Chord Qutest DAC

Qutest is a standalone DAC. With DAC architecture based on the award-winning Hugo 2, Qutest offers class-leading digital conversion.

Qutest is Chord’s ‘pure’ DAC (it does not contain headphone amplification or rechargeable batteries like some of its range stablemates) and is designed to improve sound quality in the home. It is the latest evolution of the company’s most affordable standalone DAC, the multi-award-winning 2Qute, which it directly replaces.Qutest, which is a What Hi-Fi? Star of CES 2018,  is based on Chord’s award-winning proprietary FPGA technology developed for the class-leading Hugo 2 DAC/headphone amp, giving it proven class-leading technical and sonic performance. Perfectly-equipped to bring the benefits Chord digital technology to a wide range of connected devices, it features a galvanically isolated USB-B, optical and coaxial digital input, giving an instant performance upgrade, plus the ability to modernise aging digital source components.

The Qutest chassis is all-new, too. It has significantly greater mass than its predecessor and has been precision-machined from solid aircraft-grade aluminium billet. The Qutest PCB nestles within a shallow cavity in the solid aluminium chassis, giving the circuit board greater protection within the casework and additional isolation from external vibration compared to previous designs.

Qutest offers Hugo 2’s proprietary user-selectable frequency-shaping filters and input selection controls, available via two fascia-mounted spheres, introducing useful flexibility. It also features RCA analogue outputs for connection to integrated amplifiers, preamps and headphone amps, plus high-resolution dual-data digital inputs for connection to future Chord Electronics products.

A further new feature is a user-selectable output voltage available in 1, 2 and 3V RMS outputs for flexible connectivity with a wide range of partnering devices.

Features

Materials: Precision machined aluminium casing with polycarbonate  buttons and glass viewing portal. Available only in Jett Black.

Device Power Supply: 5v 2amp Micro USB

Tap Length Filter: 49,152 – 10 element Pulse Array design

Connectivity (Input): USB Type B (White): 44.1kHz to 768kHz – 16bit to 32bit

2x BNC Coax (Red): 44.1kHz – 384kHz – 16bit to 32bit

1x Dual Data Mode Input (Using Both BNC Coax Inputs Together): 44.1kHz to 768kHz – 16bit to 32bit

Optical (Green): 44.1kHz to 96kHz – 16bit to 24bit

Connectivity (Output): 1x stereo pair of RCA (Left and Right)

PCM Support: 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 358.8kHz, 384kHz, 717.6kHz, and 768kHz.

DSD Support: Native playback supported. DSD64 (Single) to DSD512 (Octa-DSD)

Variable Output: Fixed, but selectable between 3v (blue), 2v (green), and 1v (red) via dual press of ‘Filter’ + ‘Input’ upon startup

Driver Support: Driverless with Mac OS X and Linux, driver required for Windows OS

Digital Designer: Rob Watts

Mechanical Designer: John Franks

Country of manufacture: England

 

Specifications

Chipset: Chord Electronics custom coded Xilinx Artix 7 (XC7A15T) FPGA

Tap Length: 49,152

Pulse Array: 10 element pulse array design

Frequency Response: 20Hz – 20kHz +/- 0.2dB

Output Stage: Class A

THD: <0.0001% 1kHz 3v RMS 300Ω

THD and noise at 3v RMS: 117dB at 1kHz 300ohms ‘A’ weighted (reference 2.5v)

Noise 2.6 uV ‘A’ weighted: No measurable noise floor modulation

Channel Separation: 138dB at 1kHz 300Ω

Weight: 770g

Dimensions: 4.5cm (H) 16cm (W) 8.8cm (D)

Boxed Weight: 1500g

“Compared to any DAC I know, the Qutest seemed to recast the body of music it reproduces. With every recording and every filter, I experienced the same menu of enjoyable effects: vivid, layered detail; sinewy density; and a tangible force that moved music forward naturally. I enjoyed these effects so much I was disarmed. It made me question my knowledge and expectations. Was what I experienced real? Can it be measured? Or is it simply some illusion Rob Watts has programmed into his fancy FPGAs?

Chord’s Qutest made my other DACs sound strangely tentative. The Qutest had more vivo, tiny detail, and jump factor than Schiit’s Yggdrasil Analog 2. It sounded more vivid and present—but not as natural or as transparent—as my primary reference DAC, the HoloAudio Spring. It had a denser verity than the Mytek Brooklyn. Overall, the Qutest sounded most like the last DAC I reviewed, iFi Audio’s Pro iDSD—but punchier, more natural, more refined.

Overall, the Chord Qutest delivered blizzards of detail, and a weighty musicality that completely captivated my mind. It stimulated me in a way that suggested it might be doing something unusually right in the time domain. Something seemed musically correct in a way that’s new to me.”

Stereophile, Herb Reichert, March 2019, Class A Recommended Component

“It can convey power and scale when the music requires but has the finesse to make the most of the subtler passages too.

“As I wrote of Chord’s Hugo TT D/A headphone amplifier in November 2015, the Qutest is an “extraordinarily well-engineered component.” However, the important distinction is that while the Hugo TT costs $4795, the Qutest costs only $1895. Yes, it lacks a volume control, remote handset, Bluetooth capability, balanced outputs, MQA decoding, and a headphone jack—but it offers close to the state of the measured digital art ca 2019, and it sounds simply superb. It may not quite reach the sonic heights offered either by Chord’s DAVE or by PS Audio’s DirectStream DAC, but at less than one-sixth the price of the former and less than one-third the price of the latter, it can be strongly recommended.”

Stereophile, John Atkinson, December 2018, Class A Recommended Component

Mojo Rising…

“We play Gregory Porter’s Holding On and immediately hear gains in clarity, precision and subtlety that have us gently pushing the predecessor to the back of our rack.

The journey from the 2Qute to Qutest hasn’t altered the overall character. In 2015 we complimented the 2Qute for its “almost effortlessly cohesive and musical sound”, and thankfully those qualities haven’t been lost in transition.

A soundstage full of crisp, clean, concise – not to mention explicitly detailed – instrumentation fills the space between our ATC SCM50 speakers, with the singer’s lush, down-tempo jazz arrangement having equal parts sinew and sparkle thanks to the Chord DAC’s familiarly neutral tonal balance.

But the Qutest offers more resolution here. Greater texture and nuance cling to the wheeling cymbal, double bass plucks and Porter’s honey-thick vocals, all of which have plenty of room on the Qutest’s expansive canvas.

Its presentation is slightly bigger and more spacious than that of the DAC it replaces, giving musical elements greater scope to evolve without bumping into each other.”

What Hi-Fi, October 2018, 5 Stars & Best DAC £500-1200, 2018

Download the Chord Qutest DAC’s Manual to Learn More

Chord Qutest DAC Owner’s Manual