There was a neat shoebox amplifier in the 1980’s which stirred emotions in unsuspecting hifi-freaks and music lovers alike. Sadly, the unbashedly different design of the original Ion Obelisk had become entirely forgotten. Well, almost entirely.
After two decades of silence, we have resurrected this legendary integrated, updating its exterior aesthetics and internal components. More importantly, however, we challenged ourselves with the demanding task of preserving the classic Obelisk’s absorbing delivery and infectious musicality, while offering even greater transparency, leading-edge detail and more gripping dynamics. Mission accomplished – the Obelisk Si has become a must-hear sensation straight out of the gate.
During the years of evolution, the Obelisk Si showed us the nature of RC-coupled amplifiers. By the designing of the current version of this amp, we have found the solution that describes the magic it creates. Transcap technology is now our main path, which we intend to follow, unaccompanied in the world.
The Obelisk Si III rated at a great healthy 50 watts per channel. Don’t be fooled by the kilowatt amps, this fifty is like a valve-amp fifty. And more, as a Transcap amplifier is rather different in this aspect. With this kind of power the Si is capable of astonishing dynamic authority and massive transients any time. Further on, there are the X2 or X4 power supplies, which converts the Si-system into a preamp/power amp combo with dual mono power amplifiers. Now that’s something classy!
To be more versatile, we have worked out an upgrade card system for some of our devices. The first input of the Si can be transformed into an MM phono input or an S/PDIF digital input via our upgrade cards. If you don’t like the many and more little boxes around you, this highly integrated system is your saviour.
The Obelisk X-2 power supply (in fact, a dual-mono power amp PSU) holds the ante at a full 50wpc, while allowing the original on-board power supply of the Obelisk Si to dedicate itself entirely to its preamp section. In other words, with the addition of this single device, the Obelisk Si evolves into a fully-fledged dual-mono pre/power combination. It is a substantial technical upgrade, and consequently a leap forward in sonic performance: it catapults the single-box integrated Obelisk into a much higher league.
The Obelisk DT is a dedicated compact disc audio transport, reading both conventional and HDCDs, and outputting flawless digital data to any high quality Digital-to-Analogue processor.
We designed the DT to be one of the best optical disc players available. Its uncompromising technical approach makes it well suited for partnering with a wide variety of DACs, from our small Dactil 1.2 card module (as used optionally in many Heed components: Obelisk Si, Obelisk PRE, Dactilus, Canalot) up to more high-end devices such as our Obelisk DA, the DT’s ideal partner.
It must be strange to offer a standalone CD-transport in a market, where the digital-to-analogue converters advertised as the most important elements of a digital system. However, we think that the best data retrieval and transfer from a source disc is a very complex task and must be made with extra care to achieve a great sound. Like a phono cartridge and its preamp stage, the disc readout and the DAC have two entirely different role, and they must be separated to achieve the best results. As we have a DAC upgrade card system for our amplifiers, we have designed the Obelisk DT to be a no-compromise transport for the 12 cm discs.
Of course, we strongly suggest a serious audition to hear what this exceptional transport is capable of. If you are a discerning music lover on the lookout for a truly musical player, even by the highest analogue standards, the Obelisk DT may well be your ultimate CD-playing device.
The DA is our multiple input, remote-controllable digital-to-analogue converter for the Obelisk family.
Digital to analogue conversion is not a staight-forward method in the audio world. There are many ways to achieve good results, but it requires great effort to make any of them sound excellent. The DA is the proof that a digital system, even from a CD, can sound as musical as a great turntable. This natural analogue performance of the DA is clearly outstanding.
The DA is not only the ideal compliment to our DT compact disc transport, it will also extract the very best from any digital source: computers, media servers, DAB tuners, satellite boxes, etc. And its modular DAC card and USB interface upgradeability assure future-proof enjoyment for many years to come.
Five inputs make the DA the digital center of your system. Moreover, there are two kind of outputs with different levels to find a perfect match to your other devices.
The USB input of the DA is a 24bit/192 kHz capable card, which utilises the well-accepted asynchronous transfer method. It employs an on-board dual quartz clocking system and benefits the nice and smooth power the DA mainboard provides.
At the DA’s heart lies the Dactil 2.1 DAC card, capable of 24bit/192 kHz high resolution signal processing. A deceptively simple module with excellent musical qualities, the Dactil 2.1 manages to scale new heights in the employ of the Obelisk DA’s ‘no compromise’ approach, featuring entirely independent supply rails for its analogue and digital sections.
The Obelisk PRE is the “command center” of the Obelisk range, a thoroughbred analogue preamplifier with the option of using one or two of its inputs for digital-to-analogue conversion by add-on DAC or MM phono modules. It is a clear-out design that we’re convinced more than holds its own against many class-leading high-end competitors.
Although rather traditional in its basic topology, the circuit design of the Obelisk PRE represents the convergence of cutting edge ideas with highest-grade components. As opposed to many preamplifiers that have “dumbed-down” internal power supplies in order to present more dramatic sonic benefits with optional auxiliary power supply upgrades, the PRE has a sophisticated and generously sized on-board power supply that is based on a top-quality transformer and high-grade capacitors, custom made to our own specifications. Nevertheless, the last ounce of the PRE’s performance can be elicited by adding the Obelisk PX power supply.
The PRE accommodates 6 inputs of which one is exclusively dedicated to the digital domain and can be used with our optional Dactil 2.1 DAC module via 75 Ohm S/PDIF or optical TOSLINK connections, while a second one will accept either a further DAC module (only via S/PDIF in this case), or our optional MM phono module for vinyl replay (sans module, this input works as standard line-level connection).
Since DAC circuits are highly prone to interferences caused by analogue circuits integrated nearby on the PCB, we provided the on-board supply environment of the DAC module with two independent supply rails using a smart „unit within the unit” solution. Furthermore, all analogue amplifying stages (including the MM phono module) are built in dual-mono configuration and fed through no less than seven fully regulated voltage supply rails.
Modules can be easily inserted into slots on the main PCB and dedicated by jumper settings. Using modules internally instead of stand-alone auxiliary units provides many advantages: absolute synergy, no external cables and plugs, shortest possible signal paths, saving unnecessary costs for external case and power supply, etc.
The two pre-out connections of the Obelisk PRE make various configurations possible. Beside traditional single power amplification, it is also possible to use two power amplifiers for bi-amping or active mode. A tape-out connection is also available for use with a recorder or a headphone amplifier.
One of the most difficult tasks we have undertaken has been to extend the capabilities of the Obelisk PRE, which was designed to perform beautifully as a self-contained unit. However, the Obelisk PX dedicated outboard power supply manages to surpass even our highest expectations.
The PX is based on a sophisticated fully-regulated, double-filtered circuit topology, which eliminates interference caused by the mains supply, providing the cleanest possible current to the PRE. It features very high grade components such as a high-quality mains transformer and well-sized high-grade capacitors custom made to Heed’s own specifications. This results in extremely low noise, low inner impedance and negligible distortion performance.
Although the PX is primarily designed to partner with the Obelisk PRE, it can also be paired to enhance the performance of our Quasar phono stage, Dactilus DAC, Canalot headphone amp, etc.
The Obelisk PS is a versatile stereo power amplifier, rated at 50 watts per channel into 8 Ohms, yet performing like a much higher rated amplifier due to its unique circuit topology and outstanding power supply section. It is entirely suitable for bi-amping, tri-amping or multi-room use. It is a perfect match for the Obelisk PRE.
But above all, the PS is every bit an Obelisk. Our long-standing tradition of eschewing DC-coupling for a less “processed” sound with more natural decay of tones and uncanny realism has reached new heights with the evolution of the Obelisk PS. With the capacitor-coupled power amp stage of the Obelisk Si integrated (even more effective when quasi-pre/power configured with the addition of the X-2 PSU), we created a distinctively different sound signature much closer to the best of valve amplification than to conventional solid state presentation, as noted by many prominent hi-fi journalists — „It is much closer to the ‘live’ magic of a reference-quality 300B than it really has any right to.” (Thierry Soveaux, Diapason), …. „It really does make that solid-state valve-sound a little closer to reality.” (Jason Kennedy, Hi-Fi Choice) …. „with its liveliness and ease it’s geared toward the intrinsic virtues of good valve amplifiers.” (Markus Sauer, Hi-Fi Statement) .
The PS proves that it is possible to push the envelope of the Obelisk topology. In doing so, we followed a simple path: we kept the proven dual-mono power amp circuit of the Si, improved its PCB layout, optimized all signal paths, opted for higher grade components, and upgraded the entire power supply. The result speaks for itself. The Obelisk PS, along with the PRE/Dactil and DT digital transport won Diapason D’Or 2009 and 6moons’ Best of The Year — Writers Favorite 2010.
The Obelisk PM monobloc power amplifier is the main course of the Obelisk family. What is the ultimate Obelisk power amp like? How much can be extracted from capacitor-coupled power amp topology if done uncompromisingly, no holds barred?
Don’t be fooled by the PM’s deceptively modest power specification — 70W into 8 ohm, 120W into 4 ohm — as it hardly says anything about the real capability of this unit — a stable 150W delivery down to 2 ohm! And bearing in mind the unique Obelisk topology, those watts effectively behave more like valve-watts. We’re satisfied that the Obelisk PM can drive virtually anything; even the most awkward loads can be handled with relative ease. Drawing on an enormous power supply featuring custom-made components, employing shorter signal paths than we’ve ever used in power amplification — signals are almost fed from component leg to leg — all these small engineering details contribute to astonishing performance results.
Sheer power and technical ingenuity are one thing (well, two…), musical performance is another, and one ideal which we hold above all others is summarized in our credo — ‘Forget Hi Fi — Remember Music’. The Obelisk PM is indeed that rare thing: a most unforgettable musical brute. It is simply one of the best power amplifiers we’ve ever built.
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