Digital audio converter blew my thoughts, will blow your finances

Chord Electronics Dave Final Reference DAC, with the Ensemble Stand


I like high-end audio gear, however I’ve to confess it does not at all times look pretty much as good because it sounds. An excessive amount of of high-end design is drained and bland, however no audiophile would say that about Chord Electronics, witness its Dave Final Reference DAC! This made-in-the-UK digital converter boasts proprietary digital processing that makes use of Spartan 6 Subject Programmable Gate Arrays that Chord claims have one thousand instances the processing energy of mass-produced chip DACs. The technique appears to be working, Dave produces gorgeous readability with the whole lot from plain vanilla CDs to high-res information.

Dave’s large and colourful show and cursor management buttons dominate the highest panel, and there is a 6.3mm headphone jack on the entrance. The amount management has a deliciously clean luxurious really feel. That is all good, however most folk will probably use a budget, black plastic distant management, which undoubtedly clashes with Dave’s in any other case impeccable construct high quality.

The rear panel’s connectivity suite runs to 4 coaxial (BNC not RCA jacks), one AES/EBU, two TosLink optical, and one USB digital inputs; analog preamp outputs embrace stereo RCA and XLR. Digital decision extends to extremely excessive price 768kHz/32-bit PCM and DSD 512 (8X). Sadly, Dave has no analog inputs so anybody wishing to make use of Dave as a preamp with a turntable shall be out of luck. Alternatively you can use Dave purely as a digital converter, with a separate preamplifier and hook up a turntable to that. Dave additionally lacks the flexibility to course of Grasp High quality Authenticated (MQA) information.

Dave’s strong aluminum chassis is downright petite by high-end requirements, measuring a trim 13.1 x 2.eight x 6 inches (333x71x154mm).


The right Chord

I principally used Dave as a preamp/DAC with a Cross Labs XA25 energy amplifier and TAD ME-1 audio system and three phrases greatest summarize the sound: Easy high-resolution. Sure, there was a lot of element, however the true magic was within the delicate shading and nuance of the sound.

Jazz guitarist Kenny Burrell’s “‘Spherical Midnight” CD labored its magic on me. This recording from 1972 has a really analog really feel, with an incredible soundstage that prolonged a number of toes past the perimeters of the ME1 audio system. Dave put the music first, this Burrell album has a late evening really feel, it simply flows, with nimble rhythmic undercurrents.

Every week into the evaluation I put Dave apart and returned to my dCS Puccini CD participant, however the sound did not fairly match Dave’s agility. Dave connects the musical dots higher than the Puccini.

Switching again to Dave there’s the bounce issue, Dave appeared extra rhythmically alive than the Puccini with jazz guitar participant Charlie Hunter and drummer Bobby Previte’s groove heavy “Come In Pink Canine, This Is Tango Chief” album, there was extra bounce of their music. I felt the rhythms extra, the Puccini was extra laid again. Nonetheless, the Puccini’s sweeter steadiness was simpler to hearken to with harsh recordings, of which I’ve many.

Chord Electronics Dave Final Reference DAC rear panel


With saxophonist Peter Epstein’s onerous hitting “Staring on the Solar” CD the musicians held courtroom in my listening room. It is one of many absolute best sounding jazz recordings I personal, Epstein’s tenor sax was absolutely current and Jim Black’s drums pushed me again in my seat! Chris Dahlgren’s acoustic bass had simply the fitting sense of scale and woody tone. Dave made the music sound reside.

I squeezed in some listening time with Dave perched on my desktop, the place I employed its USB enter, and took benefit of Dave’s headphone amp whereas watching the Cream’s “Royal Albert Corridor 2005” live performance Blu-ray with the Audeze LCD MX4 headphones (evaluation to return). It was near a digital actuality expertise, the sound surrounded my head, the live performance setting and the band’s energy, particularly Ginger Baker’s drums, had been exhilarating. I do not suppose every other band of their period had the identical impact on me.

With Hifiman’s flagship planar magnetic headphone, the Susvara, I heard all that is nice about Dave’s sound: Jaw dropping transparency, large as the outside stereo imaging, and pristine highs. Nonetheless, the Susvara is an influence hog, and Dave did not fairly have sufficient juice to push the Susvara to very loud ranges. At saner quantity Dave and Susvara made stunning music collectively.

And now the second you’ve got all been ready for: the worth. The Dave Final Reference DAC retails for $11,288 (£7,995), the matching machined from a strong block of plane grade aluminum Ensemble Stand runs $1,895 (£1,835).

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