Nad M33 vs Hegel H390... old question with a bit of a twist (ethernet and headphones)


Hi, This is my first post and I am a relative audio amateur.
Here goes: I want to buy an integrated amp/streamer that has amazing sound and depth for mostly alt.indie and some alt.country and occasionally opera. Both of these amps seem to qualify *but* I want to run the system from an entirely *wired network*. Basically we are an ethernet only household and do not use wi-fi or bluetooth (except to sync watches etc). I can plug my iPad and phone into the network so using an app like BluOs is no problem.
Second, I do listen to headphones often. Just to be polite in the house... so even though I am leaning towards the Hegel H390, wondering how I would get around the lack of a headphone jack. When not listening to headphones, will be using the KLH model 5 speakers for now. Upgrades in the future.
So, the Hegel H390 qualifies on the wired front, but might not work on the headphone front. Many reports on this site express a preference for the H390 but nobody mentions the headphone problem.
The NAD M33 looks like you could just not install the wi-fi and bluetooth antennas and use ethernet into the BluOS. Then I can use the BluOS app on my ios devices. But would want to make sure that the wi-fi and bluetooth are actually switched off in the unit. And would I get the sound that I am hoping for...
If anyone has insights, please comment.
atanarjuat99
For wired, use CAT 8 cables.
DROP (THX) makes excellent headphone amps for the money.
Check out the Douk Audio U3 - cheap, and actually decent performance.
Furutech 6.3mm adapters if you want the best quality.
Most of our house is wired with CAT 5e. Will it help if I run Cat 8 from the switch box to the Hegel H390 or M33? Will check out the DROP THX as well as Audio U3. I am also a believer in what a difference the adapters make.
 I already have a couple of headphone amps but do want to upgrade...
 Thank you. 
Wessell both lines

Give us a call 

Dave and troy 
Audio intellect nj
Why call you?   OP is asking about an integrated streamer.  You guys jump into almost every post thinking you have any knowledge.   Tired of it...

@atanarjuat99.  As many of us, we been following the launch of the M33 since last year.     I have had many years of experience with Hypex and love the newer Purifi modules from Bruno.   I have a dedicated streamer using Purifi amps, Roon on the front end and leveraging Qobuz as the content streamer.  Amazing all in one solution.

Trust me, I have listened/tweaked the Lygndorf 3400 (using room perfect), NAD M10 (Dirac), NAD C658, and the newer Purifi's best them in all sound experiences.  They are the best Class D to date.

M33 is not perfect, as many folks that have identified distortion issues with Dirac enabled.  No fix planned.  Can't confirm, but not positive for NAD.

Check out the new Evo from Cambridge, may be an option for you.

Happy listening...





If you like class sound, then Hegel should be what you need. If you like class D sound then buy the NAD simple as that. 
hegel h190 has headphone jack - save $ over the 390... you won’t hear the minute difference i suspect - esp driving klh 5's

hegel >> nad

nad has closed the gap some with their improved amp section in the m33 from their clearly poor sounding earlier models but a gap exists nonetheless
Thanks so much guys. I had actually been considering the H 190 as well and agree that I might not hear the small differences. And will also think about the Cambridge EVO. I really like the latter company anyway.
I’m going to spend a day in Vancouver listening next week so will report back.
Just wanted to jump in as someone who has actually heard the M33 and I have serious doubts that the Hegel H190 is any better.  Sure some folks on here will wax poetic about Class D sound, but until you hear what the M33 can do I would not sell it short--and this is coming from a guy who has a bunch of class a/b stuff in the house, that currently includes amps by Linear Tube Audio, Naim & Manley.

I've been looking for something to drive a new pair of Studio Electric M4s and am looking for a one-box streaming/amplifier solutions and have been really blown away by the NAD.  As a pairing with the M4s, it's much better than the Naim Uniti Atom, which I own, and also better than my Naim Supernait 3, which on most music is dark with those speakers.  There is a difference in tone between the Supernait and the NAD and there are some songs in which the Naim seems fuller.  But plenty of others were it is not.  What the NAD does better than the Naim is the size of the soundstage, the detail retrieval, and the iron grip on the bass.  It's not particularly close.  For my speakers, the only other one-box I would consider is the Gold Note IS-1000 but it's lack of an HDMI input is a strike against it as this unit is going into my family room and I would like to use it with the TV.  I have not directly compared it with the Hegel, but have heard the Hegels a whole lot at my dealers, I don't think it's the slam dunk others seem to sound wise, and as far as the feature set the Hegel is like a Norwegian grandmother compared to the M33.

naim does not sound like hegel does not sound like nad

https://youtu.be/Of8OQej7i9o

https://youtu.be/4el12XInqnM

these guys properly compare and try to be objective... they state their preferences, but more importantly they are articulate in describing the different voicings and strengths/weaknesses

what they articulate is also quite consistent with my own findings
I agree with your assertion that none of these amps really sound like the others.  I think that delta grows, even more, depending on speaker choices and that the amplifier/speaker match is what's really important here.

As far as the videos, the Audio Excellence crew have always been more or less Hegel fanboys to some extent.  I get it, the Hegels are excellent amplifiers and AE sells a ton of them.  I hear them all the time and enjoy them as well. 

I don't think you can draw anything from their discussion about the M10, however.  The M10 has a Hypex nCore amplification stage while the M33's Eigentakt amplification stage is just at a completely different animal.  At some point, I'll borrow my local dealer's H390 to compare with the M33 but based on what I've already heard I would be very surprised if the Hegel throws a larger soundstage than the M33, just to pick one of the points they made about the M10 in the video.

I've already mentioned that the M33 drives my Studio Electric M4s as well as anything I've heard, equal to the giant Bryston that I first heard them with, but it's also light years ahead of the Hegel in both feature set and appearance.  The NAD M33 won Stereophile Product of the Year for 2020 so you might surmise a lot of other people with a lot of experience listening to gear also think that the M33 is pretty special, so I'd be careful with assumptions about how NAD's digital amps sound because this one is quite a bit different. 


no doubt the m33 > m10 due to the new amp module used - as i said in an earlier post here, the wide chasm sq gap relative to hegel has closed some for sure with nad moving to purifi and better voicing

ae in toronto like hegel for a reason, leave aside they sell it, they sell naim and nad too (and parasound and ps audio) ... they have plenty of time to listen and assess and on excellent ancillary gear, with proper set up in proper rooms ... but of course, everyone’s taste is different so this is not at all knocking the m33 -- it is a very good piece for sure, esp. when factoring in all the features like dirac etc etc... does stuff that hegels just do not do

now, as for stereophile product of year... ok... i am sure that accolade makes it sound even better to many, good investment by nad in ad dollars without a doubt 🤫

many paths to musical happiness... hegel > nad on sound quality, but all gear is on a spectrum - amps out there better than hegel too...
@badgerdms and @jjss49 funny you should mention AE because I do watch their videos and have no doubt been influenced. When I rang my dealer in Vancouver yesterday to tell him that I want to listen to the M33, he was hesitant and told me that I would be happier with either the H190 or H390. But I am certain that I want to listen to the M33 as well. Partly based on the excellent review of Hans Beekhuyzen.
I have actually not heard my new speakers and neither has the dealer as the KLH model 5 (new not vintage) literally just shipped. But I am confident that they are fairly neutral and do not have a party sound anyway. What I wanted to get away from - in my price range - was the sound of JBL 100s. 
I honestly am not attracted by the Dirac feature as it is just an extra piece of fiddly electronics. I can move the speakers around the room and listen...
A former AE guy's video on the M33 seems pretty reasonable.  He compares it with both the Hegel H390 and the Naim Uniti Nova, which I think are the right comparisons for this.  While I generally agree that the Hegel is usually better than NAD on sound quality, I think that when it comes to the M33 that comes down to personal preference and I don't think there is a "better".  The important thing is how it does with your speakers (and in my case, it lights up the M4s).  As a reference for you, my main rig is a pair of Volti Audio Rivals with a Linear Tube Audio Z40i, so one might think that the M33 is pretty far from that sonic signature (which it is).

I actually listened to a pair of the KLH Model 5s last weekend when I was picking up my M4s.  Only spent about 30 minutes with them but they seem like they do everything really well at that price point--I think you will really enjoy them.  My dealer was running the Gold Note IS-1000 with them, which was excellent.  That particular dealer doesn't carry Hegel, NAD or Naim so can't add anything there.  Just to throw out another thought, based on two different YouTube Model 5 reviews, they both seemed to end up on the Yamaha A-S1200 as their favorite integrated with those speakers.  Never heard it and I have no idea, but you can Google Zero Fidelity and Andrew Robinson if you are so inclined. 

My entire point with posting was a) that the M33 is really good so don't dismiss it and b) if it's at all possible to hear any of these with your speakers before taking the plunge, make every effort to do that.  Ultimately the only person who needs to like the combo is you :-).

BTW, very jealous if you are living in or near Vancouver, it's my favorite North American city.  It just wows me every time I'm there.  Here's the link to Jay's video comparing all three that I mentioned above.  Good luck!  Come back and let us know what you decided and how you like it when it's all set up.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_A3g2ZpgiXA

a very big part of this hobby/pursuit is to try things that are of interest, that to a user promises a level of performance that is enticing

you can post here and other forums, read and research, watch youtube videos, till the cows come home -- there are characters on this board, and others, that seem to do just this, and only this - maybe they listen to an ipod or a boombox, but they post here, hundreds, thousands of posts to their name... ad nauseum... it is absurd

you won’t know how good something is, how good it is for you, if A is better than B, to your ears, till you try it in a well sorted system you know very well, in a well sorted room you know very well -- if you really want to know, you have to own it, hear it at length -- spend the money and make the effort and be honest about what you hear and what you like (and don’t)
I agree with this except I think it's really difficult for some folks to spend the money just to find out.  Given the decline of Audiogon over the years (as far as number and quality of listings), it's just not as easy to flip equipment at a fair price as it once was.  So if folks use videos and reviews (and I would add advice from a good dealer) to come up with a shortlist to audition that makes a lot of sense.  But as you say, nothing is going to be a substitute for time in your system working towards your sonic goals.
@atanarjuat99 I have the same issue with my wired integrated amp which is the amazing sounding KRELL K-300i. It is wired streamed using CAT5. I am thinking of getting the ETHERegen to help out with the wired streaming or maybe just sell the unit since it is really redundant for me now.

Whatever the case I need a headphone amp in the same room as the KRELL for my Meze Empy. This is not a demanding headphone and I have used the $400 Topping A90 with good results. I gave that away so I am now looking at the Headamp GS-X mini ($1700) or the Broadway S ($1500) or the Broadway ($2300). You can get some excellent headphone amps for around $500. I may go back to the Topping A90.

The way I will get around the integrated not having a headphone amp is to use both the RCA and XLR outputs from my sources at the same time to connect to the headphone amp and also to my KRELL K-300i integrated. You cannot do this with all components, such as my AudioMirror Tubadour DAC but I can with my Magnum Dynalab tuner, Gustard X26 Pro Dac, and Benchmark DAC3B. I also need 15 foot XLR cables to connect to my integrated which is far from my rack. I use the very good Benchmark XLR that are low cost. I keep the RCA short.

You will get better headphone sound with the dedicated headphone amp instead of a throw-in headphone amp in an integrated.
@yyzsantabarbara Thanks for this. If you don’t mind, I have a follow up question. Our problem is that my partner needs to be able to use the headphones (while I am asleep 😂) with the TV. The TV could connect to the H390 via optical and use Home Theatre bypass. And we could use SPDIF to connect my IFI micro black label to the Hegel H390 BUT then the audio would come out through the speakers as well as the headphone jack. Defeating the purpose of using headphones at. Night.
Alternatively, if I hook up the TV to the Hegel and do not use HT bypass, then we will have to use the manual volume control on the headphone amp. Which is inconvenient as the TV and equipment are about 15’  from the sofa. 
I am totally happy to buy a new headphone amp at this point (already over budget anyway) but just need one in which I can connect it to the H390 and have a separate volume control remote for the headphone amp. 
Maybe I am missing something..... Thanks in advance.
p.s. Am going to re-run Cat 8 cables to the media room as they are better shielded.
@jjss49 and @badgerms Thanks again for all of your advice. This is what happened during my visit to the dealer in Vancouver. We started with the Hegel H390 hooked up to JBL classic speakers (in the $3300 CDN price range, same as my KLH m5). Sound was amazing, but it was the timing that struck me most. The music was controlled but with an underlying tension and restraint. Then we listened to the H190s with $20K speakers. Good but different and I was still torn. So I asked him to move the H190 to the same rack as the H390 and we alternated between the two with the same songs (would play half a song on the H390 and the other half on the H190). The dealer was very patient as he changed the speaker connection between the two units for 2 hours. He said that he had never done this before with the H190 and the H390 because usually customers are looking at one or the other. The differences were profound.
Here is what I noticed each time. The H390 had completely different timing, it was fuller and richer and felt like the music was immersive drawing me in. We would change back to the H190 and suddenly the same music was lively, faster but thinner in depth (don’t have the right vocab here). Every time.
The H390 felt like something I could never go back from. If I had not heard the H390, I would have been happy with the H190. But that door was closed. 
Luckily for the dealer, I had to catch my flight back to my small town so bought the H390. 
I am waiting for him to ship the unit after we figure out the headphone jack strategy (see post above in response to @yyzsantabarbara ). No way would the little coastal propeller plane allow me to travel with the Hegel 390 anyway ... Probably heavier than most passengers...
Thanks again.
@atanarjuat99 Congrats on the Hegel. I was asking the same question at Head-fi.com then realized I do not want to connect the headphone amp to the integrated because of the volume control in both. 

This is what I would do in your  situation. Buy a cheap DAC around $200 (since using with only TV) and get 15 feet of optical cable (amazon). Hook up the DAC to your existing headphone amp and then snake that optical from the TV to your DAC. I have about 10 -15 feet of optical running from a computer to my DAC and it works well. I use it for TV sound when I watch streaming sports.
op

you are correct

bent holter at hegel made a conscious decision to voice the h390 and h590 to be ’richer’ sounding than the lower models, which persist with the well known hegel very clean serene transparent rhythmic sound... hegel makes what i believe to be an excellent commercial judgement that a good many more wealthy buyers may be older and/or have more refined tastes in the hobby, and want a smoother warmer (full fat vs skim milk as john darko the reviewer aptly puts it) sound, as the gear is often paired with very expensive high end speakers that generally provide a little too much treble energy (magico, focal, wilson and so on), esp. paired with digital -- so think of it as hegel giving you a more tubey presentation (albeit with all the benefits of solid state bass control) without the tubes in their upper tier models...

glad you found what you like and it shows what an excellent careful demo provides in terms of certainty and confidence on the part of the buyer - enjoy!

Hi. I am also looking for an all in one solution with hdmi. Has anyone compared the m10 and the lyngdorf tdai 1120 and the arcam sa30. I have Sonus Faber bookshelves 
@atanarjuat99 Congrats on the Hegel purchase.  I'd love to hear how things are after you have everything set up and have listened for a while.  The difference in the 190 & 390 is really interesting, I'll have to check that out at my local Hegel dealer next time I wander in.

Not sure what you decided to do with the Headphones end of this, but if you are looking for a stand-alone headphone amp, my favorite (by far) for not a huge outlay is the Linear Tube Audio MZ2.  If you were drawn to the tone of the H390 over the H190, I'm guessing the MZ2 will make many other headphone amps sound broken.  

https://www.lineartubeaudio.com/products/mz2mz2-s

@badgerdms Thanks for following up. I am super pleased with the Hegel H390. What I do notice is how different they sounded in the dealer's listening room paired with the JBL L82 Classics. The KLH Model 5s are not as bassy and dark. But they emit absolutely gorgeous midtones. I seem to be headed down the rabbit hole as I just ordered a new power cable - the brand suggested by @rockhound. 
As for the headphones, I just attached my IFI micro black label headphone amp to the RCA fixed out in the H390 and they seem to work fine. Though not the greatest sound. 
Does the Linear Tube Audio MZ2 have its own DAC? If connected to the H390, would it then use the Hegel amp and its own DAC (unclear on concept)?

@atanarjuat99  The LTA does not have its own DAC.  I'm guessing you would connect the fixed output of the Hegel to the headphone amp (you can actually connect up to three devices to the headphone amp) and use the volume control on the LTA.  What I'm not sure of is it the output coming out of the Hegel is post or pre DAC processing.  If the outputs are signal that has not passed through the internal DAC then you may want to add a DAC in between the amp and the headphone amp.