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:
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!
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...
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.
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.
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.
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.