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You can't hear digital audio--until it's converted to analog

High-quality digital-to-analog conversion is a crucial ingredient in high-end audio sound, and Chord Electronics has just unveiled a contender for the world's best.

To hear digital audio it has to be converted to analog. The chip that does that is called a digital-to-analog converter, and there's one in your iPod, computer, and CD, DVD, and Blu-ray players.

Thing is, the quality of the conversion has everything to do with the sound quality you hear. That's why audiophiles pay big bucks for the best ones, and Chord Electronics, a British high-end stalwart has just released the QBD76, which contains a real contender for world's best digital-to-analog converter (DAC) chip.

Chord Electronics are used in top studios, including Skywalker Sound, Abbey Road, Sony, Quad, Dolby Labs, Decca Records, EMI Japan, Ray Charles Productions, and many others.

QBD76 Chord Electronics

Instead of simply using an off-the-shelf DAC chip in the QBD76, Chord designed its own using Xilinx field programmable gate arrays. That gambit affords Chord engineers a staggering 1,250,000 logic gates in its DAC, compared with 30,000 logic gates found in mass-market and even some high-end DACs. As a result, Chord claims the QBD76 is capable of resolving 40 decibels more data than competitors using the best standard chips.

That means you should hear a lot more detail and sonic information with the QBD76 in your system--think of it as high-resolution for your ears. The QBD76 has two coax, two AES, and two optical digital inputs, plus one USB, and one Bluetooth A2DP input.

U.S. retail is $6,495 with an introductory special price of $5,995 until November 30. The QBD76's U.S. importer is Bluebird Music.