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Quad, the distinguished British audio brand, is launching a new version of one of its most popular products of recent years – the Vena integrated amplifier. The new Vena II builds upon the strengths of its predecessor – compact design, a useful range of facilities and thoroughly engaging sound – by adding new features and enhancing sonic performance to form the beating heart of an affordable, high-performance audio system.
The original Vena offered an unusually forward-thinking feature set when it arrived in 2014, offering hi-res USB, optical and coaxial digital inputs in addition to wireless streaming via aptX Bluetooth. Just 313mm wide, the diminutive Vena II maintains the aesthetic of its predecessor – smart and contemporary, yet still distinctly ‘Quad’. A neat row of source-selection buttons and a large, smooth-acting volume control adorn its fascia, tidily proportioned and elegantly functional. The same impressive range of digital and analogue inputs is provided, with the addition of a phono stage to allow the direct connection of a turntable – a facility for which there has been a resurgence of demand in recent years
Beneath the hood, the Vena II sports significant upgrades. The digital audio circuitry has been improved, the Cirrus Logic DAC chip found in the original Vena replaced by an ES9018K2M from the Sabre32 Reference family. This enables the Vena II to benefit from ESS Technology’s 32-bit HyperStream architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator to deliver ultra-low noise and high dynamic range.
Though technically excellent, Sabre32 Reference DAC chips can be challenging to implement effectively. If the circuitry that surrounds them it is not of a sufficient standard, the resulting sound can seem a little cold and hard; treat them right, however, and the level of musical expression that these chips dig from the digital signal is captivating. One such critical element is the post-DAC active filter; Quad’s design team has paid great attention to this circuit, using op-amps that were specifically chosen for their synergy with the ES9018K2M.
In terms of hi-res file compatibility, the original Vena maxed out at 24-bit/192kHz PCM via USB. The Vena II stretches this to 32-bit/384kHz, alongside DSD (up to DSD256). This ensures the amp is fully equipped to make the most of today’s hi-res music formats, as well as future advances in ultra-high-definition digital sound.
Significant improvements have also been made to the Vena II’s analogue stages. Like the original model, the new amp sports a Class AB power amp section that draws on Quad’s many decades of design experience. Here, though, the power supply has been upgraded, a new 200VA toroidal transformer lying at its heart. This is followed by 2x15000uF reservoir capacity (30000uF in total), helping the amp to maintain firm control of the music whilst enabling excellent dynamic range.
Vinyl lovers will appreciate the addition of a phono stage for moving magnet cartridges – a high-quality, low-noise, JFET-based circuit with precise RIAA equalisation – adding to the Vena II’s already formidable format flexibility.
Headphone users are also better catered for. The original Vena included a headphone output, but this was connected to the amp’s main output stage rather than to a specialised headphone amp circuit. The Vena II incorporates a dedicated headphone amp with current-feedback circuitry, its gain bandwidth and high slew rate delivering a more dynamic, detailed and engaging performance with all manner of headphone types.
SPECIFICATIONS – QUAD VENA II Preamplifier Section
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