Chord launches Qutest compact DAC – CES 2018

Chord QutestChord Electronics has launched the most advanced compact DAC on the planet at CES 2018, Las Vegas. Please welcome the aptly named, Qutest.

Don’t let the charming name fool you. The new Qutest DAC from Chord Electronics is a highly accomplished standalone device.

Qutest is based on the latest proprietary Rob Watts’ FPGA technology developed for the class-leading Hugo 2 DAC/headphone amp.

This DAC has been designed to takeover from where the 2Qute left off.

As expected, Qutest is wrapped in an all-new precision-machined aluminium chassis.

Qutest DAC

Qutest DACFirstly, Qutest uses the same award-winning internal DAC architecture and proprietary software coding as the Hugo 2. This already hands the newcomer proven class-leading technical and sonic performance.

Secondly, Qutest also offers Hugo 2’s unique user-selectable frequency-shaping filters and input selection controls. These options are available via two fascia-mounted spheres.

Chord Qutest DACSo, in essence, you are getting much of what the Hugo 2 offers, for much less than that unit’s asking price of £1,800.

Naturally, there are cuts. The Qutest drops the headphone amplifier, rechargeable Li-ion batteries and crossfeed functionality integral to the Hugo 2 transportable device.


Qutest is the latest evolution of Chord Electronics’ most affordable standalone DAC, the multi-award-winning 2Qute.

The all-new digital analogue convertor features a galvanically isolated USB-B, optical and dual coaxial digital inputs. This hands you an instant upgrade to everyday audio devices plus the ability to modernise ageing digital source components.

Chord Qutest ConnectivityAlso, it features RCA analogue outputs for connection to integrated amplifiers, preamps and headphone amps.

Additionally, there is high-resolution 768kHz-capable dual-data digital inputs for connection to Chord Electronics’ devices including the 705/768kHz-ready M-Scaler-technology BLU MKII digital/CD transport.


Qutest has been designed for static use within home audio and desktop hi-fi systems. The new design benefits from 5V Micro USB powering which offers improved flexibility over its predecessor.

Chord QutestQutest offers support for up to 32-bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512 via its galvanically isolated USB-B input. The coxial (BNC) handles 24-bit/384kHz PCM and DSD128 via coaxial (BNC). Finally, the Optical TOSLink plays nice with 24-bit/192kHz data.

Additionally, DSD 64 to DSD 256 is supported via DoP and ASIO native DSD format is also supported up to 512.

The device features a Class 2 USB input which has been galvanically isolated. This has been achieved using a novel technique which allows for very high data rates of up to 768kHz.

Also, the input is driverless on Apple and Android devices, with (ASIO included) drivers for Windows devices.

New look

The Qutest chassis is all-new. It has significantly greater mass than its predecessor and has been precision-machined from solid aircraft-grade aluminium billet.

The Qutest PCB nestles within a shallow cavity in the solid aluminium chassis. This give the circuit board greater protection within the casework. Furthermore, it also provides additional isolation from external vibration compared to previous designs.

QutestQutest’s new square-edge chassis design created by owner and Chief Designer John Franks retains the popular circular magnifying porthole window. This nifty portal reveals the custom Chord Electronics’ circuit board within.

Qutest’s control spheres (for user-selectable frequency-shaping and input selection) illuminate with useful colour-coding information denoting sample frequency and filter used. Of course, brightness settings are user-adjustable.

Lastly, a further new feature is a user-selectable output voltage available in 1, 2 and 3V RMS outputs for flexible connectivity with partnering devices.


The latest FPGA and advanced WTA (Watts Transient Aligned) filters have been implemented in the Qutest. This brings a wide variety of performance improvements over the 2Qute in a number of areas.

Furthermore, performance gains have been made in timing accuracy, noise reduction and dynamic range and tap length. The technical indicator of how complex the interpolation filter is has more than doubled compared to its predecessor, to 49,152.

User-selectable filtering options

A four-function switch filter, operated by its own control sphere, offers a useful degree of user-selectable frequency-shaping.

This means that you are able to dial in warm and soft, or transparent and incisive presentations. Moreover, this hands you additional flexibility and control.

Price and availability

Qutest is available to order now (black only) from Chord Electronics dealers priced at £1,195

Technical specifications

Frequency response: 20-20 kHz +/- 0.2dB
 Tap-length: 49,152
 Dynamic range 124 dB AWt
 THD: 0.0001% 1 kHz 2.5V RMS 300 ohms
 THD and noise at 2.5v RMS ref 3V: -117dB 300 ohms AWt
 Channel sep 138 dB at 1kHz 300 ohms
 Galvanically isolated USB
 No measurable noise floor modulation
 1x Optical TOSLink 24-bit/192kHz-capable
 2x BNC coaxial input 24-bit/384kHz-capable (dual data mode up to 768kHz for M-Scaler operation)
 1x HD galvanically isolated USB-B input 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512-capable
 1x (pair) stereo RCA phono outputs: 1, 2 and 3V RMS