Heed Au­dio Elixir

What Hi-Fi (UK) - - Contents -

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 MŠONE 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.

Begin­ner’s luck

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.