• SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh Laboratory MA252 Integrated Amplifier (November 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Hegel H90 and H190 Integrated Amplifiers (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - How Hegel's SoundEngine Works (October 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight  - Estelon History and YB and Extreme Loudspeakers (September 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - What Makes Hegel Different? (August 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Estelon Extreme Legacy Edition Loudspeaker (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Amphion Overview and Technologies (July 2017)
  • SoundStage! Insight - Totem Acoustic Signature One Loudspeaker (June 2017)
  • SoundStage! Encore - The Cowboy Junkies'
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Anthem's STR Integrated Amplifier (May 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Paradigm's Perforated Phase Alignment (PPA) Lenses (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Paradigm's Persona 9H Loudspeaker (March 2017)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Contrasts: Dynaudio's Contour and Focus XD Speaker Lines (February 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - New Technologies in MartinLogan's Masterpiece Series
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Dynaudio/Volkswagen Car Audio (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Gryphon Philosophy and the Kodo and Mojo S Speakers (January 2017)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- What's a Tonmeister? (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - AxiomAir N3 Wireless Speaker System (December 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Bang & Olufsen BeoLab 90 (November 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Gryphon Diablo 120 Integrated Amplifier (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Dynaudio History and Driver Technology (October 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - The Story How Gryphon Began (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - Devialet History, ADH Technology, and Expert 1000 Pro (September 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - Devialet's Phantom Loudspeakers (August 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh Home Theater and Streaming Audio (July 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - McIntosh MC275 Stereo Amplifier (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - McIntosh History and Autoformer Technology (June 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - NAD Viso HP50 Headphones (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - GoldenEar Technology's Anechoic Chamber (May 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts - PSB's M4U 4 Earphones (April 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight - GoldenEar Technology's Triton Two+ and Three+ Loudspeakers (March 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- KEF's LS50 (February 2016)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio's Platinum II Series (January 2016)
  • SoundStage! Shorts -- Pryma 0|1 Headphones (December 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF's Blade Two Loudspeaker (November 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- KEF and the Uni-Q (October 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Monitor Audio Acoustics & Aesthetics (August 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- PSB's Imagine T3 Loudspeaker (June 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- Hegel's H160 Integrated Amplifier-DAC (April 2015)
  • SoundStage! InSight -- MartinLogan's Neolith Loudspeaker (February 2015)

To Hans Wetzel,

I see that you own the Hegel Music Systems H300, which has a built-in DAC. I'm trying to decide if I want an integrated amplifier with a DAC built into it or if I should buy an external DAC. Since you own the H300, I'd like to know your thoughts.

Thank you in advance,
Jerry

Jerry, there used to be a time that integrated amplifiers were looked down upon by most audiophiles. I don't think there was ever a good argument for why this was, but I suspect it was a status thing -- someone who bought an integrated was too poor or ill-informed to buy conventionally excellent separates. These days, I think that stigma has largely vanished, and with good reason. It's because integrated amps usually sound just as good as the separates on which they're based, while costing less money.

In the Hegel's case, $5500 for just the amp and preamp in the H300 strikes me as very reasonable. Having a built-in DAC tips the package into "flaming bargain" territory. Yet the DAC section of the H300 is hardly an afterthought. I was told by folks from Hegel that its quality exceeds that of Hegel's $2000 HD20, and comes close to matching the performance of Hegel's flagship $2500 HD25. Jeff Fritz recently reviewed that DAC on our sister site, Ultra Audio, and found it held its own against far more expensive gear. In my experience, the H300's DAC is very good, and combined with the amp and preamp section, make it an easy recommendation.

But you sound like you may be considering other integrated amps that may or may not have a built-in DAC. Here's what I'll say: Most companies have a certain type of sound that pervades their various product lines. If you like a certain sound, and can find an integrated-DAC that fits your desires, I say go for it. However, if you want to strike a balance between, say, the musicality of a Musical Fidelity product and the sheer resolving power of a Hegel DAC, then buying a separate DAC makes sense. For many this kind of "system tuning" is what hi-fi is all about. For me, I want the best balance between maximum utility and maximum sound quality. Hegel's H300 just so happened to fit the bill for me. . . . Hans Wetzel