Chord Electronics 2Qute DAC Review

I am no stranger when it comes to DAC technologies and Chord Electronics is at the forefront of current DAC technology today, and they are certainly on a roll after winning award after award for their latest offerings from the likes of What-HiFi and many other mainstream HiFimagazine's. It seems they just understand what is required from today's super fast moving mainstream audiophile market. The Hugo has played a huge part of that success and the technology employed in the Hugo is all Chords own, there is no other off the shelf components used here, just Chords own FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) which is an advanced programmable circuit that Chord make and configure. 

The new 2Qute takes the technologies from two very successful products, the Chord Hugo and the QuteEX DAC's, and this mix brings together a totally awesome DAC that is made for the true audiophile. And makes it fit into their small Chordette chassis which is sleek and looks good sat next to any HiFi. Chords industrial design never seems to age but it just seems to get more elegant with each generation of products.

Features and Build Quality

The 2Qute employs the same Spartan 6 FPGA that has made the Chord Hugo so successful and it also boasts astonishingly low distortion rates of 0.0003% which is really low, for this type of product. With connections they are the same as the previous Qute EX which are USB and Coax with sampling rates of 32bits/384Khz and 24bit 192Khz over Optical. DSD64 is supported on all inputs and DSD128 is supported via Coax or USB, all via DoP or DSD via PCM as it otherwise known as. This time round the 2Qute gets a switch on the rear of the unit to flick between the different inputs, I find this very useful as before on the QuteHD when stuck on USB I had to unplug the USB for it to sense my switch to CD so that it would swap to Coax, so a much better implementation has been made by putting the switch in.

It comes packed with all the necessary equipment needed to get you hooked up and going quickly, even including a USB FOB with all the drivers for Windows and including the manual on their too, although you get a quick set up guide in the package, it is all neatly presented and rightly so for a product that costs £1000, but at the same time it is a mighty fine looking product, as you take it out of the box it just oozes quality and is built like a tank, well it is built in the usual industrial design that Chord is famous for and it looks stunning, this time I have a black unit and I think it looks even better in black as it now looks stealthy and when lights are turned down you do not see the unit apart from the different color lights which refer to the sample rates that show through the window that the 2Qute has built on the front.

2Qute key features

- 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


Performance and Sound Quality

For my listening tests I will be using the Chord 2Qute with my KEF Reference One Speakers and Krell Vanguard Integrated Amplifier and Transparent Cables which I use for all my review testing purposes. I already own the Chord QuteHD DAC so for me this is a real comparison test as well as review to see how much of an improvement has been made over the older DAC.

I start off my listening with a newly released album on CD by a very familiar artist the King of Rock and Roll Elvis Presley and his newly released album If I Can Dream: Elvis Presley With The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra which has been remastered. It features a newly recorded version of the song Fever and it is with him and Michael Buble which is probably the best version I have heard yet and have been listening a lot to the album on the QuteHD DAC so makes for a good comparison.

Track Fever with Michael Buble has some stunning vocals which are really powerful and the bass is very different this time round compared with the QuteHD, it is tighter and more controlled playing through the 2Qute DAC with the timing spot on. It is if everything has been pulled back into place and more finely tuned as every instrument is more prominent and detailed than before, this DAC has amazing detail retrieval with every note and nuance picked out with such precision.

Burning Love - I love this track as it has so much energy and you can really feel it in the music as the symphony plays backing Elvis, the drumming is superb also with great timing and attack, it all seems to gel so well together. The 2Qute DAC manages to separate every musical part and put it all back together to make it sound so good that it is the best I have heard this track sound. It is a complicated mix with so much going on but the Chord manages to define the music down to the crucial parts, and like a puzzle piece them all back together perfectly. The drumming on this track is lightning fast, tight and solid, but it also hits hard with good amounts of slam. The symphony in the background is playing loud but Elvis's voice is up front and powerful. On the Chord QuteHD with the same track it was more like the bass bloomed more and was not as defined, but the 2Qute gets it spot on.


Next up another favorite band of mine, or should I say artist, Santana he has done so many albums over the years but this one is an old one that was re-released on HD Downloads in 24bit 96Khz format and it sounds stunning remastered, the album name is called Inner Secrets, again I have listened to this on the QuteHD so know the album well and have been enjoying it for some time.

One Chain Track takes you back to the funky 70's era with a really great beat that just hits hard from the beginning and again I notice that the bass is more refined on the 2Qute DAC. The sound stage really opens up to in this track with some great vocals from Greg Walker and some great guitar work from Carlos Santana.

Life is A Lady - Is a beautiful ballad with some great guitar work from the genius that is Carlos Santana, the musical emotion that the 2Qute DAC feeds you is amazing, each chord of the guitar plucked feels almost tangible and the speakers simply disappear from the sound stage which fills the room with such sublime sounds.

This album is one of Santana's greatest in my opinion, as it just sounds so good and was at a time when he had some of the best band members for his group. My system is sounding at its best at the moment, and with everything just gelling so well together, I think that the 2Qute DAC has made a massive impact in the musical resolve of my system as the DAC is doing most of the work translating the musical content and expressing it through the system. It really is a big upgrade from my existing QuteHD DAC that I own as it has improved so much, that is the timing of the music, bass texture and definition, vocals and detail retrieval.


My last album for this review is a DSD recording, DSD64 and it is called S'Wonderful Jazz by Eddie Graham Trio and what an album it is too, if you love jazz and drums then this one will be right up your street. Track 3 That Old Feeling has some great percussion and strings with an energetic piano arrangement, the music has a wonderful sound through the 2Qute DAC full of dynamics and the extra level of resolution from the recording the 2Qute picks out all the detail. My favorite Track on this album though is Bali Hai which has some amazing drumming and the transients and timing is impeccable really showing what a good system can and should sound like.


Conclusion and Final Thoughts

I have been listening to this DAC non stop and I absolutely love what it can do for my system, it brings my music to life and it does it in way without making any fuss, it is such a simple device to slip into any HiFi system and turn it into a high end DAC system for a mere £1000. It has to be one of the best value DAC's on the market today as it employs such sophisticated technology and for such a reasonable price. Chord Electronics really are storming ahead of the game when it comes to DAC technology and it is clear for everyone to see with all the awards they are winning. What I do know is that the 2Qute is a DAC that is rather understated and people need to understand that you do not need to buy a Hugo or HugoTTto get access to this technology, the 2Qute is cut from the same cloth as both of those DAC's but at lot less cost.

It gets a huge recommendation from The Speaker Shack as the DAC to go to if you want some of the best music from your system.

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