Hello DAVE! More details of Chord’s top DAC / headphone amp

chord dave off standLast month I shared news about Chord Electronics latest, called DAVE. It sounds like a great bit of kit but there’s even more underneath that lovely looking body of DAVE’s.

If you recall, DAVE stands for Digital to Analogue Veritas in Extremis – a moniker that best reflects the product’s capability: a device so advanced and with so few compromises, that it is absolutely truthful in the extreme.

DAVE is a highly advanced reference-grade DAC, digital preamp and headphone amplifier. It enables music lovers to experience digital music collections using technology that is, quite simply, said to be currently “without equal in the marketplace”.

DAVE can deliver “unrivalled” sound quality via headphones, or it can be used as the digital ‘hub’ of a high-quality audio system — it has an on-board preamp, so users can simply add active speakers, or feed DAVE into a power amp with normal (passive) speakers.

dave and headpohnesHand-made in Kent, DAVE is based around a proprietary FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) offering more than ten times the program capacity of its predecessor, Chord’s legendary QBD76 HDSD.

At its heart lies a new LX75 version of the Spartan 6 Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). The FPGA’s extraordinary capability enables a number of exclusive sonic benefits. These include unparalleled timing ability and the best noise-shaper performance of any known DAC. Chord Electronics says that DAVE’s technology delivers music with unmatched musicality and its famous timing ability makes music breathtakingly real.

CHORD_DAVE_REARDAVE connects via USB, digital optical and digital coaxial cable and is capable of playing digital music files beyond the current standard of high-resolution audio (up to 768kHz against ‘standard’ 192kHz high-res files), adding a welcome degree of future-proofing.

A key benefit over its predecessor is a full-sized LCD display, showing input, sample frequency and volume, plus set-up and configuration options. The display, which sits behind the famous Chord porthole, is clearly visible from a variety of angles and retains the signature colour display for volume and sample rate as introduced by the landmark Hugo DAC/headphone amp.

DAVE’s advanced technology is encased in Chord Electronics’ trademark bodywork which has been precision-milled from solid aircraft-grade aluminium to deliver functional strength and rigidity.

On its fascia, DAVE features a rotary encoder with a large stainless steel controller and ball buttons, enabling direct interactivity in addition to the supplied remote control. Personally, I love how the Chord tech looks.

chord dave front on standFor you more gadgety audiophiles, Chord Electronics has implemented a brand new WTA (Watts Transient Aligned) filter with 164,000 taps. WTA filtering is now up to 256 FS (that’s 256-times the sample frequency) — no other DAC has ever FIR filtered at such a high rate! In order to process signals at this unprecedented rate, DAVE has massive parallel-processing capacity with 166 separate DSP cores just for the WTA filtering alone. This enables DAVE to reproduce the original unsampled analogue signal more accurately than any other DAC.

The output stage has been advanced with a new 20-element Pulse Array DAC and a unique second-order analogue noise-shaper, which gives ultra-high-frequency linearity. Its output feeds both balanced XLR and single-ended RCA outputs, as well as an advanced headphone output with more than enough capability for the most impedance-challenging headphones.

DAVE will be available in the autumn priced at £7,995

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