Heed Audio Elixir
FOR Spacious soundstage; fluid dynamics; phono stage After going upmarket with the high-end Thesis range, Heed Audio has returned to more humble pastures with its new Elixir: an analogue-only integrated stereo amplifier targeted at first-time hi-fi buyers.
More affordable than usual for the Budapest-based brand, it sits below the Thesis and Obelisk lines but borrows the design principles found in Heed’s Transcap amps (like the 2012 Award-winning Obelisk si), and has a decent output of 50W per channel into 8 ohms (or 65W per channel into 4 ohms).
The last pick
So what gives? Our first thought is that the Heed feels like a cheaper product than its price suggests. Everything, from the half-width casing (available in either black or silver) and the front panel controls to the compact remote control, feels a little too budget for our tastes, even though the actual build quality itself seems solid enough.
The simple labels that light up for each don’t help the Elixir’s cause, and neither do the dodgy font choices for the logo prominently displayed on the front panel. Lined up next to its main rivals, including the Rotel A14, Audiolab MONE and Cyrus One, it’s likely to be your last pick on showroom appeal alone.
There’s also the absence of a DAC and, unlike some of Heed’s higher-ranging models, the Elixir isn’t compatible with the brand’s separate DAC module. So digital conversion responsibilities will have to be taken care of by a CD player, streamer or any other source connected to the Elixir’s four line-level inputs.
The Heed can welcome a turntable with open arms though, thanks to its built-in moving-magnet phono stage, based on the circuitry from Heed’s dedicated (and multi Award-winning) Questar phono amp. A Class-a headphone amplifier drives a 6.3mm jack found on the front panel. There are two pairs of speaker connections on board, and a pre-amp output for adding a power amp if you wish.
Thankfully, no compromise has been made where sound quality is concerned, and it takes only a short time in the company of the Heed to push any AGAINST Lacks bass weight; Marmite design; no Bluetooth reservations we have about features and design to the back of our minds.
We ease our way in with Nina Simone’s Blues for Mama, and the Heed makes a strong case. Its easy-listening balance – authoritative and bold, but not too forward – captures the playful persona of the smoky blues track from the first note.
The perky piano, cymbals and distinctive vocal are all presented on a level playing field, the voice brimming with subtlety as the Elixir describes Simone’s intrinsically dulcet tone and hangs onto her every rasp.
Sensible use of space
It ruminates just as much on Matt Berninger’s brooding delivery in The National’s Graceless, even if the Rega Elex-r gets into his vocal nuance more convincingly. There’s enough space around it for the emotion and expression to come through, and that’s indication of the amp’s roomy soundstage.
It fills the space sensibly. Detail retrieval is ample, which applies as much to the more inconspicuous piano notes and cymbals as it does to the dominating drums, and dynamically it’s fluid and free. It’s no slouch, either, driving the track’s propulsive rhythms with momentum and crisp, precise timing, and dovetailing the charged drumbeat and bass guitar into a logical whole. But by sacrificing a little low-end weight and richness, the Heed doesn’t quite anchor the bassline as much as it should.
That remains the case as we switch to Pink Floyd’s In The Flesh? on vinyl, but elsewhere we’re impressed with the Heed’s detailed articulacy and determination to afford as much energy and power as possible to the track – good news indeed for vinyl enthusiasts.
By pitching itself as a beginner-friendly, analogue-only amp, the Heed Elixir puts itself somewhat on the back foot in terms of versatility, especially in the face of its many Dac-toting, hi-res music-supporting rivals.
Still, the pared-down approach to features has allowed Heed to focus on what really matters: sound quality. And it has paid off. The Elixir is a simple machine but, for the right buyer, is no less attractive for it.
KEY FEATURES MM phono stage Four line-level inputs 6.3mm headphone jack The Elixir feels cheaper than its price, but build is solid enough
The Heed Elixir’s pared-down approach allows a focus on sound