The perfect system doesn’t exist. I think that’s the best part of this hobby: There is no single absolutely flawless system that will please every single ear in existence. And even the best systems have room to change and grow. Tastes vary and range as much as the human condition allows, and it allows for a whole lot.
But there are systems that are just plain good, especially when put into a pure cost/benefit equation. They’re good in most contexts and to most listeners. This isn’t lowest-common-denominator stuff; this is just genuinely solid versatile sound. Which brings me to the subject of this review: the new QUAD Vena II integrated amplifier ($1395 with case) paired with the new Wharfedale Linton Heritage loudspeakers ($1498/pair with stands; $1198 without).
This was an easy review to get excited about. I have a well-documented love for Wharfedale and I’ve always been interested in what QUAD puts out, so getting to test them together sounded like the perfect situation, at least for me. And I have to say, without spoiling the whole review, that I was very right to feel that way.
To start out, I had to acquaint myself with the QUAD Vena II. It’s small and gray with a matte finish, though the optional case adds a very nice gloss. (I recommend springing for it; mine came in the piano black finish, and it’s very attractive.) The Vena II is rated 45Wpc into 8 ohms, which is generally plenty for most speakers. It also includes a phono section, two analog inputs, a pre-out, and a plethora of digital inputs. For me, it strikes the perfect balance between classic analog inputs and modern digital capabilities. There’s even Bluetooth streaming with aptX support. For a traditional British brand, the Vena II is exceedingly modern in both aesthetics and flexibility.
While I do love the more modern design of the Vena II, I have to admit that I fell very much in love with the Wharfedale Linton Heritage speakers and their gorgeous optional stands. To be fair though, the Lintons are right up my design alley, playing with traditional hi-fi style but updating it with modern components. The Linton is a three-way bass-reflex design with a 1" soft-dome tweeter, a 5" woven-Kevlar midrange, and an 8" woven-Kevlar woofer. The speaker is rated at 90dB sensitivity with a nominal impedance of 6 ohms, and Wharfedale recommends amplifiers rated from 25–200Wpc. That means the Vena II fit the Linton Heritage very nicely, at least in power.
My review pair of Lintons came with the optional stands, which I highly recommend. I won’t write much more about them, but I will say this: They’re beautiful and functional. They come with space for a bunch of LPs and heighten the entire aesthetic of the Lintons, while acting as very solid anchors. They’re not the heaviest stands I’ve used, but they’re more than substantial enough, especially when loaded with records. If you get the Lintons, get the stands as well.
When setting this little system up, I kept thinking about synergy. It’s such a vague word, almost rendered useless by marketing firms. Still, this little system screams out synergy as soon as I start thinking about it. Both companies are British brands with deep roots, and both components are sleek, living-room-worthy objects that offer classic features updated with today’s technology. Before I even put on a record or started streaming, they just felt right together.