DAVE Wins Hi-Fi News' Outstanding Product Award

Mon, 20 Jun 2016

It doesn’t take much time with DAVE to realize that the sound here is every bit as impressive as all the clever stuff under the hood…  every bit of that technical finesse is translated into the most remarkable music-making ability, whether with CD-quality files or content pushing the upper limits of today’s high-resolution offerings.
What struck me immediately was that DAVE ‘does’ piano, a notoriously difficult instrument to reproduce in any manner corresponding even slightly to the experience of sitting close to one being played in anger. I was immediately taken by the sheer scale and power of the instruments center-stage, to the point where one could hear the impact of hammer on string, the shifting of the dampers, everything.
And wow, is this DAC both weighty and fast, capable of growling out the deepest bass notes while simultaneously untroubled by the speed and complexity of rhythms – traits as well suited to trio jazz as they are to large scale orchestral works.
Simply, DAVE delivers remarkable instrumental timbres and detail, as for example when running in DSD+ mode to play the Cleveland Orchestra/Szell program of Wagner orchestral highlights in DSD64. These recordings sound just glorious with beautiful fluidity and bite, room-shaking dynamics, and shiver-inducing timbre and texture to that Wagnerian brass in the Gotterdammerung Prelude.
‘Revelatory’ is a pretty strong term to describe a piece of hi-fi equipment, but that’s just what Chord’s DAVE is. Furthermore, while most of my listening was via the USB input from my dedicated Mac Mini, it’s just as striking when fed via the optical or coaxial inputs, and offers a remarkably good headphone amp into the bargain, with that crossfeed facility effective in making the sound much less ‘in the head’.
A rare high score for Chord’s DAVE, but this is no ordinary digital-to-analog converter. From the handcrafted quality of its casework to the sheer quantity of proprietary engineering within, this is a standard-setting product, and when you hear it in action all that hard work – and the price – is more than justified by a scintillating performance. From lab to listening room, this is an outstanding product.
By any standards, this is a remarkable piece of equipment, but is it the best DAC you can buy right now? On this showing, I wouldn’t bet against it.
Andrew Everard, Hi-Fi News April 2016, Outstanding Product Award

An impressive 117.3dB A-wtd S/N ratio, linearity better than +/- 0.05dB over a 100dB range and distortion that’s lower than from any other DAC we’ve tested. I was able to resolve a vanishingly low 0.000007% THD at 1 kHz and 0.00008 at 20kHz. This is an astonishing technical achievement by Chord. Chord claims its DAVE DAC ‘redefines DAC measured performance’ and I would be inclined to agree. 
Paul Miller, Lab Report, Hi-Fi News, April 2016

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