Quad has been making venerated valve amplifiers for home use since the late 1940s. The company's latest model, the VA-One, brings the concept bang up to date - a compact integrated amplifier that fuses Quad's traditional valve-based audio expertise with the modern convenience of digital audio streaming.
With a footprint measuring just 18x33cm, the VA-One is conveniently compact for a stereo valve amp - sufficiently small to sit comfortably on a desk, table or shelf. Yet it packs in a wealth of high-performance audio technology - a hi-res DAC (Digital-to-Analogue Converter) joins valve-based preamp and power amp circuits to deliver sumptuous sound quality from a multitude of playback devices - from smartphones and tablets, to PCs and Macs, to hi-fi source components. Three digital audio inputs - optical, coaxial and asynchronous USB - support data up to 24 bit/192 kHz, and an RCA-phono input gives the option to connect an analogue source like a CD player or a turntable (when used with a suitable phono stage). In addition, those who enjoy the freedom of wireless connectivity can pair smartphones, tablets and computers via Bluetooth, with support for the sonically superior aptX codec.
The VA-One boasts an impressive compliment of valves for such a compact device (seven in all). The preamp section incorporates an ECC83 high-impedance triode, feeding an ECC82 twin triode driver and phase splitter stage. The output stage uses two EL84 pentodes per channel in push-pull configuration, delivering 2x15W - sufficient power to drive efficient modern speakers to high volume levels, whilst maintaining the sumptuous sound quality derived from the amp's valve-based topology. As well as providing the fluid, immersive sonic performance associated with classic valve amplification, the VA-One delivers lashings of musical detail without the unwanted coloration often associated with inferior valve-based products, thanks to the highly specified output transformers.
Build quality is impeccable both inside and out, as one expects of Quad. Internal components have been carefully selected to ensure the VA-One maintains the company's traditional dictum of 'the closest approach to the original sound', while external styling is classically Quad, finished in traditional 'Lancaster Grey'. The amp's front panel sports a smooth-acting volume control incorporating a motorised potentiometer, allowing precise adjustment via the supplied remote control, together with a high-quality headphone output and controls for input selection and Bluetooth pairing.
It all adds up to the ideal compact amplifier for modern music lovers who crave the mellifluous sound quality and delicious retro appeal of valves, whilst listening to music from all manner of modern devices, like smartphones, tablets and computers. The Quad VA-One integrated valve amplifier is available from mid-August, priced at £1299. It joins the similarly styled PA-One headphone amp in Quad's expanding 'One' range of valve-based amplifiers with integrated DAC circuitry. Info and photos by Quad.