Chord Qutest Features and Specifications
Founder Drew Baird discussed the features and specifications of the Qutest digital to analog converter by Chord Electronics.
1:19Improvements from 2Qute
3:30Dual Coax Input and Up-sampling Technology
4:20Selectable Output Voltage
4:59Digital Shaping Features
00:00:00 Hey, this is Drew Baird from Moon Audio and I'm here today to talk to you about Chord Electronics' new DAC, the Qutest. It is the successor from the original 2Qute, or we can say the successor from the original Hugo because essentially the 2Qute and the Qutest are the DAC board taken out of the Hugo series to be made more for a desktop or home application. The Hugo is excellent for portable and home use but it can be a little cumbersome in that you have to deal with having RCA outputs on one side USB inputs on the other side and so you have to sit this in this fashion and have cables going out of each side. So for a home application or a desktop application this can be a little bit cumbersome and in the way. They also wanted to have a new option for home use so the 2Qute was created and essentially what they did was they took out all of the aspects of the portability so there's no longer a battery supply, there's no longer bluetooth for connecting to your iPhone, there's no reason to still have multiple USB inputs - one for your phone, one for your computer. It was created to have a singular USB connection to go between your desktop computer or your laptop or what-not and made to be, you know, a little more cost-effective as well and for the person that just isn't into headphones.
00:01:19 So the Qutest is a successor to the 2Qute and Chord has essentially improved the quality by twofold in almost all cases. First, the processing power has been doubled. It went from a 26K tap count for its FPGA circuitry to now close to 50k in the Qutest. What does this mean? A lot more detail and resolution, a lot more clarity, a lot more definition, but without an edginess to the sound. As the processing power of their FPGA increases they actually have the ability to shape the curve more, and so you can actually get a more musical and in some cases even a warmer tonality with the higher tab count. They've increased the resolution two-fold in almost all of the inputs. The optical is still 24/192 between the two units, and that's because optical is limited to 24/192. They've taken the USB resolution from 32-bit 384 to now 32-bit 768. Not that we have 768 files available, however this piece, the Qutest, is basically future-proof. Essentially no matter what software will come out in the future in terms of music, they pretty much have it handled. So Chord has also improved the USB capabilities from the 2Qute to the Qutest. On the 2Qute it had a max resolution for PCM of 32-bit 384, all DOP DSD USB was maxed out at 128 as well as you could do 128 over the single coax input. On the Qutest we've doubled that. The PCM USB is 32 768 the DSD USB is 512 and with now utilizing dual BNC input on the coax you can actually do 384 resolution input on PCM. Now, one thing to note is that on the 2Qute, all of the DSD at PCM was via DOP. They've transitioned now with the Qutest to go to native resolution which requires an AISO driver for Windows computers. They have decided not to look into doing a mac driver at this time. Every time you do a driver for mac, as soon as mac does an update to their iOS it screws up the driver and it just constantly causes issues so everything via mac on both the 2Qute and the Qutest are via DOP, no native resolution support. So for windows users you really get an added benefit with the Qutest in the higher resolutions.
00:03:30 Let's talk about the dual coax input on the Qutest. This was essentially derived with the Chord Dave. It came with this feature and was developed for a future product that later came out called the Blu Transport. This Blu Transport is a CD transport that has M scaling technology in it. What this is is up-sampling. Essentially they're up-sampling via the FPGA where essentially a forty four one resolution file is taken to a much higher resolution - sixteen times the original resolution- and output via the dual coax outputs on the Blu to the Chord Dave. I imagine since they put the BNC inputs on the Qutest that they're going to come out with some M scalers in the future. I hope to see one that would have a USB input from your computer essentially going to the dual coax outputs to the Qutest where we can basically up-sample all the resolutions coming from your computer to the Qutest.
00:04:20 A nice new feature from the Qutest is the fact that you can have a selectable output voltage on the analog outputs. You can choose from one volt to two volt to three volt, whereas on the 2Qute this was a fixed functionality. Why is this important? Well, some preamps have lower gain input structures in their circuitry and essentially what you end up having is not enough gain at the volume control when you're trying to match different sorts of equipment together. So this gives you the flexibility of a higher voltage in those situations, much like a phono turntable needs a preamp stage to boost the gain of the cartridge, this is essentially what the analog outputs on the Qutest are doing for you to help control your gain structure in your -- in the rest of your system.
00:04:59 Another nice new feature is that we have some digital shaping features. Essentially there are four filter curves that you can choose on the Qutest. You can have a sharp roll-off, a not so sharp, a smooth, and a smoother. What does this do? Well some recordings tend to be a bit edgy-sounding, if you will. Some digital can always be harsh and aggressive-sounding, and so depending on that bad recording you can use these curves to shape the filter to improve - like I said earlier - the warmth of the sound. A smoother curve provides a warmer, a more musical, more engaging sound. A sharper curve is going to provide a more analytical, more detailed, more resolute.
00:05:36 Now let's talk about the way we power these two devices. With the 2Qute we use the DC barreled wall-wart power supply. You could utilize, in this case, a linear power supply to see if you can squeeze out a little more performance. We couldn't really find a big difference in using external power supplies with the 2Qutes and in talking to Chord they thought that the filtration of their power supply ruled out any improvements or benefits from a linear power supply. Thus with the Qutest they've gone to a more convenient output. It utilizes a five-volt input which is standard on just about any USB charging device that you might have in your house. So you can keep one at the office one at home and it's small enough that you can transport it back and forth between work or to your summer house if you want to use it there.
00:06:17 I hope I've informed you a little more about the Qutest DAC. For more information please check out our blog where we're going to talk more about how to connect it to computers and what settings you want to set up on such programs as J River. And if you don't need the portability of the Hugo 2, then I would take a strong look at the Qutest. It's an amazing piece for the money.