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Article: Chord Electronics QuteHD Review


ted_b

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Thank you for the marvelous and detailed review Ted.

 

What really set this review apart for me was the length of time you had the DAC in for evaluation, which is unusual I believe. As an owner of this DAC, naturally I was pleased with your conclusion: “product of 2013” and given your considerable experience with DACs in general, coupled with being a professed DSD-aholic, I think this speaks to your honesty and integrity as a reviewer. The QuteHD is a PCM champ and perhaps the single best purchase I’ve made to date. BTW, I like that colorful little porthole too. Kudos.

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Thanks for the nice comments.

 

Yes, it was a real advantage to have the DAC for several months; it clearly broke in over that time, and I was able to know it's sound so well that I could competently evaluate it's reaction to system changes, USB cable changes, etc. But, as I drove home ad nauseum in the review, it allowed me to re-discover a huge part of my music library (again, my Meitner MA-1 proved its mettle in DSD playback, but it should for being 4x the price of the Chord).

 

A side note: hirez playback continues to evolve. As a longtime Meitner user I was just recently able to hear some new unreleased beta firmware (better filtering); they are not standing still by any means......this is all good news for our hobby.

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I've been waiting for this review for quite a while and I must say it was worth the wait. Good work, Ted. I'm curious which USB cable(s) you used with the Chord and if you had a chance to try any other USB-SPDIF converters with it besides the Matrix and Berkeley products.

Mac Mini 5,1 [i5, 2.3 GHz, 8GB, Mavericks] w/ Roon -> Ethernet -> TP Link fiber conversion segment -> microRendu w/ LPS-1 -> Schiit Yggdrasil

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Seems like a nice dac. One thing I noticed with my Meitner ma-1 is how sensitive it is when it comes to the positioning of the power cord. I had a rather polite and non-involving sound which was further exposed when I bought a better interconnect. I then had to do something and it was just luck I turned the power cord 180 degrees in the wall outlet. Now the life was back with nice dynamics, I was really surprised!

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Another nice review Ted, well done. I waited a long time for this, but it came a little to late so I jumped on the exaSound e20mkIII. Since you have now heard both, any comments on a comparison between the two. You can PM me if you wish as not to take away from this nice review.

The Truth Is Out There

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Great review Ted.

 

I have a very large collection of CDs, so am only interested in PCM redbook. I found that doing the same tweaks with my current Dac (Zodiac) have improved it considerably (I use a 3rd party linear power supply, HiFace 2 spdif converter, and high quality cable). I also found that JRiver was the only audio player that I liked.

 

I am often surprised when people comment that redbook isn't good enough, or DSD is a necessity rather than an alternative! The QuteHD looks like a great Dac with some unique features.

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Nice write-up Ted. Thanks.

 

You mentioned the Audio Beat article. It's interesting what Rob Watts, the CuteHD's designer, says there:

 

"The 24-bit/384kHz format is the ultimate, it is the future," said Watts. "It is far superior to DSD. In comparison, DSD lacks resolution and detail."

 

That's exactly how I would describe my experiences with DSD (thought I totally accept that I've never heard a SOTA DSD DAC.)

 

In any event, your review of the CuteHD's PCM performance has got me very excited. Not so much about the CuteHD itself (I'm perfectly happy with my Phasure NOS1 DAC), but for the up-coming Hugo portable DAC. I travel a lot for work and have been looking for a good portable solution. Upsampling redbook to 24/352.8 in either XXHighEnd or HQPlayer (on my laptop) and feeding to the Hugo might be something quite special.

 

Thanks again for the review Ted.

 

Mani.

Main: Okto dac8PRO -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima horns + 2x Rotel RB-1590 amps -> 4 subs

Office: MOTU UltraLite-mk5 -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Impulse H2 speakers

Vinyl: Technics SP10 / London (Decca) Reference -> Trafomatic Luna -> RME ADI-2 Pro

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Excellent review, if not just a year too late :^)

Below is the link to my recent assessment (Post #744) of the EX in comparison to the HD... and DSD playback is most notably improved in all regards.

 

http://www.computeraudiophile.com/f6-dac-digital-analog-conversion/new-chord-qutehd-direct-stream-digital-and-384-32-capable-digital-analogue-converter-12378/index30.html#post282617

 

I believe that Teds time spent with the HD, was prior to the release of new drivers to support the EX (with DXD/DSD128 via USB) and significantly also provided support for Integer Mode & Direct Modes in Mavericks with Audirvana.

IMHO, the collective results are nothing short of a second coming of Quteness.. heheheh, seriously whatever they did back at the Chord skunkworks have empowered the USB input such that one no longer needs consider it a second cousin to its Spdif, quite the opposite in fact.

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Nice write-up Ted. Thanks.

You mentioned the Audio Beat article. It's interesting what Rob Watts, the CuteHD's designer, says there:

"The 24-bit/384kHz format is the ultimate, it is the future," said Watts. "It is far superior to DSD. In comparison, DSD lacks resolution and detail."

That's exactly how I would describe my experiences with DSD (thought I totally accept that I've never heard a SOTA DSD DAC.)

 

Mani,

to be fair: Which DSD?

The same statement would be: "DSD256 is far superior to PCM. In comparison, PCM lacks resolution and detail."

KR

Matt

"I want to know why the musicians are on stage, not where". (John Farlowe)

 

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Thanks for the nice comments.

 

Dan, I used the PPA USB cable, the one he calls TZYUN III, his top cable before he changed the line a bit. And no, the only USB/SpDIF converters I could get my hands on were the two I mentioned in the review (Matrix and Berkeley). My main point, other than to say the new Matrix (they had an older) X-SPDIF is a real value, is to say that the QuteHD is a great platforuim from which you can upgrade at your leisure. The USB performance is stunning in and of itself.

 

Coolhand, yes, your feedback was part of what I alluded to in the end of the review. Thanks. Question: are you implying that the new drivers, meant for the EX intro, improved the non-ex QuteHD too (not sample rate, of course, but DSD sonics and OSX integer support)?

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I've had a couple people ask me if the X-SPDIF does DSD....since it is simply a USB-to-S/PDIF (and AES) converter it passes anything up to 24/192. And since the Chord allows DoP over S/PDIF, the answer is : yes it allows DSD bitstreams (just as the Berkeley did too). DoP over S/PDIF is a nice feature, and not available everywhere.

 

Also, did I try any other power supplies other than stock and Hynes? No. The Hynes ps was well broken-in (needs to be) and provided great improvements in solidity, heft/weight and frequency extremes...regardless of USB or SPDIF signal paths.

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Congratulations on an excellent review, Ted.

 

What I find remarkable about your review is that you have to be the only reviewer I've read who has worked on tweaks for his review sample.

 

That's an angle which, I believe, brings tremendous added value to your impressions.

 

After all, it's not only about what the unit will do, it's also about what, under the right circumstances, it might be able to do.

 

Great job.

 

Joel

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Congratulations on an excellent review, Ted.

What I find remarkable about your review is that you have to be the only reviewer I've read who has worked on tweaks for his review sample.

That's an angle which, I believe, brings tremendous added value to your impressions.

After all, it's not only about what the unit will do, it's also about what, under the right circumstances, it might be able to do.

Great job.

Joel

 

+1

Matt

"I want to know why the musicians are on stage, not where". (John Farlowe)

 

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to be fair: Which DSD?

 

Well I can't speak for Rob Watts, but my own comments refer only to DSD64 (and again, not through a SOTA DSD DAC).

 

I kind of agree with John Franks (CEO of Chord). The issue with redbook hasn't been it's 16/44.1 resolution, but rather the 'poor' DACs that we've used in the past to play these files back on, especially their filters. It seems from Ted's review (and pretty much all the other reviews that I've read) that Chord have really gotten the replay of 16/44.1 sorted in the CuteHD(EX). That the CuteHD(EX) is DSD64/128-capable is an added bonus, and not the reason I would buy one, personally.

 

But as I've indicated, I really appreciate Ted's review. It's helped my pretty much make up my mind to go for a Chord Hugo when it's released. I will then use the Hugo to continue my comparison between PCM and DSD64/128 needle drops.

 

Mani.

Main: Okto dac8PRO -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima horns + 2x Rotel RB-1590 amps -> 4 subs

Office: MOTU UltraLite-mk5 -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Impulse H2 speakers

Vinyl: Technics SP10 / London (Decca) Reference -> Trafomatic Luna -> RME ADI-2 Pro

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Ted, since you preferred the Chord via SPDIF, have you also tried using the Matrix or Berkeley converters with your Meitner? Maybe it's also better that way.

Mac Mini 5,1 [i5, 2.3 GHz, 8GB, Mavericks] w/ Roon -> Ethernet -> TP Link fiber conversion segment -> microRendu w/ LPS-1 -> Schiit Yggdrasil

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Dan, I tried that too (Meitner via SPDIF) but two things:

1) Meitner makes a big deal about how all the inputs are using the same jitter and isolation tech

2) Meitner does not support DoP over SPDIF

 

Net/net no real difference and no DSD.

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Another great review Ted, well done! As mentioned earlier, I really like the additional steps you took of trying tweaks with the QuteHD. The one thing that keeps me from trying the QuteHD is the lack of AES/EBU input and lack of balanced outputs. I understand these additional input/outputs probably would not have fit in the small case of the QuteHD. Nevertheless, it problematic for me.

Speakers: Melco N1A/2 | Denafrips Gaia | Denafrips Terminator Plus/Lampizator Golden Gate | Jeff Rowland Coherence II Series 2 pre | Blue Circle Audio BC-202 amp | Raidho XT-1 | Revel B112 subs  

Headphones: Lampizator Golden Atlantic/Holo Spring 3 KTE | Aesthetix Calypso pre|  Eddie Current Zana Deux Super | Hifiman HE-1000SE/Arya Stealth/Audeze LCD-4z

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Thank you for this review. I have been using SACD media for quite a while, and I am glad to see DSD is surviving into a media center form.

 

I am wondering how much media is available that was actually recorded natively in DSD? My understanding is that there is little if any DSD mastering equipment available, and that the great majority of DSD releases have traditional hi bit rate PCM in their lineage at some point. In which case I wonder if we, the fans, are truly getting the full benefit of DSD.

 

Also, do you know if there is a way to output DSD recordings (ripped from a PS3 or what have you) from a PC to a DSD capable receiver in bitstrreamed format similar to connecting a bitstreaming DSD player to the receiver? My oppo lights up my Onkyo, it would be fun to do the same with a PC or some kind of media streamer (XBMC?).

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I kind of agree with John Franks (CEO of Chord). The issue with redbook hasn't been it's 16/44.1 resolution, but rather the 'poor' DACs that we've used in the past to play these files back on, especially their filters.

 

Everyone who shares this view is of course free (encouraged even) to download 16/44 files instead of the 24/192 and 5.6MHz DSD masters.

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Everyone who shares this view is of course free (encouraged even) to download 16/44 files instead of the 24/192 and 5.6MHz DSD masters.

 

Yep, I agree 100%. And not just downloads. I suspect many of the early digital transfers of '50s and '60s material, easily available on CD for peanuts, would actually out-perform some of the more recent hirez-PCM/DSD transfers of the same material, simply because the master tapes were in better condition when the CD transfers were made. But they need to be replayed on a DAC that can get do 16/44.1 justice. Just my opinion of course.

 

(As an aside, on the Phasure forum, there is very little discussion of hirez-PCM or DSD. We've gotten to a point where the Phasure software & hardware do such a good job with 16/44.1 that as users we simply don't feel the need.)

 

But it's great that DACs like the CuteHD(EX) give us the maximum choice of listening to the music we want to in whatever format it comes in.

 

Mani.

Main: Okto dac8PRO -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Tune Audio Anima horns + 2x Rotel RB-1590 amps -> 4 subs

Office: MOTU UltraLite-mk5 -> 6x Neurochrome 286 mono amps -> Impulse H2 speakers

Vinyl: Technics SP10 / London (Decca) Reference -> Trafomatic Luna -> RME ADI-2 Pro

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I agree with Mani. Some of the more recent PCM remasters that I have bought on CD can be hit and miss because of poorly kept source tapes, or deaf and/or low skilled mastering engineers. I also intend to rip my CD's just in case they suffer from CD rot! (I have approx 10 CDs suffering from rot).

 

Anyway the Dac I have is capable of playing good quality MP3's well (which I never thought I'd say. I was previously a big fan of MiniDisc).

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