Quad Vena II Review: Delivers confident, clean and airy sound

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The Quad Vena II presented at Munich High End 2018 retained the engineering solutions and technical base of the first version, but received more advanced network functionality. Also, it was finalized at the software level, which, according to the creators, will allow it to better cope with digital signals.

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From the USB input, the device can now perceive a signal in quality up to 24 bit / 384 kHz PCM and DSD up to 256. In addition to USB (A and B), two optical inputs are available on board, a coaxial input, a phono input and two analog RCA inputs, as well as an output for headphones combined with a separate amplifier module. Bluetooth-connected devices can also be sources: Quad Vena II supports the aptX codec.

Quad Vena II has wide functionality and high-quality dynamic sound. The Quad Vena II is housed in an attractive metal enclosure and delivers enough power output to drive large bookshelf speakers. This model successfully combines the classic Quad circuitry, which is appreciated by audiophiles around the world, and the latest audio technology. The device can be made in a metal case, or with additional wooden panels.

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The amplifier uses separate stabilized sources to power digital and analogue circuits to reduce crosstalk and achieve the most transparent sound possible. In addition to speaker systems, headphones can also be connected to the amplifier through the front panel jack. The Quad Vena II is equipped with a pair of secure screw terminals to connect speakers. The design of the amplifier takes into account all the nuances that can affect the stability of its operation and sound quality, so the Quad Vena II is designed for very long-term use in music lovers’ systems.

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The amplifier has a signature sound and is very easy to use thanks to the clever placement of the controls. Together with a pair of high-quality acoustics, the Quad Vena will form the basis of an excellent modern stereo system, working with a variety of signal sources and capable of high-quality sound in a medium-sized room. At the back are USB ports of types A and B: the first allows you to charge Apple devices and play music from them, the second is used to connect to a computer. Optical and coaxial digital inputs and outputs complete the package. The amplifier supports high-definition formats up to 24-bit / 384 kHz sampling. Bluetooth provides easy connectivity, while aptX provides higher quality streaming from a compatible smartphone or tablet.

Integral / DAC Quad Vena II is easiest to present as follows: this is a new model “inside and out”, but in the already familiar retro case with two front panel options and three additional colors of the main “box”. External differences boil down only to the location of the LED indicators (previously they were located directly in the input selector buttons). In the digital path is a new USB receiver capable of receiving audio data up to 384 kHz and DSD256 streams, followed by the more advanced ES9018K2M DAC (32-bit HyperStream ESS architecture, Time Jitter Eliminator technology). The latter significantly adds points to “Vienna”, because the first model on the Crystal CS4398 worked only with data up to 24 bit / 192 kHz.

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The analog path has also been redesigned. It includes a high-quality MM phono stage and a separate telephone amplifier module. The volume is now controlled by a motorized ALPS potentiometer, the power supply has a new 200 VA toroidal transformer, and the capacitor buffer capacity has been increased to 2 x 15,000 uF. Finally, the 65-watt power supplies operating in class AB and made according to the proprietary circuitry have also undergone modifications – with harmonics less than 0.0005%, they now give out three times more power.

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Not catchy, but confident, clean and airy sound – this is in the corporate tradition. Sometimes the amplifier seems a bit harsh, but this only manifests itself in those recordings where the sound was intended to be. And sometimes coarse, raw or lacquered shades appear in his playing, but this also cannot be blamed on the path – you just hear better all the instrumental shades and nuances of mixing, and not what has arisen in the amplification stages due to insufficient damping of the acoustics.

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Keep in mind that the Vena II reacts as responsively as a real audiophile amplifier to reversal of the polarity of the power outlet and to the quality of the power cable. And he can no longer be blamed for any dry or harsh shades of digital origin. Although the detail during playback over the digital path with the new DAC began to stand out more clearly, there is no unpleasant pretense in it – even when the source is a cheap smartphone connected via Bluetooth with a standard codec, and inevitable compression artifacts slip through the sound.

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