Chord DAVE and getting the best out of it

I have just done an exhaustive home demo of the DAVE against the Esoteric N-05XD.

I liked the looks, build quality, features, usability and the general sound quality was also very good.

But the DAVE bested it on sound, no question. I don’t need the streamer function of the Esoteric as I’m using the Innuos Zenith as it’s a server/streamer via the Sense app. soon to be joined by Phoenix NET & USB.

I’m looking to put the final touch, it’s currently going direct into ATCSCM 100ASLT.

The review of the DAVE going direct vs into a preamp. (Luxman 900u preamp) was talked about by Pursuit Perfect System YouTube review. That was a 5 year old review though…but he is adamant that DAVE direct to a power amp. was best.

I’m not sold on the MScaler, but I hear great things about the Chord Ultima Pre 3 and DAVE.

Is that a safe option ? It’s unfortunate, but I can’t do a home demo. of that. It’ll be a blind purchase.

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Chord Dave is a no brainer if you can afford it, been using one since 2017 and enjoy it daily

about the Ultima 3 preamp no idea… but should be safe option.

I already had the DAVE, I’m in a lucky position to have been able to purchase both and the one I enjoy least will be sold on. I hate using the term “looser”, at this level, I’d expect both to sound great, and it’s only a case of which one I liked more.

I didn’t want the pressure of only having a weekend to choose. And with the case of the Esoteric, I’d have to pay for the demo. unit in full and be refunded the cost - minus shipping - if I didn’t like it - and then ordering a new unit.

So I’ll be sending that one back.

the Hugo Mscaler is the upgrade I would be looking at, I bought one, and it lifts dave’s performance in my system.

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I can say with absolutely no hesitation that chord dacs sound better via the pre 3 into a Chord amp than direct. The improvement is substantial. I wouldn’t be without my Mscaler either although I currently have a tt2 rather than Dave


For me the MScaler is the icing on the cake when partnered with the DAVE along with the Wave Storm Reference cables joining the two together.
Looking forward to next year as Rob Watts is planning to release the new Choral Scaler to match the DAVE, should be interesting.

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Do you have any analogue sources.? If not you don’t need a preamp, just Dave into power amp.

As for MScaler, I haven’t tried it myself, but distilling all I’ve read suggests the degree of benefit depends on what is doing the rendering (what is the ‘transport’. With an Innuos Zenith I suspect the benefit may be less than some other renderers. For me, Dave has removed any interest in improving source.

The Chord Dave is an excellent DAC. If you want make it Worldclass add a Sean Jacobs ARC6 DC4 power supply. There are a few reviews of this combination that are extremely compelling.


Hi :slightly_smiling_face:
What is the difference between a DC4,.and an ARC6 DC4 Sean Jacobs linear powersupply…?

No analogue source, just my Innuos Zenith mk3.

That does make sense, and I touched base with a member of another hifi forum who had a similar set up to mine.

He said that he has tried a fair few preamps with the DAVE & keeps coming back to DAVE direct into his ATC SCM150ASL.

At the end of the day, he found them all to be coloured in some way vs DAVE as the preamp. direct, he said.

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Any additional electronics will colour the sound to some extent - sometimes, of course, people like whatever is the effect, but for those that prefer as uncoloured as possible, direct to power amp is best provided the DAC has a suitably low output impedance, can source whatever drive current the power amp needs, and can provide ultrasonic filtering if the power amp require sit - and Dave meets these requirements.

HQPlayer is way more powerful for about 1/5 of the price including hardware.


Hi I am a bit of a Chord DAC fan and I love the DAVE… and the Hugo mk1.
In my experience to get the best from DAVE then use a quality preamp. It will drive an amp quite happily in its ‘pre amp mode’… and it will sound good… but for me the magic appears with a preamp. I hear if you talk to Chord at trade shows they might say the same… but that is not saying some are not very happy with just a DAVE… I suspect the impedance characteristics of the power amp input used are important here. I do try and keep interconnects less than a metre between DAVE and preamp to reduce colouring the DAVE output.

The DAVE’s headphone amp is very good, but not excellent in my opinion, and again the magic more likely appears with a quality separate headphone amp.

DAVE is also fussy on mains connection… I have tried many leads including Naim Powerline, but I prefer on balance the provided ‘standard’ cable.

As far as interconnects into Naim preamps I have used DNM and Naim Hiline interconnects… depending on pre and speakers being used.

Finally DAVE seems to benefit from good support… and I give it its own full fat Fraim shelf and it happily does the business for me.


I have heard the DAVE…With and without the SJ PS. The SJ makes a massive improvement but only after a very extended run in- 2 months or so. During run in it can make the DAVE sound dull and uninspiring. I

I recently compared DAVE direct into Chord Ultima 6 and ATC SCM100 speakers versus the same with a Chord Ultima 3 Pre inserted in the system. DAVE direct sounded like great Hifi but inserting the Chord pre made music start to flow properly and actually sound like music rather than Hifi.

In a similar vein, we are not great fans of DAVE, as it comes across as too analytical to these cloth ears. For us, pairing it with the M Scaler made all the difference, so we bought the pair. There is no way we would want a bare DAVE without the M Scaler or equivalent.


Best regards, BF


I found the same with my TT2. Mscaler made it sound more natural and the pre 3 was a huge step up when added to my Ultima


Especially when you mean “loser”.


I recall that you really wanted an MSB.

Does this suggest that there won’t be a replacement for the Dave anytime soon?

Has anyone compared Dave+MScaler to a bare Dave and is able to live with the latter? Is there a big difference between the two?

HQPlayer is a great piece of software, and it is a true bargain, the problem is that the UI is not really polished, and too technical for non-tech users.

PS: But I quite like its DSP algorithms, the possibilities are almost endless, some are designed to emulate the MScaler.

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