Okay Ladies and Gentlemen, we have another result.
The Chordette QuteHD has been evaluated against the DM Source. And I can report that there is an audible difference when listening to DSD tracks. With the Chordette, there is less "ring" or lisp with hard consonants like "t"s and "s"s. This is a very subtle effect, and can only be heard clearly when the consonant is emphasized. But it does influence the overall impression of how the song sounds, if that makes sense. The Chordette just sounds a bit clearer, a bit better, when playing Shelby Lynne on DSD. Of course there is a pretty obvious explanation for this difference: The Chordette decodes DSD directly, and the DM Source does not, so JRiver sends it down-spec'd FLAC files (96/24 if I recall). So yeah, I can hear the difference between the Chordette playing DSD and the DM Source playing JRiver's translations of DSD to PCM down-rated in bit rate.
Other than that, on all of the hi-res tracks and non-hi-res tracks I used to compare these two, THERE WAS NO AUDIBLE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN THEM. Yeah, the Chordette is an Indistinguishable if you feed it the same signal as the DM Source. I used several different methods this time to try to ferret out differences. I had the DACs synch'd, and then I had one lead the other by a small amount; then I switched the leader. I even varied the lead times from one second to a few seconds so that I could listen to more or less of a song before switching and hearing the same passage. In effect, with the leader/follower approach, I was listening to a sound then switching and hearing the exact same sound again. Cymbal strike, switch, cymbal strike. String pluck, switch, string pluck. Switch the leads, do it again. I tried to find differences in about 25 songs. There were none. Sorry.
However, there is one MAJOR difference between the Chordette and the Metrum -- the Chordette is almost a full 3 dB louder with white noise (yeah, twice as loud), as opposed to the 1.5 dB difference between the Ciunas and the soft-spoken Metrum. That might explain folks thinking that the Chordette is aggressive sounding if they don't level-match it. If they do level match it, and still think the Chordette is aggressive sounding, well, then they are hearing things that I don't. My ears, my brain, my set-up.
I have now plugged the Teddy Pardo power supply into the Chordette. I listened to a couple of songs, but didn't hear any obvious differences. On the other hand, I'm pretty tired, so I'm not ready yet to conclude anything about the impact of that juice box on the DAC. I'll listen to it a bit tomorrow to see if I can tell any difference, but obviously I can't switch back and forth quickly, so any differences are going to have to be pretty significant for me to state that they are definitely there.
I really am sorry to once again have to report that yet another DAC has joined the Indistinguishables, at least for those who don't listen to DSD files. I had high hopes of hearing some special magic from the Chordette, but no such luck. It is small and pretty, and the magnifying window into the innards glows a different color for each type of file (DSD is blue, hi-res FLAC is green, lo-res is red). It does sound great (just like the others), and it does encourage me to listen more closely to the DSD capabilities on the other DACs. On the other hand, I am not going to be listening to many DSD tracks in the future (I had no DSD files prior to this testing), so this added performance doesn't mean that much to me.
If all other things were equal, I might still choose the Chordette (or another DSD DAC with similar gains with that format) just in case I decide to buy a bunch of DSD tracks in the future. But all things are not equal -- except the sound of this DAC to the performance of the Indistinguishables when playing all other formats . The Chordette is relatively expensive ($1800) and has no unique functional features other than DSD. It has no volume control, let alone pre-amp capabilities.
The lack of volume control is a killer for me, since it is so loud to start with. The high output of the Chordette means I have to turn down the Cyclops that much more, when I really want to be able to turn it up, to get more into the amp's likely sweet spot. On the other hand, this relatively high output level might be a real advantage for those feeding an amp that has marginal gain or power to feed that person's chosen cans. Of course, you can get the same volume out of the DM Source, plus a little (though not much... the Source is at 3-o'clock on the dial to match the Chordette's output).
In the end, the Chordette is an excellent sounding DAC, but it isn't the right one for me. It sounds great on the types of files I am going to be listening to most often, but that sound is exactly like a bunch of other DACs. It sounds even better playing DSD, but I don't anticipate playing much DSD. It loses out on the value criterion to every other DAC in this competition except maybe the PWD (depending on what price you really have to pay for that beast). The Benchmark plays DSDs, and is $200 more expensive, but it is a very capable pre-amp and has two headphone outs. The Yulong plays DSD files, has lots of other features including a HP amp, and is $600 cheaper (we'll see how it sounds tomorrow).
Moreover, DSD is really a "nice to have" for me, and ranks lower than many of the other features on some of these other DACs, most of which are much cheaper than the Chordette. Given that several of the other Indistinguishables cost several hundred dollars less and have features I value more, I can live with the way JRiver translates DSD files for the non-DSD DACs. Add in the Chordette's loud volume with no internal control, which is the exact opposite of what I want in a DAC for my system, and it is easy to me to decide that the Chordette is going back.
Tomorrow is Yulong Day, but first I will try the phone as a source for the Benchmark and Chordette, so that I can finish with them, box them up and ship them back, tomorrow if possible. The phone-y business will last no longer than an hour or so. After that amount of time I'm moving on to the Yulong.