Welcome the new Chord Qutest DAC. Aren't you the Qutest?
Chord electronics new products never disappoint. Their most recent digital to analog converter (DAC), the Chord Qutest is a giant killer. Essentially the DAC section of the Hugo 2 placed in an aluminum brick, literally an aluminum brick, Chord removed Bluetooth input, the headphone amp circuit, and battery. Removing those features was similar to the original Hugo.
Qutest pictures don't do it justice. Chord crafted a mass of aluminum by boring out the center to fit it's latest digital to analog converter's components. The latest sound innovation from England's Chord Electronics has a wonderful weight to it, much beefier than the 2Qute. Many improvements have been made. Chord doubled almost every good feature from the excellent 2Qute to create a new standard in DAC sound, design, and performance.
Chord Qutest DAC Performance
Improvement in the Qutest DAC processing power via the FPGA high-frequency digital to analog circuit with double the filter tap count may be Chord's most important performance improvement. For the sake of time, we won't dive into explaining "Tap counts." Let's simply say Chord doubled the Qutest's processing power.
Watch our video overview for more information.
2Qute Vs. Qutest Features
PCM support for up to 32-bit/384kHz audio via coax and USB
Optical support at 24-bit/192kHz
DSD64 is supported on all inputs
DSD128 is supported via coax or USB (all via DoP).
Qutest DAC Features
PCM support for up to 32-bit/768kHz audio via coax and USB
Optical support at 24-bit/192kHz
DSD64 is supported on the optical input
DSD128 is supported by a single coax digital input
DSD384 is supported by a Dual Coax digital input. This process is available from M-Scaler capable devices from Chord such as the Blu Player. I would imagine seeing more of these devices in the future from Chord.
The USB input supports 768kHz PCM and DSD up to 256 via DoP (Mac) and native DSD up to DSD 512 playback via ASIO driver for Windows or twice the capability of Chord's 2Qute. With no Mac driver planned DOP protocol is utilized for DSD. Windows-based computers can utilize native DSD conversion. We won't touch the ongoing DOP vs Native debate in this Chord Qutest review. We'll share our thoughts on DOP versus native soon. Today, writing this review, I can't say either DOP or Native is "better." Windows can do DSD 512 and that is a win.
Since coax inputs are BNC only we suggest upgrading to our Black Dragon Coax Digital Cable with the Chord QutestBNC option on one end and traditional RCA plugs on the other. The optical input utilizes the "swinging door" so be sure to view our Toslink connection video. Our Toslink video shares tips such as always angle the Toslink cable when inserting in order to avoid scratching the fiber. Once scratched, fiber doesn't pass higher resolutions such as 24/192. Chord Qutest USB is via a Standard USB B with standard RCA plugs.
The Qutest is "future proof." Many of music's future sampling rates are not available (yet). High definition music files are so large most people don't own them (yet). As hard drive storage capacity increase as storage becomes cheaper high-def music files will be more available. My neighborhood in Cary, North Carolina just received fiber optic cable. I bet in ten years or less most US homes will connect to the web with fiber. Higher definition music usually sounds better so high-def music files will be in demand.
Another useful new function is the ability to change the line output voltage via RCAs from 1v to 2v to 3v. Changing the output voltage makes product matching with finicky preamps or tube based circuits easier. Chord's Hugo2 is a versatile product for portable and home use, but as a DAC, the Line level output function is not as flexible as Chord's new Qutest.
Lack of flexibility in the level output may mean the use of the volume control to boost the input gain to some preamps. Lack of control over line level output can be an issue with some tube-based input stages. Without level output flexibility it can be easy to overdrive input resulting in distortion. Having dual gain states in a signal path is never the best option. So being able to adjust output voltage can be an invaluable tool.
Chord's Hugo 2 new filters are in the Qutest. Four settings change the digital circuit dithering, another advanced and enjoyable audiophile feature. Some digital recordings have an edginess. Dithering is a way to smooth out the sound and make cold digital recording sound less analytical. Tube sound? I wouldn't go that far. But the Chord Qutest's ability to warm up and sharpen can make dual recordings more engaging.
Quiet is what I noticed comparing the Qutest DAC to Chord's 2Qute. Chord's latest DAC makes your music's background dead quiet. No way was the 2Qute "noisy", but something about Chord's latest DAC makes the sonic background sound drop off a cliff and disappear.
Chord's new DAC sound offers more resolution, detail, and clarity without becoming analytical or sharp. Tap count increases from 26k to almost fifty so almost double the DAC's resolution capability.
Much like the 2Qute, we don't recommend spending money on an external linear power supply. We found no improvements with the 2Qute and since the Qutest now uses a USB Micro B style input for power we don't see many options available for or improvements from adding external linear power. We do recommend using Chord's supplied "wall wart" which needs 5v and at least 2.1amps. Moon Audio sells extra USB Power supplies if you need a second for another location.
In our next post, we will provide screenshots for Windows and Mac settings for the best Qutest connections. Looking for more Chord Qutest information? Read our Chord Qutest DAC: What You Need To Know post.
Download the latest Windows driver on Chord's website.