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To Hans Wetzel,

I have read with great interest your various reviews of different amps and speakers over the years. My current setup is Dynaudio’s Confidence C1 [loudspeakers] paired with a Hegel Music Systems H360 [integrated amplifier-DAC]. Overall, I am happy with the sound, especially with the Dynaudios because I had their Contour 1.3 SEs in the past and just wanted to take that sound/philosophy to the next level. The Hegel was more a leap of faith, but a fellow hi-fi aficionado recommended them to pair with the Confidence C1, so I followed his recommendation and picked up a used Hegel. I like Hegel’s warm and natural sound and think it pairs well overall with the Dynaudios. Dislikes are that the [Apple] AirPlay connection is not reliable and does not give the best sound quality. I could have bought a streamer but did not feel like incurring the extra expense.

But now, I am looking to make a change and I’m considering these options—I want to stay in the $5000–$6000 range:

  1. Hegel H390 [integrated amplifier-DAC]: I know I will like the sound, but I expect everything to be better, especially connectivity.
  2. NAD M33 [integrated amplifier-DAC]: The NAD Masters Series M32 DirectDigital was a contender three years ago, but I was led to believe Hegel’s sound is superior. I have seen the rave reviews on the M33. I like the design and all the features, but am a little concerned that in terms of pure sound, it won’t hold up to the Hegel H390.
  3. McIntosh MA5300 [integrated amplifier]: I was recommended this by a dealer I talked to yesterday. What to say? McIntosh is iconic, but I’m not sure the entry-level model is up to par for the Dynaudios, and the next one up is too pricy.
  4. Simaudio Moon 700i [integrated amplifier]: I saw a used 700i [at my dealer] for $5444. It seems compelling, but I’m hesitant to buy a model that is a bit dated at this point.
  5. Any other options?

Not in a rush to make a move; I want to make sure it is the right choice. It is tough to audition the equipment, as every dealer has a different setup and equipment available, and it’s next to impossible to test the equipment at home. So, I need to make another decision based on reviews and expert recommendations. At this point, I am leaning towards a Hegel upgrade. For me, vocals, authenticity, and soundstage for classical music rank at the top of the list. Sorry for the long e-mail. It would be super nice to get your take.

Best,
Andreas Biebl
United States

You’ve made some interesting choices, Andreas, and you’ve definitely reached out to the right reviewer! I’ve previously owned the Hegel H360, own a Hegel H590 (which is very similar to the less powerful Hegel H390 you’re considering), reviewed the NAD M32 when it was new, and recently reviewed the successor to the Moon 700i, the 700i v2. Unfortunately, I don’t have any first-hand experience with McIntosh, though I suspect the MA5300 is a solid amp for the money.

I think the Hegel would be a sensible purchase. The built-in DAC, in particular, should prove to be a notable upgrade on the unit built into your H360. The H390 will sound a little different than your H360, however, as Doug Schneider pointed out in his review of the H390, but should still definitely sound familiar to you.

While I obviously like Hegel, I have to say that NAD’s M33 would be my personal suggestion. It uses Purifi’s new Eigentakt amplifier modules, which sound and measure like an absolute dream. You also get a terrific-looking case, a nice touchscreen, Dirac Live room-correction software, and plenty of I/O. I get that it’s a bit of a gamble for you having never heard it, so let me put it this way: As someone who adored my H360 when I owned it, if I were upgrading from an H360 and had roughly $5000 to spend, I’d spring for the M33, as it’s currently the best integrated amp-DAC that you can buy for five grand.

Happy hunting, Andreas. . . . Hans Wetzel