Chord DACs .. who has moved across to them from R-2R based DACs ?

It seems that Chord DACs are becoming very popular - I’m looking to try the Chord Qutest at some point but wonder if anyone here has moved across to Chord from so called "musical" R-2R DACs like the following:
  • SW1X
  • Schiit
  • Audio Note
  • Lampizator
  • Mojo Audio

i have been through the gamut

short summary:

chord dacs (2qute and qutest and hugo tt2) are very rhythmic/dynamic (tremendous PRAT), superbly clear/transparent/’alive’, throw a highly specific and palpable image - they are outstanding in that they accomplish the above without any trace of grain

good r2r dacs, ideally with tube output (mhdt, audio mirror) sacrifice a bit of the crystal clear and dynamic nature for greater warmth and body, especially with voices and acoustic instruments - the imaging gains depth even if the outlines become a touch softened - overall, many feel the presentation is more relaxed/natural, if slightly less obviously detailed and ’hifi’

so it depends on what you want and (more importantly) what your system needs in order to find the right balance
jjss49, you have such an eloquent way with words. Always learn from and enjoy your posts. And you never substitute "this vs. that" opinionating for careful, descriptive language. That's the easy way out and you don't do it!
jjss49 So which way did you go? R-2R to Chord or Chord to R-2R? Or in fact a totally different direction?

Certainly your description of Chord having PRAT (which is what we all want) and no grain is I think and excellent endorsement over warmth and body if I were to choose.
@hilde45 @arafiq

thanks for your nice compliments... i try to be of service where i have the knowledge and experience to share 😇


i still have multiple dacs i keep (i am off-the-deep-end with equipment, been at this hobby/sickness for decades, enjoy variety, and am a shameless hoarder to boot)

i use a 2qute in a secondary system (does what the qutest does pretty much to my ear, for less $), and i've the hugo tt2/m-scaler as one of my main system dacs (though it is a damn expensive combo...) -- i have also kept a number of r2r dacs, from mhdt, audio mirror and sonnet - which frankly, i listen to more often than the chord combo

you can search my old posts in the digital section, somewhere few months back i posted a list of what dacs i have tried, kept and sold off... looong-ass list 🤣 -- ’tis what happens when covid locks you in the house for a year...
I moved from the:

Metrum Octave (NOS)->
Chord 2qute (FPGA)->
Schitt Yggdrasil (R2R)->
Teac NT-505(DAC/Streamer)(OS)

The R2R and NOS DACs that I had were definitely more organic sounding versus the Chord which was laser precise and detailed.  I missed the warmth and analogue sound of the Metrum after buying the Chord then when I moved to the Yggdrasil which was very good but I believe that not feeding it balanced in and out didn't allow me to get the best from it.

The Teac basically bridges the gap - it's natural and organic sounding but it also nails tone and has lots of detail.  The only DAC that I've owned that I miss is the Metrum - it wasn't perfect but man was it fantastic at doing what it did well.

I've flipped quite a few DACs now and although architecture is important I believe that there is a lot more to it than saying that one particular method is better than the rest.
Just to add to @jjss49 that, like all DAC architectures, R2R DACs too have their sonic variations within the type.  There are tubed and non-tubed, and oversampling and NOS types, both of which (among other things) can have a significant impact particularly on how detailed or warm the resulting sound is.  The base R2R characteristics as jjss449 describes likely hold throughout the spectrum, but I just wanted to point out if you want a more detailed sound you can still get it with an R2R DAC.  As an example, the Schiit Yggy would definitely be more in the detailed, white wine end of the spectrum versus an SW1X model that’d be more on the softer, fuller, red wine end.  I’d ask jjss if this aligns with his experience because he’s actually had and heard more of these DACs than almost everyone here so IMO he’d be the final arbiter, but I thought delineating the world of R2R DACs a little further might be helpful.  As always, FWIW. 
Schitt ain’t R2R, some of them are MultiBit and you’ll never get DSD through them.
FPGA all the way. With updates.
Or Soekris if you have to have R2R.
And can get one.  Good luck with that.
I tried the Qutest and thought it was a nice dac but a little thin and hifi for me.  While I had it I tried a RME adi-2 to compare and preferred the RME, just comes across much fuller, better tone  and very transparent and smooth while being very musical. The Chord may sound better in other systems but just not in mine. The sound stage was a little better on the Chord. I added a Teddy Pardo to the RME and that really improved the RME all around so I sold the Chord with no regrets,I would have liked to try a better power supply on the Chord. I did buy a MHDT and find the highs a little rolled off and not as clear and transparent as RME but very relaxing and more analog than the Chord or RME. I still have both RME and MHDT and enjoy both but for different reasons 
I moved from a Schiit to a Chord and never looked back.  I was very surprised at how different the Chords sounded.  I did not like the Mojo, 2Qute or Qutest.  They were all too forwards sounding to me.  The Hugo is more laid back and not at all fatiguing.  I'd love to get my hands on a Dave but that's another story.
Post removed 

first, to the comment below, all of schiit’s better sounding dacs are indeed r2r!

second, i agree with your commentary about manifold different flavors of r2r d/a conversion implementation, the variables being os/nos, chip-based/discrete resistor ladder, and of course power supply and output stage (ic, op-amp, tube, transformer coupled, discrete transistors etc) ... all are very important to the overall sound, as is the specific ’voicing’ by the maker -- a great example is the ayre codex... it is lovely sounding dac that is as natural, bloomy, rich/meaty as many nos r2r dacs! yet it is delta sigma, oversampling, non tube -- but implemented brilliantly with charlie hansen’s killer power supply, diff balanced output stage and luscious voicing (rip charlie 🙏)
Interesting - I guess that makes me none the wiser - Chord, the others I listed, I had best knuckle down and listen to a selection.
The Chord Qutest was high on my audition list because it's more affordable than say, a SW1X or Mojo Audio (both websites 'big up' the pure R-2R route for best sonics if implemented correctly).
Perhaps I can compliment the Qutest and it's laser precision sound with a valve pre-amp I have here. I think if my wallet was deeper I would like to own (if good enough) a Mojo Audio or SW1X design (again, referring to their website material which read very convincingly).
It’s funny how much of a the grass is always greener on the other side proposition audio can be. I have a Chord Qutest that I think is great, but I’ve become increasingly curious about R2R DACs. It’s hard to know until you hear for yourself.

It’s probably just a matter of time before I give in. The question is whether to budget for what should be an upgrade, like a Sonnet Morpheus or Aqua La Voce, or to be more cautious and try a Schiit Bifrost2 or MHDT Orchid to simply get a feel for the difference and what is possible. I just hope I don’t end up a hoarder.
In delta sigma dacs clocking is all important, especially if you upsample. Adding a 10m clock (Mutec, Cybershaft, Sotm, Esoteric, Antelope, SRI) produces a quantum leap in spacial resolution while at the same time dealing with harsh treble and overly resolved presentation. Through the asynchronous USB connection, slaving the server has additional benefits. The clocks are very sensitive to power and BNC cables.

What kind of improvements did you see adding the Teddy LPS to the RME? I am considering one of these or one from small green computer which are a little cheaper.

Did you do any back to back testing of the power supplies? 

I’ve had a Chord Qutest right now running on a battery in my system for the last two months. The battery reduces the noise floor of the Qutest and makes it sound smoother, but no less dynamic.

I just got a Denafrips Pontus II today which is currently still in the box. I like the sound of the Qutest especially when running off of the battery, but I’m wondering if the Pontus can retain perhaps 90-95% of the resolution that the Qutest provides while providing a warmer, more organic sound.

Tough to top @jjss49 in terms of his description.  At that level (<$2K), no question Chord is clearer (and brighter) than the R2R units that you have listed.  Neither good nor bad, really depends on the balance of your system and what you like best.  

There is no clear "best" solution.  R2R, FPGA and delta sigma solutions can all be brilliant. In the extreme, Esoteric (delta sigma), dCS (FPGA) and MSB (R2R) all make some of the worlds most expensive, and best sounding DACs.  Each has its proponents.  Each has its haters.  

In general it is true that FPGA DACs tend to be brighter but that is Chord and dCSs house sound.  PS Audio FPGA DACs tend to be much warmer depending on the OS.  R2Rs tend to be warmer but again, that is driven by house sound of the brands that use that tech.  There is nothing warm about the Rockna Wavedream Signature for instance as it is surprisingly neutral.  Delta sigmas run the gamut with output stage and implementation playing huge parts in terms of house sound.  Jadis vs. Esoteric vs. Ayre vs. Mytek are going to sound very different.

I have a bunch of DACs here and I am currently using a Chord DAC in my tube based system, a Rockna R2R with my Class D tube hybrid and a Musical Fidelity delta sigma in my  solid state system.  All are excellent and appropriate for the sound of the equipment they are paired with and my budget associated with each system.  

This is a very longwinded way of saying, if you need a warm DAC to balance your system, Chord is probably not the right choice.  Alternatively, if a dose of brightness will liven up your system and/or you want improved clarity, Chord all the way.  
To respond to  @verdantaudio's comment, I've found the Qutest to not necessarily be bright, but definitely not warm. I agree that this can fall on the side of too bright or just right depending on the rest of your system.

Ways that I've warmed up the sound of the Qutest are using a battery & selecting the right USB cable between streamer and the Qutest.
How is Pontus II Calvin. I just got Ares II and own Qutest. The thing with Ares is that it's more continuous/analog sounding than the Qutest. I would like the Ares to be more juicy sounding but the R2R implementation is the key.
Here are my listening notes on the Qutest and the Pontus II:

I've had a Chord Qutest in my system for the past 2 months with the intention of comparing it to the Denafrips Pontus II.

Background on the Qutest as a reference point: The Qutest sounded really good with notably a high level of detail retrieval. There were two shortcomings that stood out for me about the Qutest.
  1. With the stock power supply, there was a slight, and I do mean slight, degree of harshness. I found that using a pretty common Anker phone/laptop backup battery both reduced the noise floor and took away that slight bit of harshness. NOTE: if you try this, make sure the battery's output is 5V.
  2. The Qutest is exceptionally detailed in its sound. But, the Qutest conveyed that detail in a way that seemed artificially Technicolor. Meaning that there was a lot of detail, but either conveyed to a degree or conveyed in a way that didn't feel natural or lifelike to me. It sounded slightly, and again I do mean slightly, more "audiophile" than musical in sound.

My Objectives for getting the Pontus: In my decision to try out the Pontus, my objective was to get 90% of resolution that a Qutest provides with more of the warmth that I heard in the Denafrips Ares II. Harshness and listening fatigue are very real problems for me with digital audio so a balance of detail and warmth is important for me.
Impressions of the Pontus:

Resolution and Warmth: I always thought that resolution and warmth were traits on two opposite ends of a spectrum. It has already been eye-opening that Pontus actually seems to have even more detail and resolution than the Qutest and also more smoothness and warmth than the Ares II. What's interesting is that this resolution is delivered in a more lifelike and natural sounding way than via the Qutest. I'm noticing this right now with the piano and string bass in the 'Pueblo Nuevo' track on the Buena Vista Social Club recording as well as the trumpet and the tonal quality of metal and wood percussion instruments. The Pontus sounds both smooth and full in its sound. One artist for which this unique combination of resolution and warmth really does justice is Jimi Hendrix. I often have not liked to listen to Hendrix on digital due to harshness and noise from jitter and analog sources, compared to my typically better experience of listening to Jimi Hendrix on vinyl. I'm not finding this to be the case with the Pontus. Jimi Hendrix' Voodoo Child is sounding both engaging and listenable via the Pontus.With the Pontus powered by a Shunyata Venom power cord, I'm hearing no sense of the slight harshness that I heard from the Ares. I also have a Synergistic Research UEF Blue power cord that made the Ares II DAC sound smoother without any loss of detail. I'll try that out on the Pontus DAC in a couple of days to see if it makes any difference to the sound of the Pontus.

Presence: Instruments and voices are conveyed by the Pontus with what sounds like an appropriate level of weight for each instrument. On the 'Orgullecida' track on the Buena Vista Social Club recording, the string bass has a greater level of fullness in its presentation than the voices, electric guitar and trumpet as would be appropriate in real life. In contrast, the Qutest communicates the details but seems to be less able to convey the weight and fullness of each voice and instrument's sound. The 'air' around voices are also conveyed by the Pontus in a very palpable way but with a sense of refinement and restraint that sounds realistic when compared to a real-life performance. In the Cowboy Junkies' 'Trinity Sessions' recording, I hear this very clearly in the 'Blue Moon Revisited' track.

Soundstage: The Pontus definitely has a broader and fuller soundstage than the Ares and the Qutest as well, I think. The fullness of the Pontus sound might be a major contributor to my perception that it has a bigger soundstage than the Qutest. I hear this in the Cowboy Junkies' Trinity Sessions album.Pace & Emotional Range: What appeals to me most about the Pontus and perhaps what I noticed first was wide range of pace that the Pontus is able to convey. Some DACs like the Qutest have good pace. Other DACs such as the Ares II sound more relaxed. It's intriguing to hear a DAC that can sound both relaxed as well as upbeat and dynamic as needed. For the Pontus, that ability allows it to sound relaxed and calm or energetic and dynamic depending on the music being played. Music through the Pontus seems to be conveyed as the artist or composer intended instead of the Pontus imposing its own sonic signature onto the music. Examples of these two ends of this scale that I have heard are Sara Watkins' new 'Under the Pepper Tree' album versus Les McCann & Eddie Harris' excellent 'Swiss Movement' recording of their performance at the Montreux Jazz Festival. Flow & Continuity: Consistent with my comments on the Pontus' adaptability in terms of pace and emotional range, it is conveys the flow of music really well. Its presentation makes it easy to "follow the tune" when listening to music. For lack of a better way to describe this quality of the Pontus, I would say that it has a lot of patience in how it conveys music. It's not in a rush to get the next note out as the Qutest sometimes seems to be, but can play quicker or slower depending on emotional nature of the music. The 'Murmullo' track on the Buena Vista Social Club recording has a languid pace that the Pontus conveys well while not losing the underlying drive behind the music. Partly this is due to good timing, but the Pontus' ability to convey tonal colors also helps it to provide this sense of drive and forward movement even on music that is not conducive to an insistent sense of pace. I'd like to highlight one recording on which I'm hearing this quality from the Pontus, but the truth is that I hear this sense of flow on everything I'm listening to with the Pontus.

Sound quality of streamed versus local files: Something else that I've heard is that the Pontus seems to at least narrow the sonic difference between streamed Qobuz files and local files. Local files have always sounded better to me. I attribute that to a shorter signal chain without the digital and analog (such as EMI) noise that might come in through being sent through the internet and then transmitted through my local network. Listening to local files and the equivalent music track from Qobuz were so very close in sound quality when doing sighted listening, that I'm don't know if I could distinguish the difference in blind testing.

What listening preferences would the Pontus fit well: The Pontus would be a great choice for anyone that appreciates the sound and feel of live music. More than any other DAC I heard, the Pontus seems to savor the texture and feel of every note of music. The Pontus does particularly well with reproducing the textures, tonal quality and emotions of voices and acoustic music.

What listening preferences would the Pontus not fit as well: Listeners that want a sharp cut-glass feel to their music might not appreciate the Pontus as much. The Pontus digs out a lot of detail, but it presents detail in a way that sounds natural. If you listen to a lot of electronic music and are looking for razor-sharp sounding transients, the Pontus might not fit your preferences as much as the Qutest.

Summary: I'm sure there are more expensive DACs that might improve on some of the performance aspects of the Pontus, but I am so impressed by the natural and lifelike way that the Pontus communicates music with no apparent shortcomings in resolution of detail, pace, or tonal quality. I greatly appreciate that the Pontus seems to be causing no listening fatigue for me while still presenting music in a full and detailed sounding manner.
Thanks Calvin! I agree even with my Ares II it beats the Qutest I presenting music in an analog way. So you think Pontus II is definitely worth it moving up from Ares II?