Hegel V10 Phono Preamplifier Review
David Price is impressed by this new Norwegian phono preamp…
V10 Phono Stage
AUD $2,295 RRP
Hegel Music Systems has been busy doing all the right things for the past few years. The company was hardly known outside Europe not so long ago, but has fast earned a reputation for interesting, elegant and versatile electronics. Its streaming amplifiers like the H120 are hard not to like and have more than done their bit to wean hi-fi buyers off physical media.
Now there’s a Hegel vinyl option too, and the new V10 phono stage you see here is technologically interesting. It’s a two-box, dual mono, discrete solid-state design with a welter of cartridge matching options for both moving magnet and moving coil cartridges. It also offers a choice of unbalanced RCA or balanced XLR outputs. The product comes in two sections, the phono preamp itself and a separate power supply that – unusually – connects up via twin power umbilicals. Vital statistics are 60x210x280mm and 2.2kg.
The input uses ultra-low noise discrete JFET transistors for both MM and MC sections; the MC side has four JFETs connected in parallel for low noise and the negation of bias current feedback to the cartridge coil, says Hegel. The discrete bipolar transistors in both sections are fed from the unit’s external linear analogue AC power supply, complete with its large custom E-core transformer.
The V10 comes set-up for MM cartridges but can be adjusted to suit pretty much any MC too. Via MM, capacitance is switchable from 100 and 467 pF, and via MC the impedance can be set between 33 and 550 ohms or fixed at 47k ohm. On both, gain can be increased by 5, 10 or 12dB, giving a maximum of 52dB, 72dB, 46dB and 66dB for MM XLR, MC XLR, MM RCA and MC RCA respectively. This is all done by switches around the back, leaving the main unit’s fascia uncluttered. There’s also a subsonic filter and auto power down feature.
I found the new V10 to be a genuinely impressive phono stage, one that doesn’t sound like a lot of what’s already on the market. It has a natural and matter-of-fact nature, one that doesn’t feel like it’s processed or constrained in any particular way. It gets right into the groove of the record(ing) being played, making music in a natural and enthusiastic – yet not showy – way.
My favourite ‘affordable’ phono stage right now is the Rega Aria 3, and the V10 betters it by quite a way. That’s not surprising considering the price differential, but many more expensive designs do not beat the Rega. Promised You a Miracle by Simple Minds showed how the Hegel has a more incisive and detailed nature – it’s clearly more transparent – yet still more than matches the excellent Aria for musicality. Fed from a Lyra Dorian moving coil, I found the sound flowed beautifully, with fine handling of the rhythm section and a picture-perfect rendition of singer Jim Kerr’s ethereal vocals. It scythed through the slightly murky mix, highlighting lots of production effects that are usually hidden by mid-price phono stages.
Driven by an Audio-technica VM530EN moving magnet, the picture was similar. This is a less detailed cartridge but has lots of punch and swagger, as the V10 showed with dance music like Beatmasters’ Rok Da House. Indeed it had me rethinking my view on this good, but hitherto-not-so-special little cartridge, such was the steamrollering way it delivered the beat. Bass was nice and taut too; there was plenty of power but no overhang that I could discern. Up top, things were crystal-clear and very well etched – not unlike the midband in fact.
Stereo imaging was excellent at the price; the Hegel gave an immersive feel to my ageing copy of Beethoven’s Pastoral Symphony. Image projection ran far left and right, with great depth perspective too. Inside this, the different instruments in the orchestra were very clearly delineated.
Hegel’s new V10 is certainly no range filler then, created to add vinyl functionality and tick a box in the company’s product portfolio. It’s actually an excellent phono stage in its own right in terms of sound quality, and also has fine connectivity and configurability. Indeed it’s all the more impressive from a company that to date has shone with digital streaming, but isn’t traditionally associated with vinyl products.
David started his career in 1993 writing for Hi-Fi World and went on to edit the magazine for nearly a decade. He was then made Editor of Hi-Fi Choice and continued to freelance for it and Hi-Fi News until becoming StereoNET’s Editor-in-Chief.
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