Chord Qutest DAC
Chord Qutest is a standalone DAC introduced by Chord Electronics at CES 2018 to replace its multi-award winning predecessor, the 2Qute. With DAC architecture based on the award-winning Hugo 2, Qutest offers class-leading digital conversion.
Qutest is Chord Electronics' pure digital-to-analog converter; it does not contain headphone amplification or rechargeable batteries like the Hugo2 and is designed to improve sound quality in the home. It is Chord's most affordable standalone DAC.
The Next Generation of Pure DACs
Qutest is a ‘pure’ DAC (it does not contain headphone amplification or rechargeable batteries like some of its range stablemates) and is designed to improve sound quality in the home. It is the latest evolution of Chord's most affordable standalone DAC, the multi-award-winning 2Qute, which it directly replaces.
Qutest, a What Hi-Fi? Star of CES 2018, is based on Chord's award-winning proprietary FPGA technology developed for the class-leading Hugo 2 DAC/headphone amp, giving it proven class-leading technical and sonic performance. Perfectly equipped to bring the benefits our digital technology to a wide range of connected devices, it features a galvanically isolated USB-B, optical and coaxial digital input, giving an instant performance upgrade, plus the ability to modernize aging digital source components.
The Qutest chassis is all-new, too. It has significantly greater mass than its predecessor and has been precision-machined from solid aircraft-grade aluminum billet. The Qutest PCB nestles within a shallow cavity in the solid aluminum chassis, giving the circuit board greater protection within the casework and additional isolation from external vibration compared to previous designs.
Qutest offers Hugo 2’s proprietary user-selectable frequency-shaping filters and input selection controls, available via two fascia-mounted spheres, introducing useful flexibility. It also features RCA analog outputs for connection to integrated amplifiers, preamps, and headphone amps, plus high-resolution dual-data digital inputs for connection to future Chord Electronics products.
A further new feature is a user-selectable output voltage available in 1, 2 and 3V RMS outputs for flexible connectivity with a wide range of partnering devices.
The Power of Upscaling
To upgrade your Chord Qutest to the next level, we recommend adding the Chord Hugo M Scaler.
The M Scaler is an instant upgrade to any existing DAC you have. It has the ability to upgrade your standard definition digital input signals and output them to your DAC at a max resolution of 352.8 or 384kHz via a single BNC SPDIF output or via a 176.4 or 192kHz via an Optical SPDIF output. If you have a Chord Electronics DAC that utilizes Dual Data Digital inputs, such as the Chord Qutest, Hugo2, Hugo TT2 or the Dave, then you can increase this output resolution to 705.6 or 768kHz via the M Scaler Dual BNC SPDIF outputs. The Hugo2 requires a special cable for the 3.5mm dual data input, so we've developed aBlack Dragon Mini Coax Cable to connect it to the M Scaler.
Keith Howard wrote a wonderful profile on Rob Watts' theories of why the upsampling filters are so critical to remarkable digital audio playback. Read the Hifi Critic article here.
Chord Custom FPGA DAC
4x Selectable Filters
Selectable Output Voltage
768kHz USB Type B Input
192kHz Optical Input
USB Galvanic Isolation
2x 384kHz BNC Coax Input
1x Stereo RCA Outputs
Supports up to 768kHz PCM
Native DSD 512 (8x) Capable
Solid Aluminium Chassis
What's in the box?
- 1.5m 5v 2a Switching Micro USB Power Supply
- 2m Type A to Type B USB Cable
- Qutest Owners Overview Manual
- Raw Silk Drawstring Bag
- 3-Year Warranty
- Device Power Supply:
- 5v 2amp Micro USB
- USB Type B (White): 44.1kHz – 768kHz – 16bit – 32bit
2x BNC Coax (Red): 44.1kHz – 768kHz – 16bit – 32bit
Optical (Green): 44.1kHz – 192kHz – 16bit – 24bit
- 1x stereo pair of RCA (Left and Right)
- PCM support:
- 44.1kHz, 48kHz, 88.2kHz, 96kHz, 176.4kHz, 192kHz, 358.8kHz, 384kHz, 717.6kHz, and 768kHz
- DSD support:
- Native playback supported. DSD64 (Single) to DSD512 (Octa-DSD)
- Variable output:
- Fixed, but selectable between 3v (blue), 2v (green), and 1v (red) via dual press of ‘Filter’ + ‘Input’ upon startup
- Driver support:
- Driverless with Mac OS X and Linux, driver required for Windows OS
- Chord Electronics custom coded Xilinx Artix 7 (XC7A15T) FPGA
- Pulse array:
- 10 element pulse array design
- Frequency response:
- 20Hz – 20kHz +/- 0.2dB
- Output stage:
- Class A
- Output impedance:
- <0.0001% 1kHz 3v RMS 300Ω
THD and noise at 3v RMS: 117dB at 1kHz 300ohms
‘A’ weighted (reference 2.5v)
Noise 2.6 uV ‘A’ weighted: No measurable noise floor modulation
- Channel separation:138dB at 1kHz 300Ω
- Precision machined aluminium casing with polycarbonate buttons and glass viewing portal
- Weight: 770g
- 41mm (H) x 160mm (W) x 72mm (D)
- Boxed Weight:
- Digital designer:
- Rob Watts
- Mechanical Designer:
- John Franks
- Country of manufacture:
I listened to Chord’s DAC with Silver Dragon cables connected to my iPad (via an Apple CCK since Chord hasn’t paid Apple’s licensing fees making the CCK adapter a requirement). Moon Audio founder Drew Baird also let me borrow a pair of Moon Audio's Blue Dragon cables to connect my Shure KSE1500s to Chord’s black snowman. The stand-alone DAC Qutest is perfect for my Shure’s since the KSE1500 in-ear monitors (IEMs) come with a headphones amplifier - no need to have a DAC/Amp combination.
With the Qutest facing away (plugs toward me as I listen) the DAC appears to have two tiny snowman eyes and a large glowing open red mouth. Qutest sound does melt in your ears with a pleasant mellowness matched with a fearsome muscularity. When the music requires strength and speed the Qutest chips more than keep up.
When the music needs subtlety, art, and peace Chord’s DAC doesn’t scrimp or chisel. Hard to find a DAC not made by Chord capable of adding muscle to dramatic musical transitions such as Elton John’s piano in Tiny Dancer, the clocks in Dark Side of the Moon or Cannonball Adderly’s saxophone in Miles Davis’ Kind of blue.
Chord’s little snowman delivers BIG SOUND (fortississimo) except when quiet, patient, and soft is needed (pianississimo).
Chord Qutest Review
Chord Qutest - Unboxing
Roon Nucleus Music Server$1,398.00