By virtue of its superior digital processing abilities, the QBD76HD definitely enables formats like CD to punch above their weight. But it cannot work miracles, and inevitably there’s a gap between 16bit 44.1kHz stuff and higher-rez material.
The QBD76 HD offers a choice of balanced and unbalanced fixed analogue outputs that deliver around 6V and 3V respectively. This is higher-than-average, and helps foster the impression of a ‘big’ powerful full-bodied sort of musical presentation.
I’ve already alluded to the built-in digital buffer. It improves clarity and cleanness by lowering jitter. The buffering time is selectable by the user, and can be either one second or four seconds. In most situations, the full four second buffer delivers best results, sonically.
But do experiment with the one second and ‘off’ options before deciding, as there are circumstances where having minimal or no buffering sounds better. When set to maximum, the sound is delayed by around four seconds, which can be a bit disconcerting at first.
In typical Chord fashion, the various input/output sockets and controls are not marked regarding what they are or do. This can be confusing. It would also be helpful, for example, to have some indication as to whether or not the QBD76 HDSD is receiving a true DSD signal.
Agreed, the display indicates sampling frequency. But, it sometimes showed 192kHz when I knew the native sampling frequency was actually 44.1kHz. Clearly, some kind of up-sampling had taken place. It’s easy to be fooled into thinking you’re listening to hi-rez when you’re not.
Build quality is everything you’d expect from a Chord product. The QBD76 HD is very solidly made from aluminium, and beautifully finished. The review sample came in silver and had a brushed finish, but black is also available.
The glass portals are a striking design feature, allowing users to see the circuit boards. The internal lighting changes as you select different options – another attractive feature. During use, the unit gets moderately warm to the touch, but not hot.
Those owning the earlier QBD76 may be tempted to upgrade. However, unless you intend to exploit the QBD76 HDSD’s DSD capabilities, there’s not really much point. Via CD and USB sources, the two DACs sound virtually indistinguishable.
In many ways, the QBD76HDSD is a product ahead of its time. As increasing amounts of high-rez material become available, it will come more and more into its own. It’s a terrific component that must be auditioned by those interested in state-of-the-art digital playback.
Digital inputs: 2x S/PDIF BNC coax, 2xAES/EBU, 2x TOSlink, 1x USB (B-type, 44-48kHz), 1x USB (A-type, 192kHz)
Analogue outputs: 2x phono, 2x XLR
Dimensions (WxHxD): 33.8x6x14.5cm
Manufactured by: Chord Electronics
Tel: +44(0)1622 721444