The Qutest uses the same DAC architecture, software coding, frequency-shaping filters and input selection controls as the Award-winning Hugo 2 (£1800), but ditches the headphone amplifier and rechargeable Li-on batteries that make the Hugo 2 portable. Hence the lower price of £1195.
So the Qutest is designed solely as a link between digital source and amplification, rather than as a headphone amp too.
The Qutest implements the bespoke FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) digital-to-analogue conversion technology Chord evolved in the Hugo 2 - which, considering the Hugo's convincing success, can only be a good thing.
As a result, Chord claims performance gains have been made in timing accuracy, noise reduction and dynamic range over the Qute2 it replaces.
Twin coaxial inputs support 24bit/384kHz PCM and DSD128 files, while its single galvanically isolated USB-typeB input takes that to 32bit/768kHz PCM and DSD512.
The optical input can handle PCM files up to 24bit/192kHz, too. Last but not least are a pair of RCA outputs.
The Qutest’s new solid aluminum casework has greater mass than that of its predecessor and, in typical Chord fashion, the DAC’s control spheres for filters and input selection glow different colours depending on the frequency of the playback file and the filter used.
The Qutest is enjoying its international debut at CES and will be unveiled in the UK at The Bristol Show in February.