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Review and Measurements of CHORD Qutest DAC

Vovgan

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#81
Maybe, a really solving headphone would sound better with your set-up, like the HD800(S). But even then, I wouldn't be sure since the HD650 makes no difference between your extreme set-up and a good laptop one.
I’m pretty sure that this is the headphone issue, since any system is no better than it’s weakest part. I used to own Audiotechnica 5000 and those cans sounded viscerally better through Sennheiser HDV820 DAC/AMP (which I had at the time - but then sold because it’s DAC was not that great - sounded worse that Audiolab M-DAC plus) than through the MacBook Pro. So I should find time to take this “extreme setup” to a dealer, listen to and choose befitting headphones.

As the number of combinations of amps/DACs/speakers/cables that one would ideally like to audition before the purchase is always beyond any practical means, the conclusion that I’ve reached after reading posts on this website is that amps and DACs (and cables?) should be selected & purchased first, based on their technical measurements, features & budget, while the speakers/cans should be chosen based on how pleasant/revealing they sound through the purchased amps and DACs (this is of course not to diminish the review of the speakers/headphones specs prior to shortlisting them for the listening tests).

One more thing for the Qutest - I connected it first through an ostensibly good USB cable and after a month switched to optical (Chord company). Surprisingly, I was blown away by the change - optical for me sounded much more “natural”, no tinge of that slightly metallic flavor that I heard through USB.
 
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Veri

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#82
One more thing for the Qutest - I connected it first through an ostensibly good USB cable and after a month switched to optical (Chord company). Surprisingly, I was blown away by the change - optical for me sounded much more “natural”, no tinge of that slightly metallic flavor that I heard through USB.
Measurements-wise this really should be the same ;)
 
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#83
I’ve owned the Qutest and the DAVE~ I really enjoyed both of them. The reality is that there is a difference in the sound signature and it was very subtle. That subtle difference in sound and the whopping difference in price was very hard to justify. I ended up selling them both. Now I’m using off the shelf chip DACs AKM etc... I’m very content.
 

JohnYang1997

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#84
Is there any way to predict the performance when being balanced. Like using differential signals through left and right as a balanced mono. It shall be outstanding.
 

RayDunzl

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#85
Like using differential signals through left and right as a balanced mono. It shall be outstanding.
Differential signals would be out of phase if fed to left and right channels without further modification.
 

JohnYang1997

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#87
Differential signals would be out of phase if fed to left and right channels without further modification.
I wanted to simulate the balanced output performance. Since it has two channels, it can be done for a mono balanced.
 

RayDunzl

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#88
I don't see any issue here.
Feed a mono signal (both channels the same material) but reverse one set of speaker leads.

Same result.

Out of phase.

It's a real "spacey" sound. You might like it.
 

RayDunzl

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#89
Unless...

You are feeding the split differential signal to the L and R channels of a stereo amplifier, but using only one speaker, wired to the L and R hot leads of the amp.

Is that what you have in mind?
 

amirm

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#90
I wanted to simulate the balanced output performance. Since it has two channels, it can be done for a mono balanced.
What would you do for the other channel? With locking their clocks, they will drift apart very quickly.
 

JohnYang1997

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#91
What would you do for the other channel? With locking their clocks, they will drift apart very quickly.
I just wanted to see the performance not really going to use it that way. Since it has only low frequency noises and 2nd harmonics that will be very interesting to see.
 

JohnYang1997

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#92
Unless...

You are feeding the split differential signal to the L and R channels of a stereo amplifier, but using only one speaker, wired to the L and R hot leads of the amp.

Is that what you have in mind?
feed directly into AP is what i had in mind. haha
 

The Dragon

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#95
Amir, thanks for testing the Qutest. It's nice to see you were able to test one of these so we can compare it to other DACs. The measured performance seems to confirm my experience with the Qutest. As you know, I purchased one of these last year. I have been very pleased with the performance so far with the software that I have available to listen to. Most music files I have are 16 bit, 44 KHz CD rips. I do have a few HiRes files recorded at 24 bit, 96 KHz and they sound great as well. I have several other DACs, including some older multi-bit models that sound great with CDs, but the Chord Qutest bests them by a considerable margin. (I still keep my best vintage DAC connected for fun, but there is really no point other than that) I have also tried replacing the stock wall-wart power supply with a highly regulated and filtered linear supply. I cannot tell any difference in the performance between the two power supplies.

I never really warmed up to the styling and user interface though. It is difficult to accommodate in a "normal" rack configuration and the buttons are not intuitive (at all). What about a remote? It would help if you could change the settings from your listening position. I have several components connected to it. If I want to switch from PC to CD transport, I have to get up to make the change. In comparison, my Emotiva XDA-2, Gen2 DAC is far superior from a practical use perspective. It fits in my rack system just like another component (normal component width), displays sampling frequency (readable from my chair), has remote switching (and volume). Oh, and it also has balanced outputs.

For now, I am keeping it ONLY because it truly does sound better than my other DACs. However, I do wish Chord would actually think about the practical day-to-day usage of such a design. Compared to the other components, it looks kind of....well....silly. There, I said it.
 

amirm

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#96
Yeh, while my measurements emphasize performance, usability rules out a lot of products for me personally. This is why I use the Topping DX3 Pro everyday to listen to even though I have so many other products I can use.

On Chord, I think they believe this is great looks so no change is going to come....
 

The Dragon

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#97
Yeh, while my measurements emphasize performance, usability rules out a lot of products for me personally. This is why I use the Topping DX3 Pro everyday to listen to even though I have so many other products I can use.

On Chord, I think they believe this is great looks so no change is going to come....
You are probably correct. Rob Watts is a talented DAC designer. I don't know who designed the case and controls, but they certainly missed their calling as a toy designer...
 

ro7939

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#98
Thanks very much to Amir for this wonderful website.

I respectfully request any advice in choosing between Qutest and the Mytek Liberty DAC, for my specific application described below. Price difference is of no concern. For my query let's pretend my integrated amp is unlikely to change in the future.

The Qutest's unbalanced output is fine. In 12 years of use in this sound room RFI and other potential noise source has been of no concern. The integrated has both balanced and unbalanced inputs. I would use the Qutest like this to minimize noise:
Qutest RCA > RCA to XLR IC (pin 3 shorts to ground immediately behind the RCA the plug on the IC) > XLR input on integrated

I use an Electrocompaniet integrated amp. For any associated DAC with fixed or digital volume only, I presume performance is ideal as follows:
DAC fixed analog output > Electrocompaniet Integrated XLR input

Persons I trust like MQA. I use Roon with MQA function. If MQA was of no concern I would not even ask, I'd just get the Qutest. Liberty can fully unfold MQA.

I already have the feeling replies shall universally favor Qutest, but am still curious. How likely is that Qutest outperforms Liberty even unfolding MQA?

Thanks for your kind replies in advance.
 

VintageFlanker

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#99
Persons I trust like MQA. I use Roon with MQA function. If MQA was of no concern I would not even ask, I'd just get the Qutest. Liberty can fully unfold MQA.

I already have the feeling replies shall universally favor Qutest, but am still curious. How likely is that Qutest outperforms Liberty even unfolding MQA?
I don't think there is an audible "improvement" between native MQA and MQA emulated by Roon. Both being a 24bits PCM signal sent to a DAC.

I had got the Qutest and owned many DAC using Roon/Tidal. Roon will send a 24bit (88/96Khz) signal to your DAC whatever it is MQA ready or not.

I won't bother at all about that. Qutest or any DAC will be properly used with Roon/Tidal.
 

ro7939

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Thank you Vintage. Is it your understanding, then, in the case of streaming Tidal MQA > Roon, Liberty DAC's full MQA unfold does not, by itself, give it an audio performance advantage over Qutest?
 
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