Holborne Passion Integrated amplifier was another one of those interesting and fulfilling evaluations with so many unexpected unfoldings and inspiring triggers to write about at so many points during the test. 


HOLBORNE is an outstanding Swiss HiFi brand, named after the English Renaissance composer of the same name. Meinrad Müller, a passionate musician, and technician founded the manufacture in 1987, and all the equipment he developed was produced in-house and delivered in limited quantities.

Since 2020, Meinrad Müller has been cooperating with Swiss audio expert HiFiction AG for manufacturing and distribution, allowing him to focus mainly on development and design.

HOLBORNE amplifiers convince with their innovative inner workings, which are encased in robust and beautifully designed housings. Neither mass nor size set the tone here, but the reduction to the essentials put in the service of high-quality music reproduction.


This integrated amplifier with phono stage is the culmination of decades of experience in amplifier construction and was designed from the ground up to win over the listener with its unique harmonic musicality from the very first note. 

By conviction, Holborne amplifiers are designed exclusively with analog sources, and for sonic reasons, they do not use any kind of microprocessor.

Over 35 years of experience in building amplifiers with tubes and semiconductors have gone into the Holborne Passion integrated amplifier. 

Above all, this experience has shown that it is not individual characteristics and data of a device, such as distortion factor, signal-to-noise ratio, or bandwidth, that determine the listening experience, but the careful mixing and "regulation" of these quantities. Also and especially with the optional phono modules, which are designed in each case as pure MC or as MM amplifiers.

The Holborne Passion features a unique tube- FET hybrid technology that was envisioned to provide musical dynamics and richness of details never experienced in such a compact design. 

Holborne integrated amplifier feature an integrated phono stage, for either MC or MM cartridges, which is musically matched to the overall design and concept. The overall gain is adjustable over a wide range to best match different speaker designs.


No microprocessors or switching regulators are used in the Holborne Passion integrated amplifier to maintain freedom from interference. 

Effective protection circuits protect the unit during power-up and ensure a stress-free power-up process, which has a positive effect on the longevity of the unit.  A protection circuit protects the speakers from DC voltage in case of a possible malfunction (e.g. DC voltage at a source input) or severe clipping.

Holborone Passion generates 70 watts at 8 and 4Ω. 

Holborone Passion's design of the front exudes an elegant, futuristic retro-like form. The sculptural volume control and the centered V-shaped area containing the logo come together to create a seamless, stylish look that captures your attention with just a quick glance around the room.

On the front panel, the power/function button is located on the left, followed by the LEDs that indicate the input source. In the center is the main power switch LED, signaling power ON /OFF, and the right side is reserved for massive and elegant volume control. 

On the back of the Passion integrated amplifier, the left side is reserved for one of the optional MM or MC phono modules. To the right are four line-level RCA inputs, preamp output, and speaker terminals, followed by the IEC power inlet and the main power on/off button. 

Between the input 5 and the pre-out is positioned a unique but extremely functional feature. The dedicated gain control allows you to adjust the gain factor or stereo balance over a wide range. This is more than handy when it comes to optimal gain matching with different speakers. 

The variable input sensitivity is a maximum of 0.55V for line input at maximum gain control, 5mV for MM input at maximum gain control, and 0.5mV for MC input at maximum gain. 

Phono input can be either MM (+40 dB) or MC (+60 dB) and must be specified upon the order.

Holborne Passion also comes with elegant volume control. The + and - markers control the volume and the main button turns Passion on/off when pressed long and acts as an input selector when pressed fast. 

The materials used for Holborne Passion were selected with the highest quality and sustainability in mind (durability, minimal use of plastics).


In high-end audio, we all strive for that special synergy. When Micha Huber told me about the unique lock-and-load harmony of Holborne Passion with Kiso Acoustic stand-mounts in combination with the Thales Turntable /tonearm and the latest EMT cartridge and offered me to hear it exactly like that, I could not refuse the offer. 

There were more than a few boxes checked off in this interesting package. I have always wanted to hear the Thales turntable with the Thales Tonearm and to sweeten the deal for me, there was also a new JSD Pure Reference stereo cartridge to come as a part of this mighty analog setup.  

And the third cherry on top was, of course, the Kiso Acoustic HB -N1 speakers. I have heard these little gems, developed in collaboration with Takamine, a few times in the non-familiar setups and listening environments, but never had the opportunity to hear them in my reference listening room. 

Yes, the speakers are rather small, but it has have proven a few times, even a smaller monitor speaker can play to the remarkable strengths in my relatively large reference listening room. Since I deliberately pushed the room acoustics to the extreme to achieve an average RT60 time of about 0.4s, and that's with a room noise level of 27 dB, I can really get in tune even with far smaller speakers and lower wattage amplifiers that one might think. 

It was great to experience how well the whole system was able to capture the essence of the music and surprisingly fill it with a remarkable level of foundation that would and should make many manufacturers more than a little nervous. 

As music lovers and audiophiles are always on the lookout for the balance of the system equilibrium with a mutual interdependence of each component I am happy to report that Holborone Passion and advised ancillary components performed to a much higher degree I've could imagine.

While the Holborne Passion integrated amplifier performed admirably in various combinations, I have to give high praise to this particular system combination. 

There were more than a few newly discovered positives with this high-end audio synthesis and I am more than glad I took the opportunity to dive deeper into the matter of both Thales analog components as well as Holborne Passion integrated and nonetheless Kiso Acoustic speakers. 

For those of you who often ask me about specific system combinations and synergies, here it is. While certainly not the most affordable, this system comes with a remarkably tuned and vibrant center for pure musical enjoyment.


We have reached a point where, despite all the possibilities, only select audio designers, and consequently their products, provide a grander illusion of reality. Every high-end audio manufacturer tries to present their unique take on audio reproduction through the technical blurb, but the simplest and inevitable test is always when it comes to perceiving everything through the music. 

This is the point where the bold claims are often suddenly put to the test with less than expected and lofty promises. 

Much like the three primary colors of light and pigment, that can be mixed to the umpteenth degree and even more so when white and black are added. 

Similarly, the high-end audio industry provides an endless playground for ideas, materials, parts, and approaches that ends up producing a particular sonic direction. 

Some diehard audiophiles still have a hard time with the term voicing, but it's an unavoidable fact. The audio designers who pay attention to voicing usually reach the point where the reproduced music sounds more like a real thing and not a distorted reflection of reality. 

And this is where among many other positive characteristics Holborone Passion integrated shows its merits and its true relationship to music. 

Similar to the mixing of colors, the rules of objectivity apply to the painting of the sonic canvas. Both realistic painting and music reproduction are first of all about creating an image of reality that is as objective as possible. 

Analog Productions 45 RPM 180 gram LP pressing of Rachmaninoff's Symphonic Dances with Donald Johanos conducting the Dallas Symphony Orchestra is one of those albums that usually needs little introduction and stands on its own when it comes to the closest thing to reality due to an outstanding recorded essence of the orchestra. 

On Passion integrated, nothing has been taken away from the soft and warm presentation of the Rachmaninoff that Symphonic Dances is known for. At no point, and even during the complex passages, did I feel that a tiny spark of musical caffeine was missing. Contra Passion succeeded in conveying that rare whiff of the concert hall experience. 

For such a compact package, Passion did its job remarkably well and far beyond what I would have expected as an all-in-one. Symphonic Dances were not tightly spaced, but with the surprising fact that they tell a story.

Especially with orchestras, one of the most important qualities is the ability to convey perfect timing and orchestra momentum. Again, the Holborne integrated amplifier managed to reproduce "Symphonic Dances" with the required tempi and without missing the much-needed dynamic impact. 

Holborne Passion sailed elegantly and with ease through pianissimo to forte. Fed by Thales' all-in-one analog solution and EMT JSD Pure Reference cartridge, the analog presentation was delivered at a higher plane quality than expected, and the beautiful, unclogged atmosphere was expansive and revealing. 

To evaluate the antidote to the analog solution and compare the line-level input, I played Vladimir Ashkenazy, the Philharmonia Orchestra Rachmaninov Symphony No.3 & Symphonic Dances: Live in Concert

Similar to Thale's analog front end and EMT cartridge, the music was reproduced more than just adequately. Holborne Passion was always ready to extend the immediate momentum and create a three-dimensional holographic space and dynamics with the necessary frisson. 

The minute intensity was not withdrawn and the same telescopic perspective was presented with the right lenses.

It was quite exciting to watch Passion render the three-dimensional map of the orchestra and notes made much more connection and well-formed patterns that evoked the right inner sensors. 

Impressed with the orchestral music, I was ready to move on and explore how Holborne would be able to shape the soundscape with slightly different qualities. 

Ry Cooder & V.M. Bhatt - A Meeting By The River (AAPW 29) is all about an emotional experience and this recording is unique in the way it grasps the music. A good sounding system makes for a beautiful presentation, but a quality high-end audio playback system immerses the listener in the colorful and palpable soundscape of Meeting By The River like no other. 

Holborne Passion in union with the Thales/EMT combination allowed for unexpected differentiation where the echoes, note overlays, and timbral correctness really stood out and allowed for a completely different map of realism to be drawn than expected, and most importantly, performing well beyond the stated price. 
The "Being There" factor and ethereal escapism were also exceptional. 

The Passion has surprisingly shown what genuine hymnography Meeting By The River is.  With Holborne integrated the music never seemed a half-baked sonic affair but has pulsed with a wealth of density, inner detail, harmonic richness, and spot-on tonal balance. 

There were no cottony phenomena where the sharp edges of note attacks are brushed off. On the contrary, the resonating steel strings materialized with rapid transients and sharp leading edges that clearly expressed virtuosity.

Unlike some other upscale amplifiers, the Passion amp was far, far from sounding laid-back, and with more than the usual strands of liveliness! 

Passion's overarching potency was further confirmed with Nick Drake - Five Leaves Left.

On "River Man" and the rest of the tracks on this iconic album, the music can be pushed too quickly to the point of fatigue and break down harmonically if the sound system and electronics are not up to snuff. 

Holborne Passion, along with Thales and EMT, presented Drake far from the diurnal melancholic experience that pushes the music into slowed down, warm butter viscous alike realms and to produce at forte mids. Passion projected a smooth rendition where Drake's music sounded as a fully-realized whole, not as a fading echo of notes and tones that emerges too quickly even on some of the more renowned amplifiers. 

One of those records that are never an easy task for the analog front end or the amplifier side is Pat Metheny Group - Pat Metheny Group. 

The album was recorded in 1977, around the time that bassist Mark Egan joined and formed Pat Metheny Group along with Mays and Gottlieb. The self-titled album - Pat Metheny Group is one of my favorite PMG albums of all time and it is still as fresh as when it was released. 

This record requires exceptional dynamic ability. When the amplifier can maintain the music integrity and objective textural insight, pure magic is revealed. The Holborone integrated amplifier has done this in a very special way without sounding analytical or aggressiv. The  Passion integrated amplifier was able to majestically reproduce the orbital loop of these timeless compositions. 

With Holborne Passion, notes were formed from the far black pit and framed "tout se tient." The music just came together properly, without artificial acceleration or mere equations, but a wholesome vortex of musical pulsation fundamental to making this album was materialized absolutely great. 

There is a multitude of notes, tonal overlays, decays, and delays that make up the Pat Metheny Group's self-titled album. With the Holborone Passion integrated amplifier, the instruments were neither scattered nor dispersed. 

The Holborone Passion delivered the music with firmness and with the sparkling instantaneous dynamic reaction when needed. It utilized the sonic canvas with impressive harmonic density and a tangible sonic landscape, and perhaps most importantly, exalted interactivity.

Holborne Passion is characterized by the same virtues heard from track to track and album to album, with a more than healthy sense and ability to reproduce any kind of musical genre and capture the essence and vision of the composed music. I would not exactly call this the general characteristics of many high-end audio amplifiers. 

To put oneself in the sphere of the artist is one of the rare qualities that not every integrated amplifier is capable of. Nevertheless, Holborne Passion was a marvel in this respect as well, no doubt due to its unique and highly sophisticated hybrid inner workings. 

In addition to all these qualities, the Holborne Passion integrated amplifier could effortlessly traverse the most diverse musical genres, without lacking the ability to shape the fundamental qualities of different musical genres.

Yes, lots of thumbs up. A lot!


High-end audio has nothing to do with other industries, hobbies, passions, etc in the way that music can affect us. That's because music really offers something that surpasses the way we experience other sensory pleasures. 

If we assume that our senses are not programmable, the question arises as to what is needed to develop a better sense of reality, to be objectively critical and focused in drawing conclusions. Musical education, endless hours of listening to music, visiting high-end audio shows and showrooms, etc?

The materiality of music is very important because it is something we can physically experience with our senses. For this, we are looking for high-end audio components that can channel the universality of music.

We all set our rules of judgment differently, but there is little doubt that most people immediately perceive the phenomenon of a sort of transcendental encounter when the music is reproduced properly. 

A reviewer must be both passionate and dispassionate enough to draw the proper line between subjectivity and objectivity. Still, with some products like Holborne Passion, it's hard not to be swayed by their soul and their ability to give music a direct voice. 

We crave absolute sound in many forms, and the silver lining in the plethora of possibilities is a sonic balance and incalculable aural outcome.

The Holborne Passion integrated amplifier has many promontory audio qualities that are pivotal to the honesty of the music. Many high-end audio amplifiers are disguised as music machines, but in fact, they are clearly separated from the essence of music.  In contrast, Holborne Passion anchors the communication with the music so that the original message is not lost in translation. 

While too many integrated amplifiers are more precarious in their operation than many dare to believe, the technical precision of Holborone integrated amplifiers is qualitatively different, being able to display a greater than usual emotional willingness to serve music with complex, intricate sense.

In addition, Passion can dynamically incorporate the essence of the music without losing the beat, and this is a rare feat for an integrated amplifier, regardless of price. 

The point of what can be called high-end audio level is to let the music unfold and not reshape it into another form, and the Passion nucleus's inherent rectitude goes beyond mere sonic replication.

Holborne Passion is clear proof that the final sonic result can be extraordinary if the right processes and principles are followed. 

We all need and strive to preserve the musical soul. I can very well imagine Holborne as a constant companion that goes beyond what is needed to explore the ability of music.

My enthusiasm and appreciation for music have never left me, and I hope it stays that way because it is the fuel and vessel for what I do day in and day out while staying on track with my profilations. 

Even though Holborne Passion has a rich heritage, it is still a great compliment for the "first" product of the newly launched high-end audio brand with so many positive characteristics as Passion. 

If a high-end audio production acts as a source of musical art, it is the rare products that can get closer to the aural source that I halt in veneration and Holborone Passion is one of those products. 

For something to be called complete and accomplished, there are many things to consider. When one feels that nothing more needs to be added or taken away within a certain area, then the product has undoubtedly reached its pinnacle. Holborne team has gone to great lengths to create a mature product, and diving into the music of The Passion is a most enticing affair. 

Even though Holborne Passion has a rich heritage, it is still a great compliment for the "first" product of the newly launched high-end audio brand with so many positive characteristics as Passion. 

With all the positive aspects, especially the potent and authentic reproduction of music, I wholeheartedly give the 2021 Mono and Stereo Best Buy Product Award to the Holborne Passion Integrated amplifier.

Matej Isak


  • MSRP for MM version: EUR 9.230
  • MSRP for MC version: EUR 10.000


  • Power: 2x 70 Watt @ 8 Ohm
  • Gain: +26…+40dB
  • Distortion: <0,1% @ 50 Watt
  • Frequency response: 20 Hz … 75kHz
  • Line input: 4x RCA
  • *Phono input: 1x RCA, MM (+40 dB) or MC (+60 dB)
  • RIAA accuracy: ±0,5 dB
  • *Finish: anodized, black or silver
  • Remote control: power, source, volume
  • *Mains input: 230 / 115 VAC
  • Power consumption (off / standby / max.): 0 / 0,5 / 300 Watt
  • Dimension WxDxH: 430x330x105 mm
  • Weight: 13 kg
* Need to be specified when ordered.


HiFiction AG

Tösstalstrasse 14

8488 Turbenthal


Phone: +41 44 533 88 99

E-Mail: holborne@hifiction.ch

​Website: holborne.ch