Hardware Reviews

Heed Elixir brings music to life

Heed Elixir integrated amplifier review https://the-ear.net

Heed Elixir integrated amplifier

I can’t speak for you of course, but for me Heed is one of those brands that I have been aware for a long time, mostly from encountering them at various audio shows over the years but to which I have never paid great attention. Happily, their UK presence was boosted last year when distribution was taken over by TFT. In the dark days of early winter late last year I took delivery of the company’s Elixir integrated amplifier from Toby Allen, the TFT founder, who happens to live just a few miles from here. We unboxed the diminutive amplifier and installed it on my system rack, before indulging in some coffee and conversation.

My late mother always insisted that first impressions count, and the first impressions of the Heed Elixir were very positive. It is less than 10cm high and weighs just 6kg, however what the Heed designers have managed to pack into that small enclosure is impressive. A 50W per channel (into 8 Ohms) Class A/B amplifier, a headphone amplifier, a moving magnet phono stage, four pairs of RCA inputs and a pair of RCA pre-outputs. Nothing digital here, this is a purely analogue machine. It feels robustly built and very solid in the hand. In addition to the input sockets, the back panel sports two pairs of loudspeaker terminals, an on/off rocker switch and the mains power socket. The front panel is functional, with a push button to cycle through the inputs and a circular volume control. There is a full size headphone socket which give access to an excellent Class A amplifier – this is no afterthought as you will read.

Heed Elixir integrated amplifier review https://the-ear.net

The guts of the amplification system is taken from the same Transcap technology deployed in all of Heed’s amplifiers, of which the Elixir is the least expensive. For the technically minded there is a full explanation of Transcap on Heed’s very good website, but in essence it draws on the same ideas behind valve technology, and requires very careful  power management and balancing to perform optimally.

The remote control is beautifully simple and will also operate a Heed CD player should you have one. There are just five buttons for the amplifier, located at the top of the handset and providing volume control, muting and input selection. There are few less daunting remote controls around, at least among those that have passed through my system.

Heed Elixir integrated amplifier review https://the-ear.net

I connected my Linn Sondek LP12 arm cable to the MM phono sockets, with the ground wire going to the earth pin above them. At the time I had a Vertere Dark Sabre MM cartridge installed in the Linn Ittok arm. I ran a pair of Audioquest Pegasus RCA cables from the Yamaha CD-S3000 player/DAC to input two, with a pair Audioquest Robin Hood loudspeaker cables running to my Harbeth Compact7ESXD loudspeakers, which were as usual perched on their HiFi Racks Fortis stands. Streaming duties were handled by the Auralic Aries Mini, which has been upgraded with a Network Acoustics power supply and the same company’s ENO ethernet filter, with a coaxial cable to the Yamaha’s DAC. Television sound came through an optical cable to the same DAC.

Listening to Elixir

I was keen to try out the MM phono stage, and cued up a long-time favourite album, the Blue Note Tone Poet reissue of the Paul Chamber Quartet’s Bass On Top. All six tracks on the album were recorded on a single day in July 1957 at Rudy Van Gelder’s studio. The quartet was led by Chambers on bass, with Kenny Burrell on guitar, Hank Jones on piano and Art Taylor on drums. The sound that poured from the Harbeths was absolutely spellbinding. The rich tone of the bass carried weight and authority, with each band member placed firmly in a vividly three dimensional soundstage. The Elixir conveyed the subtleties and dynamics of this joyful music making with real panache. I have reviewed the Dark Sabre already, and the phono stage in the Elixir did it full justice.

Heed Elixir integrated amplifier review https://the-ear.net

After the very favourable first impression of the Elixir’s musicality and poise, I spent the rest of the first day enjoying some of my favourite albums. The recent reissue of the Who’s Who’s Next, half-speed remastered by Miles Showell at Abbey Road Studios, leapt from the Harbeths with real punch and power and encouraged me to use that lovely little remote control to advance the volume way beyond what would be considered comfortable by some folk. By the time we came to the final track, the epic Won’t Get Fooled Again, I  was in full-on air guitar mode and utterly lost in the music.

That evening (it was in the run-up to Christmas!), we watched the strangely seasonal classic Die Hard, and once again the little Elixir belied its size to fill the room with crisp dialogue and explosive sound effects. The spoken word came through with great audibility and precision, whether in movie soundtracks or the rather more sobering nightly news.

As well as its highly creditable performance with rock music, the Elixir did exceptionally with the rather more nuanced sounds of Handel’s Messiah, in the 1980 release on Decca’s L’Oiseau Lyre label, with Christopher Hogwood directing the Academy of Ancient Music, the Choir of Christ Church Cathedral Oxford and five excellent solo singers, including one of my favourite voices from the era, Emma Kirkby. Not to everyone’s taste perhaps, but I really bought into Hogwood’s use of original instruments in this and many other recordings, and the way that this system portrayed this major work was absolutely enthralling.

Heed Elixir integrated amplifier review https://the-ear.net

I also took some time to try out the headphone amplifier, and was very impressed with what I heard. My Audioquest Nighthawks are a closed back design, long since out of production, but I enjoy their sound very much. The Class A amplifier in the Elixir did a sterling job and I spent a happy day listening to albums such as Pink Floyd’s precursor to Dark Side Of The Moon, Meddle, which lends itself to headphone listening very well. It was a truly immersive listening experience.

Final thoughts

I thoroughly enjoyed my time with the Heed Elixir. It is a real pocket rocket of an integrated amplifier, which would form the musical heart of an excellent real world system. Despite the relatively modest purchase price it did full justice to every source that I played, all of which cost more than it does. By concentrating on the fundamentals and not trying to cram any superfluous technology into its shoe-box size enclosure, the Heed designers have created an absolutely delightful amplifier and a genuine audio bargain. If you put it in a system of similarly priced sources and loudspeakers it will give you many years of musical pleasure which is, after all, what most of us involved in this sometimes eccentric hobby are seeking to achieve. My Concise Oxford English Dictionary defines elixir as “a magical or medicinal potion, especially (in former times) one supposedly able to change metals into gold…”. I think Heed’s designers have achieved something similar with this, their own Elixir.


Type: Integrated stereo amplifier
Analogue inputs: 4x RCA
Phono input: moving magnet
Digital inputs: none
Analogue outputs: pre-out RCA
Bluetooth: N/A
Headphone output: 6.3mm jack
Speaker outputs: 5-way binding posts
Power Output: 50W into 8 ohms; 65W into 4 ohms
Dimensions (HxWxD): 85 x 220 x 360mm
Weight: 6kg
Warranty: 2 years

Price when tested:
Manufacturer Details:

Heed Audio
T +36 1 294 7401


integrated amplifier


Chris Kelly

Distributor Details:

TFT Distribution Ltd
T 07841 419439

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