Posted on Sun, 22 Mar, 2015
Posted by Raven


QUAD PA-1

There’s something undeniably beautiful and alluring about a valve amplifier. Be that a valve pre, power, integrated or head, there’s no mistaking that warm, lush sound accompanied by the warm, lush glow of the valves. We’ve been having a bit of a headphone-amp season here at AA HQ, the release of some incredible portable amps (and some separates, of course) has really piqued our interest in this – the most audiophile-esque of pursuits. And now we have something on offer that could potentially give even our most high-end of head-fi amps a serious run for their money.

There’s even a rumour circulating that these may well be the long-awaited match for the Abyss. Up until now, there wasn’t quite anything that we felt would match them. Well, Quad may well have solved that problem.

Quad-PA-One Bristol Show

 

We got our first look at the Quad PA-One at the Bristol Hi-fi Show. Although our glace was brief, it’s warmth and surprising agility when paired with some seriously high end headphones really made an  impact. But it was a while yet before we could have a little play with it ourselves to see what it was really capable of. It didn’t take us very long to fall in love with the sound it delivered – strong, deep and lush – all at the same time!

But this isn’t new when it comes to high-end valve headphone amps. And we know that. But the Quad PA-One is far more than just your average head-fi amp. It has several nifty tricks up its sleeve which made it one of the most versatile pieces of kit in its niche that we know of.

quad_pa-one_headphone_amplifier-back

 

Firstly, it’s really aware of the direction hi-fi is leaning in. And self-awareness is a powerful force in advancement! With the increased popularity of computers as source, the Quad PA-One’s USB DAC allows for its lucky owners to listen to digital music sources from a computer or laptop (Windows or Mac) via USB connection. And that spectacular valve sound is unaffected. The PA-One is USB 1.1 and 2.0 compliant and supports sampling frequencies ranging from 35kHz to 192kHz. And that is why you need one in your life. It enables you to move with the times, all-the-while staying seated in just the right place where sound is concerned.

It boasts serious user-friendliness too, despite such features often rendering things a bit tricky to grapple with. An amazingly wide variety of digital and analogue sources – Balanced, RCA, Coaxial, Optical and USB, means this is incredibly source friendly. No matter what your poison, this head-amp will do it serious justice. All you need is a decent set of cans to match (the higher the better, of course!) and you’re good to go!

Why do you need a Quad PA-One in your life? It’s hi-fi gear at its most splendid. It manages to accomplish everything you could want it to, all the while sounding gorgeously specialist. And you can’t get much better than that, can you?

 

Give us a shout if you’re interested and we will hook you up at our headphone bar.

  • justsayin

    I’ve read several articles that complain of weak bass / midrange which they say is quite fixable with a tube upgrade. So I was already sourcing new tubes before my unit arrived. And then I gave it a listen, and then I gave it time. I initially tended to agree with the weak bass / midrange comments, but as the tubes accumulated hours the sound began to come around. I probably have fifty hours on it now and the bass / midrange continue to improve. The shop that got it for me said to hang the headphones on a stand, set a CD to play loops, and let it run for a couple hundred hours at moderate volume. I tried… I prefer listening.
    I’ll try some higher quality tubes shortly and see what they have to offer. But right now I am thrilled. Love that it accepts balanced analog (XLR) cabling.

    • Kevin P

      How did the Quad PA one settle in after more hours? Did it improve in the bass with different tubes?

      • justsayin

        The unit came around nicely. But ultimately I swapped tubes. Used a Philips/Mullard EZ81 rectifier. That was a huge improvement. Detail, depth, space, strength. Also added Sylvania 6SN7GTB’s and ADZAM 6SL7GT’s. Those tended to add a bit of sparkle… which is my preference. Another huge improvement… Cardas built me their Clear grade headphone cable. I’m quite happy with the unit. But the tubes and cable made it fabulous… they cost around $1300.

      • Peter

        Like most valve amps, it does benefit from a period of being “run in” and we always recommend allowing any valve amplifier to warm up before listening. The bass on the PA One tightened up a bit as we progressed making it one of the best all rounder headphone valve amps we’ve heard. Its now a permanent fixture on the headphones bar in our showroom as it matches well with a wide variety of headphones, right from Grado’s through to the new HiFi Man Edition X headphones.