Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80

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RafaPolit

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Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« on: 22 May 2017, 09:27 pm »
Hello friends,

As I reported in the IDA-8 thread, my integrated NuForce DDA-100 died on me, and the local distributor is offering me two models.  One is the trusted NuPrime IDA-8 of which he already has a representation here, the other is an equipment from Hegel, the H80 which he has the choice of bringing to Ecuador as he is currently on the Munich fair.

So, keeping in line with this site's rules of not bad-mouthing either NuPrime or any other brand, if you guys could help me decide, I would be really grateful.

So these are my options:

  • NuPrime IDA-8
  • Hegel H80

Unfortunately, none are locally in stock, so this is a 'deaf' purchase, I cannot listen to one or the other.  There is also no 30 day return policy, as this item will have to be imported just for me, so it's either one or the other.  No chance of testing both.  I need to make an informed decision based on research and people's advice, nothing more.

So, I'm looking for precisely that: advice.

A bit of background if this helps in the decision making.  The use scenario is this one:
  • Speakers are a pair of Totem Rainmakers, 4 Ohm, 30 -100 W, 87.5 dB/W/m bookshelves
  • Use is for music / tv listening.
  • I will hook into it a RaspberryPi3 running Moode OS for Hi-Fi audio files and streaming from Spotify to the USB-B port
  • I will hook into it a Samsung TV via Optical Cable
  • I will hook into it an Apple Airport Express for multi-room listening (not often used) via optical or analog depending on optical input availability (IDA-8 would have to be analog)
  • The H80 could be brought directly, the IDA-8 needs to be "properly" imported, so the prices for both may be the same, so lets leave price out of the equation for now
As you can see, all my sources are digital, and here lies my main interest in asking these questions here.

Apparently according to reviews, specifically an answer here from the author of the review: http://blog.son-video.com/en/2015/12/review-nuprime-ida-8/comment-page-1/#comment-12008 , seem to suggest that the H80 has a better sounding analog input.  I have no doubt this is probably true, as the IDA-8 analog in is digitized.  In that way, the IDA-8 appears to have more emphasis on the DAC with a very good amplifier.  The H80 seems, on the other hand, to be more of an AMP with an integrated DAC, focus spent more on the AMP.

So, if my needs don't change, what would be my best pick?

Will the (apparently) better AMP on the H80 be hindered by quality of the DAC, making the IDA-8 (with an apparently better DAC) better sounding if all my inputs are digital?  Will the H80 still be better sounding? Is it actually true that the H80 sounds better than the IDA-8 at all?

I understand that, from a growth perspective, the H80 seems more future-proof friendly, as I can later down the road buy a much better standalone DAC and hook its analog outputs to the Hegel's better amplifier... the other way around is a bit more limited as I could not buy a better amp for the IDA-8 as it lacks good analog outputs to an external AMP.  But lets assume I won't change my needs in quite a while.

What do you guys think?  Is the H80 really a better sounding device? Has anyone tried and listened to both? Can you describe as objectively as possible what were the differences?

Thanks for any advice and be kind if I'm missing something obvious :).  Thanks again,

Rafa.
ps. I know this is purely subjective, but I really believe this is a valid and useful question / advice looking.  If everything in this section can only be praise of NuPrime without ever mentioning any other brand, the usefulness of these type of forums is really diminished... at least that is my humble opinion.

WC

Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #1 on: 22 May 2017, 10:14 pm »
Incorporating a sub would be more difficult with the Hegel, since it doesn't have any preamp outs, but the Nuprime does have them. I haven't heard either so no comment on that front.

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #2 on: 22 May 2017, 10:30 pm »
Incorporating a sub would be more difficult with the Hegel, since it doesn't have any preamp outs, but the Nuprime does have them. I haven't heard either so no comment on that front.

It does have a line out if you look at the left hand side of the back of the unit.

http://www.hegel.com/products/integrated/h80

WC

Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #3 on: 22 May 2017, 10:50 pm »
It does have a line out if you look at the left hand side of the back of the unit.

http://www.hegel.com/products/integrated/h80

Typically Line Outs are not volume controlled, but their manual and literature does not show a line out or indicate if it is volume controlled. It only appears in that one photo. So if it is there I am not sure of its capability.

srb

Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #4 on: 22 May 2017, 11:19 pm »
To make it more confusing, although the Hegel site shows a rear panel photo with Line Output jacks yet no mention of them in the owner's manual text or drawings, an H80 for sale on eBay in the US shows a rear panel photo where the line outputs are additionally labeled "Variable".

 

But I'm wondering why you're comparing the IDA-8 with the H80 instead of the IDA-16?  Here in the US, the IDA-16 and H80 are priced in the same range (~ $2K), while the IDA-8 is priced at about half of either of those (~ $1K)?  Maybe your pricing in Ecuador is radically different?

Steve

I.Greyhound Fan

Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #5 on: 22 May 2017, 11:20 pm »
The older version of the H80 did not have the line out.  The newer version does.   All the line outs on my various gear are all volume controlled.  I am not sure why it would not be.

RafaPolit

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Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #6 on: 22 May 2017, 11:33 pm »
Thanks for the replies.  Yes, it appears the Line Output is variable.

@srb, as I tried to explain on the opening post, the IDA-8 will come through a customs proper channel, which in my country adds literally around 90% in taxes after all is taken into account.  So the IDA-8 costs here US$1.710.

It appears that the H80 will come inside a friends luggage, so it will cost whatever it costs him, so, around $2K.  That makes them, for me, similarly priced.  That is why I asked to take the price out of the equation for the time being and assume they cost the same, because they more or less will for me. :(

It's sad to have to pay almost twice as what equipment is worth elsewhere, yet have economies with much lower monthly wagers.  It makes it much more difficult.

So thanks again, and I look forward to any further info regarding actual sound quality of both equipments and their benefits and shortcomings.

Thanks,
Rafa.

JLM

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Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #7 on: 23 May 2017, 11:22 am »
Rafa,

Don't believe you can make a bad choice between these two minimalistic appearing, high quality/value pieces.  What is servicing like in Ecuador?  While I've never been a fan of "captive DAC's" as the technology is improving so fast (and not just in format), I too have been persuaded by pricing and simplicity to go that route. 

Would the H80 have a warrantee being delivered to you in this informal way?  USB on it is "only" 24/96 (but according to The Absolute Sound a very fine performer).  Note that it uses an A/B amp.  Which remote would you be getting (the cheap plastic one or the extra cost beefy metal one)?  Hegel seems to be almost a Norwegian cottage company from what I've read (which I like supporting).  Resale value should be higher, but have no idea what that means in Ecuador.

The IDA-8 uses a hybrid class A/D amp.  It adds wireless input but no XLR (I'm a fan of balanced design) and only one RCA analog input.  I'm a bit of a NuForce/NuPrime fan as I nearly bought an IDA-16 when it was first introduced.  With the price difference in the U.S. this would be a no brainer for me.

RafaPolit

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Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #8 on: 23 May 2017, 01:49 pm »
Very fine points JLM, I find it that I always appreciate your impartial input on this forum trying to see from the other person's perspective rather than imposing your own situation and likes.  Thanks!!

- Servicing is an issue, but this day an age where everything is so compact, nothing gets 'fixed'.  It gets replaced.  At least whole boards.  No one would change a single capacitor, they would change the hole AMP section.  The person bringing it to me is the local representative of NuPrime and other brands.  I believe he would honor warranty, but instead of a week or two it would take up to two months to fulfill it. (That is actually what is happening with my NuForce DDA, he is recognizing the full price I paid towards the new equipment).  So he is a very serious and accommodating person.  It will mean more trouble, but the same would be true for the NuPrime.

- I was debating myself about the "only" 24/96, but I am also on the fence regarding all the technical papers saying we can't actually hear any differences beyond that or maybe even 44.1... Also the fact that numbers alone mean absolutely nothing! Jason himself has said it that a decent DAC and the super expensive ones show little improvement and its all the things 'around them' that make for good sound.  So I'm not ready to throw out that option.  Also, having a great set of analog balanced inputs, it can always be the amplifier of a much finer DAC if that scenario arises.

- I'm pretty sure I'll buy the stock and cheapest version available, I am well over my budget as it is :(

- I have the Wireless covered by my RPi3 board which I have installed a Spotify Connect client and it has native AirPlay support, so no need at all for the extra wireless dongle, I would probably not even use it.

- I am myself a big fan of balanced design and also of NuPrime.

- About resell value, I try not to buy thinking about that.  I buy to use, and I prefer to buy what I would like to use most, not buy whatever would be easier to sell down the road.  I may be loosing money, but I prefer to have what I prefer rather than what would sell better.  Same happened to me when buying my car and I'm happy with my decision.

I like the simplicity of and small footprint of the IDA-8.  I like the more versatile and future-proof solution that the Hegel brings, kind of 'liberating' the DAC from the equation.  I have the feeling that if at one point the IDAs DAC is "not enough" I would need to buy everything again.  With the Hegel's more robust analog implementation, then that path would be easier.

Then again, if that is the case, why not go to DAC-9 and STA-9 which would be the obvious choice (although for some reason I am always put off by the 'real warm' sound described everywhere, but that is another discussion).  But both of them here would be even more expensive almost a US$3000.

So many choices. Thanks again for all the input, its much appreciated!
Rafa.

RafaPolit

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Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #9 on: 24 May 2017, 04:19 am »
Just to complicate things a bit, there is a local Marantz distributor.

How will the Marantz HD-AMP1 fit into the options? Is it really not in the same league or is it a contender at all?

Thanks,
Rafa.

JLM

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Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #10 on: 24 May 2017, 10:52 am »
Rafa,

Glad to see audiophilia is alive and well in Ecuador.  (My wife and I have casually looked into it as a possible retirement home although neither of us know a foreign language.)

Good point regarding repairs, even where I live in the U.S. service is via some remote center that the piece would get shipped to.  With that kind of NuPrime representative, I'd remain loyal to him and the brand.

I don't go digital format crazy either.  I've barely bought beyond 16/44.1 and have no high resolution material.  No one in my old audio club (with systems up to $50,000 USD) does either.  Digital conversion is still IMO more a matter of quality than numbers, thus I'm supposed to be receiving a Schiit Gungnir Multi-Bit DAC this week (perhaps the highest tech 16/44.1 focused DAC available). 

The IDA-8 is a compact, high-tech, high value but somewhat compromised product.  By compromised I'm thinking in terms of flexibility, features, and ultimate sound qualities.  You'll have to ask yourself if it would satisfy your personal audiophile itch for a "reasonable" length of time (whatever that means to you).  Both it and the Hegel fall more into the "lighter" (modern) vein of sound reproduction. 

Marantz is an old name in audio (from back when we called it stereo).  They still build some really nice (IMO overbuilt and over priced) pieces, but I seriously doubt if the HD-AMP1 is one of them.  The build seems to benefit from trickle-down technology of that nice gear, but I'd expect the sound to be darker/heavier/cloudier (best suited for lesser systems) than the NuPrime or Hegel.  Most of what they offer nowadays would be best described as mid-fi gear at best.

Take care and let us know how it all works out for you.

RafaPolit

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Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #11 on: 24 May 2017, 05:00 pm »
Thanks again JLM.  You would love it here.  Cuenca has become a really nice place for retirement, and everyone there speaks English, so I think you will enjoy it here!

Ok, so, the distributor is pushing now also the DAC-9 + STA-9 combo.  FInal cost of both would be (after deducting the warranty price from the failing equipment) $2,046.  The final cost of the IDA-8 would be $1,333.  Should I make the extra effort for the combo or will the sound signature would be so close to the IDA that I am better off saving the $700 bucks?

I hear a lot of classical music and opera, and I am always worried that the combined warmth of the DAC-9 with the added 'tube like' warmth of the STA-9 will mud out the lavish sound of orchestras.  On the comparisson chart, the STA-9 and IDA-8 share all the slots except for power and warmth.  So is it really worth to look into the two module approach?

I still haven't received quotes on the Hegel.

Thanks again,
Rafa.

rustydoglim

Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #12 on: 28 May 2017, 12:06 am »
DAC-9 and STA-6 x 2 !!!
STA-6 is designed to be more neutral than STA-9, though it shared the same fundamental design, but we used different Class A transistor circuits on the preamp section.

damguz

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Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #13 on: 28 May 2017, 05:21 am »
Thanks again JLM.  You would love it here.  Cuenca has become a really nice place for retirement, and everyone there speaks English, so I think you will enjoy it here!

Ok, so, the distributor is pushing now also the DAC-9 + STA-9 combo.  FInal cost of both would be (after deducting the warranty price from the failing equipment) $2,046.  The final cost of the IDA-8 would be $1,333.  Should I make the extra effort for the combo or will the sound signature would be so close to the IDA that I am better off saving the $700 bucks?

I hear a lot of classical music and opera, and I am always worried that the combined warmth of the DAC-9 with the added 'tube like' warmth of the STA-9 will mud out the lavish sound of orchestras.  On the comparisson chart, the STA-9 and IDA-8 share all the slots except for power and warmth.  So is it really worth to look into the two module approach?

I still haven't received quotes on the Hegel.

Thanks again,
Rafa.

I PM you

RafaPolit

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Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #14 on: 28 May 2017, 05:26 am »
Thanks for jumping in Jason!

Makes sense, although it adds a few hundred bucks to an already stretched budget, it may just be the route!

Two questions:
- Is the quality stage and resolution of the STA-6 the same as the STA-9? If so, is it just power and less connectivity all that separates them? (Other than the neutrality being discussed, obviously).
- I am a 'fan' of balanced audio (specially on noisy electrical installations).  Will there be no difference in a good balanced setup with the STA-9 vs unbalanced RCAs on the STA-6?

Finally, the trigger missing on the STA-9 but present on the STA-6s will not be able to be driven by the DAC-9 which has no trigger, is that correct?

Really an interesting choice, just when I wanted to narrow down the options, instead of broadening them again! :)

Thanks once more,
Rafa.

RafaPolit

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Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #15 on: 28 May 2017, 06:15 am »
Thanks Damguz, replied to the PM.

rustydoglim

Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #16 on: 28 May 2017, 06:50 pm »
STA-6 has the same resolution as STA-9, it is not designed to be a lessor amp, we don't do that kind of stuff.
STA-6 cost less because the SMPS was designed to be closely integrated with the amp module. STA-6 was labeled Commercial for business reason, where we try to tip toe into the custom installation and commercial market.
If you don't need extra power, then one STA-6 at 90W x 2 is sufficient.  It is a killer amp at this price and performance. I don't think anything on the market can match STA-6 at this price point.

John Casler

Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #17 on: 28 May 2017, 07:46 pm »
I just popped open a single STA-6 and have been breaking it in, in an office system.

Soon, I will transfer it to my main system, which currently has a pair of bridged STA-9 to demo.

Will report, but initially the STA-6 sounds excellent, even with very lowly speakers.

RafaPolit

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Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #18 on: 28 May 2017, 11:35 pm »
Thanks for the info. Surely seems like a great AMP at almost half the price.

Any word on the Balanced XLR vs. Unbalanced RCA? Would the differences be neglectable?

It would be nice if you could add the STA-6 to the AMP comparisson table.  I'm sure that, like me, a lot of people use that to figure things out.

Thanks,
Rafa.

rustydoglim

Re: Input on IDA-8 vs. Hegel H80
« Reply #19 on: 29 May 2017, 02:45 pm »
XLR has +ve and -ve signals (think of your music signal being flipped) to enable it to drive long cable - that was the original objective for pro audio. The installer people likes to recommend XLR also because it is easy to connect and disconnect (some RCA cable plug can be very tight and difficult to remove).  Somehow along the way XLR was perceived as having better quality.

If XLR is not well designed (most will just use opamp to flip the output signal), it is actually worst than RCA. The sound improvement probably come from people who put their mono amp next to speaker and then connect XLR cable between DAC/preamp and amp.

If your amp is next to the DAC+preamp, just go with RCA.