Finland is a famously quiet country. Courses in small talk are popular and with the lowest population density in Europe (just 41 people per square mile), it could be argued much of Finns' taciturn nature is by consequence not design. As such it makes perfect sense that a Finnish speaker maker would go against the grain and promote the quietness of its latest speaker ahead of its volume.
The 'Helium 410' represents a new 'entry level' 2.0 arrangement in Amphion's audiophile product range and it comes with a simple philosophy: what you hear at low volume is just as (if not more) important than what you hear when it's loud. The theory is solid, more often than not you cannot blast your speakers due to family and neighbours. It also exposes a dirty industry secret: many speakers need to be blasted before they come alive. The obvious question is whether this is just a marketing ploy?
Certainly straight out the box the Helium 410s are unusual. They eschew the traditional use of wood and instead are constructed from a composite material available in a matt black or white finish. The effect is unusual - perhaps even polarising - but the build quality is exceptional, which is unsurprising given all Amphion speakers are handmade. A nice touch is the metal speaker grills are removable and available in a wide collection of colours should you fancy a change.
Key to the 410s is their versatility. Each speaker weighs 3.5Kg and measures 259 x 132 x 220mm making them small enough to use as desktop speakers, yet substantial enough to hook up to your TV. The former role is assisted by a focus on near field listening, while Amphion promotes the 410's '3-dimensional soundstaging' and correct placement of voices to make them equally at home in the latter.
The 410's are two way, vented speakers with a 1in titanium tweeter, 4.5in paper mid/woofer, crossover point of 1,600Hz, 8ohm impedance, 86dB sensitivity, 60 - 20,000Hz frequency response and 20-80W power recommendation. Amphion also offers the 410 as a bundle pack called the 'Amphion Nuforce Helium 410 System' (which is what we have here) which includes a NuForce Icon-2 amp which can operate as a USB DAC. The combination offers a great deal of flexibility since the Icon-2 can take input via USB, an optical jack and coaxial sources. Everything from a PC to games console, TV to phone or MP3 player can be connected with the Icon-2 happy to swap between them at the turn of a dial.
So is quiet the new loud?
Amphion is certainly onto something. Even at whisper-quiet listening levels the Helium 410 maintains its intelligibility with highly detailed, yet warm and full bodied sound. This has a welcome affect on listening habits as you start to listen to music at lower levels because it remains satisfying. If you value your hearing or the sanity of your partner and/or neighbours this will prove a revelation.