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Audio

Chord 2Qute digital converter, for audiophiles craving sonic perfection

The Audiophiliac gets down with the Chord 2Qute, it sounds great!

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The Chord 2Qute digital converter Steve Guttenberg/CNET

Late last year I had the distinct pleasure of reviewing the Chord Hugo portable headphone amp/digital converter, it was the best on-the-go rig I've ever heard. Audiophiles worldwide are going ga-ga over the Hugo; this time I'm looking over a Chord's new 2Qute, a stay-at-home digital audio converter.

The 2Qute lets you hear deeper into the music; it lifts veils from the sound so you hear each instrument and voice more clearly. The music is more immediate, more present, and more alive. I heard 2Qute's purity of sound with standard resolution, CD quality files, but with high-res files the 2Qute took the sound to the next level. If you have never heard recorded music like this you literally don't know what you're missing. To put the 2Qute's abilities in context I compared it with my Oppo BDP-105 Blu-ray player; the Oppo's and Chord's analog outputs hooked up to an Oppo HA-1 headphone amp while listening to my Hifiman HE560 and Audeze LCD-X headphones.

The BDP-105 sounds perfectly fine -- until you hear what the 2Qute brings to the party. The sound takes on a more three-dimensional quality and soundstage depth improves. Plugged into a two-channel audio system with speakers, the 2Qute will provide a similar sonic upgrade.

As home high-end audio components go the 2Qute is rather petite, it's 1.6 by 6.25 by 3.5 inches (40.6 by 158.7 by 88.9mm), and the machined metal chassis looks snazzy and feels solidly built. It doesn't have a volume control; you have to hook up the 2Qute's stereo RCA outputs to a stereo-integrated amp, preamplifier, etc.

The rest of the connectivity suite is limited to one each coax, optical and USB digital inputs; the 2Qute offers support for ultra high-res 384 kHz/32 bit digital audio via coax and USB, and 192 kHz/24 bit audio over the optical connection. DSD64 is supported on all inputs and DSD128 is supported via coax or USB. Designed and made in England, the 2Qute is for the digitally committed audiophile ready to take the next step.

The price of this level of clarity isn't cheap -- it's available in the US for $1,795, the UK for £995, and Australia for AU$2,200 -- but the best stuff is always expensive.