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Hailing from Budapest, Hungary, Heed Audio first made a name for itself with its Orbit range of turntable power supplies, designed as add-on upgrades to turntables such as Rega and Linn.
   Subsequently Heed has brought to market a range of components designed to offer high performance at not-too-high prices, keeping costs down by utilising utilitarian metal boxes rather than fancily styled casework. This is a philosophy that has proved popular with audio enthusiasts for decades; some HFN readers may remember UK brands of yore such as Nytech and Ion Systems.
   There’s a family tie-up here, in that Heed Audio’s UK importer and distributor is Tsource Ltd of Cheltenham, run by one Robert Hay, and Robert’s father is Richard Hay who was the designer of Nytech and Ion Systems products way back when. While the case might be a little utilitarian with its off-the-peg screwon rubber feet, the Questar phono stage will look smart enough in your rack thanks to its acrylic fascia and blue LED. Priced £250, it’s available as either a moving magnet or moving coil step-up.
   Our sample was an MM variant and boasted a low <0.008% distortion from 100Hz–10kHz with a wide 83dB S/N ratio and useful 65mV input overload margin. On test, we fitted a Nagaoka MP50 cartridge to a Rock Reference/Excalibur deck and took the opportunity to compare the Questar with a Graham Slee Gram Amp 2 Special Edition, priced just over £200 (see HFN, Sep ’08).
   The Heed Questar sounded a little ‘fruitier’ and thicker than the Gram Amp 2, giving Grace Jones’ ‘Slave To The Rythym’ immense power and weight in the mid bass but rendering it a shade coarser at high frequencies. Dense electronic keyboards and percussion fired forth from my system’s speakers where the Gram Amp sounded less forthright.
   Our lab tests revealed a broad 0.5dB bass hump and slightly depressed upper midrange, which explains why the Questar had impact but sounded a little less airy. Image width and depth wasn’t quite in the top league either, yet its energy and verve was infectious and it should prove an ideal match for mid-price amplifiers and speakers.

VERDICT
For this price you could buy a budget integrated amplifier... or a budget turntable, in fact. But if you’re the proud owner of a good record player a high quality phono stage like this Heed Questar model will prove a sound investment.

 

Originally published in the April 2009 issue