Hegel Viking CD Player

hfnoutstandingAs Hegel's previous 'last ever' CD player – the Mohican – gets the chop, the audio world faces a new invasion from the Norwegian longships, courtesy of the Viking...

When Hegel announced its Viking CD player, the phrase 'never say never again' sprung to mind. You don't need to have a particularly long memory to recall the company's previous silver-disc spinner was named Mohican [HFN Oct '16] because – geddit? – it was going to be the last such machine the Norwegian company would make. The format's popularity was seemingly dwindling in the face of music streaming and the vinyl resurgence. Hegel even made commemorative t-shirts for its final fling with CD.

That was back in 2016, so a volte-face a mere seven years later raises some eyebrows. Of course, the hi-fi industry is currently awash with chatter about a CD revival, perhaps a by-product of Covid lockdowns where people stayed at home and remembered their disc collections. Indeed, Hegel is following companies including Denon [HFN May '23], Audiolab [HFN Aug '23] and Electrocompaniet [HFN Dec '21] in recently introducing new CD/SACD players. Yet the £4500 Viking, available in just the one black finish, is also truly minimalist: it has no digital inputs, no SACD playback, and no user-selectable digital filters.

Why The Long Ship?
A brief word on the name. Hegel tells us it chose Viking not solely for its Scandinavian roots, but because it is 'improving on existing technology' – in the same way the Vikings turned the humble rowing boat into a longboat that could conquer the oceans. That's fair enough, but I might have gone for Lazarus considering this player is ostensibly back from the dead…


Separately regulated supplies for the transport [top], digital [top right] and analogue [lower right] circuits are fed from two toroidal transformers [lower left]. The new AKM AK4493 SEQ DAC is used here [centre top of RH PCB]

Anyway, there's something about the design of the Viking that will surely please any audiophile. It looks modern but unflashy and appears meticulously engineered. The front fascia is gently curved, as all Hegel's components are, and the Viking also gets the cutaway along the top – debuted on the P30A and H30A pre/power amplifiers [HFN Jun '23] – to better flaunt the company logo. Meanwhile, the chassis is full-width, but neither imposingly deep nor tall, which makes it easy to accommodate on standard hi-fi furniture.

The simple, symmetrical layout of the front panel references that of the previous Mohican, albeit with a newer, crisper OLED display, which Hegel says was 'specifically selected for its low noise'. What at first glance look like rotaries either side turn out to be push-button controls – each round knob offering a different function depending on where you press it. Operation in this way is slightly awkward, as the buttons require quite a firm touch. Of course, the Viking comes with a small, metal remote handset that's a better bet, although this itself lacks eject and power on/off functions. As a result, diehard enthusiasts will probably want to disable the player's Auto Standby mode, keeping the Viking fired up at the cost of a few wasted watts.

Interior Design
The simplicity of the design continues around the back, where there's just a mains socket, balanced XLR and unbalanced RCA analogue outputs, and a BNC digital output if you wish to use the Viking as a CD transport. Hegel naturally recommends opting for the XLR output for the 'highest level of sound quality', and this connection is present on all its integrated amplifiers and preamps except the entry-level H90.

So what's changed since the Mohican player was unveiled as a last hurrah for CD? The answer is quite a lot, for in addition to the machine's smarter styling, Hegel has also revamped the player's interior. Part of this will be because the retirement of the Mohican last year was caused by the discontinuation of 'key components', not least the CD transport, but also because Hegel's stated aim is for the Viking to be 'the best CD player [it's] ever made', which implies a process of continual development.

The slot-loading mechanism (replacing the Mohican's tray) and laser pick-up are new, as is the 32-bit 'Velvet Sound' AKM 4493SEQ DAC. Hegel has enhanced the fully balanced analogue stage for this new player, based around its proven filter and 'Line Driver' technologies, while the digital/analogue PSUs directly benefit from two separate transformers (the Mohican had but one). Hegel's Master Clock system sees the brand's latest SoundEngine technology at work with the aim, as ever, to reduce digital jitter wherever it might arise.

Hegel Music Systems AS
Oslo, Norway
Supplied by: Auden Distribution Ltd, Lancs
+47 22 605660