Chord Qutest DAC
Pocket size but rock-solid and high-end FPGA DAC with multiple filters.
Qutest is Chord's “pure” DAC (it does not contain headphone amplification or rechargeable batteries like some of its range stablemates), and is the latest evolution of Chord's most affordable standalone DAC, the multi-award-winning 2Qute. No feature has been overlooked in search of improvements, both functional and sonic.
Qutest is based on Chord's award-winning proprietary FPGA technology developed for the class-leading Hugo 2 DAC/headphone amp, giving it proven class-leading technical and sonic performance. It features a galvanically isolated USB-B, and optical and coaxial digital inputs. This also brings the Qutest in line with the house sound of Chord DACs—for those who know, that includes depth, warmth, width, and soundstage layering like you wouldn’t believe.
Solid Aluminum Billet
The Qutest chassis is all-new, too. It has significantly greater mass than its predecessor and has been precision-machined from solid aircraft-grade aluminum billet. The Qutest PCB nestles in a shallow cavity in the solid aluminum chassis, giving the circuit board greater protection within the casework, and additional isolation from external vibration compared to previous designs. While the Qutest is indeed quite cute, it in no way feels cheap. This small but mighty package’s aluminum chassis feels rock solid and high-end despite its near pocket-size dimensions.
Lots of Features
Qutest offers Hugo 2’s proprietary user-selectable frequency-shaping filters and input selection controls, available via two fascia-mounted spheres, introducing useful flexibility. It also features RCA analog outputs for connection to integrated amplifiers, preamps, and headphone amps, plus high-resolution dual-data digital inputs for connection to future Chord Electronics products.
We find these selectable features add a lot of flexibility to the Qutest. Though subtle, the filters do change perceptions of transient dynamics, detail and soundstage, and we think there’s a little something for everyone here, from slight warming effects to clean and clear. Best of all, it’s done with Chord’s signature clarity and transparency, yet with no sacrifice of musicality even on the most linear filter settings.
A further new feature is a user-selectable output voltage available in 1, 2, and 3 V RMS outputs for flexible connectivity with a wide range of devices. This is another great option as preamps from different eras may expect different voltages, so a vintage preamp, which may have a higher input sensitivity designed for phono, may enjoy the 1 V setting. Conversely, a more modern, lower gain preamp with a lower input sensitivity may like the 2 V or 3 V options, especially if it has tubes, which tend to benefit from more voltage gain.
The point is that the Qutest gives you the flexibility to match the output to your accompanying volume device, an invaluable and oft-overlooked capability. Once you’ve got the Qutest setup correctly, you’ll wonder how you ever lived without these settings.
Power supply: 5 V, 2 A Micro USB
Tap length filter: 49,152 – 10 element Pulse Array design
USB Type B (White): 44.1 kHz to 768 kHz – 16 bit to 32 bit
BNC Coax (Red): x 2, 44.1 kHz – 384 kHz – 16 bit to 32 bit
Dual data mode input (using both BNC coax inputs together): 44.1 kHz to 768 kHz – 16 bit to 32 bit
Optical (Green): 44.1 kHz to 96 kHz – 16 bit to 24 bit
Output: 1 x stereo pair of RCA
PCM support (kHz): 44.1, 48, 88.2, 96, 176.4, 192, 358.8, 384, 717.6, and 768
DSD support: Native playback supported. DSD64 (Single) to DSD512 (Octa-DSD)
Variable output: Fixed volume, but selectable between 3 V (blue), 2 V (green), and 1 V (red)
Driver support: Driver required for Windows OS
Dimensions (HWD): 1.77" x 6.3" x 3.46" (4.5 x 16 x 8.8 cm)
Weight: 1.7 lb (770 g)
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