Hello (Chord) Dave, You're My Wife Now!

2022 The WAM show

TheFlash

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Another East Midlands resident here in Ashby de la Zouch. I have a MSB platinum DAC 3 which was a high end DAC in its day, but I suspect it’s day has long since passed. I would be very interested to compare how it sounds with the newest dacs and if it is something that is worth upgrading or if I would be better concentrating my resources in other areas.

It looks like you already have more than enough high end dacs for the bake off but is anyone would be willing to bring their dac and try it in my system or if I could bring mine and try it in theirs, they would be very welcome
Fabulous post, fabulous invitation.

Be careful what you wish for!
 
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antonio66

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Lot's of talk of top of range DCS kit. Absolutely makes sense. I'd love to hear one.

However I've always been curious how top of line Lampizator compare. What's best forum users, who seem to have a LOT of money, appear to gravitate to Lampizator over other high end brands.
We would love to hear your Acuhorn and also the Dave, having previously owned the original Chord dac
A Terminator II was nearly purchased to try, but the seller pulled out of the sale so it would be nice to hear one of these or better still the Plus version :giggle:
 
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karlsushi

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However I've always been curious how top of line Lampizator compare. What's best forum users, who seem to have a LOT of money, appear to gravitate to Lampizator over other high end brands.
Well if my experience at the NW Audio Show is anything to go by, I expect they are a very fine option. I realised that two of my favourite systems in the show were using Lampizator DACs. Granted, an Audio Show isn't going to be the best way to truly get a handle on kit, but it is something that dawned on me as I reflected on the day.

That said, there are those within the audiophile fraternity that simply aren't happy unless there is some glass sticking out of the top of their boxes.
 

Psilonaught

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Well if my experience at the NW Audio Show is anything to go by, I expect they are a very fine option. I realised that two of my favourite systems in the show were using Lampizator DACs. Granted, an Audio Show isn't going to be the best way to truly get a handle on kit, but it is something that dawned on me as I reflected on the day.

That said, there are those within the audiophile fraternity that simply aren't happy unless there is some glass sticking out of the top of their boxes.

TBH I bought the Acuhorn because I can't afford a Golden Gate 2. I was also attracted to the fact that the Polish Acuhorn design philosophy is to use solid state power supplied (no valve rectification). I can't prove it but I suspect the Acuhrn R2R T is therefore possibly as good as a GG2. That might be wishful thinking on my part, however, and if I was a millionaire I would buy a GG2 in a shot lol!
 
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nomore landings

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At £9750 please try EMM Labs/Meitner Audio's MA3 DAC/Streamer/Pre Amp. Like I've as said before -

The MA3 incorporates many of the technologies of their reference DV2 and dare I say is a steal and an absolute bargain.

In some cases it will be easier said then done however if you're system is based on digital audio, using an all in one solution and want the best performance from ATC active monitors (and this should also be the case with numerous power amplifiers) SCM19A's, SCM40A's, SCM100ASL's, etc, then ATC active monitors need to be directly fed from an Ed Meitner - EMM Labs/Meitner Audio DAC/Pre with their V Control which "maintains the input signal without re-quantization allowing for complete transparency at any volume setting, wide attenuation range, and no loss of audio resolution."

Simple.

Ed Meitner aka Mr DSD knows a thing or two and then some about digital audio and is also known as the Billy Woodman of digital audio particularly as he helped Sony/Philips develop DSD technology. ATC monitors were also used in the development of DSD technology.
Hi,
Just read Sterophiles review of the Meitner. TEAC is my first experience of 1 bit DAC conversion and to my ears has considerable merit as dCS, PS Audio and Mr Meitner have proved. Look forward to thoughts following a bake off.

MQA haters look away now, here is an excerpt from the review:

“from Grant Green's Idle Moments and compared Tidal's 24/192 MQA version to Qobuz's 24/192 FLAC. We both greatly preferred the MQA version, which Scott felt had clearly delineated instrumental size/scale and separation and an extremely wide soundstage that extended about 4' outside the edges of the speakers. We both grooved on the copious detail and the convincingly brassy overtones of the cymbals. Beyond all that was the smooth, warm, drop-dead gorgeous music which the MA3 did proud.

"Delicious," said Scott of the MQA version. "Far more life and energy," added I. This was Scott's first exposure to MQA, and he called the differences "painfully obvious." His impressions were seconded by a recent call from a friend who works in an audio dealership and has heard the striking differences between the MQA and non-MQA versions of Peter McGrath's priceless trove of private orchestral and chamber recordings. If you want to hear what MQA is about, the Meitner MA3, EMM Labs DV2, and dCS Rossini DACs are good places to start.”

NB: I subscribe to Qobuz and also enjoy MQA cd and RP MQA streams.
 

nomore landings

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Hi Nopiano,

Good point. I have long maintained that the inconsistencies evident when streaming Tidal are due to Universal and Warner‘s failure to deliver the promised optimum mastering, not the MQA technology itself. Bob Stuart has been maligned on this and other forums, sadly. Some have even had a pop at Rob Watts, pioneer of the FPGA at the heart of the Dave. it will be interesting to read about the bake off, all the contenders excellent in their own right. Digital has finally come of age, imho.
I grew up a little to the east of you at the foot of the black mountains. My dad was a member of a hifi/music society and I occasionally accompanied him to other members houses to hear their systems. Talk of different tubes and cartridges went well over my head!
 

Kubs

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I've been threatening to do a bit of a write-up of my recent hi-fi journey for a while now, so here goes.

The Wonderful Wam

Firstly, just to say that my current musical bliss (more on that shortly) is very much thanks to the Wam and in particular, the incredible generosity of @TheFlash and @Fourlegs

The journey began a few months back when I joined the Wam and started researching if there were any local wammers interested in hooking up and listening to great music, on great kit, drinking coffee and chatting all things hi-fi and beyond. It turns out the Melton Mowbray area is a veritable hotbed of hifi enthusiasm. Who would have thought.

Skip a few weeks and there I was, sat at home with a beautiful set of ATC SCM40A's (on ridiculously kind loan from TheFlash) and a Chord DAVE (from the equally generous Fourlegs) and my whole hifi journey was turned upside down.

The ATC SCM40A's

At the time I had been (kind of) happy with my Spendor A7's in my living room system for just over 3 years. I had dabbled in a couple of DACs (Chord 2Qute, Chord Qutest, Arcam rDAC, MHDT Pagoda and my current choice, a Denafrips Pontus II). I had also made a couple of amp changes in the form of a Nord NC500 and more recently, trying out some Pass Labs Class A.

No doubt the Spendors are great speakers for the money, but when you consider that you get amps plus speakers with the ATCs, they really do start to look like a bargain. They are really rather special sounding speakers.

A smooth yet detailed presentation with the kind of ease and control one gets when a separate amp is being used for each driver. A significant step up from the Spendors in every area, especially that sumptuous domed mid-driver delivering voices etc with a really stunning naturalness and vibrancy...wow.

Enter the Chord DAVE

It may sound a bit gushy and over the top, but I am not joking when I say that the Chord DAVE has quite literally turned upside down all of my preconceptions about what I thought high-end hifi was capable of.

For a few years now I had been in the game of looking for 'mid-fi' products, believing strongly that the law of diminishing returns sets in hard beyond about £2k or so, with £2k being pretty well my biggest individual outlay on a single unit at that point.

I suppose I always knew that online reviews, advice from others in forums, speaking to dealers and indeed relying on someone else's opinion in any sort of way, could only really deliver a limited worthwhile perspective of what you might experience when listening to something yourself. But given how much has been written about it, nothing really prepared me for DAVE.

Detail - yes. Clarity - yes. Transparency - yes. But just not in the way that I had really understood what those words mean in practice.

If I had to describe the sound from the Chord DAVE in one word, I would simply say 'real'.

I have always believed in the age old mantra that your hifi should take you as close to the original recording as possible. In many ways I had been creeping a little closer to this point for a few years with the various upgrades I had made, but the jump from what I was using when compared to my system with DAVE inserted was really quite profound.

Natural, smooth, relaxing, laid back and ...wait a minute, aren't these all of those words that people use to describe valves, SET amps, Class A, NOS/R2R etc. What on earth is going on here!!?? This isn't what I expected from a chip-based DAC.

But that is precisely how I hear the Chord DAVE (or I should say, how I don't hear the Chord DAVE). Utterly natural and realistic beyond anything I've ever experienced.

A Spanner in the Works

Before all of this, I was primarily on the look out for a potential speaker upgrade to my Spendor A7's.

But now I have a real quandary. I've heard what this level of kit is capable of and there's no going back.

So it's straight out to get some ATCs and a Chord DAVE right?

Well, apart from the fact I would for all intents and purposes end my marriage by doing so, the asnwer was a resounding 'No'. 'No' I hear you say? So you're planning to save up right? Well, no to that too.

But not because this wasn't fabulous kit worth saving up for I was hearing (and they most certainly were that) but because what borrowing this system did more than anything else, was teach me that however much money I might want to throw at my living room system, the one factor that spoils everything will always remain...the room!

I won't go into too much detail here about what problems I am faced with in that room, but it primarily revolves around a big long room with little to no practical options for alternative speaker placement or use of room treatments. Room correction/DSP I hear some of you cry? Well, not that either. Because I'd already been using Dirac Live for a while until this point and thanks to how revealing the system was that I was now using, it also turns out that, what I had thought was the answer to all my room-related problems, was not the panacea I had previously thought (see following discussion for a bit more insight if you're interested: https://www.hifiwigwam.com/forum/threads/dirac-and-upsampling.109471/).

So, feeling a bit flabbergasted at how £20k+ worth of kit in my living room still kind of disappointed because of boomy bass issues, a great piece of advice then popped-up from TheFlash: "maybe you need to stop focussing on the few tracks where you get the bass issues and design a system based on 80% or 90% of your listening".

When he said it, I've no doubt he was suggesting I stopped fussing over the bass issues, stuck with my love of jazz, acoustic, folk etc (which I listen to most of the time) and bite the bullet. But I didn't bite the bullet in quite the way possibly intended, because I actually took that mindset over to my second system, where it dawned on me that I had already been really enjoying that system for 80-90% of my listening recently anyway, since purchasing a Pass Labs Aleph 5 (clone) and some lovely little LS3 speakers (a Wilmslow Audio take on the classic design).

System 2 (or is it 1?)

The ATCs went back, but I still had a few more days with DAVE. So I tried DAVE for a bit with my old set up including the Spendor A7's. Unfortunately, they just weren't doing DAVE justice when compared to the ATCs. But then I thought...those little LS3's with the Pass amp are really revealing in my second system. Plus, there are no such bass issues in that small room with those little speakers in a nearfield position, so maybe it might be worth just giving them a quick try with DAVE.

Wow. Now I'm getting a huge whack of the enjoyment I was getting from DAVE plus the SCM40A's. All that smoothness, that naturalness, that realism, that down right musical enjoyment. But with no bass issues (ok, maybe no bass!) and I don't even need to buy new speakers. Result.

And then it was time for DAVE to go back too.

And that was it. My hifi life literally can't continue without DAVE in my world.

A DAVE costs how much?

Until this point, I'm not sure I'd ever really looked at gear at this price point and thought seriously about it. Way out of my price league.

But then it dawned on me that what I'd been doing for a few years was simply being too impatient. I could never wait for a big upgrade, because when I saw a decent chunk of cash build up in the account, I went for an upgrade, or something a little different to try out. And I'd done a fair amount of sideways box swapping for a while.

And then I went back and thought about that disappointing living room and how nothing was really going to fully satisfy me in there because of the room issues and now all I could see was a stack of boxes staring me in the face, that no longer looked like a hifi system, it just looked like a pile of potential cash to put down on a DAVE.

A Preamp Interlude

But before we get to the money shot, a little thought on preamps.

I've talked about this a little bit as part of other threads, but I feel it is important to highlight at this point that my strength of feeling that hearing the Chord DAVE at its truest potential, has to be when it is used as a preamp, without anything fettering the signal between DAVE and power amp. I undertook a few back-to-back tests using my very versatile LDR passive plus valve buffer preamp during my time with DAVE and it didn't take me very long at all to realise just how much a preamp 'adds', or perhaps I should say 'takes away'.

It may well be that there are more transparent or enjoyable preamps out there than the one I was using. No doubt there is. But an LDR is a very well regarded design for transparency and although it does a very fine job, it was immediately clear to me that it was adding or taking away 'something'. The difference wasn't subtle either. It just completely took away from the DAVE magic.

Hifi Heaven

So to cut a long story short (o.k, so I'm not doing that at all), I have now pretty much traded away my whole living room system, plus a decent wad of cash on top, and I'm now pleased to say I am the proud owner of a Chord DAVE. And I am in hifi heaven.

Helped along by my lovely Pass amp and those tasty little WA-LS3's, but for anyone considering an upgrade anywhere near the price of a Chord DAVE, you owe it to yourself to try one out in your system. It is a truly phenomenal piece of kit. Not cheap by any stretch, but justified largely by it being a preamp and a headphone amp too. And you absolutely need to drop your preamp if you want to get the best out of it.

When I went to pick it up from the dealer, just to make sure I was doing the right thing, I did a back-to-back demo against the Chord TT2. Not even close to my ears. The TT2 was excellent, no doubt, but there is a magic with the Chord DAVE that is really hard to put into words. You just have to hear one.

DSC_0312.JPG

Now what to do about that living room...
Really enjoyed reading about your journey - great write up and so nice to hear about others hi fi journey.

Great guidance and help along the way too ☺️
 
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Musicraft

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Very interested by the Meitner MA3. It's not one you often read about when high end DACs are being discussed.

A very generous offer @Musicraft

And it just so happens I work in Derby (when I actually go into the office that is), so could do a pick-up/drop-off.

Is this about time to create a bake-off thread and try and sort a date?

MA3 was launched in the last quarter of 2020. Due to the pandemic it took time for the MA3 to get the into gear and up to speed regarding marketing, availability, etc. Anyway due to the ever growing awareness over the last year the MA3 continues to sell like hotcakes :)

Btw, it will be great to meet you (y)
 
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simon g

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The Meitner MA3 is an interesting product but it is also a streamer, unlike the Chord, which does add to its value.

I don't like the switched mode power supply in tne Meitner; more out of concern for longer term serviceability, especially for a product made in Canada. The Chord is made in the UK with first class support from the company.

The obvious contender is the dCs Bartok, but the recent price rise makes that costly vs the Meitner. However, I'd take a good used Bartok over a new Meitner any day of the week: manufactured and supported in the UK; well established brand that retains value and is of a far higher build quality.
 

simon g

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A further alternative, preferable to the MA3 to me, is the Esoteric N05XD. UK service support, for those that didn't realise, from Chalfont Acoustics.

Bartok overall though; no contest, imo.
 

Psilonaught

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The Meitner MA3 is an interesting product but it is also a streamer, unlike the Chord, which does add to its value.

I don't like the switched mode power supply in tne Meitner; more out of concern for longer term serviceability, especially for a product made in Canada. The Chord is made in the UK with first class support from the company.

The obvious contender is the dCs Bartok, but the recent price rise makes that costly vs the Meitner. However, I'd take a good used Bartok over a new Meitner any day of the week: manufactured and supported in the UK; well established brand that retains value and is of a far higher build quality.
There seem to be vast numbers of Bartoks appearing on hifishark over the last few months. Seems odd. Maybe their owners find them underwhelming? That is pure speculation on my part by the way!
 

TheFlash

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There seem to be vast numbers of Bartoks appearing on hifishark over the last few months. Seems odd. Maybe their owners find them underwhelming? That is pure speculation on my part by the way!
Pure speculation indeed. Why on earth would you leap, even tentatively, to “underwhelming” as your first guess as to why? Have you been underwhelmed by a Bartok yourself, perhaps?

Here’s an alternative explanation. Expect to see more shuffling in the dCS-osphere as many longstanding owners welcome this innovation with open arms and wallets. Anyone with pre-owned dCS on their watch list is going to have more options coming along this year than for many a year past.
E0412F75-15CF-43A8-9282-B84EE9F39371.png
 
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Nopiano

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Anyone with pre-owned dCS on their watch list is going to have more options coming along this year than for many a year past.
Whilst I don’t need any more temptations :), I thought the Apex was available as an upgrade to existing owners. If that’s the case then it wouldn’t account for owners selling surely?