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Review: Chord Gem vs Squeezebox Duet

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This weekend I played with the new Gem DAC and put it against a default choice, the Squeezebox Duet.


The Chord Gem is a Bluetooth DAC costing £399. As per their main marketing, I fed it from my Sony Ericson phone - a recent W890i model that I really like. The phone was free on a contract. If you don't have a mobile you'd maybe pay £100 upwards for one that supports AD2P Bluetooth.


The Duet is a network music player that includes a remote control that contains a screen. The package costs £280.


The system that the two sources were played through was Arcam FMJ integrated and Spendor SA1.


I have previously expressed that I think the Gem is a silly idea. Storage on a mobile is limited, as is Bluetooth bandwidth. The Duet supports much quicker networking - WiFi - comes with its own remote, and talks to a computer, which can provide an infinite amount of storage for music. Add this to the fact that the Duet is over £100 less, it is a much betetr solution, IMO.




The music on my mobile was all in MP3 format at various bitrates and included Andrea Bocelli, Astrud Gilberto, Barry Lyndon Soundtrack, Joy Divison, Kraftwerk, and Wes Montgomery.


I had the same files on a computer too, but obviously much more, and scope for lossless files.


The Gem sounded fine on the simple vocal music but was really awful with everything else. Joy Division was quite awful, most noticeably introducing nasty digital artifacts on cymbals. The same mp3 track via Squeezebox was much more acceptable.


Across the board the Duet sounded nicer, more full, less harsh.


The Duet controller worked much more quickly. When transmitting music files out of my mobile via Bluetooth the phone became slow and laggy when navigating menus. It really isn't the device to base a music system on!




The Duet was he obvious winner. It sounded better, had a nice interface, better architecture, and less cost!


Other considerations would be a Beresford DAC @ £100 or a Cambridge DAC @ £200, using a Duet or Apple source.


To me the Gem is a classic example of a HiFi co. attempting to bring out a computer product, and failing miserably.



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I have auditioned Chordette GEM few weeks ago through the distributor in my country.


It had a very good quality of sound for its price range. We have tested it with two different high-End(ish) systems and it worked fine for me.


We have played wide range of formats and resolutions. From 320kbps MP3 to 24bit/96kHZ FLAC files with Foobar2000 and Vista.


Also tested was USB versus Bluetooth connection and I heard no difference between the two. It uses a different bandwith than the bluetooth telephones (A2DL) and no interference or dropouts.


The advantage of Bluetooth is you can take your noisy PC, HDD etc. to another room and control everything through a remote control easily. For me bluetooth connection is really something new and very useful.


I will audition the bigger brother QBD76 as soon as it arrives to the distributor. I will let you know the results than.


M2Tech Young DAC - Graham Slee Solo SRGII - PSU1 Power Supply - Grado GS 1000i

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  • 1 year later...

"We have played wide range of formats and resolutions. From 320kbps MP3 to 24bit/96kHZ FLAC files with Foobar2000 and Vista. "


Does This little Gem accept 24/96 via USB????

I'm surprised by this!.

Also the Chord website is vague to say the least!...What is it with vague information on products anyway???? when it says it accepts 24/96 but doesn't tell you which of only two options it accepts it on!

I also am curious as to whether anyone would actually want to use a bluetooth facility...

Nevertheless if you could clarify the 24/96 thing I would really appreciate that, as I feel it would be worth a listen if it accepts 24/96 via USB.







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The Chord GEM's USB input is limited to 16/44.1; 16/48. Via Bluetooth, APT-X supports 29/96 via a (realtime) lossless compression codec.


I feel the original "review" was very misleading as it's comparing MP3 via a phone to the Duet with lossless files - it's more about MP3 vs Lossless file formats. Connected to a computer via USB or via Bluetooth to a MacBook (for example) the result may have been different.


A development of the GEM, the Peach DAC supports USB (still limited to RBCD format) and Bluetooth of the original along side Optical and Coax SPDIF (upto 24/96).






...in my opinion / experience...

While I agree "Everything may matter" working out what actually affects the sound is a trickier thing.

And I agree "Trust your ears" but equally don't allow them to fool you - trust them with a bit of skepticism.

keep your mind open... But mind your brain doesn't fall out.

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