H190 Roon Ready and upgraded to Airplay 2, the new variant continues to offer the same as well as UPnP, Spotify Connect, IP Control and TV remote features.

The key difference is the addition of a moving magnet phono stage; not any MM circuitry though, but a scaled-down version of the one from Hegel’s much-acclaimed V10 phono stage. I’ve heard comments that moving coil users have not been catered for but, frankly, it would be too problematic to incorporate an MC stage into an integrated amplifier. Noise and interference issues make the idea a non-starter, notably in proximity to the large toroidal transformer not to mention the high-gain power devices, and Hegel has been wise to offer it only in the separate V10 which sits in its own enclosure for isolation, and relies on a separate power supply. It also has customisation options, via DIP switches, for gain and impedance.

The inclusion of an MM input on the H190v was a shrewd one and was done, I was told “because we wanted to see if we could; as in, could it manage the performance we wanted”. Having got it to work, and work well I might add, Hegel now want to test the market to see how the idea is received as it’s something of a departure from their norm. In reality this is a massive step for a brand that, originally, didn’t want a turntable input in its amplifiers at all. But, once the stand-alone phono stage appeared, I suppose it was only a matter of time.

Hegel H190v streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net/

Otherwise, the new H190v has the same features, digital, preamp and output stage circuitry as my original. It boasts Hegel’s SoundEngine amplification system (now in Mk2 form) which was created to combine the advantages of Class AB and Class A circuitry in one: the raison d’etre being to provide high power alongside a low signal-to-noise ratio by concentrating all engineering on the sound quality aspect of the design. This is all housed in a solid steel chassis featuring a thick aluminium front with aluminium knobs that can generate 150W of Class-AB (into 8 Ohms).

Externally, the H190v design remains sleek and the uncrowded fascia contains just two controls (input selection and volume) with a central display and a full-fat headphone socket. The power switch is neatly located out of sight, below the left-hand dial although this now operates as on/stand-by whereas the original was on/off, shutting down the circuitry rather than ‘putting it to sleep’.

At the rear we are presented with the plethora of inputs and outputs to suit almost every conceivable need in this increasingly digital world. There is also an RJ45 ethernet port for network connection (essential for streaming since Hegel eschews wi-fi and Bluetooth because of the sound degradation they can cause). With one coaxial and three optical digital inputs as well as USB connection, the back panel also houses a balanced analogue input as well as an unbalanced one via RCA sockets. There are both fixed and variable RCA line-level outputs plus speaker terminals accepting spades, banana plugs or bare wire. The new phono stage sees an additional pair of RCA connectors plus a chunky ‘ground’ terminal alongside.

Hegel H190v streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net/

As standard, the H190v is supplied with Hegel’s heavyweight (literally) remote handset although with ageing eyesight, I have to say I prefer the slimmer plastic version where the buttons are bigger, available from Hegel dealers as an accessory. Alternatively, the amplifier can be commanded by common TV remotes. Other features permit the maximum volume to be limited and most of the inputs to be fixed as bypasses for home theatre use with surround receivers or multiroom devices. There is also IP control for smart home integration with the likes of Control4, Crestron and Savant.


The internal circuits are mostly as they were in the original H190, using a negative feedback technology, the signal is monitored in real time; should unexpected distortion be detected it is elegantly phased out. I have always found the H190 to be just as quiet as it is powerful.

The H190v retains the earlier version’s high damping factor of over 4,000 (so, 2,000 per channel) which is considerably higher than many amplifiers. Over-damping certainly benefits bass response in my experience. The key electronics remain assembled on two circuit boards, one for analogue and the other devoted to digital circuitry and dubbed Sound Card by Hegel. This is built in-house using a Libre Wireless DSP module and includes Hegel’s own implementation of Airplay and a proprietary USB interface. My experience, and comparison with several other streaming amplifiers, is that Hegel’s execution of Airplay 2 is far superior and they work closely with contacts at Apple to ensure this remains so.

An accidental sound

What turned out to be key changes were tweaks by Hegel’s founder and chief designer Bent Holter to the preamp and DAC power supplies so that the new MM phono stage worked better. He reduced noise and interference but didn’t think to make special mention of this at the time. When fellow engineers and other staff listened, they noted how well the new designed worked with a turntable but then started to comment that it seemed to sound a lot better overall, even with digital inputs and while streaming. Bent then casually mentioned that he’d upgraded the power supplies for the sake of the phono stage and, quite by chance, this was found to produce sonic benefits across all inputs.

Hegel H190v streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net/

Sound quality

All the reports I’ve heard is that it works extremely well with an MM cartridge on a turntable, is very quiet and offers a rich, open sound. That input stage has sufficient gain for use with MC cartridges possessing high output voltage, alternatively any MC can be used with a suitable step-up transformer. For me, the digital and streaming operation and sound quality were of paramount importance since I’d got to know the old H190 so well over several years of daily use. I began with the new model hooked up to the new Morel Avyra 633 three-way floor-standers which generate such a lifelike presentation.

As my feet tappd away to Dire Straits Your Latest Trick (Brothers in Arms), my immediate thought was that the refreshed model has a tighter bass with better definition. The improvement is subtle but definite nonetheless. Michael Brecker’s saxophone work sounded so realistic it was as if the performer was there, in front of me. The track’s glorious sound was conveyed with such emotion and feeling it felt like the artist was performing just for me. The sublime horn work is among the best ever in a pop song, and the hairs on the back of my neck tingled during the opening trumpet line as it segued into that phenomenal a saxophone break. Wow!

Listening as I do to a lot of human voice, arguably the most important part of the audio spectrum for me is midrange and I’m rather susceptible to the response. Now I had the H190v coupled to my trusty Revival Atalante 3 monitors which are so capable and so natural-sounding. Here, the H190v is more open and transparent than the original amplifier, which itself was capable of creating a glorious midband. The improvement is not chalk and cheese, but it’s audible and helps to make this studio recording even more lifelike and devoid of any unpleasant coloration.

Hegel H190v streaming amplifier review https://the-ear.net/

Switching to an ‘80s classic in Sky’s Tocatta as classical goes pop, the H190v retains all of the open, detailed and clean treble response of the older design which has stood the test of time so well. The presentation is engaging and lively with superb resolution. Again, my feet were tapping as the mighty Morels seemed to relish this new amp partner, the pair producing sheer exhilaration as the talented musicians use essence of the original Baroque composition to dramatic effect. The way they so masterfully use modern rock instruments to generate a tight, exciting, 4½-minute rollercoaster ride was so involving, so enjoyable. Certainly, the H190v offers us more than the H190 ever could.


By all accounts the new phono stage can be counted as a real success story. I’ve heard it now a few times and, while not a turntable user myself, appreciate that it will open the product to a new market segment. It’s been questioned why Hegel has not done this before since their first phono preamp succeeds on all levels; especially as it has increased the final price by only £50 but provides much more added value.

I’m continuing to badger Bent and his engineers to incorporate internet radio into the products so that I can have a truly single-box audio solution. Meanwhile, the H190v is certain to find many new friends among vinyl aficionados while continuing to offer the wonderful digitally-based solution that it did before in its old guise. In new, as in old form, this is a fine amplifier which achieves so much, so well. A thorough and hearty recommendation is therefore commended to try the H190v for yourself.


Type: Integrated streaming amplifier with DAC
Analogue inputs: 2x RCA single-ended, XLR balanced, MM phono
Digital inputs: coax S/PDIF, 3x optical S/PDIF, USB, RJ45
Streaming: Airplay, Roon Ready, Spotify Connect, UPnP
Streaming formats: MP3, WAV, FLAC, ALAC, AAC, PCM, Ogg
Outputs: unbalanced RCA fixed and variable
Speaker outputs: binding posts
Headphone amp: 6.3mm jack
Rated output power: 150W into 8 Ohms
Supplied accessories: IR remote control
Dimensions H x W x D: 120 x 430 x 410mm
Weight: 14.2kg
Warranty: 2 years parts and labour

Price when tested:
Manufacturer Details:

Hegel Music System AS
T +47 2260 5660


streaming amplifier


Trevor Butler

Distributor Details:

Auden Distribution
T 07917 685 759

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