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Quad Vena II
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   In all then, Vena II comes packed with ability, lacking only streaming from a home network. However, in that its USB connection links into a computer that will in effect (push)stream to it, this isn’t such a big issue other than you must have a computer and it must be switched on. 

   There’s no app to act as controller, instead a small lightweight remote control is provided – arguably a better way of doing things. And it was superbly easy and intuitive to use. Altering volume actuates an Alps high quality motor driven potentiometer, so the volume control turns as if moved by a ghost. Trouble is you can’t see this because there is no visible marking, so the led of the selected input flashes. And the horizontal select bar of the remote mimics the input select pattern: press left and the select sequence moves left, right and it moves right along the horizontal row. The only blip here being dull grey illegible legends on the fascia. 



I connected Vena II to our Martin Logan ESL-X hybrid electrostatic loudspeakers through Chord Signature XL loudspeaker cables. CD was spun by our Oppo BDP-205D Universal player acting as a transport, feeding the Vena’s optical input (S/PDIF) through a QED Quartz glass optical cable. I now use only preened hi-res high dynamic range CD recordings because too much on CD is awful in quality terms and misleading to me for review purposes. Good hi-fi products like this one expose quality issues in the recordings. 

   Hi-res came from an Astell&Kern AK120 portable player running on battery power, to input clean digital from S/PDIF rather than noisy from a USB computer source.

Bluetooth was used from an iPhone 6S playing DSD files from the slick Onkyo hi-fi player that translates down to 24/48 PCM for BT work.

And LP was input from a Timestep Evo Technics SL-1210 Mk2 Direct Drive upgraded turntable, with SME309 arm carrying an Audio Technica VM750SH Shibata tipped MM cartridge. 

And what a lovely sound! Very Quad. Vena II gives that big, fulsome sound you get from a well developed Class A/B amplifier backed up by a quality linear power supply: no scratchy switch-mode sound here! 




It may look bare and the 'speaker terminals basic, but there are a lot of inputs on the rear panel, from analogue turntable (MM) at left through to digital USB at right, plus an aerial for Bluetooth.


   Spinning Jan Akerman’s Am I Losing You (CD) Vena II was immediately and obviously easy in its delivery – relaxed yet pure. The bass line was firm but full, the drum kit fleshed out with detail rather than being an outline, a simple simulacrum that is not uncommon with digital. This quality of insight and rich timbral revelation played through both Rock from CD and also classical, where Nigel Kennedy’s Meditation (Massenet) glided past my ears with a lulling naturalness that was absolutely right for it: think richly patterned. This is the characteristic signature of the ES9018 DAC chip – in Quad’s excellent support circuitry. 

   Moving from CD to hi-res from our Astell&Kern AK120 portable player, the thundering kettle drum that insinuates power behind Mars made itself known in full and strong fashion in the LSO’s rendition of Holst’s The Planets (24/48). 

   Benjamin Grosvenor’s light touch on the keys playing Chopin’s Nocturne No5 was subtly but clearly conveyed. 

With Fleetwood Mac’s Dreams (24/96) Mick Fleetwood’s drumming stood out as solid and powerful, moving along with muscular confidence. Stevie Nicks vocals were easily clear centre-stage and backing harmonies nicely delineated in their own space. Again a full and powerful performance graced by an easy confidence of delivery. 


A small and simple remote control,

intuitive and easy to use.


With Bluetooth connection my iPhone was seen and connected swiftly, delivering David Bowie’s Suffragette City with pace and power (DSD 2.8MHz from an Onkyo player, sent as 24/48 PCM).  As usual with Bluetooth there is a flattening of depth perspective, obvious with Cyndee Peter’s singing House of the Rising Sun (DSD 2.8MHz), but overall Vena II came over as strong and svelte.

   With our turntable, turning volume to maximum produced slight hum. Moving earth from the terminal fitted to a phono socket ground produced silence, so it appears case ground (the terminal) and signal ground (phono socket) are different (as they can be); this is a wrinkle that needs attention. Spinning Dire Straits So Far Away (Mobile Fidelity Master Recording, 45rpm) again delivered strong, firm drum rolls and the laconic vocals of Mark Knopfler centre stage in clear fashion. Big Band Spectacular from The Syd Lawrence Orchestra (LP No2 from 30ips master tape) fairly shook our listening room playing Sing Sing Sing, fast drumming being made obvious by Vena II’s bass power. I just sat back and was impressed! OK, this is a special LP but with more ordinary cuts the Vena always managed well, retaining its sense of ease underpinned by bass power. 




Quad’s new Vena II is a wonderfully easy to use all-in-one amplifier that offers superb sound quality: think easy going – and deeply insightful with digital from its ESS Sabre32 DAC. Offering a performance up with the best at a price of £649 it strikes me as the quintessence of high fidelity – a great sound at a great price. Utterly superb! 



   OUTSTANDING - amongst the best.


A super smooth amplifier and digital section, plus LP and Bluetooth. Marvellous.



- easy powerful sound 

- facilities

- slick remote control

- small



- illegible legends

- dull styling








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