Hegel H90 external DAC setup


Hi All, I’ve got a Hegel H90 and have been trying to experiment with upgrading to an external DAC.

I purchased a Musical Fidelity MX-DAC, but not entirely sure how to use this as the main converter and bypass the H90s internal D/A conversion. I mainly use the Hegel AirPlay network functionality to stream Qobuz, don’t want to use a laptop to stream. 
I noticed that higher level Hegels have a DAC loop function where the internal converter can be disabled to allow for an external converter. My model doesn’t have this, so hoping there might be a workaround.


cd45123
Not sure if that particular DAC is a huge step above what is on board, but analog out (balanced or RCA) on the DAC to any of the analog inputs should get you there without issue. You would essentially have two DACs.
Thanks, I did this actually - connecting to the analog input on the Hegel with the rca but couldn’t tell a difference...if I have two DACs, the external one is now handling all the conversion or it’s being converted again? Guess it’s a strange setup what I’m trying.

I’d have to check again. I keep hearing how the DAC in the H90 isn’t as good as the H120 and thought maybe a $900 external would make a difference.
Talked to Hegel support and it seems like I’d need to connect the external DAC to an external streamer that goes into the Hegel. 
I just picked up a Bluesound Node 2i, but not sure if I can connect an external DAC to this since it only has outputs. I imagine that analog out on the DAC to analog out on the streamer won’t work.
"Thanks, I did this actually - connecting to the analog input on the Hegel with the rca but couldn’t tell a difference...if I have two DACs, the external one is now handling all the conversion or it’s being converted again? Guess it’s a strange setup what I’m trying.

I’d have to check again. I keep hearing how the DAC in the H90 isn’t as good as the H120 and thought maybe a $900 external would make a difference."

I briefly owned a Hegel H90 and did not care for the internal DAC which used the outdated AKM AK4396 DAC chip. As for using an external DAC, NO additional conversion takes place. The analog output of the external DAC is connected to one of the analog inputs and fed directly to the internal preamp.

FWIW, the H90 has been discontinued and will be replaced by the H95 with an updated DAC.  
Thanks, turnbowm. 
Let me add to the complexity... if I’m using the network function to stream over airplay,  Hegel is telling me that the analog in of the external DAC isn’t used. 
I just bought a Bluesound Node 2i, that DAC is inferior to the H90 to my ears, but I’m thinking I can route the external DAC into the Bluesound through an optical connection and then back into the Hegel through coax. This Musical Fidelity MX-DAC has balanced and rca outs, coax and optical ins. Seems like the Bluesound and the external DAC need to talk to each other directly, not both separately connected to Hegel...I think...
just picked up a Bluesound Node 2i, but not sure if I can connect an external DAC to this since it only has outputs. I imagine that analog out on the DAC to analog out on the streamer won’t work.

You got some bad advice. The Node2i is the source and plugs into the DAC. Use Bluesound S/PDIF coax out or Toslink to the DAC digital input.
Then Dac RCA analogue out to an analogue input on the Hegel amp.


Thanks, all good here now! Appreciate the help, all
Just move the SPDIF between external and onboard to compare the sound.
Ok, was able to set this up the other day. Using coax out of the Bluesound to the coax in of the MX-DAC and then analog out from the DAC to the Hegel. 
Sound is...ok. Hegel is louder at a volume match. I imagine due to the internal streamer of the integrated only going through one set of cable vs 3 for the Node 2i. 
I ordered 2 audioquest cables - 1 coax, 1 rca to try and reduce that issue. Instruments seem tighter on with the MX-DAC, greater clarity to instruments and separation, so hoping a couple of quality cables can assist with this further.
The increased sound level may be due to cables, but can also be caused by the higher gain of your Dac. Most Dacs these days have a gain over 2V.