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.
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.
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.
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.
Audis Signature integrated amplifier
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.
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.