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Chord 2Qute
Page 2
Sound Quality
Conclusion
Measured Performance
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Qute Operator

 

 


Chord Electronic’s new 2Qute DAC sounds even better than it looks, says Jon Myles.

A company has to have supreme confidence in its abilities when it allows one of its flagship products to share the same name as a popular TV comedy channel. But so it is with Chord – who earlier this year raised a few eyebrows by naming its state-of-the-art £8000 DAC Dave.
    Mind you, the Kent-based outfit seems to have taken a particular delight recently in giving its products slightly off-the-wall names. At one time it was content with technical-sounding monikers such as QBD76HD or DSX1000 – but lately its DAC line-up has consisted of products bearing titles such as Chordette, Hugo, Qute EX and the aforementioned Dave.
    And now there’s the Qute EX’s successor in the shape of the 2Qute (see what they’ve done there again?).
    To be fair, it’s quite an apt epithet as the product in question is undeniably small, shapely and, well, cute. In typical Chord fashion the new standalone DAC is housed in a gorgeous machined aluminium chassis measuring 160mm x 70mm x40mm (W/H/D) with curved edges and an illuminated round window on the top allows you to see a section of the neatly laid-out internal electronics as well as acting as an indicator of incoming sample rate (more of which later).


 

Here are the colours displayed through the 2Qute's glass window, and their related sample rates.

 

Inside the 2Qute employs technology derived from Chord’s more expensive Hugo DAC. So instead of the off-the-shelf digital decoding circuits used by most other manufacturers you get the latest Spartan 6 version of the company’s proprietary Field Programmable Gate Array technology with 26,368 digital taps – which the company claims contributes to better detail retrieval and musical transparency.
    On the rear, BNC coaxial and USB type-B inputs can accept high-resolution files all the way up to 32-bit/384kHz while an optical input operates up to 24-bit/192kHz. All three will also play DSD64 files while DSD128 can be played via the USB and coaxial. As usual the USB input is plug-and-play for Apple and Android devices while Windows users will need to install the supplied driver to get their machines running with the 2Qute.

The round window on the Chord's fascia changes colour to show incoming sample rate. Green
indicates a 24bit/96kHz rate.

 

A simple connector switch toggles between the three connections and a single pair of line-level RCA outputs provide connection to the hi-fi.
    Incoming sample rate is indicated by the colour shown in the illuminated window on the top of the chassis. For example, on 44.1kHz files the window glows red while green indicates 96kHz, purple 192kHz and so on. It looks fantastic in use but you’ll probably find yourself referring to the instruction manual on a regular basis at first until you memorise the various colour codes.


SOUND QUALITY
Clean, accurate and tremendously detailed were my first impressions when hooking up the 2Qute. This is a DAC that goes about its business with almost forensic precision.    
    Connected to the excellent Creek Evolution 100A integrated amplifier and fed Leftfield’s ‘Phat Planet’ in plain 16-bit/44.1kHz it was immediately obvious the Chord has a crisp, robust sound with a talent for digging deep into the heart of the music.
    This is a deceptively simple track on first listen but there’s actually a lot going on throughout the piece.
Through the Chord, though, it was easy to pick out the various samples and electronic trickery even when these elements were buried way back in the mix. Bass was firm and well-rounded with good depth while the Chord seems to have a slightly forward nature which emphasises the speed of the piece.
    In fact, there was a natural dynamism to the overall sound – probably down to the fact that the 2Qute manages to start and stop notes on a sixpence, leading edges having pinpoint precision and timing.

   Playing The Smiths’ ‘How Soon Is Now’ (24/96) Johnny Marr’s guitar work was laid out on a palette in all its studio-engineered glory. The Chord made it clear there were four amps being used on the rippling tremolo effect at the start of the song, where some other DACs can reduce the effect to more of a reverberation-soaked drone.

 

On the rear of the 2Qute are coaxial, optical and USB type B digital connections as well as RCA analogue out sockets.

 

It's a level of clean, clear detail that makes the Chord the ideal DAC for those who really like to hear well into the detail of various pieces of music.    
    Switching to DSD via a MacBook Air connected into the USB input  that quality worked wonders with the San Francisco Symphony’s ‘Mahler No 2’. Here every element of the orchestra was spread in front of me in an immense sound stage – yet every note, cymbal strike and string could be easily delineated.
    This level of clarity does mean the 2Qute can sound a little harsh on poor recordings. Feed it some heavily-processed pop and you’ll soon know about the production’s shortcomings.
    But switch to a decent recording such as Miles Davis’s classic ‘Kind Of Blue’ and it has the ability to transport you to the studio with Davis’s trumpet and Coltrane’s saxophone ringing clean and true while the rhythm section possesses a natural, organic flow.
    In fact, with high-definition recordings there’s a sense that the 2Qute doesn’t really have any character of its own at all but is merely letting the music flow through it completely unsullied.


CONCLUSION
The Chord 2Qute is a massively detailed DAC with the ability to get to the heart of any recording. It isn’t dark, creamy or artificially rich in any of the frequency spectrum but instead majors on presenting your music files as accurately as possible. As such it demands good quality ancillaries and, ideally, high-quality recordings to give of its best. But supply it with those and the 2Qute will bring you as close to your music as it’s possible to get in a £1000 DAC.



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Chord's window glows red to indicate a standard 16bit/44.1kHz incoming CD signal.

 

CHORD 2QUTE £995


 

OUTSTANDING - amongst the best

VALUE - keenly priced

VERDICT
Stunning-looking and built DAC that marries accuracy and forensic insight to great timing and drive. Really comes into its own with high-resolution material.

FOR
- detail and timing
- weighty sound
- great build quality


AGAINST
- doesn’t flatter poor recordings

Chord Electronics
+44 (0)1622 721444
www.chord electronics.co.uk

 


MEASURED PERFORMANCE

 

Rohde & Schwarz UPV audio analyser, used for measurements.


Frequency response measured flat to 36kHz with 192kHz sample rate digital via electrical S/PDIF input (BNC), our analysis shows, with a slow roll off in output to the 96kHz upper limit. The optical S/PDIF input (TOSLINK) worked to 192kHz too, with a good optical cable. So the Chord well exploits high sample rate digital.
    Distortion at full output (3V) measured a very low 0.0003% and at -60dB a low 0.02% our analysis shows, with 24bit resolution digital. Partly as a result, the measured EIAJ Dynamic Range came out at a very high 121dB, which is up with the best DACs on the market; anything above 120dB is currently top tier.
    The USB input works up to 384kHz sample rate and successfully passed a 384kHz test signal, although frequency response was no wider than that recorded for a 192kHz signal. Measured dynamic range was again a high 121dB so there is no degradation here and all other figures were identical to S/PDIF.
    The Chord 2Qute DAC measured very well in all areas. It has a high 3V output and a high dynamic range value, suggesting exceptional sound quality. NK


Frequency response (-1dB)
CD                                        4Hz-36kHz
Distortion (%)
0dB                                      0.0003
-60dB                                   0.02
Separation (1kHz)               114dB
Noise (IEC A)                       -120dB
Dynamic range (EIAJ)         121dB
Output                                  3V


FREQUENCY RESPONSE

 

DYNAMIC RANGE (-60.792dB - 60dB = 121dB)

 

 

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