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Chord Electronics Qutest DAC - Official Thread

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  1. Deftone
    Optical is the digital reference but usb is sometimes peoples preferred choice because it has better compatability with higher sample rates 192khz + DSD and the noise from usb artificially gives a more lively sound to set ups that might feel a bit warm.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2019
  2. Gibson59
    Not challenging your assertion and I believe I’ve read that on this thread before (by @Rob Watts himself?), but would you mind telling me in laymen’s terms why optical is the digital reference? Is it because of no jitter and no RF noise? I think I understand that RF noise adds some high end, but what on earth is jitter?

    To be honest I perceive more of a difference than just a lively sound with USB... soundstage seems bigger and there seems to be more space between instruments, the sound is a little more neutral. Not trying to start a war of optical vs USB, I really am not after trying to crown one as better, I just want to understand the differences from a technical standpoint as to why one may be considered the reference choice.

    If I only stream from Qobuz and am not getting anything higher than 192 then I lose out on nothing (aside from perceived sonic differences) if I go with optical right? And the argument for it is I don’t need to add a decrapifier etc in the chain?

    Sorry for all the disjointed questions. Any insights are appreciated!
  3. x RELIC x Contributor
    What you are describing as the differences is exactly what RF noise does to the sound, but it’s false. The common human perception with more brightness is a wider soundstage, more space, more detail, more ‘neutral’. You might prefer it and there’s no right or wrong with your preferences, but, as Rob describes, RF noise causing noise floor modulation is like MSG for audio spicing up the sound. The negative with this is that the sound becomes more flat and depth is reduced and nuance in timbre is reduced. Everything can sound harder. As was mentioned earlier, you can’t add darkness but more brightness is very very likely from RF noise.

    Regarding jitter, it’s a timing difference between the source and the DAC and traditionally USB is the best choice for jitter as it’s asynchronous (the timing for the source comes from the DAC), but Rob’s DAC designs are immune to jitter on all inputs so it’s not even a consideration with Chord DACs, unlike many other traditional digital audio gear where optical could have bad jitter.
    Deftone likes this.
  4. Arniesb
    If brighter is wider then why All high end dacs, amps sound wider than average dacs, amps? Makes 0 sense. If anything drop in noise floor makes Everything smoother more dynamic and wider. Why does Dave sound much smoother and wider than Hugo 2 for example? Noise makes Everything forward not wide from everything i heard.
  5. x RELIC x Contributor
    Might not make sense to you but it does to me. I also didn't say a brighter sound is the only contributor. You can pick apart my perspective/comment but there are many things that contribute to a wide soundstage. I was simply talking about how brightness adds to the perception. You might perceive it as forward, that's fine. I do disagree with you that ALL high end gear has a wider soundstage, let's leave it at that.

    Personally, I feel the Hugo2 sounds wider than the DAVE, where I find the DAVE has more depth and a more balanced soundscape. Difference of perspective I guess and I'm not here to argue with anyone.

    Typically brighter gear usually has comments that it has a wide soundstage. It's a recurring theme with headphones, amps, DACs. Easy to see the repeated pattern in comments regarding a perceived wide soundstage and bright gear. Not always the case but it's very common.

    Besides, we were talking about how the USB input is contributing to the relative differences noted, not comparing different gear. And technically, I would say that the relationship between the highs and mids is more of what causes an overall wide soundstage. You took my reply to someone else out of context though and it doesn't relate to what you've brought up.
    Last edited: Apr 11, 2019
    Relaxasaurus likes this.
  6. Deftone
    @x RELIC x gave a good explanation above

    Opitical is reference because its completely isolated so it adds nothing at all but its usually avoided because of the problems with jitter but as you can see here from this post by Rob in 2016 about Mojo, its really not a problem. People are spending hundreds of dollars on multiple add on devices trying to get USB galvanicly isolated on the level of optical so if you got a chord dac, spend less than $10 and you wont get better than that (unless you like the noise from USB).

    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019
    Zzt231gr likes this.
  7. Roybenz
    I have tried jutterbug, cant tell any difference. Rob also answerd me that jitterbug wont work on qutest. Since it already does the same thing as the jitterbug does.
  8. Roybenz
    Anyone know if using audeze dsp in roon will affect the qutest in a negative way?
  9. Deftone
    If it's just a eq preset then no
  10. Deftone
    I think jitterbug would be betterbsuited for Hugo 2 because it doesn't have the same isolation as qutest because it would draw too much power for portable use.
  11. Roybenz
    Audeze presets apply carefully designed filters specific to the selected Audeze headphone models. In addition to using our headphones “flat (no EQ)” these filters can be used to provide a listening experience similar to great speakers in a typical well treated room. Additionally, you can tweak these filters by using Roon’s built-in EQ and crossfeed settings. Importantly, each preset has the calibration filters for all commonly used sample rates (44.1kHz to 768kHz) to avoid resampling. Audeze is able to do this because we have our own digital hardware and software engineers, as well as our experience working with Audio Precision in developing headphone-specific test equipment.

    Im not sure if its only an eq... hmm
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2019
  12. snatex
    Roon upscales from 16 to 64 bit before applying Audeze presets and then back to 32 bit after applying so you might be losing some of the Qutest magic and transparency when using it. Rob recommends sending non altered bit perfect data when possible.
    Roybenz likes this.
  13. flyte3333
    Hi, was this using the USB inputs of both Qutest and Hugo2?

    And Hugo2 plugged into the wall (AC power), or running off it's internal battery only?

  14. Gibson59
    I was using USB on both Qutest and Hugo 2 and tried both the battery and wall power (desktop mode) for Hugo 2. In each case I preferred Qutest.
  15. Gibson59
    Your explanation of the impact of RF noise is spot on to what I’m hearing. I have to admit that the more time I spend listening even more carefully and for longer periods I’m finding myself leaning towards optical now (I can admit when I’m wrong lol). The depth and nuance in timber of optical is very evident, as is the detail and decay of notes. Normally when we mention detail I tend to think of treble, but in this case the detail I’m hearing via optical are things like subtle vibrato in a vocal notes that are trailing off and nuanced dynamics in each note that really seems to have more depth to it and sounds more lifelike.

    Via USB it certainly does sound a little harder as you put it and this seems to lessen the subtle nuance of each note with both instruments and vocals. Treble is increased. With USB instruments sometimes have more energy but also sound more digital. Vocals sound a bit more forward but also noticeably flatter. However there have been times where the harder USB sonics don’t take away from the song and are welcomed. But on well recorded high res tracks a little of the magic seems to to be lost with USB.

    Optical sounds a little more organic to my ear and more like vinyl (I’m a huge vinyl buff, my other expensive addiction) where USB sounds a bit digital and has that edge. I’m getting lost in the music easier via optical. The main thing I like about the USB implementation is it sounds like the presence gets a db boost and the bass seems to hit just a little bit harder.

    Thanks for the great explanation regarding RF noise. Being able to articulate in my mind what I’m hearing has helped me better compare them. In the end I will probably leave both optical and USB connected, using optical 90% and USB 10% depending on what music I’m listening to. I’m going to treat them like two different filters I have at my disposal. And USB will be there for me for if/when I stream even higher res files.

    I’m using Audioquest Carbon for both optical and USB cables btw. Do the high end cables make a difference here? Who knows, but I’ve spent so much time and money trying to perfect my system I just said screw it and sprung for the expensive cables.

    I can easily say that I’m beyond nit picking here and if If it were not for me listening very critically in a perfectly quiet environment, with a high end chain and choosing the right tracks to expose sonic differences, it might be hard to identify all the subtle differences between optical and USB. At the end of the day they both sound fantastic. But part of the fun is picking this stuff apart!
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2019
    ayang02 likes this.
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