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Thread: Qutest and my Digital Weekend.

  1. #1
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 3,695
    I'm James.

    Default Qutest and my Digital Weekend.

    I have not had any digital equipment in my house for the past four years as I made a decision to listen only to vinyl and analogue after rediscovering how good vinyl sounded in contrast to digital (CD). At the time I bought my turntable I was actually thinking of using a digital front end but this was halted in its tracks after an enlightening experience at a friends house. I bought a VPI turntable and for the past 3 years this has been my only source for music in the home.

    I have however kept a close eye and ear on where digital has got too with an explosion in streaming and a move to file based audio. I always though the DAC was the key part of the digital chain and everything else was secondary but I have since learnt that in digital audio every part and technical aspect of the system can make dramatic differences to the end result.

    I have long argued that analogue sounds better than digital and I still hold this view but this weekend I concluded a long journey to final arrive at a possible digital based system to be used in my hifi set up. I knew it would not be simple, just look at all the stuff written just on this forum about DACs, USB cables, FBA, Servers, streamers, CDP, Pi, ripping, bit rates etc etc. There seems to be even more technical aspects to digital audio and a good outcome than vinyl!

    So after a much research and questioning all over the net and on various forums I have come to my own conclusion as to what matters and more importantly what works well. Everyone has an opinion but some arguments don't hold up when scrutinised and when theory is replaced with actual listening experience the truth comes out.

    So I put together two systems based around the latest DAC from Chord called the Qutest.

    [IMG]IMG_0007 by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/162281319@N03/][/IMG]

    The Qutest was also very easy to set up and control. It is extremely well made and very small but solid. I tried all the filters with my Macbook but nothing improved on the neutral setting

    First system was using my Macbook Pro and probably the best software out there for FBA which is Audirvana. The whole experience with Audirvana was excellent. It worked perfectly and sounded excellent. I used Audirvana Plus on the iPad to control it. I hooked up my Macbook to the Qutest via USB and spent a day listening to a wide range of material. Again Audirvana worked perfectly and sounded really good through the Qutest. However everything I played back had a certain sound which although not bad, robbed the music of some of its vitality and dynamics. The music sounded very smooth but I always felt a distance from the performance like everything was veiled. I tried optical output but this was worse. This system although good left me unconvinced and I questioned how good the Qutest DAC actually was. I was a little disappointed but it was a learning curve. Ripped files to a Laptop even using proprietary software was only going to get you so far.

    So next system I tried again using FBA was build around the InnuOS Zen mini Mk2.

    [IMG]IMG_0006 by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/162281319@N03/][/IMG]

    This is also a small unit but very well made. It is a CD ripper/ NAS/streamer and again was amazingly easy to set up and integrate in my system. I used Ipeng on the iPad to control it and I must say it worked flawlessly. All music on this device was bit perfect rips of CDs mostly 16bit with a few 24bit downloads. I connected this using USB 2 interface.

    As soon as I played the first track through my Croft amp into my Spender SP2s I knew something dramatically had improved! Wow what a difference, literally night and day! Dynamics increased massively as did the bass, detail and realism. The Qutest was now showing its pedigree. It is an unbelievable great DAC, simply superb. This set up showed how utterly important your digital front end needs to be.
    The sound stunned me and I spent a very long day and night listening to a huge amount of material. I had found a digital system that could compete with my vinyl system at last.

    The Chord Qutest / InnuOS server sounded wonderful and delivered a compelling performance. The veils were lifted totally and I heard detail and superb tonal quality. Vocals sounded real and in the room and on well mastered material it was fabulous. I could go on all day but to conclude.

    I now know what it takes to get a great digital sound in my system. I now know which bits are important to get right .Although it sounded smooth and much more like analogue than digital it was still not as good as the best analogue, however it was good enough in its own right to earn a place in my system. I loved it and it showed a well thought out digital set up can sound excellent even to an old digital cynic like me!

    [IMG]IMG_0007 by [url=https://www.flickr.com/photos/162281319@N03/][/IMG]
    .

  2. #2
    Join Date: Nov 2015

    Location: Wolverhampton

    Posts: 5,226
    I'm Oliver.

    Default

    Looks like you have been having fun mate. Is that about 2k of toys?

    Winding what that innuos might do for the M2TECH?
    Analogue: Technics SP10 MK2 > Phonomac AT-1010 tonearm > Ortofon Kontrapunkt b > Wizard Jfet MC Valve Phonostage (Telefunken Valves)
    Digital: Firebottle modded Xiang Sheng DAC (Telefunken Valve)
    Amplification: Slagle AVC Passive Preamp & Firebottle Monoblocks (Telefunken Valves)
    Cables: Fisual S-Flex Speaker Cable & SPOTFIRE IC Cables Throughout
    Speakers: Pioneer CS-77A

  3. #3
    Join Date: Oct 2008

    Location: Glasgowshire

    Posts: 6,650
    I'm availableforweddingsAndBarmitzvas.

    Default

    Great stuff James, glad it all worked out.

    Run pretty decent setups of both types here at Gaz towers, both different experiences but both enjoyable.
    Keep enjoying the vinyl!
    I have hifi n stuff.


  4. #4
    Join Date: Oct 2012

    Location: The Black Country

    Posts: 4,123
    I'm Alan.

    Default

    Excellent James, looking forward to getting a listen sometime.

    I know you have been on a very long journey of experience to get to a digital system you can live with. Well done mate and enjoy it

  5. #5
    Join Date: Aug 2008

    Location: Suffolk, UK

    Posts: 1,150
    I'm Paul.

    Default

    I don’t have any experience of the Hugo, but I did have the Dac 64 and expect there would be some similarities. I don’t think the Hugo has a FIFO buffer and imagine that the source would have an effect on the final sound. Mac Books are good but they are not optimised for low noise connections for audio.

    Its a shame that the dual BNC cannot be used with non Chord equipment. It would be wonderful I imagine.
    ~Paul~

  6. #6
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 3,695
    I'm James.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Bigman80 View Post
    Looks like you have been having fun mate. Is that about 2k of toys?

    Winding what that innuos might do for the M2TECH?
    Unfortunately it is 2K of toys.

    The InnuOS server was as important as the DAC in delivering a stellar performance. I was shocked when I tried it in my system compared to the Macbook Pro. I underestimated this key area in digital playback but not only was it very simple to use, the software was very good indeed.

    I see the Server as the cartridge and the DAC as the phono stage in a digital system. Get them both right and it all comes together.

  7. #7
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 3,695
    I'm James.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Gazjam View Post
    Great stuff James, glad it all worked out.

    Run pretty decent setups of both types here at Gaz towers, both different experiences but both enjoyable.
    Keep enjoying the vinyl!

    Hi Gary, sorry missed your call! Yes it has worked out very well indeed. The Qutest is a very revealing and analogue sounding DAC and combined with the Innuos server it puts in a fantastic performance.

  8. #8
    Join Date: Mar 2017

    Location: Norfolk

    Posts: 40
    I'm David.

    Default

    Congrats on your purchases and findings Jimbo, I had very similar experiences. Have you played around with the filters and voltage settings?
    Melco N1A, Chord 2qute, Naim SuperNait2, B&W 804S.

  9. #9
    Join Date: Jan 2013

    Location: Birmingham

    Posts: 3,695
    I'm James.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Vanzapp View Post
    Congrats on your purchases and findings Jimbo, I had very similar experiences. Have you played around with the filters and voltage settings?
    I did try the filters but have found the neutral filter best suited, this is the unadulterated filter. My amps input sensitivity is 125mV on line input so the 2V setting on the Qutest is probably best match although I did like the extra whack of the 3V
    Last edited by Jimbo; 09-05-2018 at 18:34.

  10. #10
    Join Date: Mar 2017

    Location: Norfolk

    Posts: 40
    I'm David.

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Jimbo View Post
    I did try the filters but have found the neutral filter best suited, this is the unadulterated filter. My amps input sensitivity is 125mV on line input so the 2V setting on the Qutest is probably best match although I did like the extra whack of the 3V
    You could hear a difference? (Non-sarcasm mode engaged )
    Melco N1A, Chord 2qute, Naim SuperNait2, B&W 804S.

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