This isn't to say the 410s falter when you do crank the volume up. The 80W rating is deceptive as it will happily take on and beat higher rated products including the famously bombastic Zepplin Air (150W) and you'll certainly be shaking the windows in smaller rooms. Equally impressive is how well the 410 holds sound together at high volumes with minimal distortion and wide, controlled dispersion. If we are being picky, as a 2.0 system, there is a slight lack of bass that is noticeable on bass-heavy tracks, though it remains robust enough to make a fine job of even the most excessive action movie explosions.
Another joy of the 410s is their unfussiness. Amphion employs a proprietary technology known as 'UDD' ('Uniformly Directive Diffusion') which creates an even dispersion of sound to minimise the anomalies caused by wall, floor and ceiling reflections and it allows the 410 to be positioned almost anywhere. This is a pleasant change from the usual speaker feng shui which often leads to furniture being rejigged in search of that elusive audio sweet spot.
All of which means there has to be a 'but' and sadly this but is substantial: price. On their own the Helium 410 speakers retail for £635. Throw in the NuForce Icon-2 amp (rear below), itself £319, and the official bundle price is £899. With this budget a vast array of high quality 2.1, 5.1 and even 7.1 speaker sets are available. In fact our surround sound product of the year, the 5.1 Jamo A 101 HCS 5, is priced at just £235.
Of course we know what Amphion's argument will be: these products are not meant to compete. The Helium 410 (and its NuForce bundle) is something completely different: a wonderfully subtle speaker set that has incredible intelligibility at low volumes and enough flexibility to work anywhere with virtually any product. It is the ultimate low listening 2.0 system for the financially very well heeled.
The flip side is for £900 we can have the Jamo A 101 HCS 5 for our living room, the Bose Companion 20 speakers (£200) for our desktop and, if silence is that important, we still have £465 left to spend on a top notch pair of headphones. We'll take the Blueant Embrace (£170) and still have enough for a pair of ACS T15 earphones (£149) for on the move and pocket £145.
In their own right the Amphion Helium 410 speakers are remarkable. They ooze detail, warmth and surprising power with only a slight lack of bass at window shaking volumes. It is a superb achievement for small a 2.0 setup. Better still the 410 is truly compelling at low volumes, maintaining detail and integrity allowing you to listen more quietly without a loss in fidelity. In its bundle pack the 410 and NuForce Icon-2 create a wonderfully flexible package as well, taking input from a virtually limitless array of sources. The problem is cost. Unless you're seriously into home audio recording, or just have money to burn, you're better off spending the Amphion's £899 bundle price elsewhere. If you have the means you will adore the Amphion Nuforce Helium 410 System, but for everyone else there are more sensible alternatives.