Chord Electronics has launched what it’s calling “the most advanced compact DAC on the planet”. The new Qutest is based on the latest proprietary Rob Watts’ FPGA technology developed for the “class-leading” Hugo 2 DAC/headphone amp. It uses an all-new precision-machined aluminium chassis and includes several new features, including fascia controls.
Qutest uses the same internal DAC architecture and proprietary software coding as the Hugo 2, and offers user-selectable frequency-shaping filters and input selection controls, available via two fascia-mounted spheres. At £1,195 Qutest offers a significant cost saving over Hugo 2 (£1,800), as it eschews the headphone amplifier, rechargeable Li-ion batteries and crossfeed functionality integral to the transportable device.
It is the latest evolution of Chord Electronics’ 2Qute, which it directly replaces. Qutest features galvanically isolated USB, optical and dual coaxial digital inputs, giving an instant upgrade to everyday audio devices plus the ability to modernise ageing digital source components. It also features RCA analogue outputs for connection to integrated amplifiers, preamps and headphone amps, plus high-resolution 768kHz-capable dual-data digital inputs for connection to Chord Electronics’ devices including the BLU MKII digital/CD transport.
High-Res Audio to 768kHz PCM/DSD 512
Qutest has been designed for static use within home audio and desktop hi-fi systems. The new design benefits from 5V Micro USB powering which offers improved flexibility over its predecessor. Qutest offers support for up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512 via its galvanically isolated USB-B input, 24-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD128 via coaxial (BNC) and 24-bit/192kHz data on Optical TOSLink. DSD 64 to DSD 256 is supported via DoP and ASIO native DSD format is also supported up to 512.
All-new aluminium casework
The Qutest aircraft-grade aluminium chassis has significantly greater mass than its predecessor, its PCB nestles within a shallow cavity giving the circuit board greater protection within the casework and additional isolation from external vibration.
Qutest’s control spheres (for user-selectable frequency-shaping and input selection) use colour-coding to denote sample frequency and filter used; brightness settings are user-adjustable. A further new feature is a user-selectable output voltage available in 1, 2 and 3V RMS outputs for flexible connectivity with partnering devices.
The latest FPGA and advanced WTA (Watts Transient Aligned) filters have been implemented in the Qutest, bringing a wide variety of performance improvements over the 2Qute. Performance gains have been made in timing accuracy, noise reduction and dynamic range. Tap length, Chord’s preferred indicator of how complex the interpolation filter is, has more than doubled compared to its predecessor, to 49,152. A four-function switch filter, offers a useful degree of user-selectable frequency-shaping, bringing warm and soft or transparent and incisive presentations, giving additional flexibility and user control.