Hegel HD20 DAC

The Hegel HD20 DAC is notable for its performance - the compact case is made of metal with a significant margin of safety. The front panel has only the company logo and display - all switching is done with a miniature remote control.

The rear panel has a jack for a standard power cable, power supply toggle switch and a set of inputs and outputs. The first ones are represented by a USB socket (type B), an optical TOSLink and a pair of coaxial ones. The latter are a stereo line pair on RCA and balanced XLR. The HD20 has no alternative digital interfaces, including wireless interfaces.

The digital path is built on a 24-bit chip, which also has a digital volume control. The converter accepts data via USB at sampling rates up to 96 kHz, and via the SP/DIF protocol up to 192 kHz. The analog section is not simple. It has a bandwidth of 0 (!) to 50,000 Hz. The distortions do not exceed 0.0007%, and the noise level is just on the verge of possible - 140 dB! The stuffing of the converter is powered by an internal system, which is rather typical for some kind of amplifier - with a massive toroidal transformer and 30000 uF capacitors.

Do you know the feeling when playing everything starts to seem much weightier, clearer and more significant than usual? That's the same big-system effect the Hegel HD20 gives you. The bass is massive but fast, with an exemplary and dynamic attack. The midrange impresses with transparency, detail and clarity. Just a little harsh on the top, but such a radiantly chiming character of the treble even suits the musical treatment the Norwegian converter offers. It is as if he prints every sound. Every image in the scene is a monument. The corporeality is extraordinary.

However, the super sharpness, including the spatiality, is still tiresome. An hour of listening flies by in the same breath, and then you begin to notice that there is not much plasticity in the bass aftershocks. The middle register lacks a little bit of soulfulness and tenderness - especially in conveying subtle details. About the upper register everything is said above.

Maybe when you switch to USB, the Hegel will show its euphony? It does, but only in part. The midrange is a bit smoother. The nature of the reproduction of higher frequencies changes - more air, less dynamic tension. But at the same time, the microdynamic pattern becomes a bit impoverished in the treble. The sound becomes simpler, while the HD20 retains its trademark power in the low register. The result can be described as this: rough, but extremely intelligible.

Hegel HD20 DAC photo