Phono stages Group Test - Holfi Batt2RIAA

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The Holfi Batt2riaa, as the name suggests, is the mark 2 version of a battery powered, RIAA equalised phono stage. The original Battriaa was introduced in its native Denmark as long ago as 1994 and has recently been upgraded to the current model. The circuit is of single-ended topology, operating without global feedback. Transistors are used to amplify the current generated by the cartridge. The metal 450x80x320mm casework also contains the batteries. These are charged automatically unless the button at the front is pressed to override this. A mains switch is situated at the back beside the IEC socket. Two pairs of well spaced WBT Next Gen sockets, convey the signal in and out, and the unit can be configured for a variety of gains, but this does require a soldering iron, since the makers state that they find dip-switches too noisy.


With a noise floor way below that of nearly all mains powered equipment, the Batt2riaa promised true silence in-between sounds, and so it proved. The gap between tracks stretched like a featureless void until suddenly, the next track started. I have used battery powered phono stages before and have enjoyed their potential for purity of sound but found them to be hampered by a tendency to ’run out of steam’ during crescendos and heavier passages. The Batt2riaa bucked that trend, coming a close second to the Icon Audio in terms of slam and the ability to move from quiet to loud in a split second. The Chenier piece was spellbinding, the DC power giving a smoothness and flow to the sound that could certainly match that of the PS3, although the solidity at subterranean levels was not quite as good. However, the slight lightness of touch here gave slightly better shape to the bottom of the deep notes in ‘Electric Roundabout’ than the Icon managed. The rhythmic abilities of the Holfi certainly matched those of the Icon, which is no mean feat!


Replaying Menuhin, and I was fascinated by the deep pile textures of sound that flowed from the speakers. It was, I think, the closest I have come to thermionic bliss in a solid-state world. Stereo placement was stable, and the performers were detailed without being focused on too closely. The ability to portray large scale music so effortlessly was complimented by the focus and flow of sounds from a more intimate performance. The Loussier recording showed off everything that it had to offer: a precisely populated soundstage, where the gap between the performers felt realistic, add the unforced detailing of the creak of shoe leather against the floor or the slither of fingers on a string, and I found myself pleasantly mesmerised.


The Holfi turned my preconceptions about battery power units on its head. This is one that holds a tune, and colours it in a vibrant and thoroughly enjoyable way. A truly special piece of equipment, it joins the PS3 as a 'must-hear'.

verdict five globes

Quirky but highly capable battery powered solid-state phono stage with great smoothness and insight.


+45 70278838


- incredibly quiet and smooth

- highly detailed

- fine imaging

- low surface noise


- no mono switch

- lacks visceral impact


Equalisation of the Holfi preamp differed from most, a small shelf plateau down at high frequencies and a similar small lift up at lower frequencies giving a total 1dB variance across the audio band that will make the Holfi sound warmer or easier than usual, perhaps with more fulsome bass, our analysis clearly shows this. Nevertheless, the Holfi was accurately equalised from 7Hz to 32kHz within 1dB limits (2dB variance). There is no warp filter, gain extending down to the warp region, so cone flap will not be attenuated.


There was some measured distortion, rare in phono stages which usually use high feedback op amps. but at 0.24% second harmonic only at 1V out this is relatively small, with little subjective impact.

The Holfi is unusually free from hiss, a voltage gain of x2164 producing just 20uV of output noise, making equivalent input noise just 0.01uV (approx) IEC A weighted. This is 18dB quieter than the best rivals, most of which generate 0.08uV noise even utilising current-to-voltage step up provided by a transformer.


The Batt2riaa measures very well and is an interesting design. It will sound smoother and fuller bodied than most in basic tonal balance and totally silent with even the lowest output MC cartridges.  NK

Frequency response MC 7Hz-32kHz

Separation (MM, MC) 90dB

Noise (e.i.n., A wtd.) 0.01uV

Distortion 0.24%

Gain (MC) x2124 (66dB)

Overload (MC) 2mV in / 5V out





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