There are two ways to look at Qutest (£1195), the latest D/A converter from Chord Electronics, launching at CES 2018 this week:
1/ A black Hugo 2 stripped of £600, its headphone amplifier, Li-on battery to leave a DAC whose beating heart is an FPGA loaded with Rob Watts’ WTA filter + user-selectable shaping and is housed in a precision machine aluminium chassis complete with signature porthole designed by company main man John Franks; a standalone DAC for home hifi systems.
2/ A next-generation 2Qute with heavier chassis for greater vibration resistance, twice the WTA tap filter length (49,152) that according to Chord net improvements to “timing accuracy, noise reduction and dynamic range” from the Qutest’s four digital inputs: 24bit/192kHz TOSLINK; a pair of 24bit/384kHz- and DSD128-equipped BNC coaxial sockets; and USB which, unlike the Hugo2, has been fully galvanically isolated up to 32bit/768kHz and will decode DSD up to DSD512 natively.
The Qutest runs on 5V from a microUSB input for greater accommodation of third party power supplies and offers switchable output voltage (1, 2 and 3V) for improved acquiescence to downstream amplifier sensitivities should the Qutest be run as a digital pre-amplifier or go line level into a vintage integrated.
For those keen on tech specs:
- Frequency response: 20-20 kHz +/- 0.2dB
- Dynamic range 124 dB AWt
- THD: 0.0001% 1 kHz 2.5V RMS 300 ohms
- THD and noise at 2.5v RMS ref 3V: -117dB 300 ohms AWt
- Channel sep 138 dB at 1kHz 300 ohms
However, there’s a third way to look at the Qutest:
Given Chord Electronics’ prior pedigree with the Hugo/2, Mojo and 2Qute, this latest non-portable DAC has the potential to rule the roost at below two thousand US dollars (and higher). A potential that will be realised (or not) over time as home-based reviews (and not show reports) start to tumble down.
For now, be excited.
Further information: Chord Electronics