Quad Valves Reinvented! Page 2

From the very outset, it was obvious the new Quad amps would present no limitations at all to users of relatively sensitive loud speakers, regardless of perilous impedances. Hence, they never misbehaved during a fortnight of concentrated abuse. Aside from hot running, I found only one non-sonic complaint, which was a physical buzz from the cans around the transformers.

Audio Sculpture
Merely pressing on them eliminated the thrum, but placing a damper of some sort on top is an affront to the units' aesthetics which all but negates their presence as audio sculpture. Quad should find some way to eliminate this, because it's audible up to ten feet away. Nonetheless, the sound through the loudspeakers was hum-free.

As warned by Quad, the amps need running-in, the review system, hot off the assembly line, improving audibly after 100 hours. So don't be too hasty: the faithful will be so eager to collect their new Quads, rush home, and lie back to wallow in 21st century Walker/Grove magic, that the run-in period may be ignored.

Considerable are the rewards, for the new Quads behave like few other valve amplifiers. However much I cherish my Quad IIs, I only use them with Quad ESLs. The II-forty is another story entirely, especially driven by the QC-twentyfour. In a sense, it's almost like dealing with a partially dual-mono integrated amplifier, for there's nothing to be gained by mixing and matching. Quad, in fact, has emphasised this synergy by offering the package only as a complete entity; the preamp and power amps will not be sold separately. Which is as it should be: most of the biggest mismatches are preamp-to-power amp, and I have no problem with manufacturers who reel in horror at the pairing of their components with unsuitable offerings from other makes.



The underside of the Quad II forty monoblock power amplifier (top) and under the hood of the QC-twentyfour preamplifier

This is not tacit support for, say, arranged marriages, nor an indication that I believe that all companies make both great preamps and power amps. I like Krell with Krell, Nu-Vista with Nu-Vista and so on for valid reasons. Conversely, I always preferred Radford and (old) Quad power amps to their respective preamps. But in this case? It's a match made in Huntingdon.

sqnote Tight 'N' Chunky
Straight to female vocals, and The Judds were there in the room, all honey-coated redneck warbling and trailer-park bass, the latter with levels of extension which confounded any tube prejudice. Yes, the KT88 – at least in original M-0 valve form – does things down below which utterly belie anti-valve hysteria, sounding all solid and tight and chunky. But to find such control and clout from a mere brace of KT88s from a British firm that came as close to death as Rover – hell!

On through some lean acoustic material by Eric Bibb, lush 1950s vocals courtesy of Dino; a wander through contemporary studio trickery care of Melanie C; and power pop by The Wondermints – the new Quad amplifiers have a personality all of their own, which is gonna aggravate the straight-wire-with-gain zealots. There's precision aplenty, along with enough air, space and three-dimensionality to suggest that a high-end Yank designer sneaked their way into the Quad HQ in the wee hours.

Bloomin' Lovely
There's also a warmth I thought I'd never hear again after the last original KT66 gave up the ghost; that elusive lushness which keeps anachrophiles from parting with their Quad IIs. I don't know how Grove did it, but he managed to make a Thoroughly Modern Millie, but with a pair of bloomers under her flapper dress. As you'd expect, this warmth is beneficial to vocals, but also provided a delicious sheen to clarinet and sax, and a rich woodiness to piano. With Louis Prima's 'Just A Gigolo', the rolling opening possessed a new swing and flow, yet the choppy attack in 'Buona Sera' remained crisp. A taste of alt.country from Slobberbone, the juggernaut of Alabama 3's 'Woke Up This Morning'... every genre seemed to benefit while nothing seemed to suffer. In part, I'm sure it gets back to the logic-defying power of the II-forty and the concomitant dynamic range; the units never seemed to run out of juice – no compression, no squashing, no wheezing. And, for once, guys, I wasn't playing it softly. The new Quad amps merely rise to the occasion. Any occasion.


Original pages from the Nov '00 issue of HFN in which Ken Kessler took delivery of Quad's II-forty monoblock and matching QC-twentyfour preamp, modern equivalents of the original Quad 22 and Quad II, with Peter Walker's circuit used as a starting point

Best In Class
Quad has succeeded where few of hi-fi's gamblers dare. The company has followed the ESL-989 with not just a worthy amplifier, but with a silent, smooth and precise control unit as well. Better still it has stayed true to the ur-Quad while making an apology-free alternative for current users.

Because the units are hand-built and the company doesn't expect to make more than 1000 sets a year, Quad anticipates a waiting-list scenario. But it has also stated that these are not limited editions, and will remain available indefinitely, so there's certainly no need to panic. When demand stops, so will production. One can, if so predisposed, posit this to be the current management's apology for the Celebration Quad II from 1996 [see boxout below].

Factor out nostalgia. Forget the miracle of Quad Making Valve Amps In The 21st Century. Look at the Quad units in terms of a current pre/power tube combination. Then look at the opposition. Now factor in gorgeous styling, superb build quality, perfect ergonomics, ample grunt, genuine heritage and the kind of sound which allows valve enthusiasts to show two fingers to transistor users. Suddenly, you sense a virtue found in Quad products made prior to the 405: unparalleled cost-to-performance ratio.

The preamp sounds like what I'd expect of a £2500 unit. The power amps? The best current all-tube rig I can think of below £3500, which is what you'd pay for the heartwarming Audio Research VT50. Eyes closed, then, and this system says to me, '£6000'. Which is what the old management wanted just for the Celebration Quad II alone. At £3995 for the QC-twentyfour and the Quad ll-forty, the waiting list is already thrice around the block.