Chord Dave: Revisited in 2022 vs Wavedream Signature

Discussion in 'Digital: DACs, USB converters, decrapifiers' started by SoupRKnowva, Apr 12, 2022.

  1. SoupRKnowva

    SoupRKnowva Official SBAF South Korean Ambassador - Friend

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    When I purchased my Wavedream Signature XLR I thought for sure it was going to be my endgame dac. My impressions were glowing. It did everything at such a higher level than anything else I had heard. The main thing it did that really wowed me was in separation. This is a facet of sound that I care a great deal about and it blew everything else Ive heard out of the water. The Wavedream never sounded congested no matter how complex the song got, it never even flinched.

    I was incredibly happy with where I was, and honestly, I wasnt even interested in any other dacs that were out. None of them peaked my interest at all, I was spending my time tweaking my digital front end for the Wavedream, contemplating spending too much money on a Wavedream NET player to pair with it.

    I can't remember anymore what caused it, but at some point 2-3 months ago, the Dave caught my eye. I don't remember if it was a post somewhere, or a video on Youtube. But something made me pay attention to it. It was then that I started reading more about the Dave and watching some of Rob Watt's presentations. I don't think it's a stretch to say that Chord products don't have a good rep here at SBAF, so I hadn't ever even considered them or paid attention to them or their tech outside of seeing people meme about the tap counts Rob Watts talks about.

    The more I read about the tech inside, the more intrigued I got about the Dave. The things Rob Watts was saying about digital filtering lined up alot more with what I know about digital sampling from my signals and systems classes in school and reading I've done since. (As an aside, Rob Watts has alot of ideas, right or wrong, about why we hear differences in things that we do, his blog on head-fi is an interesting read). I never in a million years thought the Dave would actually be my preferred DAC versus the Wavedream. Based on the other impressions I have read I thought it would turn out to just be soso, and I would sell it off and go about my business, but I was still interested enough to want to hear one, and I wanted to give it a fair shake, postulating that the filtering may take time to appreciate, so I decided to purchase one.


    I have learned to trust my gut when it comes to gear. This sometimes gets me into trouble as I often don't take the time to pick apart why I like or dislike something, making it very difficult to write impressions. Usually when I swapped other DACs into my system in place of the Wavedream, I would immediately want to switch back, and rather than fight that urge, I would do just that, rather than waste time with the new DAC.

    The first thing I can say about the Dave, is that that did not happen. I plugged it in and felt no urge to switch back to the Wavedream. Within half an hour or so that first night I was writing to friends saying that it had impressive depth presentation. I then listened to the Dave exclusively for 2 weeks. This is my preferred method of evaluating new gear, throw it in the rig, leave it alone for a while to get accustomed to it, and then switch back and do some comparisons. During those two weeks I really dug the Dave, subjectively it was pulling me into the music in a way that the Wavedream hadn't. It was getting my toes tapping and my head bopping more than before, I was more involved with the music. I continued to be impressed by the depth presentation, but even more impressive was the separation it was providing.

    After the two weeks I popped the Wavedream back in and something happened I never thought I would say. The Dave makes the Wavedream sound congested on my most difficult tracks, this was the biggest surprise of this entire endeavor. Another thing I had heard peope tell me was that I wouldn't like the Dave as it wouldn't have this "drive" I call it to the music, the ability to effectively portray the energy of the track. I think I have done a shitty job trying to explain this facet of sound I like so much and first heard in the Gungnir DS, that Convert 2 and for the most part Wavedream Sig had, because I wouldnt say the Dave is lacking at all. When I put on some deathcore, the Dave will abso-fucking-lutely slam, and slam fucking hard. Dave knows how to crack to 11 when it needs to, but what it also does, is dance like a feather when it needs to when I put on some close mic'd female vocals.

    This gets to the real crux of my impression of the Dave. I think it is more "expressive" than other dacs I have heard. Sometimes it will have the flattest stage you've ever heard, other times it will be absolutely cavernous, but one thing it isnt, is either one of those, all the time, it is a chameleon like that. It can slam, but it can also flutter, and I think it is exactly this that draws me so into the music when listenint to the Dave. There is also an "ease" I'll call it to the music. When you listen to it back to back with the Wavedream, there is an ever so slight harshness you woudln't have noticed on the Wavedream on it's own, but when compared to the Dave, you realize this is a sin of commission. But that slight harshness or edge, isnt required to bring the energy I want either.

    It isn't all roses and rainbows for the Dave though, there are some areas where I think it loses to the Wavedream. The main two being clarity and realism in the upper midrange and microdynamics. I wrote alot about microdynamics in my Wavedream impressions, and I stand by all of that, it gives the Wavedream a certain realism that is astounding, Dave doesn't quite have the liquidity that the superb microdynamics bring. The Wavedream also has this absolute midrange clarity, most obvious on some female vocals, that the Dave lacks.


    All of these comparisons were done using a ultraRendu direct into the Dave's USB port. This is another very interesting thing. The Dave sounded better via USB direct than using the Audiobyte Hydra-Z I had previously replaced my pi2aes with. The Dave was also connected directly to my Coda No 8 v1, power amp, using the internal pre on the Dave just like I do with the Wavedream. Call it heresy if you want, but I havent heard a pre yet beat the digital volume control in Wavedream.


    For the last few days I have also had the mega scaler in the chain, and I can say this lifts the performance of the Dave across the board. There are three main areas though that I think it improves. First separation is taken to an even more absurd degree, but unlike some, I dont ever think this sounds bad or like it is taken too far. Things aren't spread apart further than they should be, they just never get mixed up, you never have trouble telling one sound from another. Second, clarity, particularly in the midrange takes a step up. That deficit Dave had versus Wavedream on female vocals, isn't eliminated, but it is narrowed. And Lastly, bass delineation. The ability to separation tone and pitch and placement in the bass is dramatically improved with the mega scaler. Bass also has more snap and impact.


    Overall the Dave experiment, as heretical as some friends thought it was, saying I was buying it just to shit on it like I did the D90SE, turned out to be an incredible sucess. Don't let the opinions of others stop you from trying something if it catches your eye, heck, you might even find your new favorite DAC in the process.

    TLDR: The Dave does separation better than anything I've heard, including the Wavedream, gets my toes tapping and my head bopping unlike any other dac, and also has an incredible USB input, when combined with the mega scaler, this is easily the best digital I have ever heard.
     
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  2. rhythmdevils

    rhythmdevils Best SBAF member of all time

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    Awesome impressions that's all I have to say :) I'm glad you posted them. Maybe others will try the DAVE and can chime in as well.
     
  3. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    I have no clue what the fuck you were on about not being able to express abstract experiential aspects via text, that was an excellent write-up and went leagues towards allowing people to get vicarious impressions of the thing ;)

    More than people here unreservedly hating on Chord stuff, it looks to me like the main pain point were always the aesthetics and the price, former being Fischer Price Deluxe with the latter commanding proper ORFAS money (for the record, I love how their gear looks). Another thing that I guess didn't pan out was how the tech didn't scale down well, as the Hugo v1 and Mojo v1 were apparently significantly behind the DAVE despite what marketing and people just dipping their toes into higher tier upstreams might have had you believe. The original iFi Micro iDSD was competitive with the Mojo and more to my preferences from a subjective perspective, and the Bifrost Multibit A1 sounded close to the Hugo v1 in sheer technicalities when I had the latter on loan from a friend for a couple weeks alongside their modded HD800.

    As to the DAVE, yet to get ears on one myself, or any top tier DAC for that matter, but if memory serves @jacq got to borrow a DAVE for a while after ostensibly leaving the hobby and was properly smitten by it. Pretty compelling evidence of it being stellar right there, preferences notwithstanding.

    On that note have you had any opportunity to listen to the more-obtanium versions of the Chord FPGA sauce? I know it's all relative and obfuscation but rather curious how much of a downgrade the baby siblings are
     
  4. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Facebook Friend

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    I can understand that Chord DAC is not popular here because its presentation is very different from what usually the majority of this forum seems to like: in my opinion a kind of macro/micro-dynamic focused sound and less focus on pure technical performance. Dave firmly belong to the second category but it's not an easy DAC to build system with because of how aggressively it presents details.

    I also disagree with @Lyander that the tech didn't scale down well. Nothing in the market compete with their transportable combos ie. the Hugo 2 and newly released Mojo 2 which beat most dedicated DAPs in terms of pure sound quality.
     
  5. Lyander

    Lyander Official SBAF Equitable Empathizer

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    Honestly with how things have been since COVID started I've not bothered getting ears on the v2s of the Hugo and Mojo so I'm happy to eat my words if they're both significant steps up from the originals. Any impressions of the v2 stuff versus the more popular DAPs, e.g. Sony ZX2 or Onkyo DP-X1?

    EDIT: The DP-X1 is likely not all that popular, sure, but it's a model that I'm someone familiar with since I got to borrow one for about two months I think? This was 5 years ago based on my notes so feel free to ignore that one haha
     
    Last edited: Apr 12, 2022
  6. JeremiahS

    JeremiahS Facebook Friend

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    @Lyander
    I haven't heard those 2 DAPs in a while but the Chords are for sure better in terms of technicalities and raw power to drive planars. These early gen DAPs don't play well at all with planars. Recently I tested the new FiiO M17 and Cayin RU-6 and the Hugo 2 is still overall better than those two in overall sound.
     
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  7. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Glad we finally have a great write-up that can facilitate Dave re-evaluation in sbaf. Rob seems to obtain a certain sounding that I think Dave almost achieved. MSRP good? Heck no. Street-price good? maybe not. I'm obviously not as much a dave fan as HF summit-fi posters. But I want to make sure that my previous Dave audition (several times; a couple of quite long listening sessions included) wasn't as negative as usual criticism found elsewhere in sbaf.

    If I recall correctly, what I liked from Dave was its capability to convey obsessively smooth yet critical transient. Rob might want to eliminate any small hint of harshness from the reproduction (which per se is debatable imho tho) and prol as a result Dave's sound is basically extremely polite -- I'm trying to zip many virtues into this single word -- to me but it never lost me in engagement and rock-solidness.

    And to answer @Lyander that's what I think Dave differentiated itself from lower siblings. I kinda liked Qutest (particularly when it was first introduced) but it was sorta overdone in the aspect above. No soul, no rock, mildly flat and/or boring. In 2022, there are many cheap ess/akm dacs exhibiting better balance to me. Let alone their unchanged pricing strategy..

    I like these statements because it nicely mirrors my experience!
     
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    Last edited: Apr 13, 2022
  8. SoupRKnowva

    SoupRKnowva Official SBAF South Korean Ambassador - Friend

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    Unfortunately Ive never heard any other Chord DACs, desktop or portable, so I can't comment. I just know I like the Dave. Whether than would translate to a TT2 or Hugo 2 or Mojo 2 ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    I also want to push back on the politeness thing. I don't think its too polite, if that were the case I'd have mailed it back out. I listen to far too much metal to live with a dac that can't be angry and slam when it needs to, which is exactly what Dave does. But it does it while also maintaining that ease I talked about.
     
  9. 3X0

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    Would you say this applies relative to the WaveDream as well -- e.g. would there be tracks you might perceive as having a bigger soundstage on the Dave vs. what is portrayed by the WaveDream? I expect this might be hard to assess since the chameleon character might exaggerate the perceived differences when only listening to the DAVE (e.g. going from tracks it portrays as flat vs. tracks that it portrays more "normally").

    I remember allegations of a flat soundstage being one of the most memorable criticisms against the DAVE on SBAF, hence my curiosity.

    Neither here nor there but I thought the iFi Micro portables (only had a Black Label handy, let alone the Signature or Diablo) compared very favorably against the Mojo 2 and Hugo (TT)2.

    Speaking of 2 (baseless speculation incoming), I ineptly probed Rob Watts earlier this year for hints on a possible DAVE 2 given the advancements made in recency and the rumors of extensive pandemic R&D. He just smiled without comment, but the looming possibility of a 2 gave me pause on picking up a new DAVE given its 7+year time on market.
     
  10. SoupRKnowva

    SoupRKnowva Official SBAF South Korean Ambassador - Friend

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    I was actually expecting a relatively flat but well separated stage based on those impressions. But that isn't how I would describe the staging abilities at all. I do think the Dave does depth noticeably better than the Wavedream did.


    I guess I didn't make this clear, only mentioning that I ran the Dave direct into my Coda amp, all impressions are based on listening with my Acoustic Zen Crescendo Mk2 speakers. I haven't listened with headphones at all.
     
  11. Armaegis

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    The first time I heard the Chord Dave was at a meet with a bunch of other gear, the most notable of which was the Yggdrasil.

    I didn't know much about Chord at the time, except for their particular brand of aesthetics. My first sonic impressions were quite positive though. Then I took a shot in the dark at the price and guessed that it was about $4k based on comparison to the Yggdrasil which I thought was fair considering the "improvement" I heard. Lol nope. It's good, but... you gotta work yourself up to that price tier. I'm already struggling with my diminishing returns and I'm at about a quarter the cost of the Dave right now. Then again, I never thought I'd break the four digit barrier for gear yet here I am.
     
  12. Clemmaster

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    Great write up!

    Did you try the M-Scaler with the Wavedream in NOS mode?
     
  13. SoupRKnowva

    SoupRKnowva Official SBAF South Korean Ambassador - Friend

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    Unfortunately not, finding a mega scaler for a price I was willing to pay took a long time and it didn't arrive till after I had already sold the wavedream.

    but, luckily @famish99 still has a Wavedream, so this is something we can probably get some impressions on at some point in the future. I also want to hear it into a May, which we have several of locally.
     
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  14. Merrick

    Merrick A lidless ear

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    @SoupRKnowva That was an excellent write up and gave a good sense of the distinct differences in presentation between the Wavedream and The Dave.

    FWIW most of the Chord hate I've heard here and elsewhere was around their industrial design and the price to performance ratio of their mid tier products (Hugo?). I don't think I've ever heard someone say The Dave was an outright bad DAC, maybe I just missed some comments about it.
     
  15. penguins

    penguins Friend, formerly known as fp627

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    Agreed. Have heard most Chord stuff at one point or another and the Dave definitely didn't have any major issues + sounded good to me (based on memory it sounded more or less like what Souprknowva is describing), just not per my preferences as much. IMO it would probably be more competitive if it was a few thousand $ less (maybe closer to $8-10k ??). Similar story for most of the stuff further down their line - I don't think the products did anything horribly wrong per se sound wise, just that for the price / performance ratio wasn't there.
     
    Last edited: Apr 13, 2022
  16. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    I've always thought the DAVE was a good DAC, I just could not assess how good. I have discussed this DAC with various people who owned it. The reason I've never said anything was because my experience was with some unfamiliar gear, an amp, so I didn't want to talk much about it. If all factors were known quantities, I would have said more. Generally I get the sense that the less than top-tier microdynamics aspect may have not made me say wow, and those who know me know this aspect of sound reproduction is one of my highest priorities.

    With respect to SBAF on CHORD. I think it's more nuanced. Some of the more fervent anti-CHORD voices have been banned for overall creepiness/shittyness or don't participate anymore. Mojo I think is a great little DAC. Hugo 1 and to a lesser extent 2, I didn't care for. I would take some iFi variant over them if I wanted a transportable. Hugo TT had some tonal issues with sibilance. Latest Qutest I thought was good, but someone mentioned this had the same guts of another CHORD unit that I didn't like, so who knows. It's possible filters could have been set differently. Things like this can be a big difference. All of these things I'm pretty sure have actually stated somewhere on SBAF. I don't like everything CHORD, but there are some winners in their lineup. I mean there are some pieces of Schiit that I dislike more than anything CHORD has ever made.
     
  17. Armaegis

    Armaegis Friend

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    I don't have an issue with Chord products per se, but Chord fans can come across as religious zealots missionaries which is a big turnoff.
     
  18. Vtory

    Vtory Audiophile™

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    Isn't it where dave is actually traded new? A while ago Dave owners told me the gap between MSRP and street price which was shocking to me atm. So I am under the impression that Dave is in the May range.
     
  19. purr1n

    purr1n On vacation

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    Fake news bud, DAVE has been received positively. We really really need to stop with the fake news and fake hurt feelings:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/how-is-chord-dave.2244/

    Yup, CHORD fanbois the problem, not CHORD gear:
    https://www.superbestaudiofriends.org/index.php?threads/how-is-chord-dave.2244/page-3#post-90595
     
  20. SoupRKnowva

    SoupRKnowva Official SBAF South Korean Ambassador - Friend

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    Yeah, alot of the people in the Chord Dave thread on Head-Fi worship at the alter of Rob Watts. And while im more than willing to explain what I know about how the DAC works, which I think is alot, as ive read most of the Dave thread and all of the Rob Watts blog at Head-Fi, at the end of the day I only really care how it sounds, not that it has a hojillion taps and some other dac only has 100
     

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