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Review and Measurements of CHORD Qutest DAC

amirm

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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.
Thanks for the kind words. I tested a Mytek a while back and it did not do well but they have made changes since. I have access to one that I should be able to review in a few weeks. For now, I don't think it will do better than Quetest. As for MQA, you can software decode it in the player like Roon so hardware MQA support is not necessary.
 

ro7939

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I have to say, just for the record, I Googled Amir's generic, everyday, and apparently very Chinese mass produced DAC. And the comments too, from a member in this thread who traded down from a $12k DAC to another apparently generic Chinese made DAC priced around $1k.

Colored me happily surprised and a little bit baffled!
 
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Well, first of all, hello Mr. R

In the beginnings of my audio journey, I’ve owned the Chord Dave for a few months and prior to that, the Qutest. I purchased the DAVE because I really enjoyed the Qutest, I had huge expectations before I purchased the DAVE, [ the DAVE being six times the price of the Qutest ] thinking that the DAVE would be the solution or the cure I longed for in my quest for musical euphoria. It was a disappointment and a learning experience through my journey in the search for the sound signature I thought I craved. DAVE is NOT a bad product. It’s actually a great product and a solid device. If only, if I had more audio experience before the DAVE, I would’ve come to a different conclusion.

Anyways, to answer your question, I’m currently using an integrated all-in-one Amp from a Norwegian company called Hegel and the Peachtree Nova 300.
The H360 uses an AKM AK4450 and the Nova 300 uses an ESS Reference 9018K2M Sabre DAC.

One thing I’d like to mention is that an identical DAC chip does not have the same sound signature in a seperate device. Even in in a stand-alone DAC. You might have used a DAC chip from AKM or ESS in an integrated setup or in a stand-alone setup from other manufacturers and might have come to a conclusion that a certain off-the-shelf DAC chip would sound the same from the rest, but they don’t.

An example for this will be in a DAP from Astell & Kern the AK380 and an integrated amp from the same company called the ACRO L1000. They both use a dual AKM AK4490 DAC chip but have a totally different sound signature. Whichever might be the better is solely up to your ears.

The Chord DAVE is a great DAC+Preamp+headphone amp! [ I really need to mention that the Preamp in the DAVE is exceptional! ] The DAVE gets too much credit for its DAC technology, but the Preamp is awesome.
Mr. R, here is my conclusion, if a person has all the money, if money was no object, then for sure get the DAVE, or even the NAGRA setup, and a MSB. But of course, I’m assuming in the real world, best value for money does matter and the DAVE unfortunately [ my opinion ] does not equate to best value for the money. All in all, in the world of high end audio, you MUST audition a device before purchase. And to add a sad but a true reality is that the Bose and the Beats generate more capital than the top ten high-end audio manufacturers combined. Maybe even more. And the reason for that, that is because their sound quality is good enough, good enough for the average listeners. [ I would never by them BTW ] I, myself listen to a system with an integrated off-the-shelf delta sigma DAC chip and it’s very good!

In an interview, even Andrew Jones once said “ only an experience listener can appreciate a relative subtlety of high end audio.”

Thank you, for reading it through
Kevin K
p.s AKM & ESS aren’t Chinese. AKM Semiconductor chips are actually manufactured in San Jose and is a subsidiary of AKM japan and ESS is from Fremont, California. These chips are used in all devices worldwide. One thing to mention is that Chinese Audio manufacturers make exceptional DACs and audio devices.
P.S.S
The Hegel is a Norwegian audio manufacturer but their devices are made in China. So I guess, I did trade in my DAVE for a Chinese manufactured device.LOL [ I have some pics I wanted to share. I no longer have the DAVE of course ]
 

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Music1969

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Thanks for the kind words. I tested a Mytek a while back and it did not do well but they have made changes since. I have access to one that I should be able to review in a few weeks. For now, I don't think it will do better than Quetest. As for MQA, you can software decode it in the player like Roon so hardware MQA support is not necessary.
Hi amir, as you know Mytek said one thing affecting your previous measurements of the original Brooklyn DAC was that the MQA filter was enabled.

If you get a chance to do the newer Brooklyn DAC+ please don't forget to disable the MQA filter.

Hopefully it does better.
 

amirm

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Hi amir, as you know Mytek said one thing affecting your previous measurements of the original Brooklyn DAC was that the MQA filter was enabled.

If you get a chance to do the newer Brooklyn DAC+ please don't forget to disable the MQA filter.

Hopefully it does better.
That is not my recollection. I thought he said once they integrated MQA, it started to clip content even for non-MQA content. This is something they need to fix. It is not like it is OK to clip MQA content let alone PCM.
 

Music1969

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I thought he said once they integrated MQA, it started to clip content even for non-MQA content. This is something they need to fix. It is not like it is OK to clip MQA content let alone PCM.
Yes that is correct - this happens to non-MQA stuff when you leave MQA enabled in the DAC settings. Non-MQA stuff gets the MQA filter applied.

When you disable MQA in the DAC menu, the MQA filter is then not applied to anything. It's annoying to have to manually do this but that's how Mytek have done it.

This is what you wrote as an update to your review:

"An update. I received a message from Michal Jurewicz (member alias mehow), the designer of Mytek Brooklyn, with some remarks on my measurements. I wish I still had the Mytek to verify what he is saying but I am going to go ahead and provide his data regardless. On the clipping, he confirms that it is the MQA decoder that causes the clipping. Disabling MQA decoder, eliminates the problem (graph in red):"

So if you review the Brooklyn DAC+ , make sure MQA is disabled in the DAC's on-screen settings. And hopefully it measures better than the original Brooklyn you measured.
 

Veri

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Bumped into this post of Mr. Watts. Sounds like a load of shit really..

Rob Watts said:
There are a lot more differences apart from the PSU - on the DAC side, it has better noise shapers on the FPGA (better depth and detail resolution) very much more advanced reference circuitry (taken form Dave, giving a darker and more full bodied SQ). On the analog side we have the second order analogue noise shaper topology, which eliminates HF distortion, and allows no high frequency distortion at all once a load is attached.

But of course the biggest benefit is the simplification of your analogue path - TT2 is an order of magnitude simpler than Qutest + headphone amp, so the connection from digital to transducer is fundamentally more direct. A more direct connection is much more transparent; plus the distortion and noise will be very much lower than with an external amp.
I guess he really needs to speak the audiophile sales talk to sell his products....
 
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Regarding "A more direct connection is much more transparent; plus the distortion and noise will be very much lower than with an external amp." This should be measurable, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was true. I guess the 'very much lower' thing is debatable though, as it's all relative.
 
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I can do with most mediocre DACs, but a better recording is priceless. A good DAC isn’t going to give you better music, but a good recording will make most DACs sound satisfying.
 

amirm

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Regarding "A more direct connection is much more transparent; plus the distortion and noise will be very much lower than with an external amp." This should be measurable, and I wouldn't be at all surprised if it was true. I guess the 'very much lower' thing is debatable though, as it's all relative.
He has the same AP audio analyzer I have. So why no measurements?
 
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He has the same AP audio analyzer I have. So why no measurements?
Well it could be that he doesn't want to get involved in testing or talking about other manufacturers products, for obvious reasons.
From what I understand he's not involved in Chord products (i.e. the amps) other than the DACs so that may be problematic for him too.
 

Veri

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I do feel the whole 'internal amp is very much better than external amp!' is vastly superlative.
 

Miska

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I am a little bit upset :oops: for the asking price of 140 EUR or so, considering that 99.99% of the software within the Linux world is free, but the package is nice though ...
Likewise, I'm a little upset that I cannot get free Gerber files, schematics and casework CNC files for all the commercial DACs... ;)

Sure, any designer/developer would work 20 years on something for free. But don't worry, I'm still not breaking even at that price with the development costs. And even just running the servers and internet connections cost money.

Funnily, I funded large portion of the project with my day job on free open source software. And I still do some, like audio driver fixes and improvements to Linux kernel and some encryption and security things. I was employed to work on open source first by Nokia where we made number of Linux-based mobile phones. And then later by Intel. Although lot of the software was free open source (not all), sales of the hardware paid the bills for all the software development. Both can afford it because mobile phones and CPUs are not free.

However, this quite doesn't work if you are a software-only company.

Sorry for the off-topic, but I always get somewhat emotional when people think software developers should work for free.
 

Miska

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From my personal Nokia museum. Rings any bells? :)


Oh yes, N900 with nice slider QWERTY keyboard, that was good for chatting on IM and IRC! Also good as ssh terminal! I still have that too. And the successor N9, the last one we did. :) I think I still actually have the entire line from 770 to N9, but I'm not sure if anything else than N900 and N9 are operational anymore.
 
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I have the Chord Qutest and find it a great sounding DAC. I encourage folks to give it a listen and see if they can live with unbalanced outputs and the funny lights. Perhaps you'll like it, too.
 
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Congratulations! Which filter do you prefer in the Qutest? They are all subtle changes, especially in the genre you'd listen to but the filters are a plus for the Qutest.
 
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I'm taking some time going through them all. Currently I'm listening to the Orange "Warm" filter. I spent about a week with the White "Incisive Neutral" filter first.
 
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