Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

To Hans Wetzel,

I realize I may not get a return answer here, but it is certainly worth a shot, as they say. I am debating between the Rogue Audio Pharaoh integrated amplifier (the big brother of the Sphinx that you reviewed earlier this year) and the Hegel Audio Systems H300 integrated amplifier-DAC. Since the Hegel H300 is your reference, is it possible to let me know which sounds better since I cannot audition either piece?

I have scaled down my system and did have tubes in my EAR (Esoteric Audio Research) 868 preamplifier. I decided to go with an integrated and am using Vienna Acoustics Mozarts. I love them but am in a quandary as to which integrated I should use. The Hegel has received rave reviews and the Rogue Pharaoh is so new it has none. The Pharaoh does, however, have tubes. I know you have only heard the Rogue Audio Sphinx, but from what I have heard, the Pharaoh is similar, but much better and with more power. Thanks so much.

Bill Smith

What a pickle you're in, having narrowed your search down to these two. Well, I can't speak much to the Pharaoh, since, as you say, it's so new that it has yet to be reviewed. Maybe I can finagle a review sample at some point! Despite this, I do have some comments and suggestions.

You are probably well aware of the regard in which I hold the Hegel H300. It's really, really exceptionally good, and not just for the money. Its noise floor is the lowest I've heard from the various hardware I've had through my listening room. It has a properly resolving amp with high power (it's rated at 250Wpc into 8 ohms) and tiny amounts of distortion. And it has a full-fledged digital-to-analog converter that's quite good. And a real, bespoke remote. And preamp outs and home-theater throughputs. The thing is a high-end Swiss Army Knife. We recently had the H300 measured on a test bench and it produced some of the best measurements that we have seen from an amplifier, irrespective of price. For all of those reasons, I think you and many others could be happy with an H300.

That said, I was really taken with Rogue's Sphinx, which offered really compelling performance for the price. If the Pharaoh has an improved power supply and amplifier circuit, then I would imagine its $3495 asking price is well worth the money. It's also about $2000 less expensive than the Hegel, which costs $5500, though its 175Wpc output is less substantial, and it does not have any digital inputs/DAC. You mention the Pharaoh has tubes, and that you have (or had?) a tubed preamp before. For this reason, I'd probably recommend the Pharaoh. The Sphinx's midrange was downright lovely, with a hint of that delicious tube richness, but with all the accuracy and acuity that a solid-state, class-D design can bring. I suspect you'd miss that quality in the Hegel, which almost hits you in the face with its sheer clarity. For a tube fan such as yourself, then, Pharaoh all the way. While it's easy to respect the Hegel and its abilities, it's easier to fall in love with the Rogue for the tube sound. Oh, and Rogue's website claims that the Pharaoh is currently available for an introductory price of $2995. If that's the case, I'd suggest moving quickly! . . . Hans Wetzel