Hegel finally becomes Roon Ready

Hegel promised us Roon almost three years ago, and now the feature is finally coming. Initially for the H120 and H190 amplifiers.

By / 21 March 2022 - 10:00 am
Hegel finally becomes Roon Ready

Hegel has finally started rolling out a Roon update for their products! The first to get it are the H120 and H190, and soon the same will happen for the H390 and H590.

What is Roon?

Now you might be wondering what Roon is. Well, it’s an interface for playing music from PC and Mac. Where all your stored music is gathered in a nice editorial, almost newspaper-like layout. And where your music library is linked to music streaming services like Tidal and Qobuz.

The music signal also bypasses all the PC’s internal audio processing. This means, among other things, that no matter what you set the resolution of the sound card to, the sound coming out of Roon will retain the original resolution from the music file. Generally.

Promised in 2019 – delivered in 2022

The first time we wrote that Hegel would get Roon support was at the launch of the H390 in May 2019, while the H120 was supposed to have been Roon Ready already at launch, as we wrote in October 2019.

It is therefore no surprise that Hegel has had to endure some criticism on the Roon forum over the last few years. It got to the point that in August 2020 they went out with the following regret:

“We announced this upcoming feature to the press and trade show audience just over a year ago, and it’s still not ready. It would be easy to blame the delay on a major external event such as the corona crisis, but that would not be true. The truth is that the delay is not caused by one big external factor, but rather a series of small internal things that have combined to hold us back.”

H120 and H190 are first to get Roon

But now the wait is over! At least for owners of the Hegel H120 and H190, who can now update the software over the internet and get Roon Ready functionality.

In practice, this means that Roon users no longer need a USB cable to play music. An Ethernet cable to the home network will suffice. Previously, you had to use AirPlay to get Roon connectivity this way and then miss out on high-resolution music streaming.

We’ve tried it

We tested the update ourselves with the Hegel H120. You can find the firmware update in the setup menu, which you can access by holding down the play button on the remote. The amplifier must be connected to the internet with an Ethernet cable.

Then just go into the Roon application, select Settings and then Audio, and you’ll find the amp in the Roon Ready overview. Activate it and give it the name you want.

Not bit perfect

Attentive users will notice – by clicking on Signal Path – that whatever resolution the music file has, it will be resampled to 105.47 kHz before going into the amplifier’s DAC. A rather odd resolution, which we have actually never seen before. Hegel themselves explain in an email:

“Roon will show our, until now, top secret signal processing for these amplifiers. It has been one of several key points in how we have been able to make affordable but really good DACs. It can create some controversy, so we’ve made a special website about it. It’s a well-known issue among the very best DAC designers, so it’s not just something we came up with ourselves.”

Basically, the point is that having a DAC that plays both PCM and DSD signals “bit perfect” is very good in its own right, but not necessarily the most sensible thing to do at the lower price points. That the cost of making a bit perfect DAC can quickly become prohibitive and steal budget from important components like the DAC chip or the analog circuits.

That’s why you’ll find a Hegel Optimized Clock in the DAC of the H95, H120 and H190 amplifiers, while a bit perfect DAC is in the more expensive cases.

Hegel H120 Roon signal path2
The digital signal is re-sampled to 105.47 kHz. (Screen shot from Roon)

Pleasant sound

We are not engineers and will not challenge Hegel on this point. What we do know is that the sound of the already excellent H120 through the Roon player has improved even more after the Roon Ready update.

We strongly encourage owners of the H120 and H190 to try for themselves! Roon has a 14-day free trial, after which the service costs $10 per month if you pay annually, or $13 if you pay monthly. You can also choose a lifetime subscription for $700 (!).

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