REVIEW: HEED ELIXIR INTEGRATED AMPLIFIER
Prefer to read the PDF? Click below to download our review of the Heed Elixir Integrated Amplifier. Otherwise, read on.
I love getting my hands on amps made by boutique manufacturers, I really do. Not only do they tend to sound more interesting than the mainstream models, they also tend to be more functional in their aesthetics.
You don’t find unnecessary lights, dials, switches or modes that have been added in response to the latest market trends. Instead you almost always find a product that has been designed to fulfil just a handful of functions and to perform those functions without compromise.
In this case, Hungary’s Heed Audio is the boutique manufacturer, a company that has made a name for itself with the Obelisk range of small components. The Heed Elixir is from a newer line, with Heed describing it as:
A preamplifier with its dedicated output, a power amplifier with plenty of juice to drive anything reasonable, a phono preamplifier to re-discover those black discs, and a headphone amplifier with way too much talents for a secondary function only. But we have built them into one box because these are the basic functions everyone should experience in “My First Hi-Fi System”.
As it happens, it is well enough for the second and the third as well…
In physical appearance the Elixir looks very much like all the other components in Heed’s line up; all deeper than they are wide, all minimalist in form, and all reminding you just a little of a metal shoe box with a volume knob on the front.
While the Elixir looks very much like the Obelisk on the outside, it differs significantly on the inside.
The ‘lid lifted’ shots I found via Google show the interior design of the Elixir to be very different to that of the Obelisk, looking much more like the design was a complete reworking rather than the result of an exercise in cost reduction.
If the aim had been simply to offer a cheaper integrated product, then a version of the Obelisk minus the S/PDIF input would have been an obvious product to offer. Instead, Heed developed the Elixir, their entry level offering in the integrated amplifier market.
I’ll be keeping my eye on the Elixir range as there is only the Integrated amp on offer at the moment, but if Heed can repeat their efforts on a wider range of components this could be an entire entry level range to watch carefully.
Specification wise the Elixir looks very similar to the Obelisk. Power is identical at 50wpc into 8 Ohms. The Elixir lists 65wpc into 4 Ohms while no such figures are published for the Obelisk. I would expect the Obelisk to better that 4 Ohm rating simply due to the additional capacitance reservoir on tap but probably only by 5 to 10wpc.
Both have an MM phono stage but there isn’t enough info in the official specs to determine if it is the same design or capability. I’m a silver disc man myself so I’ll just stick to what I know and leave that question to a more qualified enthusiast. The Elixir weighs in at just 6kg and contains a 150VA toroidal transformer.
Ins and Outs
Available inputs are 4 line level and one MM phono. There’s a pair of speaker binding posts, one set of unbalanced outputs, and an unbalance headphone output around front.
Headphone and speaker outputs can be selected on or off via the front panel (that’s what the “out” button is for) as can inputs. And that is about that, simple really, and makes me wonder why so many components have so many other features.
The appearance is minimalist, the features too. But the sound? Oh no, the sound is anything but minimalist.
For the purpose of this review the source in use was my YBA Heritage CD100 cd player. Line level signals were passed along a pair of Aurealis R1 interconnects and the speaker cables in use were 10AWG generic cables with banana plugs attached. The speakers were my old favourites, Lenehan Audio S2R stand mounts on dedicated stands.
The Top End
The Elixir renders the upper treble in a very listenable way with no harshness or hardness in evidence at all and this lends itself to a vanishingly low level of listener fatigue. You could listen all day to the Elixir and still be smiling at the end.
Trumpets come across nice and brassy with plenty of ‘rasp’ to their sound but very little in the way of hardness. Triangle is pleasant and sparkly but slightly less metallic than usual, as if it is being played while surrounded with thick curtains. Soft piano is very soft and silky and hard played piano is just not hard so much as it is ‘politely forceful’.
The Heed does not have the last word in detail but with that soft delivery it is all the more listenable for it, an excellent result at this price point.
The Elixir maintains the feel of a soft background from the treble, but also lends a nimble and quick feel to the midrange. There is plenty of air around the instruments with a nice degree of separation in evidence. Acoustic strings do very well in this sort of environment, violins in particular.
The bass region has a nice solid thump to its delivery. In keeping with the softer nature of the top end and the mid-range it is not forward or overbearing in volume or impact.
It is a bass region that excels at rolling and churning rumble rather than straight out boot; bass that you can hear but not feel. The sort of bass region that fans of orchestral and non-amplified instruments will easily enjoy but will probably leave metal heads wanting more.
Female vocals come across as very soft and sultry, as do Male vocals. This soft and sultry effect works well for the ladies (Dido, Nancy Wilson and Amy Lee all benefit from it) and doesn’t really detract from the performance of the gents, although it doesn’t assist them either. Male vocals are slightly softer than expected but otherwise as normal.
Soundstage and stereo effects are presented quite subtly. In fitting with the overall feel of the Elixir the sound stage itself is polite and non-intrusive. There is certainly movement within it but these feel more as if they are carefully planned beforehand rather than the result of sharp separation between left and right channels.
The Heed generally conveys a pleasantly calm demeanour, an unrushed happiness to continue listening until the album ends and then to follow up with another. On faster songs this is slightly less evident but still noticeable. When stepped up to hard rock or heavy metal this effect fades away, but that is to be expected.
One thing that struck me as I was performing my preliminary listening to the Elixir was just how well it performs on my collection of 80s albums. I wasn’t expecting this as I was already coming to the conclusion that it was more a soft and subtle amp than it was a hard rock amp.
I was very surprised at how well powered instruments were rendered. Electric guitar being the most obvious to note, the Elixir gives it this sense of energy and rebelliousness while still maintaining its signature style of a soft background with no hard edges to be found. I have no idea how it does this but I have to say that I am very happy that it does.
In Comparison & Closing
Any review of the Heed Elixir would not be complete without mention of, and a comparison to, the Rega Brio R.
Every other reviewer in the audio world seems to have drawn a comparison between these two amplifiers. After all, they appear similar in size and shape, they have similar power figures and they fall into the same price bracket. The Rega also has a very strong reputation and following which makes it an obvious choice to compare all potential competitors with.
I recall the Brio R quite fondly, and the Elixir does remind me of it in many ways. If I was forced to compare them directly I would say that they sound fairly similar in presentation in the mids and the sound staging. The Elixir has a smoother vocal presentation, while the Brio R has a slightly stronger bass presentation.
I think simply by choosing to directly compare the Elixir with the Brio R, many of us reviewers are giving it significant praise by default, because we can’t find any other comparably priced amps that are worth comparing it to.
Heed has produced an excellent amp with the Elixir that really stands out in its price range.
Heed Audio is distributed in Australia by ienjoy.com.au and the Elixir is available now for $1,395 RRP.
- Inputs - 4x line analogue / 1x MM phono
- Outputs - 1x stereo speaker / 1x preamplifier out / 1x 6.35mm headphones out
- Freq. response (speakers) - 10 Hz – 110 kHz
- Freq. response (preamp) - 3.5 Hz – 300 kHz
- Freq. response (headphones) - 3.5 Hz – 320 kHz
- Input impedance (line) - 10 kΩ
- Input impedance (MM) - 47 kΩ / 100 pF
- Input sensitivity - 135 mV
- Power (8Ω) - 50 W / channel (55 W peak / ch)
- Power (4Ω) - 65 W / channel (90 W peak / ch)
- Max. consumption - 150 W
- Idle consumption - 20 W
- Weight - 6 kg
- Dimensions (WxHxD) - 22 x 8.5 x 36 cm
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