Heed Audio Quasar phono preamplifier Page 2

The Heed Quasar did a terrific job of resolving the music on these Blue Notes, the preamplifier's powerful presentation bringing focus and force to the recordings of Milt Jackson, Grachan Moncur, Kenny Dorham, and Tina Brooks. While the road to satisfaction was fraught with the twists and turns of various interconnects, much plugging and unplugging of equipment, and the not-infrequent curse or temper tantrum, the Quasar always kept its classy, consistent character.

The Heed manual advises settings of 100µV sensitivity and 100 ohms impedance for the Denon DL-103. After I'd briefly experimented with jumper placement, that advice proved spot-on. And from the first needle-drop of "Whiskey Train," from Procol Harum's magnificent Home (LP, A&M SP 4261), I knew the Heed Quasar was on to something good.

Righteousness! This blues-rock standard from 1970 sounded big and raunchy, with ultra-extended low-end notes from Chris Copping's electric bass guitar and BJ Wilson's bass drum. I also noticed the added reverb around Gary Brooker's voice. Meanwhile, Robin Trower's wailing, blues-sauce–spewing guitar never sounded better, all nasty string bends and glistening plectrum attacks. And though the Quasar is 100% solid-state, it sounded neither hard nor, worse, tube-cliché syrupy or soft—as can happen when manufacturers of solid-state gear try to design in added "warmth."

But would the Quasar exhibit similar extension and solid framing of treble and midrange notes when asked to translate my magical Blue Note LPs? And would it convey the soul of the music?

The Quasar surprised me. It repeatedly delivered some of the finest vinyl-produced playback experiences I've heard in my humble home. Whether retrieving the instrumental virtuosity, rich tone, and studio ambience of the Blue Note 1500 discs, the dazzling improvisations on Dave Holland's Triplicate (LP, ECM 1373), or the eerie brilliance of Sibelius's Symphony 4 in the recording by Herbert von Karajan and the Berlin Philharmonic (LP, Deutsche Grammophon 2535-359), the Quasar excelled. It reproduced music with fine transparency, note extension, and tone, and shone at micro- and macrodynamics.

Those descriptors look mechanical and artificial on the page. The Quasar was anything but, bringing out humanity and depth of feeling and timbral naturalness from every recording—it was a joyful communicator. From Dave Holland's deep-bowed double bass, and the warning notes heard in the opening of Stravinsky's Firebird Suite, in the recording with Robert Shaw leading the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (LP, Telarc DG-10039), to the intimacy of RVG's hard-bop Blue Note sessions, the Quasar almost entirely removed itself from the music to let it speak. What unique sonic characteristics it did have were of warmth, a grain-free treble, and a certain delicacy, all of which complemented its whole-cloth sense of openness and coherency. The Quasar knows how to work the room, charming every listener and LP in earshot.

Rudy Van Gelder made his earliest Blue Note recordings at WOR Studios, in New York City, then in his parents' house in Hackensack, New Jersey, and finally in his own studio, in Englewood Cliffs. The Quasar let me easily hear the differences among albums recorded at the different venues. Lee Morgan's Indeed! (mono LP, BLP 1538) and Tina Brooks's True Blue (mono LP, 4041), both recorded in Hackensack, had much greater immediacy and clarity than Lou Donaldson's Quartet/Quintet/Sextet (mono LP, BLP 1537), recorded at WOR.

The Quasar revealed the minutiae of recordings very well, creating a superb sense of in-the-room transparency from small-group jazz recordings in which every improvisation, every minor turn of major improvisers, can be a revelation.

Heed meets Heed
The phono stage of the www.stereophile.com/content/heed-audio-elixir-integrated-amplifier">Heed Elixir is one of that integrated amplifier's glories, its punchy warmth and good tone a consistent delight. The Heed Quasar took it to another level. "Here at the Western World," from Steely Dan's Greatest Hits (LP, MCA-2 6008), became lighter and more refreshing, with a flowing musical line exposed in forceful drums and better delineation between standard electric guitar and steel guitar. And the Elixir's at times murkier mid- to low end was replaced by the Quasar's missile-like crystal clarity.

Francis Bebey's African Electronic Music 1975–1982 (LP, Born Bad 039) really took off, its exuberant meeting of kalimba, freaky distorted Farfisa organ, rhythm-box playfulness, and layered voices spread deep, wide, and plentiful, with first-rate images and tons of air. The Quasar brought earthiness to this African electronic dance funk, with grander soul and resolution than the Elixir's own phono stage.

For most of my auditioning of the Quasar in both rigs, I used AudioQuest Yukon interconnects ($324.75/1m pair, Amazon). They're more listenable than AQ's Water ($524.75/1m pair, Amazon), with better tone than the bottom of AQ's line, the Chicago ($68.75/1m pair, Amazon). Replacing the Yukons with Morrow Audio's MA-1 interconnects ($49.95/1m pair) provided less air than the AQs and a recessed soundstage, but excellent snap and rhythmic acuity. Also in-house were a pair of M-Path interconnects from DiMarzio ($150/1m pair, Todd the Vinyl Junkie), known for their pro-audio gear. The DiMarzios offered substantial images and a generous, unfussy tonality, plenty of jump and clout, and a liquid character that made instruments sound rich. The AudioQuest Yukons and DiMarzio M-Paths were more alike than not, the AQs offering less air and punch and smaller images, but a tad more resolution.

I spent many a night with Heed Audio's Quasar and Q-PSU, engaged in all the revelry and vinyl music-making excitement they created with boundless enthusiasm and deep soul. Like Heed's Elixir, the Quasar is very well built, and its jacks easily withstood the endless tugs and twists this audio reviewer subjected them to. It exhibited pleasing tonality from LP to LP, resolving each disc with its own unique character and a broad soundstage with a grain-free treble, and plentiful midrange and bass extension.

I'd long heard about this rather plain-looking, spartan phono stage—how it could transform the sounds of lesser systems, and challenge bigger comers with more hi-fi cred and glossier nameplates. The Heed Quasar is a mighty mite of musical authority, a twin-turbo phono stage that offers plenty of flexibility, a practically bombproof enclosure, and ample musical meat and value for the dollar. My brother already wants to buy one. Radically recommended!

Heed Audio Kft.
US distributor: Profundo
2051 Gattis School Road, Suite 540/123
Round Rock, TX 78664
(510) 375-8651

volvic's picture

Wow! someone on ebay got a great deal recently - only $760.00 - 1568 Original Mono RVG.

georgehifi's picture

+2db boost in the bass, and slight treble boost, way off following the correct riaa curve.

Cheers George

johnnythunder's picture

this could be a great audiophile bargain. I've been looking to upgrade from an old EAR 834 for a while. Love the looks of these components as well. The Gold Note PH-10 - not reviewed in Stereophile yet but in some other on-line pubs also seems to a contender.

Jason P Jackson's picture

Only just stumbled upon this review. And fine reviewing it is. Thanks Ken.