Chord Launches the DSX1000 Network Player
Rather than debut its new $13,000 DSX1000 Network Music Player in the UK, where the company is based, Chord founder and chief scientist, John Franks (above), traveled to Mountain View, CA on November 8 for the unveiling. The site was the spacious, extremely attractive Northern California showroom of Audio High, one of the high-end dealers in the US that display Chord's top-end Reference products.
Perhaps due to post-election recovery, intermittent rain showers, or the drop from record high temperatures to seasonal norms that required a coatNew Yorkers are undoubtedly weeping at thought of the hardships that Silicon Valley residents must endure turnout was light. In the 2.5 hours that I hung at the store, alternately speaking with Franks and Chord's North American distributor, Jay Rein of Bluebird Music; listening to the DSX1000 and other Chord products; and petting store owner Michael Silver's adorable and hypo-allergenic 12-year old soft-coated Wheaton terrier, Fiona, the number of press people in attendance equaled the number of consumers. Very strange.
Franks, who founded Chord in 1989 as a hobby, and went full-time in 1992, is not one for speaking slowly. As best as I could scribble down, Chord's top-end network music player, the 24/192-capable DSX1000, boasts the company's proprietary DAC technology. Developed by Robert Watts, who has 30 years experience with DAC technology, the DSX1000 contains the same pulse array 76-bit DAC technology found in the company's top-of-the-line QBD76 DAC. According to the minimal information on Chord's website, the DSX1000's DAC not only reclocks all data, removing jitter in the process, but also replaces conventional DAC chips with proprietary pulse array technology that avoids the leakage and capacitance problems that Franks claims are inherent in tiny chips embedded in silicon, and achieves far greater accuracy and linearity and a much lower noise floor.
"My designs are like a big fighter aircraft that can follow very accurately and zing all over the sky," said Franks, displaying his history in avionics. "They are very stable and fast, and can deliver signals with a great degree of control.
"The bottom line is, we go the extra mile. That's why we have a big installation at the Royal Opera House, Covent Garden and others at Skywalker Sound and Abbey Road. The BBC had so much trouble controlling the bass in their studio in Maida Vale that they were going to rip it out and start from scratch until they tried Chord electronics and discovered that the cause of the problem was not their room, but rather the electronics they had been using."
The DSX1000, pictured above, can play MP3, WMA, WAV, AAC, ALAC and FLAC, and, I was told, will be able to decode SACD once PC programmers get around to writing the application software. The remote-controlled unit, which has a large front panel display, can be operated by a number of uPnP apps for your iWhatever or equivalent smart phone. To these eyes, the display and search features used on phone and iPad during the demo hardly seemed destined to challenge those of the Meridian Digital Media System.
With ample time for listening, we shifted from pop to two high-res recordings from 2L, one of Beethoven's Piano Sonata No.32, the other of an Ole Bull Violin Concerto. Perhaps due to the room, the sound of a system that included, in addition to the DSX1000, Chord's CPA 8000 preamplifier ($45,000) and SPM 14000 monoblocks ($86,000/pair), Peak Consult Kepheus loudspeakers ($110,000/pair), and Kubala-Sosna cabling was relatively dry and dark, with a marked absence of overtones. I couldn't help noting that Franks' voice seemed far more alive and wet than the sound coming from the system.
Next, we shifted our seats 90° to listen to a smaller system that included a big name $30,000 CD player (whose provenance I shall shield to protect the hardly innocent), Chord's QuteHD DAC ($1800) and CPM 3350 integrated amplifier ($14,000), Peak Consult Empress loudspeakers ($35,000/pair), and an assortment of Kubala-Sosna cables. First we listened to the stand-alone CD player, then the player was used as a transport feeding data the QuteHD DAC, Neil Young doing the honors. The entry-level Chord QuteHD DAC trumped the competition. Instead of the edgy vocals and thin-sounding, one-dimensional presentation rendered by the five-figure CD player, the QuteHD DAC delivered a far more appealing, richer presentation in which edge was replaced by body and substantial color. The apparent superiority of Chord's DAC technology leaves me eager to hear the DSX1000 in a different context.