British audio brand, Quad, is launching a new version of their Vena II integrated amplifier.

The new Vena II Play adds Wi-Fi connectivity via the Play-Fi platform to the Vena II’s specification, delivering a compact amp that covers all bases from traditional hifi sources to wireless streaming via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. In doing so, it becomes the first Quad product to embrace Wi-Fi streaming.

Quad Vena II Play

The Vena II Play looks almost identical to the ‘standard’ Vena II, which launched 12 months ago, a compact design just 313mm wide; contemporary yet still distinctly ‘Quad’. Apart from the word ‘Play’ to denote Play-Fi integration, the only change to the front panel is a ‘NET’ button and an array of white LEDs around the rotary control to indicate volume level.

DAC & Phono Stage

All the facilities of the Vena II are included, an integral hi-res DAC with USB, coaxial and optical digital inputs, aptX Bluetooth reception, a range of analogue inputs including a phono stage for turntables, and dedicated headphone amp circuitry. The Vena II Play’s addition of internet/home network connectivity via Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable is provided in return for a £150 premium over £649 Vena II, which remains current.

Aside from the addition of Play-Fi, the Vena II Play’s circuitry mirrors that of the Vena II. At its heart lies the ES9018K2M DAC chip from the Sabre32 Reference family, applying the benefits of ESS Technology’s 32-bit HyperStream architecture and Time Domain Jitter Eliminator. In the post-DAC active filter; Quad uses op-amps selected for their synergy with the ES9018K2M.

Analogue Circuits

Like the Vena II, the Class AB power amp section draws on Quad’s many decades of amplifier design experience. A 200VA toroidal transformer is followed by 2x15000uF reservoir capacity. Whilst the power output of 2x45W into 8 Ohms may appear quite modest by modern standards, in practice the amp will drive any speaker it is likely to be partnered with. Vinyl lovers will appreciate the inclusion of a phono stage for MM cartridges, a JFET-based circuit with precise RIAA equalisation. Headphone users are also well catered for thanks to a dedicated amp stage with current-feedback circuitry. The signal path is short and direct to maintain purity, with volume adjusted via a stepped resistor network under microprocessor control, this differs from the motorised ALPS volume pot in the Vena II, delivering enhanced accuracy and integration with the Play-Fi app. Much effort has gone into the amp’s circuit layout, protecting the sensitive preamp section from interference and utilising independent low-noise power supplies for all critical stages.

Connections

Around the back, the Vena II Play reveals some key differences to the Vena II. Analogue RCA cable connections are the same, two line-level inputs and the MM phono input, plus pre-out sockets to allow the addition of an external power amp, but the digital connections differ.

The Vena II Play incorporates an Ethernet port, in line with its network capabilities, providing the option to connect a router via cable instead of Wi-Fi. To make room for this, one of the Vena II’s three S/PDIF inputs has been removed, the Vena II Play sports one optical and one coaxial input, while the Vena II has an extra optical socket. The Vena II also has optical/coaxial digital outputs, which are absent here.

The USB inputs are the same as the Vena II, a Type A port for software updates and a Type B port for asynchronous audio data. The latter can receive and process hi-res PCM audio up to 32-bit/384kHz, as well as DSD up to 11.2MHz (DSD256).

A further change is the number aerials, increased from one to three, the Vena II has a single aerial for Bluetooth, while the Vena II Play adds two more for its dual-band Wi-Fi receiver. The inclusion of Bluetooth, with support for the aptX and AAC codecs as well as ‘plain vanilla’ SBC, enables convenient, high-quality streaming to both the Vena II and Vena II Play from any smart device. Adding Play-Fi with Wi-Fi and Ethernet connectivity ensures the Vena II Play is equipped for the streaming age.

Play-Fi

Developed by DTS, Play-Fi is an app-controlled platform enabling high-quality, whole-home wireless audio, capable of streaming hi-res music up to 24-bit/192kHz and supported by a greater range of established audio brands than any other wireless platform.

Play-Fi provides access to a wealth of internet music services – Spotify, Tidal, HDtracks, Deezer, Qobuz, Amazon Music, Napster, TuneIn, iHeartRadio and SiriusXM, to name a few. Users might choose to browse a radio guide listing thousands of internet radio stations and podcasts, favourite stations and playlists can be assigned to preset ‘buttons’ within the app, or stream from a DLNA-compatible NAS drive or media server.

Play-Fi also enables users to create a fully synchronised wireless multiroom set-up by connecting up to 32 Play-Fi-equipped devices across a home Wi-Fi network. All this functionality is accessible via the Play-Fi app, available for iOS, Android and Kindle Fire smartphones and tablets, as well as Apple and Android smartwatches and Windows PCs.

A wide variety of file formats are supported, including MP3, MP4A, AAC, FLAC, WAV and AIFF. In standard mode, which is optimised for multi-room bandwidth, audio is streamed at up to 16-bit/48kHz. By engaging Play-Fi’s Critical Listening Mode, hi-res audio up to 24-bit/192kHz may be streamed to the Vena II Play over Wi-Fi or Ethernet cable, without transcoding or down-sampling. WWA (Works With Alexa) enables voice control by linking with any Alexa-equipped device, such as an Amazon Echo or Echo Dot, while Spotify Connect allows users to stream directly from Spotify’s servers using the Spotify app.

Price

Finished in Quad’s classic Lancaster Grey, the Vena II Play is on sale from November at an RRP of £799.

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