Hegel H80 vs H160


After reading so much about how h160 is much better than h80, I got curious. I am an animal of routine. Once I found something I love I don't get curious about others... Yes, I love my H80 driving PMC FB1i. My source is OPPO103. I listen to 50% CD and 50% streaming from my Surface to OPPO (through miniport/HDMI). I listens to 95% Classical music, 5% pop.

I heard the h160 at my dealer today, then I rushed home to listen to the same tracks. Here's what I "think I heard"...

Yes, h80 is more linear/planor but there is still has plenty of depth in the sound stage. You can hear separation of a solo artist from its supporting orchestra. H160 does it a little more vividly and more zealously. Separation of instruments is already very good with h80. H160 isn't better in that regard. Sound stage emphasis in these 2 machines are different. H160 emphasizes on the individual instruments while H80 focus on the whole orchestra. With H160, the orchestra sounds like 80 individual instruments. In H80, the orchestra sounds like one orchestra made up of 80 instruments. Yes, you can still hear differently instruments clearly. The forward sounding h160 isn't better in my view, it's different.

Yes, listening to h160 can be full of adrenalin. H80 has plenty of speed and mojo. It also has much more smoothness, the color, and nuance than H160. For me, h80 wins in this regard.

One thing h160 is noticeably better is its ability to play very old recording that are extremely bad quality. The 1957 Glen Gould playing Brahms Piano Concerto sounded more lively on h160. On h80, the recording is a little dull. How often do I hear this type of bad quality recordings? Very rare, less than 5% of the time., not enough for me to sell of h80.

Here's what I find interesting... Well recorded recordings really shines with h80. Hilary Hahn playing Mendelssohn violin concerto is incredibly smooth and moving on h80. Her warm tone with the metallic edge comes through sharply. The orchestra behind her is also forceful and detailed with h80. With h160, her playing becomes a little dry and too edgy. With Martha Argerich playing Chopin's 1st concerto, that 2nd movement leaves me breathless. Her piano playing is both clean yet full of character.

So here you go! Before you rush to sell of your H80, please demo h160. Think of the pros and cons of each machine. H80 is incredibly good value for its quality. It's smoothness and its slight warmth wins me over night after night, recordings after recordings. My heart is still with it. It saddens me to see H80 being sold off like clothing going out of style.

Finally, just food for thought.. If I want something like Hegel H160, I would probably buy a used Pass INT30A for about the same price as a new H160...
fiddleronroof
I'm sure you heard what you heard, but really there are too many significant variables here to draw any solid conclusions. Obviously the H160 was in a different room with at least some if not completely different associated equipment. IMO you should ask to borrow the H160 and compare it in your system -- any decent dealer should be willing to do this. Or, at the very least, compare them side by side at the dealer. These would at least be apples to apples comparisons. Your comparison is really apples to oranges. Sorry to be a bummer here, but glad you like your H80 so much. Nice amp. Would be interested to get your impressions if you get to hear them in the same system.
I agree. I think it's impossible to draw reliable conclusions on anything when two different systems and two different rooms are being used. Would the dealer let you borrow it for a day or two?
I’ll add that differences in amplifiers have to be made in the same system. Other variables I’ve learned first hand - the amps have to be level matched, and switch overs from amp to amp have to me instantaneous! Our auditory memory is extremely short and differences in amplifiers are much more subtle than people think...
Alright. I will do my best to best to borrow the H160 for a night next week. I think it's only fair to everyone reading my inciting words to have an apple to Apple comparison. The very honest and humble opinion coming shortly...

Here's an interesting side note... I went another listening to Pass Lab's new INT60(based on the new .8 series and with a good built-in preamp). I wanted to compare it to the INT30A. The best they can do is trying INT60 against XA60.5 with XP10 first, then against XA60.5 with INT60 as preamp. The interesting is, the difference between .8 and .5 series amp seems to be the differences between H160 and H80... One is more forward, aggressive, and abrasive while the other slightly laid back, smooth, warmer, more moving and colorful...

Anyways... Give me a few days...
If you do get to demo an H160 at home, you really have to level match very closely with a volt meter. The louder one will always sound better - and this can happen with less than a dB difference between components.

I remember seeing the H160 review on 6 Moons - it’s impossible to tell how scientific this comparison was. It’s reviews like this that cause audio nervosa and paranoia to upgrade. It may very well sound “better” but from a purely subjective review, is the 160 really worth taking a chance at almost twice the price? Also, if the 160 sounds that much better, than that doesn’t say much about Hegel’s designs. I would think going up the line would be purely for features and more power. Yes, if you hooked up the 80 and 160 to more demanding speakers, more dynamic material, bigger room, etc, - then definitely the 160 will outperform. I guess if you’re planning on getting larger speakers, then maybe the 160 will be a good move...
An interesting and timely - for me- thread. For the first time in decades, I'm considering retiring my terrific all-tube electronics, downsizing, going a bit "greener", and Hegel keeps appearing on a short list of excellent integrated amplifiers. All that seems to be lacking is a phono stage. I still spin vinyl on rare occasion so I'd need a basic outboard unit.

I eagerly await Fiddleronroof's report.
I have had both of these and the H160 is waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay better! if you have the right kit to go with.
@fiddleronroof, have you had a chance to compare the 2?  Thanks.