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A Review Of Holfi Audis
By Audiofile of The Stars 1998
 

 
But i don't have a wooden heart
 

The saga of the ongoing affair between all-things-wood and SHAHRIZA HUSSEIN continues in this episode of 'Shah's Scandinavian Sojourns' ... and we think you know what we mean ...

THE brand name on the box was familiar enough. It's Holfi and, being Danish, I should have been prepared to see a lot of wood. Still, I was surprised. It's not the wood, but the colour. The wood is cherry, which is not all that uncommon nowadays, but the stain used is a peculiar red-yellow. I haven't seen this colour on an amplifier before and honestly, the thing did look out of place among my other equipment, and clashed cheerfully with my rosewood furniture

 
Anyway, this particular Holfi model is called Audis, with "Signature" added to the name -- to denote something special, surely. The presentation is slimline, and from head-on, the amplifier looks like a wooden oddments box because the entire fascia is made from a solid piece of it.


The two control knobs are likewise carved out of solid wood, and only the on/standby rocker switch is non-wood and black. By itself this presentation is quite pleasing, though, of course, in that I-am-different way. Betcha the ladies will love it.

Features

The fascia is the only woody thing about this amplifier. The five remaining surfaces are of black-painted steel and they make up a wide and deep box, with the lid held in place by four Allen screws. The metal is quite thick and it makes up a goodly part of the amplifier's 9kg weight.

Only two control knobs on the fascia denote a minimalist amplifier. The owner's manual, just three sheets of ordinary paper held together by a single staple, admits as much. It describes the Audis as "a non-feedback integrated amplifier that has been made as simple as possible" in order to "maintain the absolute best sound quality." Hence, no controls other than for volume and input.

Holfi claims to use the highest quality components for the Audis, and you can believe that when you open up the amplifier. But if you expect twin-mono construction and other such expensive exotica, forget it. Sure, there's a large toroidal transformer and four 15,000uF capacitors, but all the electronics are built on a single printed circuit board, and the input terminals, the input selector and the volume control are all directly mounted onto it. This design provides a compact construction and a very short signal path, and it also makes manufacture easy and assures quality control.

To reduce the influence of the potentiometer (volume control) on sound quality, Holfi has installed a fixed resistor in front of it, with the pot coupling a part of the signal to the ground. This results in the signal going down to only -80dB when the volume control is turned fully down. Which is no big deal except with those who have spaniel-like hearing.

The Audis is not fussy about load but won't tolerate speakers under 4ohms for long at full output. A protection circuit prevents damage and, if the sound suddenly goes, it's a simple matter of switching the amplifier off for a while and then on again to restore operation.

The Audis' rear panel is as minimalist as the front: just four line-level inputs (although one is labelled "phono," you'll need an external head amp), a tape loop (no tape monitor switch) and output terminals for one pair of speakers. And, yes, there's the detachable power cord, plus the mains power on/off switch.

Output is rated at 55 watts into 8ohms stereo or 85 watts into 4ohms. No standards or parameters are specified, so whether it's DIN, RMS or whatever other standard is anyone's guess.

Performance

Connecting the Audis to my system took under a minute. Getting down to serious listening took far longer because this amplifier requires at least an hour to blossom. Holfi recommends keeping the amplifier on permanently (the rear mains on/off switch should be left on) and operation should be via the fascia on/standby switch. Better still, leave the amplifier fully active (with the volume control down, of course), so that you don't have to wait for it to warm up, but with our unpredictable TNB service, I don't think that's a good idea.

And the sound? Well, I've had quite a few Viking amps under my belt by now, and so there were no surprises. The Audis has all the good points of amplifiers from the likes of Audiolab and Arcam, but it has that extra something which I can only describe as an "enthusiasm." So while there're no problems about definition, analysis or lucidity, the sound is livelier than the British brigade's, thanks to a certain fullness and an ultra-fast attack. In many ways the sound has an immediacy not unlike that of -- dare I say it? -- a valve job. What this does is give the sound more immediacy, the kind that makes choral and chamber works such a joy to listen to. Pops, folk, jazz and C&W also emerge with brio, while more complex works are quite well resolved. Rock, though, tends to sound too raucous.

If things remained this way, the Audis would emerge as a clear winner. But it has its share of flaws, one quite unexpected. It's a tendency for the sound to get louder as the amplifier gets hotter -- the volume level at the beginning of a recording increases by the end it.

If that's just a minor nuisance of getting up and adjusting the volume (c'mon, even couch potatoes don't have their butts glued to the seat), then what about that "glare" in the sound? This is most noticeable with C&W, while with recordings having very high midrange and treble content, this emphasis can make you cringe.

Also, the Audis appears to have trouble playing music loud. It gives a good account of itself at moderate volume levels even with heavy symphonies but, since you normally listen to such stuff with the volume fully cranked up, this shortcoming can be irritating. What happens is that resolution goes out the window and the soundstage contracts and compresses.

Other than these, the Audis is an engaging music maker. It didn't produce a single hiccup throughout the three-week review period (and there were no TNB blackouts). It does get mildly hot after several hours of operation, but at quiescent state (power on but not playing anything), it's barely warm to the touch.

Conclusion

I have a faint suspicion that the Audis would give of its best when partnering a speaker from the Holfi range, say the Tyra Mini, and I regret that the latter is no longer with me. Other than this, the amplifier's an attractive piece of audio gear, as much for its presentation as for its build quality and overall performance. It's certainly worth checking out.

Model: Holfi Audis Signature integrated amplifier
Price:
RM3,290
Review sample courtesy of WISMA AUDIO CENTER (03-262-8034), F103A, City Square Centre, 182 Jalan Tun Razak, 50400 Kuala Lumpur / also available at (04-890-1366), 118-1-11, Island Plaza, Jalan Tanjong Tokong, 10470 Penang.

Verdict

For:
An engagingly musical sound, with fast attack and immediacy; particularly impressive with small-scale choral and orchestral works, pops, jazz and folk.
Against:
Volume level inconsistent; falters when playing large-scale works loud, losing resolution and perspective; a glare in the sound with recordings having high midrange/treble content.


 
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