Quad expands its Artera line with the Artera Solus

Review - Quad Artera Solus

Quad Artera Solus

Quad expands its Artera line with the Artera Solus
Q uad, the distinguished British audio brand, celebrates the start of its 83rd year by adding a one-box hi-fi system to the Artera Series, Quad’s primary solid-state component range. The Artera Solus combines a CD transport, DAC, pre amp and power amplifier in a single compact chassis, with extensive connectivity options including Bluetooth wireless streaming.

At the core of Artera Solus is an ES9018 Sabre32 Reference, the eminent 32-bit, eight-channel hybrid multi-bit Delta-Sigma DAC chipset, expertly implemented by Quad’s renowned electronics engineers. External sources benefit from this DAC’s exceptional quality via a range of digital inputs, handling PCM data up to 32-bit/384 kHz as well as DSD64, DSD128 and DSD256. This ensures the Artera Solus is fully equipped to make the most of today’s hi-res music formats, as well as future advances in ultra-high-definition digital sound.

For CD replay, a slot-loading mechanism buffers data from the disc before feeding it to the asynchronous DAC section. Four digital filter options enable users to tailor the sound from both CDs and external digital sources, to suit personal taste and the nature of the source material.

The Artera Solus’s preamp and power amp sections mix minimalist design with high-quality components to ensure short, direct signal paths that preserve sonic purity. Volume is digitally controlled in the analogue domain, outputting directly to the dual-mono Class AB power amp section. This delivers 2x75W into eight ohms, with a maximum current delivery of 15 Amps into difficult loads. To minimise distortion, the power supplies for the left and right channels are isolated from each other as well as from the rest of the system.

The discrete power amp circuits’ output stage uses a CFB (Complementary Feedback) topology in combination with conventional emitter follower circuitry. The CFB stage offers superior linearity and ensures excellent thermal stability, as the idle current is kept independent of the temperature of the output transistors. Using an emitter follower in combination with the CFB stage is an efficient way of increasing the current ability of the amplifier without compromising the advantages of the CFB circuit.

Having the emitter follower deliver additional current only when needed allows for a simpler current limiting arrangement, which can be voltage independent. Current limiting is under microprocessor control and programmed to allow the amplifier to supply high currents (+- 15A) into complex loads, surpassing amplifiers that are bigger and more powerful on paper. A 300VA toroidal transformer supplies the two mono amplifiers using separate secondary windings, followed by 2x15000uF reservoir capacity per channel (60000uF in total).

Much effort has gone into the physical layout of the Artera Solus’s circuitry, with independent low-noise power supplies feeding all critical stages to keep interference to a minimum. The result is a performance on par with much more expensive multi-component hi-fi systems – detailed, natural, expansive and dynamic – in line with Quad’s continuing quest to deliver “the closest approach to the original sound”.

Cable connectivity options are plentiful. Five digital inputs – two coaxial, two optical and one USB Type B – cater for external digital sources (there’s also a USB Type A socket for software updates) while a pair of RCA phono inputs handle analogue sources. Analogue outputs are supplied in both single ended RCA and balanced XLR varieties, with the four-channel volume control preserving the balanced signal path from the DAC to the XLR output. A pair of high-quality speaker binding posts, optical and coaxial digital outputs, a 12V trigger output and a front-mounted jack coupled to a dedicated headphone amp circuit complete a comprehensive connectivity array.

The Solus joins two existing components in the expanding Artera Series: the Artera Play CD player/preamp and Artera Stereo power amp. It is the first Artera component to offer the convenience of Bluetooth connectivity, including support for the sonically superior aptX codec, thus allowing easy wireless streaming from a wide range of devices – smartphones, tablets, laptops and more.

Later this year, a second version of the Artera Solus will join the Bluetooth-equipped model. This premium version will add comprehensive app-controlled Wi-Fi network streaming facilities, thus delivering greater choice to the consumer: if Bluetooth is sufficient and you don’t require full network streaming, you won’t have to pay for a redundant facility; but the option will be available for those who want it. What’s more, those who purchase the standard Bluetooth model can upgrade their unit to the fully loaded network streaming version should they wish to do so, once available this autumn.

This makes the Artera Solus a true all-in-one system component, flexibly equipped to suit the modern era: extensive wireless connectivity options; legacy CD playback; high-performance DAC/preamp circuitry for external sources; powerful and precise power amplification. Just add a high-quality pair of speakers – Quad’s excellent S Series and Z Series models are ideal – and the result is a superbly capable and versatile audio system in an elegantly compact form.

Quad gave its team of designers and engineers a specific brief for the Artera Series: combine the qualities that have made Quad one of Britain’s most revered hi-fi marques for many decades with fresh industrial design and the very latest high-performance audio technologies. To this end, Quad enlisted the help of Rodney Mead, the man responsible for the styling of many classic Quad products in the 1970s, ’80s and ’90s, to brainstorm design concepts that would lead to Artera – a Quad component range for the modern era.

All Artera Series components share the same compact 32x32cm footprint, with a crisp, clean aesthetic that both evokes Quad’s past and looks forward to the future. The housing provides a rigid structure that exudes quality and resists interference from external vibrations, with a textured aluminium front panel, thick glass top and CNC-routed heat sinks on either side. The sleek appeal of the Artera components is further enhanced by intuitive touch-sensitive controls built into their circular OLED displays; a fully featured remote control is also provided.

Designing the Artera Solus proved to be a great test of ingenuity for Quad’s electronics engineers. “I’ve been involved with the design of Quad electronics for more than 25 years and was determined that our first all-in-one system should not be a compromise,” said Jan Ertner, who led the development team. “It was a real challenge to make the individual parts – CD transport, DAC, digital streaming, analogue preamp and power amp – perform to the level of a full separates system in keeping with Quad’s high standards, all packed into a single Artera Series chassis. Placement of components has been especially critical, together with careful routing of the four-layer printed circuit board, use of balanced circuitry to minimise interference and extensive power supply isolation.”

Combining the assurance of tradition with the buzz of innovation, the Quad Artera Series is the lifeblood of high-performance audio entertainment for modern music lovers. The new Artera Solus is available from February 2018, with a choice of black or silver front panels and an RRP of £1,499.95. The Bluetooth-equipped model will be joined this autumn by a premium version, adding comprehensive app-controlled Wi-Fi network streaming facilities to the Solus’s specification.




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