Chord's Newest VS. The PS Audio DS DAC

Was anyone at the recent Rocky Mountain AudioFest? Did you have an opportunity to listen to the new Chord Hugo TT 2 with the M Scaler? Both Chord and PS Audio offer compelling products for DAC and I would love to Hear some comparisons between the two.

I wonder if the M-Scaler can be used with the DS?

I guess nobody attempted to try one of dCS’s upsamplers with the DS?

I think I remember reading somewhere that the M Scaler would work with non Chord DACs but to get the most out of the device, it requires a unique connection scheme of two separate BNC Coax connections. Between that and the cost, I don’t think it would be worth it. However, since reviewers tend to have competing equipment available, it should make for some interesting reviews in the future.

I found even the hugo2 DAC more compelling than my DS Sr.(redcloud). Perhaps the new DS firmware will close the gap. Most of the benefit I see with Chord, as an efficient loudspeaker user, is directly driving the speakers from the DAC. The TT2 can do several watts.

I’m a long time Chord user(2Qute) and PS audio and Chord are the only two companies I can think of that use FGPA technology it their products. My next purchase will be a DAC and it’s either going to be a Hugo 2 TT or a PS audio DS jr. Aside from its sonic benefits, I’ve come to appreciate the unusual industrial design of Chord’s DACs. If a PS Audio DAC wows me at an audition and from what I’ve read about them, it might, it’s got quite a hill to climb. So, for me the question is Hugo 2 TT vs. Direct Stream DAC.

@heliocentricworlds Hi, did you ever decide between the Chord Hugo TT 2 and the PS Audio DS Jr.? If so, which one did you buy, and how are you enjoying it? Thanks.

I think the Aqua Formula xHD DAC uses FGPA too.

I’ve recently been comparing the Chord Hugo 2 to my DS Sr, and my conjecture is that the TT 2 would probably be on par with the DS, and beat it in a number of conventional ways. The Hugo 2 is already faster, more detailed, and lower noise, and the only drawback is the analog section and the fact it just isn’t very enjoyable to listen to. I imagine a tabletop version at twice the cost would correct that, and adding the M Scaler probably would get you a bit closer to the relaxed DSD sound.

However, I think I’m always going to prefer the texture and pleasant sound of the DS. As clean, snappy and detailed as PCM can get, I just like listening to DSD better. I think this is why Darko still uses his DS in his main system alongside his Dave that he uses upstairs for headphones, as good as the Chord audio quality can be there is just a fundamental difference in presentation and flavor, and if you like the DSD sound, it can’t be beat (save by other DSD designs like the forthcoming TSS or EMM Labs DA2).

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I would agree with much of what you say here. Over the years I’ve had a number of Chord DACs and they have all been really good - including the Qutest and even the humble Mojo. I was also about to buy a Chord DAVE/Blu MK II combo last year until I heard about the DS DAC.

Now this is purely subjective but I much prefer the sound of the DS, to me it just sounds more natural and to use the cliche - less digital and more analogue. Don’t get me wrong, the Chord DACs sound awesome and I doubt anybody would be disappointed with them.

Indeed I think some people will definitely prefer them to to the DS Dac just not me.

The DS DAC also has the added bonus of getting better over time. Since I have had mine we have gone from Redcloud to Snowmass and for me it has been like a complete upgrade, giving me even more of that sound I love.

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I have a Chord Qutest that was recently purchased for my PC/Headphone system. Upstream from the Qutest is an HP Envy desktop running JRiver MC with a Light Harmonic LightSpeed USB cable. Downstream is: (1) PAD Aqueous Aureous RCAs to a Questyle CMA 600i with Focal Utopia heaphones, and (2) AZ Matrix Ref RCAs to Woo GES with Stax 009 headphones. Each sound fabulous with their own particular flavor to the presentation. I have tried many other small footprint DACs here (necessary) but the Qutest has proven to provide the best price/performance.

But I did insert the Qutest into my speaker system in my main listening room to compare to my DS DAC Sr. Normally: MB pro running JRive MC or Audirvana+ to DS DAC (Snowmass) via Audience AU24SE USB then fully balanced to Cary SLP-05 / Bel canto REF600M monos / Harbeth SHL5+ (PAD Aqueous Aureous XLRs, Furutech Reference III speaker, PSA AC12 PCs, Stellar P3). The Qutest was much quieter than the DS DAC and a tad faster sounding with about equal resolution . But that wonderful organic sound that is so easy to listen to for hours on end was not there with the Qutest. While it was not fatiging, the Qutest just couldn’t provide the pleasure that I get with the DS DAC. Now maybe if I spent another $5k on the Chord M-Scaler the Qutest might match-up better, but that sure doesn’t make any cents (intentional).

So in summary, while the Qutest is a great DAC at its price point, IMHO its not in the same league as my DS DAC. If I had the real estate available at my PC / headphone desk, I would have another DS DAC there too.

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Hi Ian, what do you mean by this drawback? The analogue section is a big part of the things you describe (faster, more detailed, lower noise).

I think with the Hugo 2 the fancier end is in the FPGA digital conversion and filter algorithms, which gives it fast transients and low digital noise. The line and headphone stages sound a little cheap and fatiguing compared to the massive sound of the DSS and even my Mytek Manhattan II. I could easily imagine transplanting the digital side into a more robust analogue board/chassis and getting a much better sound.

It’s not due to cheapness. The DAVE has a very similar sound signature. It is just the Chord sound - some people love it others don’t and in certain systems it may fit better than something like the DSD.

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I was going to say, in my experience (ie to my ears) Dave isn’t that different in sound signature to Hugo2. It’s a little better but not significantly different.

The analogue sections of Qutest and Hugo2 are already quite state of the art, per the 3rd party measurements.

The analogue section of a DAC is one of the biggest contributors to the resulting sound quality - also power supply design…

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Well, I think the latest Firmware is better than my DAVE. I put the DAVE on the TV. I know most people like Redcloud better anyways. I have a feeling by the end the DS Senior will firmly surpass DAVE to almost everyone.

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I’ve put together an active system using three Direcstreams fed from a DEQX crossover. The crossover works internally at 96/24. My CD quality source (a Melco N1A) feeds an M-Scaler which upscales the 44.1/16 to 88.2/24 (I feed that to a Wyred4Sound Remedy reclocker to get 96/24 for input to the crossover so that it doesn’t need to resample). I’m stunned by the sound quality - I love the Direcstream and adding M-Scaler brought improved transients such that I can listen all day long with amazing dynamics. I can’t believe how good 44.1/16 can sound.

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Wow!!!

(Extra “!s” because of the stupid 8-character minimum requirement. :wink:)

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I did a shootout between:

DirectStream Senior running Snowmass (my current DAC)
Chord Hugo TT 2
Chord DAVE
dcs Bartok
Chord Hugo TT 2 + M Scaler
Chord DAVE + M Scaler

with my local Hi-Fi dealer. Speakers were Wilson Sasha DAW, amplifier was Vitus Audio RI-101 and all cabling was from Transparent Audio.

To be honest, I’d gone in with the mindset of buying the dcs Bartok (probably Hi-Fi snobbery at work, without doubt).

I came out with Chord Hugo TT 2 + M Scaler.

The TT 2 on its own had a lot more dynamic impact than the DirectStream, especially in the bass.

The dcs Bartok didn’t sound significantly better than the DirectStream, more of the same but not enough to justify the upgrade cost delta.

The DAVE on its own is very detailed but I found a touch cool / analytical for my personal taste.

The TT 2 + M Scaler broadened the sound stage, tightened up the bass and also created that ethereal sense of spaciousness between instruments that is a Hi Fi “goal”.

DAVE + M Scaler was ultimately better but was £4.5K more expensive, not easy to stack and also had, to me, a slightly cooler tonal signature.

The TT 2 + M Scaler was actually about £1K cheaper than the DAVE alone, although buying WAVE STREAM dual BNC cables probably ate that saving.

I’m using an Innuos Zenith Mk.3 running Roon Core as the USB source to the M Scaler.

This is the best I’ve (personally) heard digital sound.

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A very interesting comparison; thanks for posting.
I’d suggest you might have achieved better SQ if you had used the ethernet output from the Zenith when auditioning the dCS Bartok. I recently removed the Bridge II board in the PS DAC and now use the dCS Network Bridge (same board as in the Bartok). The result was a significant improvement in SQ.

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This is what I’d call a really good description of bad sound :wink: