Believe The Hype! Audio T Swansea Review The Chord Electronics Blu MKII CD Transport

We've waxed lyrical about Chord's DAVE DAC in the past, probably boring the pants off you with the inevitability of it all; talk of digital sound with us, DAVE enters the conversation and promptly ends it. Here we go again then...

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Launching the Blu MK II transport, Chord have not done anything as predictable as move the goalposts; they've picked up the ball and run, inventing a new game to play. This progenitor, this alpha, this improvement over the original Blu (no slouch by any means), is the addition of something called an M Scaler.

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The output from this transport to a DAC, (ideally a Chord Electronics DAVE) is via single or twin AES sockets and single or twin BNCs. Twin BNC is the only way to get the full-fat (or is that phat?) 705.6kHz up-sampled data stream into your DAVE.

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Despite being billed as a CD transport, the Blu MKII has digital inputs (x1 USB B and x1 BNC S/PDIF) enabling the user to access the M Scaler technology from a variety of digital sources. This makes us very happy indeed.

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This is the best we've ever heard from CD by a country mile and its treatment of external sources is sublime.

So what does this partnership do? Everything you'd want. Deep insight, accuracy, speed, remarkable timing and a sense of solid, unflappable control; that calmness you experience with an exceptional vinyl replay system.

But what does it actually do though?

Music.

Come and have a listened and we know you'll be hooked. Thanks for reading. Nic, Adrian, and Chris at Audio T Swansea

Chord Electronics Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodBrightonBristolCardiffEnfieldManchesterOnlineOxfordPortsmouthPrestonReadingSouthamptonSwanseaSwindon - check with stores for availability as not all products are available from every store.

Chromey Visits The Darkside With Chord Electronics New DAC. Says, "I'm no longer the Qutest anymore".

Chord Electronics have done it again, developing and extracting atomically accurate detail from a respectably priced digital to analogue converter (DAC).

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Utilising the brand new Hugo 2 chip, stripping out the headphone amplifier and battery but leaving the lush sweet sounds we expect from Chord Electronics that will challenge any DAC north of £1000. (But not you Chromey, the Qutest is your friend, read on little guy and we'll explain why).

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Chord Electronics have also added a dedicated audio filter and input switch on the front, more akin to the Mojo and Hugo 2, the previous 2Qute had a switch on the rear panel to change your inputs. The dedicated audio filter is for those who like to tweak the audio a little bit. 

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Ahhh, you see Chromey, we new you would "opt in" in the end. 

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New look, new you! Chord have changed their styling, opting for their signature 'coloured marbles' for the controls, much akin to the Hugo 2 and Mojo, and a much more angular, muscular look. (Yes Chromey, a bit like you).

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For our listening test, we took a modest system similarly priced to the Qutest just to see if we could add a little Chord magic dust to it. We implemented a Qutest into a Rega Brio, Dynaudio Emit 10 and a Bluesound NODE 2

Connecting the Node 2 via Coaxial out into the Qutest and then RCA analogue into our Rega Brio. Playing a mixture of Hi-Res, MQA and 16bit CD with completely mesmerising results.

Dropping the Qutest into our system immediately opened up the soundstage, detail, bass and just made the music "life like" in comparison to hearing it before the Qutest was introduced, we simply couldn't go back to the Brio and Bluesound without the Qutest

You can hook it up to such an array of systems. It sounds amazing with a Rega Brio amp with a pair of Dynaudio Emit's and even better with a Naim Nait XS2 or Rega Elicit-R amplifier paired with Neat Motive SX1's, basically the Qutest is never lost in a system. Moreover, it stands there with it's chest out demanding your attention. 

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Come in and have a listen at Audio T Manchester. Chromey has seen the light...will you?

Chord Electronics Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodBrightonBristolCardiffEnfieldManchesterOnlineOxfordPrestonReading
SouthamptonSwanseaSwindon

Even in The Qutest Moment - Chord Electronics Qutest DAC

The Chord Electronics Qutest is the latest in an exceptional run of class leading DAC’s that are fast becoming the industry standard that all other DACs are measured against.

 This is where it starts.

This is where it starts.

The Chord Electronics Qutest, having evolved from its predecessor the 2Qute itself having not long won the 2017 What Hi-Fi? best DAC £500 - £1000, is already turning heads having being a star of  The Big US Technology Consumer Show CES 2018.

The Qutest is designed as a stand alone DAC to be used in home audio and desktop hi-fi systems and once again has that unmistakable John Franks design about it.

 Stunning finish and build quality as ever from  Chord Electronics

Stunning finish and build quality as ever from Chord Electronics

It’s fair to say Chord Electronics stand out from the competition in looks alone. Precision milled from a solid aluminium billet the Qutest is no different, whilst it retains the circular porthole where you can peep into the workings of the circuit board and confirm through a range of colours the sample rate you are using, the actual functionality of the DAC has been improved enormously by the addition of colour changing fascia control spheres as used in the latest award winning incarnation of the Hugo 2 . These allow input and filter changing at the push of a button. No more tiny pin head buttons that my fingers always seemed to struggle with.

 Lights showing filter, input and sample rate at a glance.

Lights showing filter, input and sample rate at a glance.

On the rear inputs include:

1 X Galvinically isolated USB-B input 32-bit/768kHz and DSD512 capable.

1 X Optical TOSlink 24-bit/192kHz capable

2 X BNC coaxial input 24-bit/348kHz capable

Outputs are:
1 X Pair of stereo RCA sockets that can be set to output at switchable voltages of  1,2 and 3V RMS to match other sources plugged into your system.

Power is via a Micro USB power supply that is permanently plugged in as unlike the Hugo 2 and Mojo portables has no battery on board. 

Whereas the other mains powered Hugo TT and Dave double up as digital pre and headphone amplifiers the Qutest has concentrated on the one job of decoding your digital sources be they from a streamer, CD transport or indeed being used to improve your television’s audio performance. 

Using technology from the latest Award winning Hugo 2 DAC and losing the headphone output and recharging capability has allowed substantial cost saving giving a performance and build quality unmatched in this price area,  indeed if this is a permanently placed DAC in your system why pay for extras that are not required.  

 The Ins And Outs of a Qutest.

The Ins And Outs of a Qutest.

So what are they putting in the water in Kent that makes Chord Electronics DACs continually win award after award? Well, it has to be something to do with the Rob Watts FPGA (field programmable gate array) custom chip set.

Unlike almost all the competition who buy off the shelf OEM Chips then apply in house technology to make them work in their DACs Chord use their own custom coded chips that somehow sound different to any other in the market place.

Whether you think Chord DACs are better than the competition is probably personal taste but they do sound different. The best way I think I can describe them is to me they don’t sound digital, forget how much treble or how much bass they may or may not have or whether they are forward or analytical all words when describing other DACs.

This DAC gives the impression of having an insight into the music without the digital hash that is often present with other DACs. We can use words like detail, clarity, coherence, dynamic range, timing as many customers and reviewers alike have when eulogising about Chord DACs but there is more to it than that.

We used our tried and tested dem track Duke’s Place from the Louis Armstrong & Duke Ellington album The Great Summit a recommendation incidentally.

This track is testing in that Louis sings close to the mic and can exaggerate sibilance in a forward sounding system and the Double bass can appear overblown in an over exuberant bass heavy system, not with the Qutest though, even when playing with the filters which whilst can subtly change the tonal balance was never caught out.

I also tried it connected directly to the digital output of a Naim Uniti Core over many hours and no matter the type of music from the Latin Rock rhythm of Los Lobos, Colossal Head to the Chilled Out beats of Bent The Everstanding Blink and through Tori Amos Night Of the Hunters showing all the subtleties her vast vocal range, it just sounded right and not once drew attention to itself.

 Packed in the Qutest of boxes 

Packed in the Qutest of boxes 

Chord Electronics products are available from the following stores

BrentwoodBrightonBristolCardiffEnfieldManchesterOnlineOxfordPrestonReadingSouthamptonSwanseaSwindon

Visit Julian, Paul and John at Audio T Brighton store and hear it for yourself. 

Ahhhh....Oh...Woah! The Qutest Thing.

The new Chord Electronics Qutest DAC, marketed by Chord Electronics as a HUGO2 minus the headphone amp and battery, the dinky Qutest also manages to shed £600 from it's price tag. This has proven very popular indeed with us Audio T staffers.

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Such an animal was suggested when the original HUGO was released, so I'm claiming full credit here! This means we can now enthuse about the Chord Electronics HUGO2 headphone amplifier and DAC performance to those customers who think that £1800 is too hefty a price tag and had no intention to take a DAC out into the wild - so why should they pay for stuff they'll never use anyway?

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I'm happy to report that you don't have to. The Chord Electronics Qutest DAC is terrific.

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Used in between an Arcam rPlay streamer and an Arcam A39 integrated amplifier, with Dynaudio Special 40 speakers, the presentation is wildly improved. AC/DC's Malcolm Young's repetitive rhythm guitar riff on "Thunderstruck" is way more thrilling (I want to turn it up!), deadmau5's synth bass on the track "SeeYah" is faster, tighter and forms a 3D solid roller of sound across the stage. Any digital hardness entirely gone. Initially the presentation appears quieter, then one realises that it's the absence of amplified noise. Norah Jones' voice on "Cold, Cold, Heart" is soft, dusky and alluring. It's no longer a voice in space, it's etched in place and sounds as if it's issuing from a human face (if that isn't too weird). Jones' piano playing is shown to be remarkably gentle; you can feel her just touching the keys rather than striking them. Glorious.  The spacial information in the Scream Team Remix of Massive Attack's "Teardrop", rather than being out to the sides and above the speakers a bit, now envelopes you in sound. Music behind you from just the two speakers? Oh yes. I've only encountered that before in some very serious kit indeed.

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On demonstration right now at Audio T Swansea.

Chord Electronics Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodBrightonBristolCardiffEnfieldManchesterOnlineOxfordPrestonReadingSouthamptonSwanseaSwindon

Return Of The Black! We Take A Closer Look At The New Arcam irDAC II DAC And Headphone Amplifier

We take a closer look at the Arcam irDAC II digital to analogue converter and headphone amplifier. With the current revival of high quality headphone listening, it was with interest we learned that Arcam's replacement for their much admired irDAC would sport the headphone output stage from their £4000 FMJ A49 stereo amplifier.

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Handily, the digital out socket has been replaced with variable output analogue RCA phonos. This enables the unit to be used with a power amp or a pair of active loudspeakers which are often the choice of the desk bound audiophile. We also lose the USB-a port but keep the asynchronous USB-b port and Bluetooth functionality. It's also worth noting that the Arcam irDAC-II is capable of DSD128 replay.

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Arcam were the first company to launch an outboard DAC way back in 1987 (with the revolutionary Black Box) and they re-entered the DAC market with the rDAC a few years ago. The brief for this unit was to produce an enhanced design that would raise performance and improve ease of use by a significant margin over the existing rDAC. Arcam tell me that their engineers have worked hard to isolate the digital and analogue stages and develop ultra low noise power supplies to reduce digital jitter to vanishingly low levels.

All of the inputs can be controlled through an IR remote control that will also give you transport control of a PC or Mac USB source.

So how does it sound?
Well, very good indeed. We partnered it with KEF's revered LS50 stand mount speakers, Arcam's own very capable A39 integrated amplifier and rPlay music source. It was an immediate improvement over the DAC in the rPlay – itself no slouch. Spacial information was much more apparent, instruments were solid and punchy with a much fuller, fruitier soundstage. It didn't seem to favour any particular musical style, be it the finely etched Laura Marling “Soothing”, Fink's intimate live recording of “Trouble's What You're In” or the pounding beats of Gentleman's Dub Club.

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It's on demonstration in our music salon as we speak. Why not pop over and give it a try? We'll make you a brew while you settle in and immerse yourself in the music.

Arcam Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodCardiffCheltenhamEnfieldOxfordPortsmouthPrestonReadingSouthamptonSwanseaSwindon

Cyrus Audio British Hi-Fi Products From Vinyl Replay To Digital Streaming

I recently visited Cyrus Audio's headquarters in Huntingdon near Cambridge and it was quite an experience. The company is run by a very dedicated team and have been producing high quality Hi-Fi components for over 30 years.

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Their range now emcompasses everything from integrated amplifiers like the One pictured above, through pre-power combinations, DAC's, CD players and transports, and streaming solutions, plus the fantastic PSX-R2 power supply, which can be added to many of the units to further improve sound quality.

During the visit I watched the technicians build a Cyrus One and a Cyrus Signature Phono Stage (below) with meticulous care. This was followed by extensive quality control testing with a dedicated suite of computer programs.

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Everything about their operation showed the great amount of care taken by the people there and the pride they have in the Hi-Fi products they produce. Cyrus also offer extensive upgrade paths for existing owners, always offering attractive pricing to help you get to the latest level of equipment.

Having recently bought a Cyrus Phono Signature for myself I have to admit to being a fan!

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So all in all a Cyrus is a great British brand with a lot of solutions for the music lover. Their Signature (sic) half width casework makes them easy to accommodate and they make some very very beguiling music.

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Whether you are an existing owner looking to upgrade, or are completely new to Cyrus Audio brand, why not pop in and have a look, chat and a listen?

Musical Fidelity Encore 225 Music Streamer Offers Stunning One-Box Simplicity

After last month's introduction to Musical Fidelity at Brentwood, here is a more in depth look at one of the stars of their range the Encore 225 Music Streaming System

This beautifully built machine is a complete system in one box. The Encore 225 comprises an amplifier with the same power amplifiers as the Musical Fidelity M6si integrated, and CD drive which can rip your discs to internal storage (1TB and 2TB versions are available). It can also play CDs, has a host of inputs for external devices, can access Internet radio and Tidal and can even be seen as a network storage device by other products such as Sonos!

The build quality is exceptional with  very solid casework edged with heatsinks which are necessary as this baby runs weighted very much into class A.

The Encore 225 has a beautiful high resolution display which will show your album artwork as it plays.

In its simplest form just pop in a CD which it will rip automatically to internal storage in a high quality file, go to "my music" and playback from the usual sorted list, but it can do so much more, acting as a digital and analogue hub with enough inputs to satisfy most people.

So what does the Encore 225 sound like? Put simply it is just superb!

Seen here with the Dali Opticon 5 floorstanders it is currently filling our dem room with a big, warm, detailed and expansive sound, full of rhythm and music whether you're listening to the Bruckner Motets or the latest album from Deadmau5. We've been loading ours up with music and playing with the control features, both from the front buttons and the dedicated app and it has been a delight to use.

This one definitely has the Boswell seal of approval!

So in conclusion the Musical Fidelity Encore 225 is a gem of a system, all in one box and a breeze to use!

And there's more......

At the moment Musical Fidelity are offering a trade in for a limited time, where you will get the cost of your old Musical Fidelity amplifier (up to £1550) off the Encore 225 which is a great deal!

Come and have a listen!

Paul Francis Jason and Boswell

Musical Fidelity Hi-Fi products are also available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodBristolCardiffCheltenhamEnfieldManchesterOnlineSouthamptonSwansea
Swindon

Chord Electronics Hugo 2 DAC Headphone Amplifier 'Knocks It Out Of The Park' Again!

It has been a long wait, but oh boy was it worth it. We now have the all new Chord Electronics Hugo 2 portable DAC and headphone amplifier available for demonstration.

 Chord Electronics Hugo2

Chord Electronics Hugo2

A complete re-design of the multi-award winning benchmark DAC, the MK2 Hugo raises the bar once again. In truth, they hardly needed to, as the old one still has the gong but that isn't Chord's way; if it can be bettered then they're 'gonna' do it!

 Hugo 2 inputs

Hugo 2 inputs

We are hearing significant improvements in detail, dynamics and timing over the old model thanks in part to the dramatic increase in the number of taps within the Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA) silicon.

All inputs and filter options are displayed via coloured LEDs much like that of the Chord Electronics Mojo for ease of use. Although initially designed to be the world's best portable DAC and headphone amp in reality the original mostly found it living amongst the best home Hi-Fi systems as the primary DAC, such was its giant killing credentials. This fact was not lost on Chord, so one of its new features is that it automatically stops charging the internal battery when it's plugged into the charger for 24hrs which extends battery life. 

Additionally Hugo 2 is now fully remote controlled, another nod to non-portable application.

Full feature list and technical specification can be found here.

You can read the latest What Hi-Fi? review of the Hugo 2 here.

Hugo 2 is available in black or silver.

 Now with remote control

Now with remote control

Come in and have a listen at Audio T Reading.

Chord Electronics Hi-Fi products are also available at the following branches of Audio T: 
BrentwoodBrightonBristolCardiffEnfieldManchesterOnlineOxfordPortsmouthPreston
ReadingSouthamptonSwanseaSwindon

Musical Fidelity And Dali Making Beautiful Music Together

We have two Hi-Fi brands which are new to the shop this month Musical Fidelity electronics and Dali loudspeakers. As we have found, they are capable of making beautiful music together.

 An array of Dali speakers and Musical Fidelity electronics.

An array of Dali speakers and Musical Fidelity electronics.

Musical Fidelity is a well established British Hi-Fi company who have been exciting and innovating for many years.

Shown here are the M3si integrated amp, the M3s CD player and the M6si integrated. The M6s CD player will follow soon. All of these components follow the Musical Fidelity ethos of making accurate, but exciting music.

We're also having a lot of fun exploring the M6 Encore 225

 Encore 225

Encore 225

This amazing one box system is a music store, CD player, streamer, and amplifier all in one incredibly intuitive and easy to use package. It sounds wonderful too!

Dali are a Danish loudspeaker manufacturer who have been going for over 30 years producing everything from budget to high end speakers. We're still discovering what these can do but we have representatives from the Spektor, Zensor and Opticon ranges plus the beautiful little Menuets and the rather stylish Katch portable bluetooth speaker.

So far we've been throwing all sorts of music at the various pairings, the M3 components with the Opticons loved the new Anathema album "The Optimist" (check it out if you like intelligent melodic rock) 

Both brands seem to major on creating large believable soundstages; a recording of the Tallis Scholars singing Tallis anthems filled the room with the sense of a cathedral, while the perennial "Wish You Were Here" by Pink Floyd was huge!

We'll report more as we get to know these components, but suffice to say we're excited and looking forward to the discovery. Why not come and have a listen yourself?

And finally all components in this blog have the Boswell seal of approval!

Musical Fidelity Hi-Fi products are also available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrentwoodBristolCardiffCheltenhamEnfieldManchesterOnlineSouthamptonSwansea
Swindon

AURALiC Aries, Aries Mini, Polaris And Altair Streaming Products Have Arrived!

The AURALiC range are highly specified streaming products supported by an outstanding control app. The sound quality that is possible and the convenience of accessing your music collection by streaming is a joy to behold. 

We are expecting our first delivery from AURALiC this week, and arriving very soon will be the Aries Mini Network Music Player. Aries Mini can stream high-resolution music extremely fast over WiFi signal at virtually any sampling rate, even for the latest Quad-Rate DSD and DXD. 

AURALiC Mini Linear Power Supply

This PSU is based on AURALiC Purer‐Power™ technology with an advanced AC filter and very low noise circuit design. It is identical to the external power supply that comes with the AURALiC Aries High End Streaming Bridge.

 Auralic Mini Linear Power Supply

Auralic Mini Linear Power Supply

Aries Network Music Player

The AURALiC Aries serves as a “bridge” between music files on network storage or high quality online streaming services and your DAC. The Aries is essentially a Digital transport that enables your DAC via the various digital outputs included to stream high-resolution music quickly and wirelessly in virtually any sampling rate

Altair Wireless Streaming DAC Preamp 

The AURALiC Altair is a perfect single-box music source. It combines a High-End DAC with world class wireless streaming solution.

Polaris Streaming Amplifier

AURALiC Polaris is a wireless streamer, a music server, a DAC, a pre-amplifier and a stereo power amplifier – the ultimate solution for music lovers seeking high quality streaming from a single, compact audio component.

AURALiC Hi-Fi products are available from the following branches of Audio T:
BrightonBristolCheltenhamReadingSouthampton