Chord Electronics made a splash on the scene just a few short years ago with the Hugo portable DAC. Designer Rob Watts sat down for a spell with me at CES this year to give me the lowdown on what was new and happening with the company in 2016. Rob was very forthright letting me know that things got really charged with the UK-based company after the success of the Hugo.
The Hugo was quickly followed up with a larger predecessor called the TT, which led in turn to a more budget expression called the Mojo ($599). The groundwork laid by the Hugo no doubt pushed new energy into the mix for additional expressions of the well-recieved DAC section, even when the unit dwelled at higher price point than your average portable piece.
The newest product from Chord takes the Hugo idea and stretches out even more, a long way out, in fact. DAVE is the new flagship piece from the company and will retail for a high-end $16k with the stand ($13.3k w/o). When I asked Rob about the curious name he smiled and said it was kind of an inside joke. Both he and John Franks had relatives or friends named after the 4 letter nomenclature, but subtly it stood for “digital to analogue veritas in extremis”.
DAVE is the company’s most advanced DAC to date and hosts “20-element Pulse Array with 164,00 taps”. Rob really got into the fine details with me, and he made it clear that a lot of thought and effort has gone into making the product one that truly pushes the limits in terms of what can be currently done through programming and customization.
Like the Hugo, DAVE can also be used as a (albeit pricey) desktop headphone amplifier. When I asked why the unit didn’t offer a balanced output connection, the sales person in the room replied simply “It doesn’t need one”. Indeed, the short audition I received in the somewhat quiet room left a very good impression on me though the Audeze LCD-4 they had on display. I was able to find a Beck track I was somewhat familiar with and could easily notice a fine detail retrieval, even without another reference point to compare it to. While the external design may be polarizing for some, the internal aspirations appear to push things forward in a positive direction, sonically speaking.
More info: http://www.chordelectronics.co.uk