It’s flexible and modular. It’s sleek and minimal. It’s imported and unique. It’s the future of hi-fi for the masses. Well, probably so… it certainly is at least a step in the right direction.
There’s been a lot of talk lately about the future of the high-end audio industry. That the manufacturers must find a way to fit into a new set of requirements unlike what they are used to. As the target demographic hi-fi buyer is aging, there is a new demographic that is huge and way into audio, and the hi-fi industry can and should adapt and find a way into the hearts of the new “iPod” generation. At least that seems to be the call to action that I am latching onto.
Quasar MM/MC Phono Stage The Heed Audio System of components is ahead of the curve, in my opinion, simply based on their form factor, their style and target pricing. Since early November, I have been having lots of fun with the Heed system, consisting of the Quasar MM/MC Phono Stage ($995), the Luna remote controlled two-input Preamplifier ($1095), and the Canopus mono power amplifiers ($1150/pr).
Obviously if you want stereo, you need two mono-amps. But just so you know, the Quasar phono pre comes as two boxes (one for the power supply) as does the Luna Preamplifier. So that’s six boxes… six almost identical (at least identical in size)… very small and very cool looking boxes. They come fronted in either black or white plexi. I had Quasar MM/MC Phono Stage the black. But if you really want to match your iPod, unless you have a cool new black one, then you can go for the bright white. Each box has a small blue LED centered in the lower half of the front, and except for the Luna preamplifier, that’s all you have. The Luna preamplifier has a black anodized aluminum volume knob and a small push button to choose source.
Did I mention they’re really small boxes? Each identical unit is about 4” wide by 3” high, by 8” deep. Stack ‘em 2×3 horizontally, vertically, 1×6 horizontally… I wouldn’t try that vertically, but you could. They look oh so cool in just about any configuration.
Being so compact, it can get a little busy looking behind the components. There are only a few more wires than normal since two of the pieces have separate power supplies and need both power cables and a cable to carry that power from the separate supply to the electronics. But being so small, when you’ve connected your turntable, CD player, speakers and all power chords, there’s quite a jumble back there. It would be a neat idea if Heed designed one power supply box that could feed all of their electronic devices. You could hide that one box away and somehow feed the power through a kind of split chord to all the units. Kind of like what is done with guitar effect pedals being powered from one device, or better yet, do what Resolution Audio is proposing with their Lily system.
But I really do love this modular idea. Hopefully, Heed will continue to release new modules. Me, I’d add on a DAC module if they made one. Certainly a FM tuner module, maybe even one that received streamed audio over a network, even wirelessly… now that would make a great additional module.
But back to the modules at hand. I’ll break them down a little bit here in analysis. I’ll work up to what I considered the star of the show, the Quasar phono pre. But first, let’s talk about the Luna remote controlled preamplifier.
The Luna allows for input and switching between two stereo sources. It has two sets of RCA outs… one to go to a device like a tape deck (or powered speakers) and the other to go to your amplifier, the latter controlled by the volume output. The remote control only controls volume and not source switching. I used the tape output to feed a pair of powered speakers in my kitchen; the other output went to the Canopus power amps. The two inputs were fed from the Quasar phone pre and a host of CD players that I have reviewed. I did not use the Luna preamp with any other amplification system because I am not sure who would. I mean, you could but this preamp as a component in a mixed system of separates, but really it looks and fits with the entire Heed system under review here. I could see using the Luna phono pre in another system or even the Canopus mono blocks, because they are so small you could practically hide them away on top of, behind or even IN a speaker. With my source components, including a CD player, a FM tuner, turntable and iPod… I found the inclusion of only two inputs to be limiting.
In operation, the Luna preamp was smooth and reliable. It was easy to use. The volume knob had a good zange so it was easy to dial in a volume you liked. The remote worked from just about any angle and from good distances. As I only reviewed this piece as part of the overall system, I won’t comment on its individual sound. What I will say now is that as an entire system, or at least amp and preamp, the Heed Luna preamp and Canopus mono amps make a very musical sound. They create a good impression of a real and lively sound. Instruments sound recognizable as they should and vocals create an illusion of person-in-room-with-you, as it should. As an amp/preamp system, I could certainly distinguish the distinct characteristics of source components and recording quality… so they are detailed and accurate enough.
That previous description may sound rather matter-of-fact. It was. But it was intended to describe the qualifications rather than my reactions. Reaction? I really enjoyed listening to my music through the Heed Audio Luna preamp and Canopus mono amps. Listening through this system was very satisfying for me. I would not say it made me feel more in touch with the music, or even more emotional. That it even enhanced my emotions like a good drug can. The Heed amp/preamp system is a satisfying experience because things sound like you would imagine them to. Nothing stands out above anything else in its sound portrayal. It had rhythm and it had real tone. It output proper bass and expected treble. It did not enhance my perception of an ambient space around the music. I actually felt it kind of made music sound more like it was direct-miked than room-miked.
Canopus Now, let me tell you how the Quasar phono preamplifier took this system to the next level. Listening to my albums through my trusty and well-reviewed/respected Gram Amp II SE phono preamplifier, the sound was as described above. Listening through the Quasar and WOW! Where did all that excitement come from? I feel lighter. I feel like I’m there with the musicians, in their space. I feel like the singer is singing to me. The band has come alive. They’re not tired any more.
They’re having fun. AND… they’ve upgraded all their instruments… changed their strings and their drum heads, etc. THAT’s the impression I had when listening to this system with the Quasar phono pre in the chain. That’s how I know the Quasar is the star of the show.
This is a phono preamp you want for any system. I have it in my Brooklyn system now, which consists of a Red Wine Audio Clari-T amplifier and Bastanis Prometheus loudspeakers and it is doing all the same things I have described above. I would wager it would bring the same qualities to any system it is introduced into.
Maybe Heed should make a device to sit between a CD player and their preamp to inject that same magic. It would be just another one or two small boxes 😉
To sum up, the Heed system is one tempting gathering of cool minimal little boxes that makes listening to music more interactive and entertaining. The Luna preamplifier and Canopus mono-block amplifiers are accurate and consistently let you hear your source. As an in-between source (in-between your turntable/cart combo), the Quasar phono preamplifier is an incredible piece of kit. It is magical. It takes the music to a euphoric yet realistic level. It heightens the aural senses. Basically it makes listening much more pleasurable. The Luna is the Heed component out of this system that would enhance any system. As a system of three: the Canopus mono-block amplifiers, the Luna preamplifier and Quasar phono preamplifier make better music and music better.
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