To Hans Wetzel,
I read your review on the KEF R900. I currently have the R700s. I noted your praise of the synergy with the Hegel Music Systems H300 integrated amplifier-DAC. I am considering purchasing Hegel's H20 amp for my system. Can I do any better than this for the money?
While I don't have experience with Hegel's H20, which was reviewed on our sister site SoundStage! Hi-Fi back in 2011, I do have several comments. The first thing is that the H20 costs $5750. The H300 that I reviewed last year, and subsequently bought for myself as a long-term reference, is $5500. It's also worth mentioning that the H300 makes 250Wpc to the H20's 200Wpc. Of primary importance, however, is that the H300 has a newer architecture than the H20, and Hegel's folks have told me the H300's performance is scarily close to their flagship H30 monoblock amplifier and P30 preamplifier, both of which are way more expensive than the H20. This is to say nothing of the built-in DAC that has performance approaching that of Hegel's flagship $2500 HD25. Having heard the P20 preamplifier, which is $2900 and wickedly good for the price, I'm pretty confident in saying that the H300 is a bargain and seriously worth considering over "just" purchasing an H20. While there may be a few benefits to having a standalone amplifier, I think they're eclipsed by everything else that falls in the H300's favor.
Can you do better? Yes, though probably not for the same money. I can't categorically say it's better than its direct competitors, because I've only briefly listened to a few of them. Peachtree Audio's $4499 Grand Integrated X-1 comes to mind, as does Electrocompaniet's $7499 ECI 6DS. But I harbor great suspicion that either of them have quite the performance of the Hegel. What is close-ish in price to the Hegel, and likely state of the art, is Devialet's new $6495 110. It has a good deal less power than the Hegel, at 110Wpc into 6 ohms, but the R700s are a reasonably easy speaker to drive, provided you're not looking to earn noise complaints from your neighbors. I wrote about their new line recently, and -- fingers crossed -- am due to receive a review sample of the 110 in the near future. It's worth mentioning that I don't say "state of the art" lightly. No one makes an audio product like the Devialet with its Analog Digital Hybrid (ADH) architecture. If you have a dedicated audio system, I'd seriously think about saving up for the Devialet. If, like me, your stereo pulls double duty with a television and all its connected devices, the extra power and connective flexibility of the Hegel might make some more sense. In either event, these integrated solutions are the way of the future. . . . Hans Wetzel