Dave – a somewhat legendary DAC
We recently had a chance to look and listen to DAVE; the new Chord Electronics reference DAC. If is without a doubt the finest DAC we have ever heard.
The first thing we notices was the level of musicality. First Aid Kit’s “I lost you a long time Ago” was quite an emotional experience. It is a sad song but the depth of feeling that came through in the vocal was moving.
The Dave also offers in an incredible insight into the song and the recording. Blackberry Smoke’s “Woman in the Moon” was a perfect example. I knew there was a piano in the recording but it was somewhere back there in the mix. Dave brought it out until it was a solidly contributing part of the song and a perfect counterpoint to the haunting vocal. Onion-like detail was extracted from everything we played and yet each strand enhanced the whole.
We expected Dave to be good. It is an expensive product and Chord “do” DACS incredibly well. Historically the DAC-64 was the first product that allowed digital to make sense to me so I had high expectations. The Dave exceeded them by a huge margin.
Build quality, connectivity and appearance are all superb but the sound will stay with me a long time.
As an after note one of my staff was so impressed that he actually placed an order for one. He’s working on finding the money but he felt he needed to own that level of performance in his system at home.
The Chord Dave costs £7995
The facts m’aam just the facts
Chord Electronics has launched its most advanced DAC to date. Given the acronym DAVE,
Chord”s latest-generation digital-to-analogue convertor features the very best conversion technology available, using proprietary techniques never seen before.
DAVE is a highly advanced reference-grade DAC, digital preamp and headphone amplifier. Hand-made in Kent, DAVE is based around a proprietary FPGA (Field Programmable Gate Array) offering more than ten times the program capacity of its predecessor.
At its heart lies a new (and in electronics terms, huge) LX75 version of the Spartan 6 Field Programmable Gate Array (FPGA). The FPGA”s extraordinary capability enables a number of key sonic benefits including significantly improved timing and the best noise-shaper performance of any known DAC. DAVE”s technology delivers music with unmatched reality and musicality, with an unrivalled timing response.
USB B-style: 44 kHz to 768 kHz – DXD and Quad DSD
2x optical: 44kHz to 192kHz
1 x AES: 44kHz to 192kHz
4 x Coax: 44kHz to 384kHz
Dual-data mode available
2x ultra-high-speed coax 768kHz dual-data mode for use with future-unannounced Chord Electronics products.
Maximum output voltage: 6 volts RMS
THD and noise at 2.5 volts: RMS 0.000015 %
THD and noise at 2.5 volts: 127dBA Awt (124dBA into 33 ohms)
Dynamic range at -60 dBFS 1kHz -127 dBA A wt
(No measurable noise floor modulation, no a harmonic distortion)
(Analogue distortion characteristic: no distortion for small signals)
Power requirements: mains power 80 volts to 260 volts; AC 20 watts
A little insight
Reproducing this we spotted on one of the forums. It explains what many people about audio equipment; that it can be designed to produce a certain sort of sound. That could be “warm” or “rose hued” for example. The answer nails it and explains that there is often only one way of doing something if you want to do it properly. The reply is from the man who designed DAVE.
Sorry but I disagree completely about your comment that there is more than one way to skin a cat – implying that to create a musical DAC one can use different techniques and technologies.
“It depends somewhat on what the designer is trying to accomplish – and if the idea is too create a particular sound that is “nice” then yes there are a myriad number of ways to create a “nice” sound. But the problem with the idea of creating a particular sound is that then all recordings and music genres sound the same. And that’s not what I am trying to do.
Go round high-end shows and listen to all the gear on display (Chord not included). And then go to a live acoustic event. The live music sounds way better than recorded, and is much more involving or emotional – in short more musicality. You can hear instruments with breathtaking clarity, with huge precision in space, wide variation in timbre and instrument power. High end audio sounds poor by comparison – flat sound-stage – poor timbre variation, poor instrument separation, no real sense of instrument power and dynamics, poor timing of starting and stopping of notes. Now all these problems are due to aberrations and distortions. The biggest issue with digital is the timing recovery, that is reproducing the original analogue signal from one sample to the next sample perfectly. And the mathematics is simple and completely clear and a proven fact – if you use a infinite tap length FIR filter with a sin(x)/x function you will completely and perfectly recover the bandwidth limited sampled signal. So to recover the original analogue signal perfectly you MUST use extremely long tap length filters.
So if you are in the business of making transparent DAC’s so that you can get much closer to the original recording you can only do it by using very long tap length filters. This is just a simple fact. Now there are other issues that are also very important such as noise floor modulation and depth perception. To solve these issues forces you to do certain things – its just basic reality. And other DAC designers just simply do not do the things absolutely needed to eliminate noise floor modulation and depth perception let alone timing recovery. They aren’t even asking the right starting questions. Then there is the point that choosing a piece of silicon does not make you a DAC designer….
So to make a truly transparent DAC can’t be done in a myriad of different ways.
The Chord Dave will be in stock in January 2016.