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On that count, the Obelisk Pre gets rather more exciting. It’s based on the preamp stage of the Obelisk SI integrated amplifier where each input gets its own power supply feed. In stock form, there are five inputs but various modular boards can add to that. Input 2 can be fitted with the €149 MM phono board, input one can take either the €199 Dactilus 1 or €349 Dactilus 2 D/A converter module (obviously mandatory with the DT transport). Alternately, input 2 can be fitted with a second D/A card to turn the Heed pre into either a conventional phono/CD/tuner/whatever nexus or interface with a PC and three other digital sources.

Four digital connections total mean that cheapskates can connect two digital machines to each Dactilus module (RCA and Toslink) since the back panel sports discrete switches for either input. It’s a bit inconvenient perhaps but works. Very friendly meanwhile are the paralleled pre-outs to accommodate bi-amping. There’s even a fixed-gain tape out. Fully loaded, the Obelisk Pre becomes a quite universal and flexible affair. It can run phono, two digital and four line-level sources and drive two stereo or four mono amps. Even the general performance can be ‘supercharged’ with the optional external power supply. This I unfortunately did not have on hand to report on.

Now we get to a prospective stumbling block. I’m told of folks who hurriedly unpack new hifi kit, toss the owner’s manuals unread in a corner, connect everything shaking with anticipation and then power up. C’est moi. "The preamp is DOA" will be the result. Over beer and various martinis, had not colleague Jörg Dames advised me that I first had to connect a cover? Jawohl. On second sight, the Obelisk Pre carton included a small cap to short out the umbilical jack for the external PSU if the machine is to be run off its internal supply instead. Cap inserted, a soft click did promptly fire up the box without delay.

Back on the DAC modules. Asking our importer via email how the DAC1 and DAC2 cards differ, I was sent different data for frequency response and THD. Fact is, the DAC2 does sound better. Swapping cards couldn’t be simpler. Loosen six bolts, open the box, slip in the card, reverse a jumper and voilà! Taking the opportunity, one admires the squeaky-clean layout, immaculate execution and cabling and certain boutique parts like Mundorf caps.

By now a few dedicated readers might want to know how it all sounded. Let’s fire ‘em up then. Depending on sequence, there could be a mild pock through the speakers. Perhaps a relay delay wouldn’t be such a bad idea? The transport certainly takes excessive time to come alive and 10 full seconds pass before the drawer deigns to open. CD in, hit play, prick up ears – and nothing until the machine filled up its buffer before outputting any data. I began with the purely acoustical song "Spirit" from Go-Between’s eponymous album and later "He lives my life". This sounded very very good right off. My notes collected "crystal clear, great space, open, exceptionally resolved". Acoustic guitars were crisply fresh, each finger slide on strings or inadvertent flageolet obvious. Voices had superb detail and cleanliness. Space was generous with plenty of air around the performers. The Heeds really pulled off a surprising amalgam of precision and pleasure.

The early Nowhere album by Ride is an impossibly dense tower-of-power sound wall. "Dreams burn down" is a good cut for its broadband guitars, massive crash cymbals that are mixed way forward and that cavernous hall sound of drums and voice. This could all quickly degenerate into sonic mush. The Obelisk threesome meanwhile separated it so cleanly and transported the inbuilt energy with such brio that I was quite gobsmacked. I’d really only wanted to sample this song for brief effect. Instead I ended up sitting through "Paralyzed" as well which begins sleepily but gathers steam with unbelievably aggressive reverb-laden percussion. Even here the Heeds whose 2x50 watts weren’t exactly monumental delivered real pressure into the short-term loaners of System Audio Mantra 60 speakers – precise effortless pressure.