£1300 ★★★★★

In many ways, the Heed Obelisk Si is the odd one out here. It’s the only one with a half-width shell. It’s the least powerful, armed with a relative tiny 35W per channel. It’s also the most affordable.

It almost seems strange to put it in this test, but we love this amp. It’s our favourite £1000-£1500 stereo amp of 2012, and we think it’s got what it takes to take on the hulks in this group.

We had our reservations when we first received the Obelisk. It’s hardly striking, is it? For the price, we’d expect a little luxury. Build quality is fine and sturdy — but it looks less slick than its rivals.

Its build belies its sound

Our disappointment with the amp’s aesthetics is compounded by the remote control. It’s a pathetic card that would be inadequate for a budget air conditioning unit, let alone a £1300 amplifier.

Once we plug the Heed into a system, though, our doubts rapidly fade. This is a highly accomplished and extremely likeable bit of kit. It has an engaging sound, with accurate timing and a good amount of energy. Load up Daft Punk’s infectious Get Lucky and the Heed makes the most of the intricate rhythms.

There’s excellent dynamic contrast too, which alternates effortlessly between the depth of the groovy bass and Nile Rodgers’ rhythm guitar.

The Heed is enthusiastic and capable, happily charging along and never losing composure even when pushed hard.

The Obelisk Si shifts down the gears effortlessly, too. With something more laid-back, in this case Of Monster and Men’s Dirty Paws, it’s considerably more mellow but retains a sense of life. Vocals, meanwhile, are smooth like caramel.

Heed could do with more detail and greater dynamics. Despite a sweet treble and an organic midrange, the bass feels a little tubby. In fact, everything could do with a bit of firming up.

Yet we won’t condemn this amp. It is cheaper than its rivals here after all, and we’re impressed by its demeanour. It’s a lively sound that does everything well enough that we don’t feel the need to take home anything more exotic.

And if you really must have more oomph, you can always upgrade the Obelisk Si with an external power supply (the Obelisk X2, £730). It raises the amp’s output to 50W per channel . Other optional extras include a coaxial-only DAC and a moving-magnet phono stage.

It speaks volumes for the Heed Obelisk Si that it can keep up with technically superior rivals. It’s a really good amp for the money and thoroughly deserving of its 2012 Award. Yes, there are better sounding amps, but it would be a mistake to overlook this one.

Heed Obelisk Si £1300 ★★★★

Power output 35W per channel • Inputs 5 x line in, MM phono • Outputs Speakers, preamp • Remote Yes • Dimensions (hwd) 9 x 22 x 36cm, 6kg

Rating ★★★★

This is a charming amplifier.

Terrifically musical; fine timing; upgradeable

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