xxx Brand: CHORD ELECTRONICS
Product Code: 2Qute
The new 2Qute is a compact, affordable standalone DAC which combines two award-winning products in one: the revolutionary Hugo DAC/headphone amp and the class-leading Qute EX standalone DAC.
The new 2Qute takes the technology from What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision's 2014 Best DAC - (Hugo) and adds it to What Hi-Fi? Sound and Vision's 2014 Best DAC £700 - £1,000 (Qute EX). The result is a new super-DAC for 2015 with class-leading specification, outstanding technical measurements and proven sonic performance.
2Qute advances the award-winning Qute EX DAC into 2015 with the latest Hugo specification. Essentially a Hugo in a Chordette chassis, it brings the latest FPGA DAC technology into an affordable home-system-orientated unit. 2Qute contains the same high-performance Spartan 6 FPGA that has enabled Hugo to redefine the DAC genre in 2014. The 2Qute also boasts astonishingly low distortion levels of 0.0003%.
The 2Qute offers support for up to 32-bit/384kHz audio via coax and USB, and 24-bit/192kHz over optical. DSD64 is supported on all inputs and DSD128 is supported via coax or USB (all via DoP). The new DAC also gains a handy switch to easily move between coax, optical and USB digital inputs.
The device features a Class 2 USB input which, because of the 2Qute's home-system orientation compared to Hugo's more mobile aspirations, has been galvanically isolated for greater sonic performance. This has been achieved using a novel technique which allows for very high data rates of up to 384kHz; the input is driverless on Apple and Android devices, with (ASIO included) drivers for Windows devices.
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
Output: 3v RMS 1kHz
Dynamic range: -119dB A Wt
THD: 0.0003% at 3v RMS 1kHz
Crosstalk: 126dB 1kHz
Frequency Response: +/- 0.1dB 20-20kHz
AURALiC - VEGA
xxx Brand: AURALiC
Product Code: AURALiC - VEGA
The Flexible Filter Mode embedded inside VEGA has six modes, each contains several digital filters optimized for corresponding sampling rate. These filters are solely developed by AURALiC to optimize the listening experience for different music and format. VEGA allows its user to customize according to different music formats, tuning sound best to personal preference.
AURALiC Sanctuary Audio Processor
Sanctuary audio processor, the heart of VEGA, is based on multi-core ARM9 architecture with calculating capability at 1000MIPS which is ideal for handling multi-channel high resolution music. AURALiC also introduces the second generation ActiveUSB ™ to VEGA that separates the USB PHY into a discrete chip to future reduce EMI from computer. Resorting to these technologies, VEGA not only support DXD format(352.8KS/s and 384KS/s PCM signal in 32bit) but also able to decode DSD stream at 2.8224MHz and 5.6448MHz in native though 'DoP V1.1' transmission standard.
Flexible Filter Mode
The Flexible Filter Mode technology inside VEGA has six built-in modes each contains several digital filters optimized for corresponding sampling rate. These filters are developed under AURALiC's subjective auditory sense and objective testing data relationship models which is to optimize the listening experience for different music and format. The linear phase filter exhibits perfect in-band ripple and out-band attenuation performance while the minimum phase filter is better for enjoyment as it has no 'pre-ringing' effect. There are also slow roll-off filter and several noise filters for native DSD conversion. To maximum usage of these filters, VEGA allows its user to customize according to different formats, tuning sound best to personal preference. Please download the technical white paper of Flexible Filter Mode for detailed information.
Femto Master Clock
The objective of Femto Master Clock technology is to give DAC and upsampling circuit an ultimate clock with extremely low jitter and low phase noise. It utilizes aerospace grade crystal oscillator, ultra low noise linear power supply and temperature compensation technology to generate master clock with extremely low jitter at 82 femtoseconds. What's more important, the phase noise which affect sound quality a lot has been dramatically reduced to -168dBc/Hz. VEGA has three level of clock precision for customer to choose, with the highest grade 'EXACT' mode, it will give the purest reference clock. Driving by such amazing clock, VEGA can easily reproduce the music details in the 'last bit', represent a rock solid stereo image you may never experience before.
Using latest ground breaking algorithm, Megahertz Upsampling technology process and up-sampling all incoming PCM signal to about 1.5MHz in 32bit depth. These not only improve the precision of DAC, but also create a new Nyquist frequency for all PCM signal which farther away from the top end of audio frequency. As a result, our engineers are able to design a brand new analog circuit structure with more bandwidth and faster slew rate. Comparing to previous design, the new structure is more transparent to audio signal with lower distortion and less noise, it also lets red book CDs sound more rich and smooth.
AURALiC ORFEO Class-A Output Module
In order to drive various loads, matching different power amplifiers, VEGA is powered with AURALiC's patented ORFEO Class-A module which is inspired by Neve 8078 analog console’s circuit design as the output stage. The principle of this module is to use a mass of small signal components with best linear characteristic. By packing them though a thermal balance procedure and bias the transistors into Class-A, ORFEO achieves impressive performance with open loop distortion less than 0.001%. The ORFEO module used in VEGA has been selected and tweaked for lower noise while maintains its driving capability for 600ohm load without any distortion raise.
20 - 20KHz, +/- 0.1dB*
<0.00015%, 20Hz-20KHz at 0dBFS
130dB, 20Hz-20KHz, A-weighted
1*USB 2.0 buffered by ActiveUSB™
1*Balanced XLR(output impedance 4.7ohm)
1*Single-ended RCA(output impedance 50ohm)
Supported Digital Formats
All PCM from 44.1KS/s to 384KS/s in 32Bit**
DSD64, DSD128, DSD256***
4Vrms at Max. with dynamic-loss-free digital volume
AURALiC RC-1 remote control
512*64 pixels OLED Display
Playback: 15W at max.
11''W x 9''D x 2.6''H (33cm x 23cm x 6.5cm)
7.5 pounds (3.4kg)
* Tested under Filter Mode #1 for all sampling rate
** 352.8KS/s and 384KS/s are supported through USB only
** 32bit is supported through USB only
*** By 'DoP V1.1' protocol through USB only
FiiO - D03K Digital Audio Analog Converter
xxx Brand: Fiio
Product Code: FiiO - D03K Digital Audio Analog Converter
Hegel - HD25 DAC
xxx Brand: Hegel
Product Code: Hegel - HD25 DAC
In a relatively short time Hegel gained the status of the audiophile brand. It would seem that designing a big amplifier with shiny tubes and bright power meters is the best way to enter the market in such a spectacular way, but it's not the only one. It is hard to deny that many people still buy audio gear with their eyes, and the thickness of the wallet doesn't always go hand in hand with good taste. Norwegian devices have always been extremely modest. Matt fronts with at most two knobs and display do not promise anything revolutionary. But remember that sometimes the inside of device is the most important part.
Hegel has some interesting technical solutions, highly refined electronics and philosophy which assumes that technological advances should affort for creating better and cheaper products. This was true with the HD11 DAC, which according to many is clearly better than its predecessor, but much cheaper. You can say the same about the H80 amplifier, which costs only a few hundred dollars more than the H70, but it has a built-in DAC with lots of digital inputs and it shares the preamp elements with the top H300 integrated amp. Is HD25 as good investment as these devices?
Design and functionality
I remember when this model appeared on the market. Based on the external appearance some people have stated very fast that the HD25 is exactly the same as the HD11 model only with better parts inside and a small gadget - the front wall, which is also the input selector. Clever and functional solution, but the cost calmed the appetite for this new model - twice the price of the HD11. If the flagship DAC had been packed in the enclosure copied directly from the H80 amplifier, probably no one would have objected. Norwegian engineers knew that there is no need to put circuit boards in the larger housing just to get attention of a few people. So the HD25 got the same modest enclosure and the same set of sockets as its cheaper brother. $2500 is not a small price for a device of this size. Norwegians argue however, that the HD25 can be placed next to the best converters available on the market.
HD25 is one of those devices that you can hardly see on the rack. For me it is a big advantage for purely practical reasons. The relatively small DAC could be placed on the edge of the desk, roughly halfway between the computer and the audio rack. Power came from the conditioner, I also used a normal RCA interconnect and audiophile USB cable, and the front wall of Hegel was still at my fingertips, so I could easily jump between sources. It was useful in the last phase of listening, when I used the CD transport with coaxial output. You should keep in your mind a few things during installation of the HD25 in audio system. The manufacturer gives us a choice of two digital filter modes. This allows for the minor adjustments to the final character of the sound. Secondly, the HD25 accept signals of 24 bit/192 kHz via USB. So we do not need any additional converters to enjoy the hi-res files. However, if you are using Windows you have to install the drivers available on the manufacturer's website. Owners of Apple machines do not need them. Hegel foresaw also facilitation for users who are not interested in the hi-res files. If you belong to this group, you can use a small switch on the rear panel to enable the 96 kHz mode. Then there is no need to install drivers and HD25 works like a typical plug and play device. The DAC is equipped with adjustable analogue outputs, so we get the ability to control the volume. It is a pity that we can not do this by touching the front wall, but probably most people will use a small flat remote anyway. Then the HD25 works as a preamp, and we can think of a good power amplifier instead of an integrated one. The analog signal can be derived from RCA or XLR sockets.
Cons? I did not like that the device is mounted on three small legs. Perhaps it limits the transfer of vibrations to the enclosure, but in such a small device I would prefer four-point support.
I must admit that my expectations for this flagship model were high. I was expecting that membranes in my speakers will explode, and the musicians will materialize in a room during the first listening. However, Hegel began its show with a sense of calmness typical for high-end products, and didn't want to knock the listener on the shoulder within five minutes. My first impressions were confirmed after a week of listening, which is a clear proof that Norwegian source is versatile and predictable, which to me is good. HD25 is not a device that puts some specific aspects of sound superior to others. It's a quintessence of audiophile neutrality and music synthesis. Perhaps for this reason, initially nothing knocked me off my feet. You do not have to get used to sound so natural and balanced. After a few songs we stop thinking about the proportions between the different parts of the band, dynamics, clarity and bass. Recognizing that this sound simply does not have any drawbacks should take no more than ten minutes for people calling themselves audiophiles.
From this moment on you can start discovering music with the HD25. You know that everything will be done with a dose of normality, but Hegel just shows its flair. How? That resolution, dynamics, and the ability to paint music in a very nice, elegant way. For me, the ability to show large number of details, but in such way that we feel relaxed during listening, is one of the biggest advantages of this DAC. HD25 does not change the music and it does not apply any strange tricks. This device only tries to achieve the highest quality of the sound with the high fidelity to the original recording, whatever this recording was.
The reflection of this philosophy can be found in every single element of sound performance. If you start looking at the bass, you will see that in fact it is quite normal, but it can go lower and react a bit faster than you got used to. The same thing happens with the sound stage. It has the correct shape and at first glance looks pretty ordinary, but upon further analysis, we conclude that it is very precise and stable. Midrange is neither warm nor cold. HD25 skillfully combines resolution with natural sound temperature. The list goes on, and on, and on.
Build quality and technical parameters
Hegel HD25 is a digital to analog converter with two coaxial digital inputs, one optical and one USB Type B, and analog outputs in two standards - balanced and unbalanced. We have three-pin power plug with mains switch and fuse. On the front panel there is only a blue display. If you want to change the source, you need to double tap the front panel. The interior was clearly divided into a two sections - power supply located on the front and the main section - two circuit boards at the rear of the housing. USB input is isolated from the rest - ground and power were routed separately to this circuit board. In their flagship DAC Hegel applied many AKM parts - AK4115 is the digital receiver of coaxial sockets, further we see the AK4127 frequency converter, and AK4399EQ is responsible for fundamental C/A conversion. The use of innovative silicon-germanium transistors is quite interesting. In the power supply we see two capacitors 10,000 µF each, and a toroidal transformer bolted to the base of the enclosure through a foam ring. Critical parts of the chassis are lined foam to prevent vibrations. HD25 is quite hot during work, but there is no need to put it in a completely open space. Several notches in the housing and a row of holes in the top section of the rear panel provides propper ventilation. A clever and practical solution.
Audium Comp 5, Sevenrods ROD4, Naim CD5 XS, Naim NAC 152 XS, Naim NAP 155 XS, Albedo Geo, Cyrus CD t, Tellurium Q Graphite Digital RCA, Audioquest Cinnamon, Enerr AC Point One, Enerr Symbol Hybrid, Enerr Holograph, Audioquest NRG-2, Ostoja T1.
Listening to the HD25 reminded me of driving a car, which had just been fixed - a few things in the engine, replaced filters, shock absorbers and brake pads, and finally better tires. We drive off and feel completely comfortable - the seat, steering wheel and mirrors are set just right, and we know how to operate every knob. At first we don't feel anything special, but with each mile we notice that acceleration is much better, nothing knocks on potholes, the steering is perfect, strong brakes and new tires give us the confidence to really enjoy the ride. It is just better. Norwegian DAC showed me the music I know, but made the listening much more pleasant. I did not want to stop, so the review lasted a little longer than usual.
DAC type: 32-bit
Output voltage: 2,5 V
Digital inputs: 2 x coaxial, optical, USB
Analog outputs: RCA, XLR
Frequency response: 0 Hz - 50 kHz
S/N ratio: 145 dB
Dimensions (H/W/D): 6/21/26 cm
Weight: 3,5 kg
JDS Labs - EL DAC
xxx Brand: JDS LABS
Product Code: JDS Labs - EL DAC
We designed the Element Line for precision fit and function. EL DAC delivers performance far beyond Objective criteria, with full USB Audio Class 2 support, transformer isolated coaxial input, and optical input. Stack with EL Amp for single button switching between headphones and speakers.
"So, I'm enjoying the hell out of the DAC. The thing rocks my home stereo. I really love the AK4490 chip."
EL DAC REVIEW | BETA MEMBER, HISOUNDFI
"When it comes to sound, absolutely no complaints from me. It has clear, flat, un-distorted sound with excellent performance for hi-res audio."
EL DAC REVIEW | BETA MEMBER, ACHELGESON
TRANSFORMER ISOLATED S/PDIF
Coaxial S/PDIF input is fully isolated using a Pulse transformer, to minimize the possibility of ground loop noise.
All JDS Labs DACs are built on 4-layer printed circuit boards to achieve proper USB characteristic impedance of 90 ohms.
USB AUDIO CLASS 2
EL DAC supports up to 32/384kHz audio using a dedicated 45/49MHz clock pair. While we claim no measurable superiority of high sampling rates, UAC2 and ASIO support satisfy your pursuit of bitperfect listening.
100% SELF-POWERED USB
EL DAC is powered by a perfected supply network, with 12 linear regulators that ensure consistent rail voltage and super low ripple. Never be bothered by USB hubs or OS power difficulties again!
Enjoy the presence of your EL DAC with front and center mode selection via touch-sensitive light ring.
DIFFERENTIAL SUMMING OUTPUT
Differential output of the AK4490EQ DAC is summed by an OPA2227, with DC coupling throughout. Drive any load you wish, satisfactorily.
- Frequency Response 20Hz-20kHz+/- 0.15dB
- THD+N 20Hz-20kHz< 0.0011%
- IMD CCIF 19/20 kHz -6.03 dBFS0.00017%
- IMD SMPTE -6.03 dBFS0.00061%
- Noise (A-Weighted)-109 dBu
- Dynamic Range (A-Weighted)117 dB
- Linearity Error -90 dBFS-0.01 dB
- Crosstalk -10 dBFS 100K RCA-108 dB
- USB Jitter Components 11025Hz-116 dB
- PCB Stackup4 Layers
- Maximum DAC Line-Output, 100K2.00 VRMS
- Audio Formats (S/PDIF)16/44.1kHz thru 24/192kHz*
- Audio Formats (USB)16/44.1kHz thru 32/384kHz**
- USB InterfaceUSB Audio Class 2
- USB Driver OS SupportWindows XP/7/8/10, OS X, Linux, Android
- Digital InputsUSB, TOSLINK, and Coaxial S/PDIF
- DAC Line-OutputRCA
- *Many sources are unable to reliably transmit at 192kHz.
**Windows 7 supports 24/192kHz maximum.
- Case Dimensions5.8 x 5.8 x 0.9 in
- Weight18 oz
- EL DAC
- 16VAC Power Adapter
- 3ft USB Type-A Cable
- 6ft TOSLINK Cable