This weekend has seen a major upgrade in our HiFi system. I’ve replaced both the QUAD 44 preamplifier and the QUAD 405 power amplifier. Bought back in 1981, they’ve both given sterling service, but ever since I had our QUAD electrostatic speakers refurbished last year, I’ve been looking at QUAD’s new Artera range of equipment to drive them.
The plan was to replace the QUAD 44 preamplifier with the Artera Link, and the QUAD 405 with the Artera Stereo. However, even though the Link was unveiled a year ago at the 2016 Sound and Vision show in Bristol, production of the units has only just begun.
I am now the proud owner of an Artera Link, and it joins the recently purchased Artera Stereo to give new life to our music.
I chose the Artera Link because it can be connected to the network; it is a streaming device, in addition to being a CD player, preamplifier and a high-end DAC. I’m taking a bit of a gamble here; the current streaming capabilities of the Link don’t interest me any more. It supports UPnP, AirPlay and Spotify Connect. UPnP is an example of the “lowest common denominator” approach to solving a problem and while it is a de facto standard in the market, it’s really not well-suited to delivery of high-quality audio streams. AirPlay is a bit better designed, but again, it doesn’t support high-quality audio streams, e.g. DSD. And while Spotify has a huge music library available for streaming, the audio quality of its streams is not (yet) HiFi.
What I really want is for the Artera to become a Roon-certified network player.
This is something that QUAD will have to develop in conjunction with Roon Labs, but if QUAD see it as a market opportunity, it’s well within the realms of the possible. Once developed, new firmware can easily be deployed to the Artera Link via the network.
In the meantime, I’ve integrated my Artera Link into our Roon system via a USB connection to a Sonore microRendu. The latter is already a Roon Ready-certified device, so I can use it to feed FLAC and DSD audio files to the Artera Link.
However, the icing on the cake would be for the Artera Link itself to become a Roon Ready device. That would mean fuller integration into Roon, for example being able to control the volume and digital filters of the Link from within Roon. Hopefully enough of QUAD’s customers feel the same way to persuade QUAD to take the step.
Addendum, May 2017: I’ve sold the Sonore microRendu and replaced it with a humble Raspberry Pi 3, running DietPi and Roon Bridge software. To my old ears, this sounds just as good, but at a fraction of the price of the microRendu.
Addendum, February 2018: I’ve now replaced the Raspberry Pi with an Allo USBridge. This is claimed to be a step up in audiophile quality from the RPi. I’m not sure that my ears are up to the task of hearing the difference, but I can now re-use the RPi in a project elsewhere.