Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

Reviews of Attainable Hi-Fi & Home-Theater Equipment

To Hans Wetzel,

Thanks for recommending the KEF LS50 speakers to me last year. I decided to purchase the KEF R300 and have enjoyed them till my preamp recently started messing up. So now I am researching other options to power my system (which is the same as noted previously except all the cables are now Morrow Audio cables) and I am basing it on the theory of the amplifier and preamplifier being from the same company unless an integrated works better for me. Also a requirement for me is buying from a manufacturer that I can contact, or at least directly contact their distributor in case the unit needs servicing.

My first question is how well do you think the Hegel Music Systems H80 integrated amplifier-DAC would sound driving these speakers? Would you put more power to these speakers than what the specifications of the $2000 Hegel H80 show? If so, what benefit can I expect from a higher-power amp over what I am presuming the quality of this amp will provide? Are there any other recommendations around the $2000 mark you would suggest I consider for an integrated, or around the $3200 mark for a preamplifier and amplifier combo?

Thanks in advance,
LaDedric T.

Glad the advice was helpful, LaDedric. The R300 is probably the sweet spot of the R-series line from KEF. You get the benefit of a Uni-Q driver, but unlike the less expensive R100, it's supplemented by a dedicated bass driver.

I have yet to hear the H80 in person. I'm hoping to do so at CES 2014 in a few weeks' time (look for my write-up on CES to be published on February 1). I do know, however, that the H80 uses the same preamp circuit as my reference $5500 Hegel H300 integrated-DAC, which I found to be exceptional for the price. If those crafty Norwegians managed to finesse a high proportion of the H300's performance for $2000, then I think it would prove an exceptional partner for your KEFs. The H80 was partnered with Magico’s $12,600/pair S1 loudspeakers at the Rocky Mountain Audio Fest show last fall to great effect. That should tell you something.

If you doubled the 75Wpc that the Hegel makes, the only benefit would be 3dB of additional volume. That's really it. Depending on the product, this increase in power may also mean a more sophisticated and robust power supply, which could have an effect on resultant sound quality. But all things being equal short of the power rating, loudness is all you gain. As for other products to check out, on the separates front I'd suggest Parasound's $949 Halo A23 amplifier and $1049 Halo P5 preamplifier-DAC. My brother Erich has them in for review right now, and I was pretty impressed with what I heard of them. You could also check out Simaudio's $2400 Neo 250i integrated amplifier, which is the smaller sibling to the Neo 340i that Erich also has in for review. Or how about NAD's $2599 C 390DD that we reviewed early this year on our sister-site SoundStage! Hi-Fi? All of these are great products from reputable companies, so I don't think you can go wrong. . . . Hans Wetzel