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Value Of Vena

An affordable amplifier with a quality digital section, Bluetooth and LP. Noel Keywood looks and listens.




Quad’s Vena II is purposed to give you Quad traditional quality at a price you can afford – £649. And it does it well. The new Vena II amplifier now comes with a Phono input for LP and Bluetooth for mobile phone connection, in addition to an ESS Sabre32 based digital section that is as smooth and advanced as they come. It’s a great all-in-one package that gives true hi-fi – without hassle.

   And it is small. The Vena II takes up little space and is not heavy, even though it uses a solid linear power supply rather than a noisy switch-mode. No modern tomfoolery here! No external boxes either: the mains cable plugs straight into a well built chassis weighing 5kgs and measuring just 300mm wide and 300mm deep. Height is 92mm, the Bluetooth aerial increasing this to 155mm when upright, but it can be swivelled down to horizontal.

   Inside there is a 55 Watt amplifier. It might not sound much against the 100 Watts that is all but obligatory nowadays, but it is more than enough to go extremely loud; few of us will ever use 100 Watts in real life – it’s a specs requirement. 

   Although Vena II harks back to the styling of Quad’s 33 preamplifier of 1967 – a classic I once owned and loved – it is disappointingly sombre in style to my eyes. The legends are a dull grey on a dark background where the original was more strongly defined visually with orange against brown – and legible legends. 



A toroidal mains transformer at left of the Quad's linear power supply. At middle sits the amplifier's finned alloy heat sink and at bottom right the Alps motor driven volume control.



   The horizontal line of push-buttons on the Vena II are not mechanical switches as of yore, but electrical ones that select things not known in the days of the 33. One is Bluetooth short range radio reception from mobile phone or iPad (or similar) and the obvious others are digital inputs in the form of S/PDIF that will accept the digital output of any CD player – optical (2) or electrical (1) – or the many other contraptions that output digital in this form, such as portable digital players (DAPs). 

   A USB B (printer style) input connects to a computer, allowing the Vena II’s sophisticated ESS chip to process digital audio either for headphone listening via a front panel 6.3mm (1/4in) headphone outlet, or through the loudspeakers; plugging in ‘phones mutes the ‘speakers. The USB spec has been improved from 24/192 to 32/384kHz sample rate for PCM and it also accepts DSD256 (double rate DSD).

   Vena II also has a Phono stage for a turntable with moving magnet (MM) cartridge, unlike original Vena. 

There are two analogue line inputs (Aux1 & 2) and even a preamplifier output for those who may want to hook up a bigger power amplifier at a later date. 

Whilst there are two digital outputs, optical and electrical, they are feed-throughs; there is no on-board ADC to generate digital from analogue sources such as LP. Digital inputs can be routed to a recording device through them.



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