Hegel? McIntosh? Something else?

I’m going to put this here, because I can’t see anywhere else (EDIT: In this forum) that may be appropriate (though I’m sure I’m just missing it). Remove or move as needed.

In the next year or two I’m planning on a major system upgrade. I want to move from my Marantz PM7000N / Allo DigiOne Signature / KEF Q750 setup to what will probably be an end game scenario for the next 10 years or so. I’ll be cashing out a couple years worth of vacation time and will have about $11,000 to drop on the components. I’ve been looking at a few options…

  1. Hegel 590 w/ V10 phono preamp
  2. Hegel 390 w/ V10 prono preamp and a speaker upgrade
  3. McIntosh C49 preamp w/ MC152 amplifier
  4. ??? Suggestions ???

Eventually new speakers are in the future anyway, but I’ve been pretty happy with the KEFs for the time being. I’d honestly like to pad out the main components first so they don’t need to be replaced. I do love that the McIntosh has the upgradeable DAC and the built in MM/MC phono, so that’s a plus there.

Of course I’ll be going in and auditioning, but if anyone has anything to add (or most importantly other options to consider), I’m all ears.

Also, Roon Ready isn’t a worry because of my Allo setup.

I would sort the speakers first. They make the biggest difference to the sound and the amp options change depending on their impedance and sensitivity. If you go for a high sensitivity klipsch heresy for instance, you can get away with a low power or class A amp that use very high quality. But if you go for something like Magnepans, you’ll need all the power you can get your hands on.

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I can’t imagine any of those amps will have any issues with any speakers I choose. I’m an apartment dweller too, so I’m not going to go batty with whatever I end up choosing. I’m sure there will be lots of options for speaker upgrades down the road that I’ll be very, very happy with.

Unless the speakers you choose (or yours if you remain with them) are hard to drive, I doubt that there would be as significant of an improvement as in other areas. If you listen to a lot of vinyl, I would make the loudspeakers your #1 priority, and the phono preamp #2. But try to set up relationships with local dealers, where you can, who will guide you, and hopefully allow in home listening. And reach out wherever you can for guidance, recommendations, reviews, and anything else you can think of. I’m in the market for a new DAC and have gotten tons of advice here and on the PS Audio forum, have watched probably a hundred YouTube reviews, read just as many, gone onto manufacturers’ websites, etc., etc. I also have looked into service, just in case, upgradability, and anything I can think of that will get me to the right decision for me. But take your time, as I am. Examine everything from every angle possible, until you are positive you are making the best decision for YOU! Then jump on it, and ENJOY!

Yep, I’m just getting as much input as I can and the Roon forums are one of many resources I’ll be exploring. Vinyl is probably 25% of my listening, so I’m a bit more concerned about the pre-amp/integrated than anything. I’m academic faculty, so while I appreciate the advice, research is like half my job. :wink: Like I said, the purchase is at least a year out, so I’m taking my time.

Hey John. I did the similar before 3 months. I changed my Anthem STR pre and Anthem STR power (2x400w) with McIntosh MC462 (2x450w) and Mcintosh C53 pre. In the meantime, until my upgrade I tested many dacs, streamers before to conclude that the most significant upgrade in the system comes mostly only with power amp and preamp. Buy a McIntosh no matter what McIntosh ! Then everything you “play” … McIntosh upgrades it in the most musical, tonal sound you have ever heard. I can still here minor difference in SQ when I switch from Asus tinkerboard and Aries G2.1. I use my Aries G2.1 together with Sirius G2.1 as main source and I m “playing” with Asus Tinkerboard or Pi4 through Denafrips AresII and McIntosh undertakes to treansform everything you hear in a very sweet sound. I had plans to buy a DAC too but honestly after C53 it’s not important anymore. My loudspeakers are Paradigm Personna 3F


I suggest you also consider the Devialet Phantom series of all in one units. I’ve had them for some time and find them hard to beat.

I appreciate the suggestion, but I’m really looking for a more robust, component, end-game (at least at on my academic salary) system.

What room are you putting all this in?
An 11K system in an acoustically poor room will still sound like an acoustically poor room. High dollar gear does not guarantee a high level of sound quality. That really is one of the biggest myths in hi-fi (after cables and ethernet regenerators of course, but there’s another thread on the internet about that).

My advise would be to get your room sorted and you might be amazed at what your current gear is capable of. Also, if you do decide your room is perfect and start to audition, make sure it’s in your room. When you audition at theirs, you are listening to their room. Once you have tested some gear, I’d also look to buy used. Never pay full price for anything.

I know. I’m not just “Hey guys! I wanna spend a lot of money blindly!” I’m aware that room treatment and test drives of systems are a thing. I’m not disappointed with my gear in the slightest, but I’ve listened to enough systems to know that there’s a fair bit further I can go in sound quality. Like I said, this is a year or two down the road after I move to another position at a different uni, so I’ve got plenty of time to shop around, listen, and compare.

Going forward in this thread I’m really just looking for brand and combination recommendations that people have really loved the sound of in that price range, not general audio shopping/setup tips.

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I have been through more integrated amps than sense over the last few years once I decided I wanted to move to a super integrated!

I think i have found my keeper after trying many different amps including Hegel, Ayre, McIntosh, BAT etc.
Maybe consider a Mark Levinson 585?
New is about 12k but a lightly used example should come in at 7k or so.
No headphone output (if important?) and no built in phono but I do prefer to experiment with different flavours of phono anyway, presently using a Goldnote PH-10 which is likely a keeper too .
I have these paired with Spatial Audio Triode Masters OB speakers which do not need a fraction of the 585 power to drive but the authority it grips those 15" drivers with can be FELT.

Enjoy the search!

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That thing is a beast! I’ll look into checking one out when I’m testing systems. Thanks!

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You are like me. My DAC is s great unit, but it’s three years old, one of the first with a Sabre ES9038Pro, and older than anything else in my system. But in digital, a lot can happen in three years. I’m looking for a significant improvement, and if that doesn’t happen, I wait and learn more. But, at 70 y/o, this may well be the last DAC I ever purchase, so I want to make sure I get it right. That’s one reason I want something that’s updateable, preferable by a company known to upgrade numerous times. One reason I want to hopefully see what the new PS Audio DirectStream MKII will be, and hopefully beta test it. It also has the advantage that I could trade in my old DAC for about $2000 credit towards that purchase and about $4000 credit remaining on account for future purchases. But, if something else comes around before then, and gives me reasons why I HAVE to buy it, I will. With COVID finally getting under control (I hope), maybe things will start to speed up.


Gold Note IS-1000 Deluxe integrated amp (Deluxe has upgraded Burr Brown chips) or any of their very fine separates. Beautifully crafted in Italy! Incredible sounding! Fantastic customer service! Read some reviews. Locate a dealer & go have a listen. Gold Note definitely should be on your short list.


My $.03

  1. Buy what makes you happy.
  2. It’s always cheaper to buy what makes you happy the first time; don’t buy and upgrade later.
  3. After you buy what makes you happy, listen to the music, not the gear or the gear “experts”

Like I said in another reply, “I’m really just looking for brand and combination recommendations that people have really loved the sound of in that price range, not general audio/shopping tips”.

I plan on spending a fair amount of time auditioning systems in my home before I decide. I think I’ll be able to avoid buying something blindly on a forumer’s opinion alone. :wink:

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I’m a big Hegel fan and just upgraded an H190 to an H390. This is a fantastic amp, and a real bargain - TBH I wouldn’t swap it for H590. Once you hear it, however, you are going to want better speakers and a better streaming source - e.g. something like a Lumin U1 mini if you are happy to use the Hegel’s DAC, which is no slouch. Hegel are great with Dynaudio speakers, but something from Fyne Audio or Spendor would also be a good match.


Yeah, I’m not sure how much of a difference I’d hear between the 390 and the 590. And it’s a HUGE leap in price. If I’m going to spend around 10k, I’d most likely want a component system. Does the Lumin streamer really bring so much that my Allo DigiOne Signature doesn’t? And yeah, having a super solid DAC is a concern. I’d hate to eventually end up buying an external DAC for an integrated.

The C49 is a great pre with great functionality and sound quality. I’m running mine into aPS Audio BHK 250 hybrid amp (tube input stage) that replaced a McIntosh MC352 amp by increasing sound quality to my DALI Epicon 8 speakers. I believe this combination could take you way up the speaker “ladder” with very satisfying results. The cost is very close to your budget. The DA 1 Dac is very good as well, it really likes DSD input. Enjoy your system building journey.

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I’d say the U1 mini would be a significant improvement in SQ - Lumin gear has a very natural clarity with a punchy sound when needed, and very big soundstage. You’ll find quite a few people on these forums are big Lumin fans. I use a Lumin T2 with the H390 and it’s a step up from the Hegel’s DAC (as it should be at the price).