I grew up with records being my only gateway into music and perhaps because of that I have an affection for vinyl replay which has never waned. Since those heady days of the 1960s we have seen many different carriers come (and in many cases) go – cassette, Minidisc and variations on the compact disc to name a few – and yet records are still with us. The last time I visited our local chain record store (in that brief lull between lockdowns) they seemed to have given over more space than ever to records while reducing that given to other formats. This ‘vinyl revival’ has given the manufacturers of audio equipment sufficient incentive to add more vinyl-centric items to their catalogues, which is great news. The Norwegian phenomenon that is Hegel have now joined in with their V10 phono amplifier and it is (spoiler alert!) an absolute cracker.
Following in the company’s unfussy design ethos, this a very straightforward, functional and easy to use piece of equipment. As you can see from the pictures, it has a low profile case, with nothing on the front fascia but a power button, a white LED and the Hegel logo. The back panel is much busier, and packed with high quality sockets and two sets of dip switches for the user to configure the V10 to match with the chosen cartridge. There are balanced XLR outputs or RCA options available, alongside RCA input sockets for both MM and MC cartridges.
Carrying on with dual-mono approach, the dedicated power supply is fitted with a Y-type output, with sockets for both the left and right channels. Hegel have designed the V10 so that the internal power is separated as much as possible from the dedicated audio components and this pays dividends in the inky black silence from the loudspeakers when the V10 is selected as the source.
When the V10 arrived it coincided with the installation of a new Dynavector XX2 cartridge on my Linn Ittok arm, so I spent a happy week running in both units at the same time. I set the dip switches for values recommended in the Dynavector user guide, and felt no need to change those original settings. They worked really well and even with my ear right up to one of the loudspeakers there was absolutely no noise from the V10. To begin with I connected the V10 to my Lyngdorf TDA1-3400 amplifier’s analogue input via XLR cables.
I know it is totally counter-intuitive, but I love the way vinyl sounds through the all-digital Lyngdorf. Music flows effortlessly and loses none of the rich immediacy which I so enjoy when listening to my record collection. With V10 playing, and, in the first instance, a pair of Dynaudio Special Forty stand mount loudspeakers attached to the amplifier, I found myself getting totally drawn in to the music, playing both (or sometimes all four) sides of the albums in my play-stack. The soundstage created was tall, wide and deep and immersed me in that wonderful sensation of being there when the music was recorded. It didn’t matter what genre of music I chose, I worked through ‘60s and ‘70s rock and jazz/fusion, from artist including the Allman Brothers Band, the Animals, the Beach Boys, the Beatles, Cream, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Colosseum… you get the picture. I played some classic jazz from Dave Brubeck and Miles Davis, some classical on Decca and DG and all sorts of other stuff. The replay system simply got out of the way and allowed me to luxuriate in the music.
What does the V10 not do? Well it does not try to mask physical imperfections on the record – some of my collection was purchased when I was a schoolboy in the 1960s and despite cleaning and mollycoddling a few pops and crackles have found their way into the grooves. The V10 does not exaggerate them but nor does it hide them. Similarly, poor pressings are heard for what they are. But when everything in the chain is as good as it can be, the V10 will simply sing.
During the second week of the V10’s time on my Quadraspire XL rack, another piece of Hegel arrived in the form of the H390 integrated amplifier and DAC, which duly usurped the Lyngdorf’s central role in the system. I am going to review the H390 separately in The Ear but suffice it to say here that I urge anyone who has already acquired any of Hegel’s amplifiers and who wants to play vinyl, to put the V10 at the top of any shortlist of phono stages. Unsurprisingly this is a perfect combination, and was one with which I would very happily live with for the rest of my days.
At this point I switched out the Dynaudio loudspeakers for my own Harbeth C7ES XDs on their HiFi Racks Fortis stands and I am happy to report that this combination worked at least well as the Special Forty pair had done, with that characteristic mid-band magic of the Harbeths very much in evidence.
Once I had got a couple of hundred hours of play on the Dynavector XX2, things seemed to take another significant move forward. Bass extension seemed to improve, as did the sense of air in the highest frequencies. This was music making at a very high level. I am sure that there are plenty of other wonderful systems out there which would give the listener that ineffable sense of ‘rightness’, but it is still a thrill for me when the music takes on that transcendental aura which seems to make time stand still. I wish you could have been with me to experience this when I played Pink Floyd’s Echoes, the masterpiece that makes up side two of Meddle, for example.
At its price point, the V10 is certainly not short of some seriously capable competition but I would confidently predict that it would more than hold its own against most of them. It is well-built, it looks good, it is easy to configure to suit pretty much any cartridge and above all, it sounds absolutely terrific. It is an easy piece of kit to love and a very easy one to recommend whole-heartedly.