A vintage-style valve amplifier with ultra-warm sound

The Quad VA-One has cult looks and sound quality to match

Quad VA-One, £1,300
Quad VA-One, £1,300 | Image: Hugh Threlfall

By my calculation the weather will be warm(ish) when you read these words. As long as you’re in my hemisphere, natch. So, if it’s not too climatically inappropriate, how about this stunning little British-designed hifi amplifier that runs toasty warm on account of seven valves lined up like a sports team behind the grille, and also sounds gorgeously warm for the very same reason.

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Even for Quad, whose 1950s roots are in valve amps, a 2017 vintage valve amplifier made to work with bookshelf-sized speakers is a trifle pretentious on the part of the brand’s now-Chinese owners. Its valves are of a type I remember being near-obsolete in my radio tinkering days 45 years ago. But although the 15 watts-per-channel Quad VA-One – a handsome, dense brick of a beast, and identifiably a Quad for anyone who remembers the futuristic lines of its upmarket 1960s and ’70s offerings – will probably be bought for aesthetic reasons, it also sounds wonderful. It’s not just the warmth, but the fluidity that is so languorous and lovely. You can even feed the VA-One (which also contains heaps of modern components) from your 21st-century gadgetry by Bluetooth. Oh, and to show off the valves you can remove the protective grille using the bundled screwdriver. And to show off, period, you can replace the supplied valves (worth £10 to £24 a piece) with “audiophile-grade” equivalents treated by freezing at -300ºF for 48 hours. These cost about double. Good luck hearing the difference.

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