Build quality is impeccable both inside and out, as one expects of Quad. Internal components have been painstakingly 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.
Design: 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 2 x 15 Watts with a nominal 6 Ohm load. This may seem surprisingly low to many younger (under 50) consumers but this is more than sufficient power to drive efficient modern speakers to high volume levels in a medium sized room, whilst maintaining the sumptuous sound quality derived from the amp’s valve-based topology. When these amplifiers first came onto the market in the 1950's this was triple what most amplifiers delivered. In fact even in the late 1960's when your scribe first entered the world of hi-fi 8 Watts per channel was considered adequate and that was on solid-state designs! Japanese brands including Kenwood/Trio; Pioneer and Sansui were considered as the ultimate in performance at 10 to 12 Watts per channel. When in the early 1970's Sansui introduced the AU-555 at 20 Watts per channel output everyone thought this was outrageously overkill!
But it's all about the sound. So as well as providing the fluid, immersive sonic performance associated with classic valve amplification, the Quad VA-One delivers lashings of musical detail without the unwanted colouration often associated with inferior valve-based products. This is thanks to the highly specified output transformers.
Technology: Three digital audio inputs – optical, coaxial and asynchronous USB – support data up to 24-bit/192kHz, 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.
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