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Comparing Hegel H160 and Supernait 2

Discussion in 'audio' started by Shuggie, May 18, 2016.

  1. Shuggie

    Shuggie pfm Member

    I was lucky to buy a Hegel H160 from Banjoman of this parish last year, and I've been very much enjoying it ever since. Then, an urge to try a Naim Supernait 2 became unbearable, and I managed to buy a lovely example from another PFM member. The last couple of weeks has been largely spent listening to both, and comparing their respective sound and music making abilities, mainly using a Naim DAC-V1 as the source, fed via USB (through an Intona isolator) from a custom PC running JRiver 17. Analogue source is a Kenwood KD-990 with 10" Jelco arm, Miyajima Shilabe cartridge, Audio Note AN-S3H SUT, and either ANT Kora 3T SE or Paul Hynes Design Veron Concert phono amps. Speakers are KEF LS50s. Cables are mostly Epiphany Acoustics Atratus III with a bit of NVA SSC thrown in, and Belkin PureAV speaker cables.

    The Hegel H160 is an immediately likeable amplifier, having a muscular and fruity presentation that is plain lovely. It has bags of power, and my only complaints are that 2 sets of analogue RCA inputs is a bit mean, and the onboard DAC and headphone facility are OK, but definitely shown a clean pair of heels by the Naim DAC-V1. I cannot imagine anyone listening to the H160 in isolation being anything but impressed and satisfied - it really is a lovely sounding thing that gives you a big, musical hug.

    Initially, the Supernait 2 grated, and I did wonder if I'd stumbled upon the old Naim sonic character. Then, a bit of mains work to renew all the wall sockets on the upstairs ring seemed to have a positive effect (on both amps, probably because a couple of the bundles of wires to the old sockets were in fact loose). Whether the improvement is a true effect, or just an artefact of my imagination, the Supernait 2 has acquired a more agreeable tone - not quite as cuddly and fruity as the Hegel, but definitely more expressive and with a noticeably more immersive soundstage, which really surprised me. Listening to classical music (as I do mostly), the Naim draws me into the performances in a way that the Hegel does not, to the same extent.

    It really is difficult to choose between these two amplifiers. The Hegel always pleases, but having tasted the Supernait's strengths the H160's omissions have become more noticeable. The Supernait has bags of inputs and more than enough power to stoke up the LS50s, is undemanding in terms of operation, plus its headphone amp is a good'un. In an ideal world I would keep both amps, and use whichever suited my mood; and I will keep both for the time being just to be sure, but at the moment I am edging towards keeping the Naim. A few days ago I would have said quite the opposite.

    Perhaps I should subject them both to the ultimate test - the Quad 57s!
     
  2. schneller

    schneller pfm Member

    Thanks for posting. I very much appreciate Hegel vs. NAIM comparisons as a SuperNait2 owner. Hegel has a great reputation. Please post more observations.
     
  3. RossB

    RossB Member

    Yes, thanks for this. I would also be interested in more observations of the differences. I recently bought a Supernait 2 but was also considering the Hegel H160, although I didn't get to hear one.

    I also found that the SN2 took a few days to sound good. When I first connected it, it sounded dire, with a hard, monochrome, 2 dimensional sound. I thought I had made a big mistake. But over the next few days it smoothed out, deepened in every way and became more colourful, and I would imagine it would get better over the next few months.

    When you describe the Hegel as "cuddly and fruity", what exactly do you mean? Does it sound warmer and more colourful? I assume from your comments that the SN2 is more dynamic ...?
     
  4. Tim Jones

    Tim Jones pfm Member

    Thanks from me too. I actively faced the same choice about six months ago. The SN2 won out, partly because of a bit of brand loyalty on my part, but also because I found it had a kind of 'hear-in' characteristic that I really liked, and, while the internal DAC is apparently well regarded, I wasn't sure I could accommodate the Hegel's paucity of analogue inputs.

    I do think that my SN2 has genuine synergies with the Harbeth C7s that I'm currently using and am a very happy bunny with the outcome.
     
  5. Shuggie

    Shuggie pfm Member

    Yes, being simplistic, the Hegel does have a warmer and more colourful sound than the Supernait 2, but the gap has narrowed with use (probably due to my getting used to the SN). I would rate both very highly in terms of dynamics, but the Naim definitely portrays musical nuances and performances in a more interesting way.

    For someone wanting a powerful, fuss-free integrated amp with a smooth, cultured sound, I'd definitely recommend the Hegel.
     
  6. isapell

    isapell pfm Member

    I don't know the SN2, but I did go from a 202/200 and power supplies combination to the Hegel 160 and the move transformed my listening experience for the better in every respect. I assume that this is because my speakers (Shahinian Obelisk Mk 1s) are rather power hungry and the Naim was simply not up to the job. I would therefore advise anyone with difficult speakers to make sure they audition the Hegel before deciding between the two.
     
  7. Clay B

    Clay B pfm Member


    I have Shahinian 1's as well and you are spot on with regard to them being power hungary. I'm not surprised that you found the Hegel better suited. It's a lovely amp. If power is not a factor, I find both the Hegel and the Supernait 2 to both be exceptional with choice being a matter of taste and synergy with associated equipment.
     
  8. Shuggie

    Shuggie pfm Member

    The previous owner of my H160 has Shahinians and only moved up to the H360 because of their power needs.

    I'd agree totally with your last sentence.
     
  9. banjoman

    banjoman pfm Member

    The Hegel amps were quite a revelation with my Obelisks. I tried a whole range of amps including a full set of Dynavector combos which sounded great. But the Hegel H160 really opened up the sound with a wonderful clarity and the best bass control I've experienced . The H360 takes things a bit further but to be honest the H160 comes very close indeed.
    I have had moments when I've found the H360 a bit too revealing and neutral for my taste (but never too harsh) with some digital music but most of the time it sounds just right. A bit of experimentation with DACs and even a Croft 25R as a pre is delivering very interesting results..
     
  10. Romulus

    Romulus pfm Member

    I was really interested to read your observations of the two different amplifiers. For my upgrade I want to audition the Hegel H160 and the Naim Supernait 2. In the past I used to own Naim gear (Nac92, Nap180 and CDX) so I do have a little experience of the Naim Sound. You say that the Supernait 2 has a more immersive soundstage, could you expand on that? I can only go on what I have read about the Hegel having a wide soundstage with airy room around the instruments and good resolution. Is the Naim portrayal of a soundstage more wider or is the Naim's portrayal of instruments and voices more realistic? To date do you still hold the same observations or have they changed? Basically my interest in music covers a lot of genres which amplifier would handle the best all genres? Thank you for your patience..!
     
  11. Shuggie

    Shuggie pfm Member

    The Hegel has a very 'wide' and perhaps slightly recessed soundstage, but the Naim's soundstage is more filled with musical detail. So, in that sense I would day that the Naim's soundstage is more realistic than the Hegel's. Whether voices and instruments are better portrayed by either probably comes down to personal preference, but my own preference is still leaning towards the Naim. Tonally, the Hegel is an 'easier' listen and it has an immediately likeable sound, so it's easy to recommend; however if you occasionally want to hear a bit of interplay between musicians, enjoy good musical timing, and have an idea of how an instrument is being played, the Naim is simply better. The downside is that any harsh or scratchy recordings will be rendered with those characteristics, but I would not say it has a cool or hard sound character, just that the Hegel is more forgiving.

    On a practical level, the Hegel amps are hindered by having very few analogue inputs (2 sets of RCA and one XLR), and bizarrely only one coaxial digital input. That would not matter so much if the Hegel's USB input was any good, but it's not, and easily the poorest element of the amp, so I find myself feeding the H160 digits via coaxial or from the Naim DAC-V1 over RCA analogue. So, with a turntable and the DAC, there is no free RCA input for a CD player. Contrast that with the Supernait2, which has loads of analogue inputs.
     
  12. ryder

    ryder pfm Member

    Interesting that the Supernait 2 sounds more exciting or enjoyable than the much touted Hegel H160.

    Good observation on the Naim's timing. The Naim surely excels in the timing area. I have tried/owned many amps in the past. When I bought my Harbeth speakers, I tried half a dozen amps to make the speakers work, and the Naims did it for me. The Harbeth sounded slow with all other amplifiers and didn't have the speed and rhythmic beat of the Naims. The LFD came close and sounded better than the Naim in certain areas (compared to the Nait XS) but I eventually went the Naim route by getting the NAC202/NAP200.

    Enjoy the Supernait 2. It is surely a great integrated and will sound stellar in the right system being Naim's top-of-the-range integrated amp. Many have picked the Supernait 2 to be a *better* sounding amp than the 202/200.

    A note on the scratchy, harsh or hard sound you are getting with the Supernait 2 (I am presuming only records and not CDs), you may want to check with others on the changes the Hicap DR will bring to the system. In my experience with the Dual Teddycap on my NAC202/NAP200, the PSU will eliminate the harshness or hardness by producing a sound that is smoother or organic. Sharp sibilants in voices, the "s" and "z" have been *smoothened* with the inclusion of the Teddycap. Not too sure about the Supernait 2, but I suspect a PSU may bring you in the right direction (or not) with the perceived harshness.
     
  13. Shuggie

    Shuggie pfm Member

    If the Supernait 2 wins this face-off with the H160, I will keep an eye on the used market for a HiCap DR.

    I should stress that I'm not getting a harsh sound from the Supernait 2, rather the Hegel has a 'smoother' voice. I reckon that the Hegel is the perfect solid state amp for valve users wanting less heat, lower electricity bills, and no fire risk.
     
  14. gary yeowell

    gary yeowell pfm Member

    I wouldn't bother with a HicapDR, your SN2 is just fine without one.
     
  15. Tim Jones

    Tim Jones pfm Member

    Agreed. I think what the OP is trying to say is that the SN2 is more revealing of harsher recordings. You shouldn't be having to spend a lot of £s to remedy that, unless you don't like a revealing amp...
     
  16. Patu

    Patu pfm Member

    If your speakers are easy load then SN2 works perfectly fine without HCDR. But if your speakers are difficult to drive and need lots of power from the amp, then HCDR truly improves the performance. This happened with my ATC SCM40v2 speakers. I unplugged the HCDR recently and lost tons of control and grip from the sound. Bass became loose and all over the place. With my old PMC 20.23, the difference was smaller since they were much easier load for the amp.

    Also about earlier when people said the SN2 needs some time to sound its best. That's true, a new unit can sound harsh and even fatiguing at times but after a proper burn in period, there's no sign of harshness or any elements causing fatigue in the sound. I bought mine new and had 3-4 weeks period when the sound changed from good to bad and vice versa. At times I even regretted going from SN to SN2. But when the sound finally settled, I knew that SN2 is on completely different level than the original SN. I'm very surprised that H160 sounds smoother but I guess this is possible.

    I've only heard the flagship model H360 at a local dealer paired up with the new flagship B&W floorstanders (it was the smaller model, 802 D3 IIRC) and after that a pair of Magico S1 Mk I. Source was laptop plugged in to the USB input of H360 and Tidal from the laptop. H360 definitely didn't sound as smooth or even remotely as musical than SN2. Very clean and pure sound but without the toe tapping effect and enthusiasm which Naim has. PRaT was much better with SN2 also even though I expected superb timing with this level of power but no.
     
  17. gary yeowell

    gary yeowell pfm Member

    I'd rather change the amp for a pre/power than put the HCDR on the SN2. I have not found a pair of speakers that stressed my SN2 enough to warrant changing it. I don't think the HCDR is much of an improvement at all, taken as an overall package. It is possible to gain some aspects of replay whilst diminishing others in certain systems.
     
  18. banjoman

    banjoman pfm Member

    Its true that the Hegel does have a very clean and neutral sound that may not be to everyone's taste but it is still quite smooth and very listenable overall. The problem might be the source into the USB input - I found the in-built DAC a bit too lean and clinical for my taste, but combined with a slightly fuller sounding external DAC like a Metrum, EE Minimax or a Hugo, it really does shine. With analogue inputs as well (using different phono stages), it sounds superb - more musical, detailed and smooth than any Naim amps I've had (including the original Supernait which I had)
     
  19. Romulus

    Romulus pfm Member

    Thank you for the above. You have a very good way of describing your observations. I get the impression that the Naim is slightly more honest in transmitting the source while the Hegel (although may be good at transparency and resolution) will 'fix' bad recordings. So that a poorly recorded eg rock song with grating guitars will come across a rough with Naim and will come across as slightly more palpable with Hegel (a bit like airbrush photography?). The advantage of Hegel for me is that it has a Dac and can most probably drive more difficult speakers (eg ATC, Magico). I have a Cocktail Audio with burned Cd's on the Hard drive, with Hegel I can connect the Cocktail Audio directly to Hegel (Hegel takes over amplification & Dac duties) while I preserve my long 'Playlists' collected on the Cocktail Audio. Via the Naim route I will have to get at least a Dac and then connect to Supernait 2 (is that possible?) which will be markedly more expensive. Decisions!
     
  20. banjoman

    banjoman pfm Member

    Interesting. I would never describe the primary characteristic of any Naim amp as true to the source! But, I have not heard the Supernait 2, only the older version. The Hegel H360 is by far one of the most transparent and neutral amps I've heard. Its not too bright - so yes you could call it smooth, but the main characteristics in my experience are neutral and powerful. In fact the neutrality has been a bit of a problem for me in my system sometimes as it really reveals bright recordings, forcing me to temper it with warmer DACs and tube phono stages/pre
     

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