Stereophile's John Atkinson Reviews DAVE

Wed, 21 Jun 2017

Chord DAVE on cover of Stereophile reviewChord DAVE called superb, majestic, state-of-the-art, compelling and addictive by Stereophile.
Technical Evaluation
Channel separation was superb, at >125dB in both directions below 1kHz, decreasing to a still-excellent 95dB at the top of the audioband. The low-frequency noise floor was commendably free from any power-supply-related spuriae.
When I changed the bit depth of the incoming data from 16 to 24 the noise floor dropped by 23dB, implying resolution close to 20 bits, which is state-of-the-art DAC performance.
DAVE had extraordinarily low harmonic distortion, even into a punishing 600 ohm load. Intermodulation distortion was similarly vanishingly low. 
When I tested for word-clock-related jitter rejection all the odd-order harmonics of the LSB-level, low-frequency squarewave were at the correct levels and no jitter-related side-bands are visible. The spectrum is free from any jitter artifacts.
Even if I hadn’t auditioned Chord’s DAVE, I would have been impressed by this DAC. Its measured performance is beyond reproach.
Sonic Evaluation
Darned if I didn’t have to go sit in the listening chair, so compelling was the sound produced by the DAVE. I hadn’t remembered there being so much depth to the soundstage, or the instruments being so securely rooted in the acoustic of the St. Francis Auditorium.
The deep tolling bass notes of Barenboim’s unique straight-strung piano sounded majestic with the DAVE in the system. There was again superb soundstage depth, the woodwinds in particular were each set well behind the plane of the speakers.
The DAVE indeed did very well with piano. On CD, Rachmaninoff’s Piano Sonata 2 sounded rich, detailed, and yes, again majestic. The DAVE is the DAC for lovers of recorded piano.
What about rock? You just can’t play ‘Rocky Mountain Way’ at anything less than head-banging SPLs… Heads were banged, walls were shook, feet were set a-dancing – the DAVE delivered the dynamic goods!
I very much enjoyed the time I spend with Chord Electronics’ DAVE. Its superb re-creation of soundstage depth, its sense of musical drive, and the clarity with which it presented recorded detail were addictive. And the DAVE’s price is considerably lower than that of the other high-achieving DACs I have reviewed. You must listen to the DAVE for yourself.
John Atkinson, Stereophile Class A+ Recommended Component, June 2017

Click here to read the full review.

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