In this month we are going to take a good look at a brilliant system made up of QUAD’s Artera play, QUAD Artera stereo and QUAD Z1 loudspeakers. We’ll look at each component separately and then give our overall thoughts on the system as a whole.
The Artera play is a pre-amplifier with an in built CD-player and DAC, making it a great compact system. The Play has a strikingly unique design, certainly helping it stand out from other pre-amps in its price range. It features a touch sensitive display on the front that allows for some limited controls, although it does come with a remote which is much more convenient to use, it’s still a nice touch.
Both the play and the stereo features a recessed top which means you can easily stack one upon the other and has been designed so there is no effect on the sound, both also have a lovely glass plate included in the box which can sit in this recess if nothing is sat on top of the unit. All in all this makes for eye-catching aesthetics.
The Play boasts an impressive array of inputs including two RCA phono inputs, two coaxial inputs, two optical inputs and a USB-b to connect a laptop or similar device to. All the digital inputs are then fed through the ESS Sabre32 9018 chip, this is a very good choice by QUAD as it supports files up to 32-bit/384kHz as well as DSD 64/128/256 meaning the unit is well feature-proofed for high resolution digital files. To finish it off the Play features both XLR and Phono outputs which brings us on to the next part of our system.
While the Play could be partnered with a large range of power amps the Artera Stereo is the natural choice. It produces an impressive 140 watts per channel RMS, more than enough to drive even fussy speakers. Indeed in the shop we have tried the Artera with a huge range of speakers from small stand mounts to large floorstanders and didn’t have any problems with any of them.
The Stereo uses QUAD's famous ‘current dumping’ technology, which in basic terms comprises of two separate amplifiers, one very high quality class A low-power amp which provides the details of the signal, while a high-power current dumping section provides the grip to keep the speakers under control. This helps the amplifier produce an astonishing signal to noise ratio of 115dB, furthering the accuracy that QUAD is renowned for.
The first thing that strikes you about Quads new Z series is the absolutely gorgeous design and finish. The speakers come in gloss black, gloss white or Rosewood and have a unique ‘cone’ shape that really makes them stand out from other speakers in their categories.
The Z1 is a two way bookshelf speaker with a 150mm woven Kevlar bass driver and a 90x12mm ribbon tweeter. QUAD has been using ribbon tweeters for a very long time and they are very good at it. On the Z1 the ribbon really helps give a large dispersion in the sound stage, it is made from a composite of materials which really helps it be very durable and is suspended in a strong magnetic field to increase sensitivity. The Z1 has a typical frequency range for a compact bookshelf speaker of 56hz to 20Khz, a recommended amp power of 40 to 150 watts and a sensitivity of 86db.
We settled into our demo room after setting the system up and sat back and enjoyed Jo Harman’s newest album People We Become on CD, playing directly from the Artera Play. ‘Enjoy’ is really the definitive word here as this system is detailed without being clinical and still offers a warmth and musicality that make the listening experience very enjoyable. The single ‘When we were young’ is a particular highlight, helped by the expansive soundstage of the QUAD system, helped by the ribbon tweeters. The guitar and background organ are easy to point out while still staying cohesive and Jo Harman’s soulful voice really sounds like she’s in the room with you.
The Piano led ‘Lend me your love’ is another that stands out, the combination of the DAC in the Play and then the power in The Artera Stereo bring out all the details in the piano, pushing that sense of realism that is oh so important when it comes to piano. Yet at the same time this track feels so relaxing, as the instruments wrap around and envelop you, it helps that it has such a wide soundstage as it allows you some room in the listening position to sit back and relax.
We have been very impressed with Quad’s latest outings, in both the electronics and speakers but as always don’t just listen to us, get in touch and we can set up a demonstration.