heed integrated amplifiers

heed ELIXIR, heed OBELISK Si III, heed Lagrange

Having just spent a fascinating week listening to three heed integrated amplifiers I can now summarise my initial responses.
heed hails from Hungary. Often described as a boutique manufacturer, which it is when compared to the Denon’s of the world, it has carved out a successful niche now supplying their handcrafted products throughout Europe for more than 25 years and now to selected worldwide distributors. Recently available in Australia thanks to the good folk with good ears at HiFi Collective, it was with great intrigue my investigation of the heed world began.

ELIXIR First up was the $2495 heed ELIXIR. Featuring 4 analogue inputs and a MM phono stage, Class-A headphone amp (6.35 mm socket), rated at 50w / channel in to an 8ohm load. Connects to a single pair of speakers, or there is a pre-out to a power amp. Control could not be easier. Select your input, and output. Speakers or headphone. A remote control is included.
Listening for all three amplifiers was all fed by the Auralic Altair G1 and the speakers were my default Naim Ovator S400. So extremely revealing and neutral source and end point.
Listening moved through a number of very recent releases both ripped to a NAS and downloaded via Tidal, alongside the tried and tested sample tracks I’ve used for years. First impressions of the ELIXIR were here is a very capable entry level amplifier. It is not getting in the way and trying to be too clever, that is vocals and percussion were very lifelike, reassuringly familiar. Perhaps all on the warm side with a slightly enhanced staging that will be welcome by many, particularly those with less capable speakers that I was using. Clearly these heed designers know how they can perform to a set budget. This is a cleverly thought-out entry-level amplifier that delivers an honest, uncoloured musical and involving sound. Also Offering more than some at this price point – the Class-A headphone and a phono preamplifier (taken from their QUESTAR MM phono preamplifier). Off to a great start then.

OBELISK The $2995 Obelisk is what heed call a Modular Integrated Amplifier, meaning you start with a good straight forward amplifier that you can add modules building the amp you want, without investing in circuits that you don’t. Quite clever really. You can also add an optional power supply (the OBELISK X2 $1695) at a later stage, when funds allow. Also rated at 50w / channel in to an 8ohm load, here you get up to 5 RCA inputs with option of adding a MM phono card ($345) or a DAC card ($895) or both. Remembering this a company that makes a very good CD transport (with no DAC) this makes a lot of sense, alongside the myriad of streamer options.
Listening to the same playlist and quite a number of new selections I found the Obelisk sound to be just a touch up on its little brother, voiced a little less forward and a touch more honest. Build quality is just a smidgeon better than the Elixir (though both are good) and I like the versatility this model offers. Yes, the use of link plugs for the absent power supply and the power supply upgrade seems all undeniably very familiar to those of us used to Naim Audio, but the resulting sound is the important factor here. I like the uncoloured musical honesty without artificial colouring that heed are striving for. This is an amplifier that grew on me and opened out for a very satisfying listen.

LAGRANGE At $7495 you would expect that things get serious and as soon as you lift the 15kg Lagrange you know you have moved into another class of amplifier. While fully at home in the world of pre and power amplifier (mono and stereo) options it is interesting that with the Lagrange heed have now taken on the comprehensive single-box market. After the two smaller shoe box options I was expecting a lift moving to this full-size component but nothing quite like I was hearing. The Lagrange is a very authoritative integrated amplifier, huge yet well controlled bottom end, engaging mids that are again truthful and with life like timbre and a depth of soundstage that places individual sounds in their own spaces. Quite an achievement at this price point. I found myself listening for days and then some.
Like the other two amplifiers a remote comes a standard. There are 4 RCA inputs and a MM phono input, a HT bypass (for control from an AV amplifier) and a Bluetooth wireless connection. Outputs to stereo speakers, Tape Out, Pre-Out and there is a headphone socket.
There is also an option to purchase the Lagrange with an onboard DAC fitted adding 1 USB, 1 RCA coaxial and 1 Toslink optical input. This option goes for $8495.
Curiously official spec sheet rates the Lagrange at minimum 60 w / channel into an 8 ohm load. You can hear this. This is one very capable amplifier. It works effortlessly in my large lounge into the Naim S400s without ever leaving you wishing for more. I have had both negative and very positive reactions as to how the Lagrane actually looks but not to how it sounds. Well worth consideration for anyone looking for a straightforward one box solution at this price point.