Chord Electronics DAC64 D/A processor Page 4
The next comparison was with the Musical Fidelity A324 ($1200), which Sam Tellig reviewed in our April 2002 issue and I report on in a Follow-Up in this issue. Again, the differences were less subtle than with the Wadia, but unlike with the Nu-Vista 3D, there was no clear winner. The Musical Fidelity sounds more forward in the upper midrange, with more top-octave air and ambient information apparent. The Chord had an overall more laid-back presentation and a greater degree of lower-midrange bloom. The bass was where the greatest differences could be perceived. The Chord's bass was fatter, with less-well-defined leading edges to bass guitar and double bass. Not only was the Musical Fidelity's reproduction of low frequencies better-defined, it also seemed to have a smidgen greater bass extension.
Overall, I would find it hard to choose between the Chord and the Musical Fidelity; whichever I preferred would depend on the recording being played. It's fair to point out that the Musical Fidelity is significantly less expensive than the Chord. It's also fair to point out that the DAC64 glows like an internally illuminated jewel next to the utilitarian-looking A324.
While the Chord Electronics DAC64 is undoubtedly expensive, it is eye-poppingly gorgeous. And while it sounds best with its RAM buffer engaged, the associated time delay does take some getting used to. Even after several months, I was still bothered by the cognitive dissonance that happened when I pressed Next Track on the transport's remote and saw the selected track start to play while I was still listening to the previous track.
But that's trivial—what matters is the sound. In that regard, even while I expressed some small criticisms, the DAC64 should be ranked highly. While its soundstage was a little less dimensionally fleshed-out than those of the best CD playback systems I have auditioned, many listeners should find its silky-smooth highs seductive, as well as its slightly larger-than-life lows.
The DAC64 is up against stiff opposition, and its lack of HDCD decoding will be an issue for some audiophiles. But provided the faults with the first sample have been fully addressed in production (I am assured they have been), I can highly recommend the Chord DAC64.