BEST DAC £800-£1200 (2015) & BEST DAC £900-£1200 (2013)
2Qute, a compact DAC which combines two award-winning products in one: the revolutionary Hugo DAC/headphone amp and the class-leading Qute EX standalone DAC.
The new 2Qute takes the technology from the Chord (Hugo) and adds it to the Chord Qute EX. The result is a new super-DAC with class-leading specification, outstanding technical measurements and proven sonic performance.
2Qute advances the award-winning Qute EX DAC with the latest Hugo specification. Essentially a Hugo in a Chordette chassis, it brings the latest FPGA DAC technology into an affordable home-system-orientated unit. 2Qute contains the same high-performance Spartan 6 FPGA that has enabled Hugo to redefine the DAC genre in 2014. The 2Qute also boasts astonishingly low distortion levels of 0.0003%.
The 2Qute offers support for up to 32-bit/384kHz audio via coax and USB, and 24-bit/192kHz over optical. DSD64 is supported on all inputs and DSD128 is supported via coax or USB (all via DoP). The new DAC also gains a handy switch to easily move between coax, optical and USB digital inputs.
DetailsThe device features a Class 2 USB input which, because of the 2Qute’s home-system orientation compared to Hugo’s more mobile aspirations, has been galvanically isolated for greater sonic performance. This has been achieved using a novel technique which allows for very high data rates of up to 384kHz; the input is driverless on Apple and Android devices, with (ASIO included) drivers for Windows devices.
Chord Electronics’ founder and owner John Franks on the new 2Qute
“The progression of the Qute, a 10,000 digital-tap-length series of award-winning DACs started with the original product just four years ago, with the original 192kHz-capable Qute. It was followed a year later with the HD suffix when we gave the Qute full 384kHz capability, and the EX suffix followed when DSD capability and double-DSD (64 and 128) was added.
“All of these units famously used the same discrete pulse-array DAC board and it’s well known that Chord Electronics chose not to use industry-standard off-the-shelf chips sets. The development of these ground-breaking DAC designs gave Rob Watts, our design consultant, the proving ground for a totally new and holistic type of DAC design which was to become the mobile and desktop DAC, Hugo.
“Hugo has since become the benchmark by which all other DACs are judged and has just shy of 40 recommendations in the press; Hugo’s sonic credentials are undeniable. However, this gave Chord a problem: some customers were less keen on a mobile-orientated product in their home systems and felt Hugo had too many superfluous features for home use. They loved the idea of a simpler and ostensibly lower-cost DAC, but wanted the award-winning sound quality that only Hugo, with its digital tap-length of 26,000, can achieve.
“Rob Watts completely redesigned the Qute’s circuit board in order for it to contain Hugo performance levels without the mobile features, such as the volume control and batteries. Because the redesign was so extensive, we felt the Qute had to have a MkII designation, but 2Qute sounded undeniably better, so the name stuck!”
Coax, optical and USB digital inputs with input switch
Galvanically isolated Class 2 USB input up to 384kHz
Driverless operation on Apple and Android devices; drivers supplied for Windows
Support for up to 32-bit/384kHz audio via coax and USB, and 24-bit/192kHz via optical
DSD64 supported on all inputs, DSD128 supported via coax or USB input (all via DoP)
Source and sample rate indication/illumination
12V 0.5A power supply provided
Output: 3v RMS 1kHz
Dynamic range: -119dB A Wt
THD: 0.0003% at 3v RMS 1kHz; 0.0002% at 2v RMS 1kHz
Crosstalk: 126dB 1kHz
Frequency Response: +/- 0.1dB 20-20kHz
What can I plug into my DAC?
DAC's will usually have a number of inputs. Coaxial and Toslink Optical are the most common, while USB is still also very common.
The Optical and Coaxial connections can have a CD player, network streamer, television, dvd/blu-ray disc player, game console, and some computers.
The USB input can handle pretty much any kind of computer, or a phone with the appropriate adapter (OTG for android, Camera Connect Kit for iOS devices).
What is a DAC?
Every digital device with an analog output has a Digital to Analog Converter of some kind. In the case of phones, televisions, and computers, they are usually stuck on as an afterthought, or just to do the job of creating analog sound to be amplified and played through speakers.
Having a standalone DAC is a worthwhile investment in any modern Hi-Fi system, essentially all the circuitry involved in creating that signal you can hear from the 1's and 0's is housed in its own box, with usually a much better design than what you would find in your television or computer.
A DAC can be useful to connect digital devices to an analog amplifier if the amplifier doesn't have digital inputs. Or if you are after a cleaner, more refined sound.
Things to listen for in higher quality DAC's are separation of sounds (how well you can hear a single voice or instrument in the mix of all the others), "textures" of sounds (raspyness of a bow being drawn across the strings of a double bass), or the clarity of echo's and quiet noises among loud instruments.