Author Topic: Chord QuteHD DAC  (Read 2620 times)

Offline bhobba

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Chord QuteHD DAC
« on: April 12, 2013, 01:38:15 AM »
Hi Guys

For those of you that haven't been following my machinations about this DAC over at Computer Audiophile or Steronet here is my latest findings about it now I have a decent power supply for it.  I have to say this the closest DAC to a Killer I have heard - it's not as full, rich, and tonally beautiful as a Killer - slightly dry by comparison but it has a voluptuous enveloping character.  Anyway here is my guts and glory write up.

Just got back from Clay with the new power supply, Chord DAC and a proper RCA to BNC SPDIF cable for the Off-Ramp. Mike was not able to have some ML2 Limited's ready until well into next week which is what I really wanted to try it on.

OK - popped it into my system with the new power supply and Off-Ramp.

I really like it - playing one of my standard test tacks Dianna Krall - Case of You - the coughs in the opening are heard clear as a bell. Her voice sounds very alive and present - perhaps even more than my reference DAC - a PDX - very smooth but the detail seems to not be constrained by that smoothness - it's there when required. Slightly different to my PDX - it has a 'thicker' sound - more like a Killer DAC - but not quite as full rich and - but maybe as voluptuous - maybe. The piano sounds real and alive. Very good separation and imaging both front and back. Sibilance seems natural as well. The real test for that will be Ella and Louis which has some sibilance from Louis Armstrong that can cut you in half if not handled correctly. Really enjoying what I am hearing so far. I think I might like it a bit better than my PDX - Mike has a tough task on his hand getting it better than this thing - but is trying with tube rolling and such - he was really impressed when he heard it and it started him looking for improvements. Listening to Ella and Louis - the sibilance is handled well - but no better than other good DAC's I have heard - good but not a step above - I think the Killer is better in that regard - it has simply awesome sibilance control from memory. The real standout quality seems to be the wonderfully natural and beguiling way Ella's voice is handled - very nice. Next up some Harry Belafonte - Live at Carnegie Hall. Again the same real live and present vocals with a wonderful voluptuous quality. This DAC really seems to have an affinity for vocals - oh yes and the bass - really strong. In fact some of the best I have ever heard. Playing some Casandra Wilson - Travelling Miles which has some strong bass - reproduced very well - deep clear and controlled. Playing my old standby Peggy Lee - Fever - again vocals quite voluptuous - but clear clean and detailed - very nice. Peter Paul and Mary - Puff The Magic Dragon - again very nice, natural vocals - the word that keeps popping into my mind - voluptuous. Celine Dion - Live In Las Veges - At Last - wonderfully clean clear - and that word - again - I am sure you can guess it - voluptuous - warming - embracing - you feel like you want to curl up with a hot toddy on a winters day in front of a fireplace. Playing Fever from the same album which has a lot of dynamic detail - produced effortlessly - flawlessly - that's the other word - effortless.

Anyway enough of that - I will see what happens without the Off-Ramp.

Starting Celine Dion At Last again. The voluptuousness dropped away - the treble became harder and more analytical - far less sweet and detailed - not in the same class of enjoyment. In fact the whole presentation is a bit more glarey and harder. Can't say I really like it that much compared to the other. This is exactly what I remembered hearing at the GTG down at Mikes where a number of DAC's were compared when we removed the Off-Ramp - it was not really a competitor to the PDX then - nor is it now. Sorry guys I am afraid with this thing you really do need something like an Off-Ramp or Audiophellio - or of course one of those upgraded Wadias so beloved by you guys - basically something better than its internal USB. That's the bad news - the good news is a guy out my way who posts as Kdoot has been doing some testing with my Off-Ramp and his Audiophellio and found them quite close - as some have reported with using integer and direct mode in Audiophellio. But the real finding was instead of direct injecting the Audiophellio he used a quality SPDIF cable and found then he couldn't really tell a difference. This means its not the $2k required for the Off-Ramp to lift this thing - but only $600.00 for the Audiophellio. Combined with about $350.00 for the power supply depending on the one you get a bit under an extra $1k on top of the about $1.7k for the Chord - all up about $2.7k but it can take on and best more DAC's like my PDX and Playback Designs. Of course that's on my system and to my taste - these things vary of course with personal preference and system synergies

Ok - What happens when I removed the power supply next.

Cant notice an increase in hardness but definitively more glarey in the treble - not as sweet. Sibilance on Ella and Louis definitively worse - now its entering the territory of cutting you in half - not as bad as I have sometimes heard it though. Doesn't really seem to affect the bass which is still strong. The coughs on a Case of you are not as clear. A more metallic sound. Not sure if I would say it made a bigger or worse improvement than the Off-Ramp. I thought before at the GTG the power supply made a bigger difference than the Off-Ramp - now not so sure - to me its about the same. I think you really need both to lift this thing.

Ok - the NAD via its USB.

Dianna Krall - A Case Of You - coughs not as distinct as the Chord - doesn't seem as resolving overall - but I cant hear the slight hardness or metallic glare of the Chord without the Off-Ramp and power supply. Sibilance control about the same. A slight honeyed quality - slightly syrupy in comparison. Evidently that is a known issue with the NAD and the new firmware update supposedly fixes it - Clay mentioned it today when I picked it up. Playing some Casandra Wilson - bass not as strong - the Chord kills it in that area. Its actually fairly close - I lot closer than I remembered via memory. But my NAD has an upgraded power supply and is definitely better than stock. Overall I would give a slight edge to the stock Chord and maybe even equal if that slight syrupy sound is fixed - BTW that character is not annoying in any way but I prefer its absence.

The NAD and Off-Ramp

Definite improvement with the Off-Ramp. Clearer with sweeter treble and more detail. Not as voluptuous or as inviting as the Chord with both the Off-Ramp and supply. Bass not as good. But doesn't have the metallic and slight hardness of the Chord without those options. I have heard this a few times with others and its as I remember it - like the Metrum fed with an Off-Ramp some may prefer it to the PDX - I didn't - but I suspect some would. I am actually going to put it ahead of the Chord without the Off-Ramp but the upgraded supply. But I prefer the Chord with the Off-Ramp and supply - much more seductive and inviting for me. But again this NAD has an upgraded supply.

A bit later I will check out DSD but for that I need to put the Truth in as my pre-amp - you cant use the software player's volume control and direct connect like I do with PCM.

Now the comparative listening is over I can mention some interesting stuff when I picked up the power supply. Clay took me out the back and I had a look at the oscilloscope readings of the switch mode power supply. With the gain on the scope turned right up you could see a saw-tooth wave. When attached to the linear supply it was pretty well dead flat - all you saw was a little bit of random noise.

It has a separate power transformer which actually is the same as the one used in the PDX DAC - and is there to circumvent the need for approval - but also helps with reducing stray hum from the transformer.