Upscaler

Chord Blu Mk. 2 M Scaler CD Transport Review – Digital Dressed in Analog

BluDAVE

Contents

The upscaler wasn’t built into the DAVE because of its enormous power requirements. Although the Blu2 could be used with any DAC, there’s supposedly a sonic synergy when paired with the DAVE. There are also many DAVE owners who power speakers directly from their DAVE. It outputs 2 watts @ 8 ohms from its RCA jacks so work well with high-efficiency speakers like the Omegas, Zu Audio, and Voxativs. , the XLR outputs are not recommended for driving speakers as it has an output impedance of 33 ohms vs the RCA’s 50 milliohms. The extra amplifier stage also veils the sound a bit. I’m personally driving a pair of Omega CAMs with Audience AU24 SX RCA cables, HFC RCA plugs, and some Zenwave RCA adapters.

It was easy to A/B Blu2 vs BluDAVE during my listening sessions and it didn’t take long to realize how much weight the Blu2 is pulling. I thought the Blu2 would be the icing on the cake but it turns out to be the cake itself. The BluDAVE sounded better in every way versus solo DAVE. The differences weren’t subtle and I felt the performance was commensurate with the price of admission.

Note: For whatever reason, the BNC 3 & 4 inputs on the DAVE sounds better than BNC 1 & 2.

Here are the main improvements:

  • Much freer sound field with limitless air and sonic reach. The DAVE sounds more congested, mechanical, and constrained within the z-axis.
  • With the right digital cable, you’ll get a stupid amount of resolution without sacrificing a natural tone. Surprisingly, the DAVE sounded quite fuzzy and smeared in comparison.
  • The contours of voices and instruments are much, much more apparent. Hard to believe, but with solo DAVE, it just sounds contrived and flat.
  • The amount of control the Blu2 had over the image cannot be understated. All actors are properly placed on the soundstage with the proper amount of delineation. I thought the DAVE did well until I A/B’ed. The DAVE lacks this level of control completely and there’s much more bleeding across voices and instruments. The Blu2’s imaging capabilities are world class and the best I’ve heard so far from any digital device. Please keep in mind these are relative differences. The DAVE is no slouch but…Blu2 is a game changer.
  • Depth. Holy crap. DAVE hits a wall in front and back much sooner. The Blu2 has free reign over the space and goes as deep as it needs to. DAVE sounds dynamically impaired in comparison.
  • BluDAVE is quite a few shades darker than solo DAVE. Not just that but it has details within those shades. It doesn’t just modulate the noise floor and become artificially quiet.
  • Warms up the sound of the DAVE in a complementary way. The DAVE has a bit more upper presence. BluDAVE is just more musical.

Bottomline: It just sounds like a completely different DAC and reproduced recordings with the most realism I’ve ever heard on any system.

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Jay Luong

Mr. Audio Bacon himself. An open-minded electrical engineer and software developer by trade. I have an obsession with the enjoyment of all things media - specifically in the realm of music and film. So much heart and soul (and money) go into the creation of this artistry. My aim is to find out which products get me closer to what the musicians and directors intended.

View Comments

  • Hey there Jay,
    Nice review, even though this means the endgame is even further away from my reach.
    I recently sold my car to clear funds for HUGO2 :D

    Speaking of Hugo2, did you try the Mscaler with H2? Rob Watts recently said, that this combo will also bring the tap count to one Million.
    I guess this didn't even cross your mind, for understandable reasons...but maybe you can give it a try and report.

    He also recommended using generic digital cables of 2 meter length rather than audiophile cables to make the connection of Blu2 and DAVE. He said that a pair of 2 m generic cables sounded better than a pair of 1 m audiophile cables...and suggested that even longer cables like 5 m might sound even better...so I am a little confused about your cable recommendations for short cables???

    Maybe you can experiment with longer cables a bit as well.

    BTW did your dealer already tell you when you can have a listen with the 2GoMscaler ;)

    Cheers

  • Hi Jay,
    Thank you so much for your thorough and complete review of the Chord Blu2. I knew when I called you to tell you that we had one here at the store for you to hear that it was a special unit, but it took a talented and knowledgeable reviewer to put it into words that properly and precisely describe the unit.

    In reference to the above comment, to the best of my knowledge, the DAVE is the only DAC that can process input through a pair of digital cables. With one cable the maximum bandwidth limits the resolution to 384Khz. It takes 2 cables to carry the bandwidth up to 768Khz and utilize the maximum resolution of the DAVE. To use the Hugo2 would limit the resolution to 384.

    Chord has been delayed bringing thier new products to market, there is no time frame on the 2Go.

    Thanks again Jay!
    Cheers

    • I suspect the not user selectable Coax Dual Data mode and a custom cable might bring the Mscaler to the full 768Khz upscaling capabilitys with H2.

      Cheers

  • Hi Jay & Ken (from Brooks Berdan),
    This is a really thorough review which is so difficult to come by these days, but i do have a major question.

    As a Dave user I am battling with the idea of selling my uber preamplifier so i can buy the Blu2. Had you listened without the Jadis pre-amplifier in the chain and how did it compare? In my case, my preamp adds a dimentionality and depth to the sound of my Dave with only a touch loss in immediacy (probably caused by the extra cabling?).

    My question is, notwithstanding power amp matching issues did the M Scaler's level of fidelity in the area of depth and dimentionality now overcome the need for a preamp.

    • Hi Kamil21,
      As you have read in the review the Blu2 revolutionizes digital music in a way we have never heard before at this price point. As a lover of the sound of tubes, I understand and appreciate the want to keep the preamp in the system. I do believe that the level of improvement offered by the Blu2 would far outway anything that your preamp would accomplish. In Jay’s words, quoting his review: “The Chord Blu MK. 2 is the embodiment of what all audiophiles are striving for: A compelling and accurate reproduction of the original recording.”
      If we can help with an audition please contact us at the store. I think that you’ll be amazed.

  • Hi Jay,

    This will seem an absurd question, but did you have a chance to try BluDave with your Abyss or Utopia headphones? Does headphone listening also benefit to the same extent, particularly imaging/soundstage?

    Thinking of going the SOtM trifecta route, but it sounds possible that Blu Mk2 may obviate this to some extent.

    Thank you

    Bill

    • I'm quite sure headphones will benefit from these qualities, although I didn't get a chance to test with headphones. Typically if the 2-channel sounds good, the headphones will sound good (at least on DAVE) but obviously not the other way around. I'm curious as to whether the trifecta is necessary as well. We'll find out soon enough :)

    • I am currently using the Abyss Phi with the dave/blu2 combo and it is wonderful....I am the opposite of the review in that I haven't yet had a chance to hook up to my loudspeaker system....with the Phi I sometimes feel like i can see inside the misic,almost a part of it.....simply fantastic

  • Nicely written marketing piece, what gives it away is your description of Fly me to the moon on Tidal which is an awful mastering that no digital playback system could save.

    • Listening to the track on Tidal on my current right with just the DAVE, and I completely agree with you. The 192/24 version I've been using for other reviews have a much better sense of realism and resolution but the Tidal version with the Blu2 is a completely different beast, especially in the way of depth and focus. Just listen for yourself.

  • So basically Blu does to Dave what Dave did to TT, huge improvement. Except for this time instead of Blu replacing Dave, it completes Dave.

  • I just added a Blu Mk. II to my DAVE setup and agree with everything Jay has stated in his outstanding review. The BluDAVE combo is an absolute game changer! I am overwhelmed at the increase in image depth when Blu2 is added to DAVE. It has to be heard to be believed! The transparency, imaging, and bass quality are also improved significantly. These improvements apply equally to my speakers (KEF LS50) and headphones (Focal Utopia). The BluDAVE is an engineering masterpiece. I can't wait to see what Chord has in store in the future with the M Scaler technology.

  • Hugo2 is not limited to 384, because it can accept a double coax as well. The difference between Bluhugo and BluDAVE is not night and day, I could live with Bluhugo, but not without Blu2!

    • So you've heard both BluDAVE and BluHugo? The main draw for BluDAVE for me is the 2 watts @ 8 ohms. If I had higher efficiency speakers, BluHugo may suffice.

    • Dave is far superior to Hugo 2 and there are good technical reasons to support this apart from my own ears.
      I was considering buying Hugo 2 instead of Dave to partner Blue 2 and an SPM 1050 mk.ll. I wanted to keep the upgrade costs down, in the end I just had to spend the extra for Dave and have no regrets.

  • So many things to consider when you buy that expensive mk2 blu.. interconnects, power supply, power cables, usb cables, usb regenerator, and eventually what NAS/streamer you will go with. Yep... it all adds up so those of you that have Dave dac and want to go this route... open your wallet.. large....!

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