Chord's Qutest Qute DAC

Sitting next to its big brother DAC/transport combo, Chord Mezzo 75 amplifier (75Wpc into 4 ohms, $4995), and new Spendor A2 loudspeakers ($2395/pair) was the diminutive new Chord Qutest DAC ($1795). A replacement for the 2Qute, this DAC does not contain a headphone amp, uses the same FPGA as in the Hugo 2, has a cleaner power supply than its predecessor, and includes four filters and the ability to output three different voltage levels. Expect it in stores in February.

Although the Qutest was not in operation when I visited, what was active in the system exhibited very clear sound with pleasing midrange warmth. It was quite an inviting, non-fatiguing sound, and spells success for the new Spendors. As for Chord's Blu CD transport ($11,788) and Dave DAC ($12,488), their excellence is a known quantity.

spacehound's picture

...Chord DACs are the only ones worth paying more than a few hundred dollars for.

Either dCS or Chord are an audio revolution among all these 'me too' DACs using some 10 dollar 'off the shelf' chip of somebody else's design, reading its data sheet, doing what it says, and adding thousands of dollars for a power supply, maybe a couple of tubes for decoration, and a fancy case.

And the very long established Spendor speakers, named after Spencer (a BBC sound engineer) and his wife Dorothy, :}:} have always been among the best regardless of price.

Ali's picture

And no MQA? What a pity if not. I listen to Tidal with my Chord Mojo, using it as my desktop DAC and enjoy the sound quality a lot. The only reason I like to upgrade is Chord upgrade its DACs to make them decode MQA. I read Dave review by JA here and if I understood correctly, Chord DACs programing is somehow that they can't add MQA in it. But good news about this new DAC,Qutest Qute is, they have omitted headphone amp. I don't know why all of a sudden all DACs in the world also have headphone amp and pre section, even those hi end ones; someone who pays above 2k for a desktop-class DAC, already has a good integrated or pre amplifier and doesn't need to pay a lot of extra if he or she dose not need those sections. For example considering one of those Mytek, although they are very good DAC according to reviewers, but why should I pay thousands of dollars for their pre or phono amplifier sections or headphone amplifier? And why they just don't offer us a simple DAC without those? I am ready to pay the same amount of money for Mytek Manhattan 2 or Broklyn+ class but just know that all my money goes for a highest quality DAC rather than parts that I never need or use. At least they can offer us choice to choose if we needed those parts or not.

Solarophile's picture

It would be a waste of Chord's FPGA processing, time, and frequency domain fidelity for MQA playback. Chord's claim to fame is its WTA (Watts Transient Aligned) FPGA filtering which is diametrically different from what MQA believes in.

I doubt it would be hard to incorporate MQA but honestly, I think this would be a downgrade in sound quality. Check out Archimago's blog recently for some great discussions about filtering.

spacehound's picture

It's not that Chord can't do it.
In fact, the same as dCS, it is likely easier to MQA-enable the Chord than it is for 'regular' DACs as unlike those it's all in firmware.

It's probably because Robert Watts, the chief designer at Chord, has come out very strongly about the 'weak' filter MQA uses to perform the simple upsampling which is what the MQA people choose to call the "second unfold".

Ali's picture

Thanks for your comment and I appreciate it but Mr. Watts also believes that optic connection of his DACs sounds better than USB which many people including me, think otherwise! I believe industry should let people to decide for themselves by hearing rather than reading weblogs because in this case, digital is almost rubbish compare to analog according to many audiophiles but it doesn't necessary means that we should stop people listening to digital. The same is with MQA or any other things in this world. For many people like me, listening to Tidal MQA files is very pleasurable and if anybody thinks otherwise and likes to pay for original PCM 24 files, then there are many choices available out there. Horses for courses. I think its a good idea that Chord makes MQA available for its customers like dCS and let them decide for themselves. As they say, proof is in the pudding...
Kind Regards

spacehound's picture

If Mr Watts say that about optic (which I have not personally seen but have no reason to disbelieve) then I don't agree with him. Optic may be 'equal' to USB but no way is it better.

And I am suspicious of his "192" claims for optic when everyone else, dCS included, says no more than 96. It may be true but I would feed 'uncomfortable' using it at the speed he claims.

As for MQA a whole lot of genuine experts (so many that it's now common knowledge among those willing to look, though some commercial interests don't want to see it) have 'dissected' MQA from first principles and have found that most of its claims are totally false.
As examples, there is NO "second unfold" as Stuart claimed, it's merely a two times upsampling 'weak' filter that puts a zero content 'fake' sample between the 96 samples so makes the DAC display "192".
And "temporal blur" is a term that doesn't exist in any relevant science or engineering field. Stuart just made it up so he could 'fix' it with his "deblurring", which incidentally, he initially called "de-ringing". This 'ringing' never occurs at all in reality if Nyquist/Shannon is obeyed, which in the studio it always is, even when 'digitising' old analog material. So there is nothing for his "deblurrig" to 'fix',
Also using 'weak' filters MQA splatters frequency dependent audible 'aliasing' across the 20Hz-20KHz range which to some people sounds 'good' in the same manner as the harmonics in SET tube amplifiers do.
But the 'aliasing' would not have occurred in the studio master so his 'authentic' is a nonsense.

But yes, choice is good. Though for the reasons above neither optic nor MQA would be mine.

And I have listened to MQA via Tidal. The 'aliasing' in MQA can make some music sound 'lively' but it's an MQA caused 'effect', it isn't real.

MilesFerg's picture

I agree with the point on loading up DACs with extra functionality that most looking in that price range have already paid for. I don't need a headphone amp, I don't need a second pre-amp, and for goodness sake, I definitely don't need a phono stage in my DAC! I wrote Mytek with the suggestion that they take the Manhattan 2 DAC without the extras and get the price closer to the Brooklyn. The goal is the best DAC possible in this price range for people that only want a DAC. We'll see if they try this out.

philipjohnwright's picture

Besides, those Spendors are nowhere near as good as my Harbeths :-)

spacehound's picture

...was called "Stuart" so they used their own names instead :-)

Martin Andersen's picture

If Chord cant "unfold" MQA does that mean that it's sounds like a normal FLAC file? on Tidal?

Ali's picture

yes and even some believe and also as MQA guys suggest, the MQA files when played without decoding and playback as a normal FLAC file, sounds even better that 16/44.1. Read Stereophile articles regarding MQA.