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Article: Chord Electronics Qutest DAC Review

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another test with a battery only would be very interesting - stack up some D cells and let us know


"The overwhelming majority [of audiophiles] have very little knowledge, if any, about the most basic principles and operating characteristics of audio equipment. They often base their purchasing decisions on hearsay, and the preaching of media sages. Unfortunately, because of commercial considerations, much information is rooted in increasing revenue, not in assisting the audiophile. It seems as if the only requirements for becoming an "authority" in the world of audio is a keyboard."

-- Bruce Rozenblit of Transcendent Sound

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Perhaps establishing contact with Chord would provide both a suggestion for battery source and a direct from source technical explanation of how the two devices differ. 

 

Like the inventive spirit pulling a car battery charger into the mix.  😄  

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Typical situation of it being "all about the power supplies" - so much harder to clearly define what's going on, but your ears have no trouble noticing the difference, :).

 

The power supply is as much a part of the component as are the supposedly key bits, the actual digital to analogue circuitry, or chip - it's a nice mental simplification to separate out the various parts, compartmentalise what's there - but of little use for appreciating that interactions that are vital for getting best sound should be taken more seriously.

 

A DIY amplifier I did was 90% about the power supply, in terms of design and materials used - which meant that it did the job, properly ^_^.


Frank

 

http://artofaudioconjuring.blogspot.com/

 

 

Ahhh, Mankind ... Porsche intellect, Trabant emotions ...

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Would you be willing to try a great power supply and do an addendum to the article?


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Nice review.  I've read other reviews indicating that this dac is very sensitive to the power supply used.  I considered this dac, though ultimately went with the Mytek Brooklyn Bridge, but I never actually compared them sonically.


- Mark

 

Synology DS916+ > SoTM dCBL-CAT7 > Netgear switch > SoTM dCBL-CAT7 > dCS Vivaldi Upsampler (Nordost Valhalla 2 power cord) > Nordost Valhalla 2 Dual 110 Ohm AES/EBU > dCS Vivaldi DAC (David Elrod Statement Gold power cord) > Nordost Valhalla 2 xlr > Absolare Passion preamp (Nordost Valhalla 2 power cord) > Nordost Valhalla 2 xlr > VTL MB-450 III (Shunyata King Cobra CX power cords) > Nordost Valhalla 2 speaker > Kaiser Kaewero Classic /JL Audio F110 (Wireworld Platinum power cord).

 

Power Conditioning: Entreq Olympus Tellus grounding (AC, preamp and dac) / Shunyata Hydra Triton + Typhoon (Shunyata Anaconda ZiTron umbilical/Shunyata King Cobra CX power cord) > Furutec GTX D-Rhodium AC outlet.

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Agree with other comments, not sure the battery you tried was the best choice... try it with an LPS1.2, Paul Hynes SR4, or something along those lines.

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Qutest is an awful name. They should have stuck with their original nomenclature and called it Quincy, or Frank or George. I'm a man. I don't want anything cute in my audio rack. 😝

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I'm still kind of mystified by this review. I feel like I have to bring over my Chord Hugo 2 to my friend's place to test it against his Chord Qutest some day. Because in the mean time... my understanding is that Hugo 2 and Qutest only have two differences:

1) The power supply (which according to Rob Watts the designer is not just the battery vs SMPS but includes all the DC filtering and regulation after the battery/SMPS) 

2) Second-order analog noise shaper (which was designed to prevent high frequency distortion when driving low impedance headphones with Hugo 2, which Qutest should not need)

I guess it is possible that Qutest's power supply is not as good as Hugo 2 leading to the audible difference but then the offline battery should have improved the performance, especially when Rob Watts the designer has said that he is not convinced that Qutest needs a better SMPS/LPS/battery supply and he also does not think that Qutest needs a second order noise shaper. I, however, suspect that Hugo 2 can provide more power than Qutest by the nature of its power supply design though.

The only logical explanation I can come up with is that either the preamplifier is demanding more power from Qutest compared to Hugo 2 or the preamplifier has a lower impedance than expected for most DACs. But I'll have to arrange a test myself to check this out. It's possible that Hugo 2 is simply a better DAC than Qutest.


ultraRendu > Chord Blu Mk. 2 > Chord DAVE > Chord Etude > Dynaudio Confidence C1 Signature + Sunfire TS-EQ10 subwoofers

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Interesting review, thanks, but being  “picky” I take issue with some of the contextual points made:

 

“Now, my normal “reference” DAC is a Schiit Yggdrasil v.2 and it sounds generally better than most DACs in it’s price range, but the Hugo 2 is more expensive and with its almost 50,000 filter coefficients (taps), it should have vastly better performance than the Yggy. That being the case, I wasn’t too surprised that my buddy’s Hugo 2 bested my Yggy”

 

Is this a fair and objective comparison?  In the UK at least the Hugo 2 is actually £500 cheaper  than the Yggy and the Hugo2 looks to be around same price as Yggy in US.

 

Also Rob Watts’s FGPA DACs for Chord didn’t start with the Dave in 2015 but the DAC64 in the late nineties;   the Hugo also preceded Dave and, unless I’ve misunderstood the point being made,  the Hugo TT /TT2 does  include a headphone amp.

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On purely sonic terms, Darko ranked the Qutest higher than the Hugo 2. 

 

https://darko.audio/2018/11/a-short-film-about-the-chord-qutest/

 

We all hear things differently and there is no right or wrong for subjective impressions, but reading the OP's review, it seems he views the Qutest as being clearly (significantly?) inferior to the Hugo 2, which is interesting.

 

I am also a bit unclear from the review as to what headphone amp was being used for the A/B testing?

 


Home: UltraRendu | Berkeley Alpha USB | Schiit Yggdrasil Analog 2 | Jeff Rowland Coherence II Series 2 | Blue Circle Audio BC-202 | Raidho XT-1 | 2 x Revel Performa3 B112 subwoofers  

 

Desktop: Iso Regen | Eitr | Chord Qutest  | Aesthetix Calypso pre | Blue Circle Audio BC-28 amp | Scansonic MK-5 monitors | Elac S10 sub

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I've had the Qutest (stock power supply) for about 4 months and I love it. I will add that I have used it two ways. Initially via USB from a SoTM SMS200 network streamer. But, now I have the network streamer going into a Schiit Eitr USB>S/PDIF converter. To me the Qutest sounds obviously better fed with S/PDIF than it did via USB.

 

The device's designer said that he prefers the Qutest sound using TOSLINK, which I have not tried.

 

I don't think there is much room for improvement with the Qutest as it sounds and measures quite good. But I have seen that SBooster advertises one of their models as specifically for the Qutest.

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14 minutes ago, creativepart said:

But, now I have the network streamer going into a Schiit Eitr USB>S/PDIF converter. To me the Qutest sounds obviously better fed with S/PDIF than it did via USB.

 

 

How are you getting the coaxial RCA outputs of the Eitr to the BNC inputs of the Qutest?  Are you using an adapter?

 

I just installed my Qutest (stock power supply) and it is sounding great with usb in, coming from an IsoRegen (powered by an Uptone LPS-1).  I was planning to sell my Eitr.


Home: UltraRendu | Berkeley Alpha USB | Schiit Yggdrasil Analog 2 | Jeff Rowland Coherence II Series 2 | Blue Circle Audio BC-202 | Raidho XT-1 | 2 x Revel Performa3 B112 subwoofers  

 

Desktop: Iso Regen | Eitr | Chord Qutest  | Aesthetix Calypso pre | Blue Circle Audio BC-28 amp | Scansonic MK-5 monitors | Elac S10 sub

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Power supply is the culprit in my experience. I have the chord hugo 2 and currently use its internal battery. Even when connected to an ifi imicro usb 3's power output which in turn is fed by a botw 9v linear power supply, the sound does not reach the level of relaxed ness as with the hugo 2 just on it's own juice.

Also the lower freqs seem to be missing something when plugged into the wall.  

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On 8/26/2019 at 12:21 PM, barrows said:

Your emergency backup battery supply is probably not anything like the supply for the Hugo 2.  It is very likely that this supply uses very noisy switching regulators to provide the 5 VDC output on its USB port.  It is likely that the output of this supply is both relatively high in impedance and noise.

I would suggest trying a true audiophile quality linear power supply with the Qutest to achieve its best possible performance.  My brother owns the Qutest, and I designed a very good linear supply for him, and he finds the Qutest, with this linear supply performs at a much higher level than with its stock power supply.

I took the power supply “brick” apart and there is no switching regulator for the 5v USB power. It seems to be a standard 5V IC regulator. Looking at the output with my 100 MHz Tektronix scope, It looks clean as a whistle. No noise. And the wall-wart is equally clean. 

 

IOW, your concerns occurred to me as well.

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1 hour ago, Luvdac said:

Power supply is the culprit in my experience. I have the chord hugo 2 and currently use its internal battery. Even when connected to an ifi imicro usb 3's power output which in turn is fed by a botw 9v linear power supply, the sound does not reach the level of relaxed ness as with the hugo 2 just on it's own juice.

Also the lower freqs seem to be missing something when plugged into the wall.  

 

Interesting. Even when connected to the mains, on the Hugo 2, the device is still running on it’s internal battery, the mains connection is simply charging the battery.

 

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13 hours ago, audiobomber said:

Qutest is an awful name. They should have stuck with their original nomenclature and called it Quincy, or Frank or George. I'm a man. I don't want anything cute in my audio rack. 😝

 

Could be construed as homophobia, but for what it’s worth, I concur. 

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6 hours ago, rossb said:

I've owned all the Chord DACs - DAVE, TT2, Hugo 2, and Qutest. I also had the Blu 2 with the DAVE and the M Scaler with the TT2 and Qutest. I've now sold them all because I have moved on to other things. 

 

However, I agree with the conclusion in this review. I think the Hugo 2 sounds noticeably better than the Qutest. I actually think that the Hugo 2 is the best sounding of all the Chord DACs. DAVE sounds thin. TT2 sounds small and hard. Qutest has a slightly astringent sound. And the Blu 2/M Scaler is massively overrated. 

 

The Qutest does benefit from a linear PSU and a power conditioner, and the optical input is the best sounding input. But the Hugo 2 still sounds better. 

 

Hugo 2 the best dac from Chord. Now that's a bold statement!😀

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11 hours ago, Sonis said:

 

Could be construed as homophobia

I don't see it, and certainly nothing like that intended. Audio is a male market. How would you like a Ford F150 Qutest pickup truck? Would that be a big seller?

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Good to read an honest review. Everything else I've read makes this sound like it's just a step away from the Hugo TT2 or Dave.


Furutech GTX-D>J River 23>Cardas Clear USB>Wyred4Sound DAC2v2 SE>Moon Audio Blue Dragon IC>Cavalli Liquid Fire>Q French Silk Headphone cable>Audeze LCD2rev2>my ears>audiophile brain

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13 hours ago, rossb said:

I've owned all the Chord DACs - DAVE, TT2, Hugo 2, and Qutest. I also had the Blu 2 with the DAVE and the M Scaler with the TT2 and Qutest. I've now sold them all because I have moved on to other things. 

 

However, I agree with the conclusion in this review. I think the Hugo 2 sounds noticeably better than the Qutest. I actually think that the Hugo 2 is the best sounding of all the Chord DACs. DAVE sounds thin. TT2 sounds small and hard. Qutest has a slightly astringent sound. And the Blu 2/M Scaler is massively overrated. 

 

The Qutest does benefit from a linear PSU and a power conditioner, and the optical input is the best sounding input. But the Hugo 2 still sounds better. 

May we know what is your new DAC?

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21 hours ago, Blake said:

How are you getting the coaxial RCA outputs of the Eitr to the BNC inputs of the Qutest?  Are you using an adapter?

 

I just installed my Qutest (stock power supply) and it is sounding great with usb in, coming from an IsoRegen (powered by an Uptone LPS-1).  I was planning to sell my Eitr.

Yes, a simple BNC/RCA adapter is all you need. I too planned to sell my Eitr I had used with another DAC and decided to give it a try. What have you got to lose? Run the USB from the IsoRegegn into your Eitr and then the S/PDIF from the Eitr into BNC #1.  Use an adapter ($3 item) or buy an RCA/BNC cable.

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14 hours ago, rossb said:

I've owned all the Chord DACs - DAVE, TT2, Hugo 2, and Qutest. I also had the Blu 2 with the DAVE and the M Scaler with the TT2 and Qutest. I've now sold them all because I have moved on to other things. 

 

However, I agree with the conclusion in this review. I think the Hugo 2 sounds noticeably better than the Qutest. I actually think that the Hugo 2 is the best sounding of all the Chord DACs. DAVE sounds thin. TT2 sounds small and hard. Qutest has a slightly astringent sound. And the Blu 2/M Scaler is massively overrated. 

 

The Qutest does benefit from a linear PSU and a power conditioner, and the optical input is the best sounding input. But the Hugo 2 still sounds better. 

Amen to all of that, brother! The Hugo2 does sound significantly better than the Qutest. And I stand-by my conclusion that if you buy a Qutest on the strength of hearing a Hugo2, and think that the Qutest will sound as good (or even the same) as the Hugo2 because the DAC portions of the two devices are supposedly identical, you will be sorely disappointed!

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