Upscaler

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

Final Thoughts

Contents

As I’m writing this, I’m relistening to some of the tracks on my rig. Unfortunately, I’ve realized I won’t be able to reach “end-game” until I have a Chord Blu Mk. 2 in the chain. Including quality power and digital cables, we’re looking at around $15,000, which would make the Blu2 unobtainium for most. Given the financial outlay, maybe I could sell my car and take public transportation. I enjoy the DAVE, but the Blu2 completes me. <3 No wonder I’m still single. 🙁

During my listening sessions, I was reluctant to switch back to solo DAVE. How does one critique something that sounds so authentic, fluent, and captivating? It’s really difficult to remain objective when you’re constantly being pulled in by the music that surrounds you. Familiar tracks start to become unfamiliar in a refreshing way. It was in some ways therapeutic and mesmerizing at the same time. It’s unbelievable how good Tidal streams, even via WiFi, could sound. Some of the streamed tracks on BluDAVE sounded better than local files on my home rig with just solo DAVE. Poor recordings weren’t just palatable but fully rejuvenated. I doubt anyone could pass a blind test consistently if the BluDAVE were placed against a very well-configured turntable setup. If anything, the resolution of the Blu2 will probably give it away.

On that note, Brooks Berdan is hosting a “Digital vs Analog” event on September 23, 2017. There won’t be many setups that will allow for this comparison so it may be worth flying in for 😉

The Chord Blu Mk. 2 offers an unprecedented level of:

  • Organic resolution – Not in the hyper-detail sense but in a way we hear in an actual acoustic space or studio. Notes carry themselves and diffuse naturally and you hear every bit of it. So it’s not more “hi-res” in the artificial sense but a natural sense.
  • Physicality – I’ve repeatedly mentioned “exertion” while listening to these tracks. That’s a descriptor I’ve never used to describe what I hear from a sound system, but yet here it is. During a live performance, we could feel the amount of energy and access the physical capabilities of our favorite artists as they belt out a song or send air rapidly through a trumpet. The Blu2 recreates this sensation in a startling way. The listening room is constantly filled with this dimensional and musical tension. This tactility and delicacy also apply to the textural notes of instruments.
  • Depth – The Chord DAVE had the most depth I’ve ever heard from a DAC. The Blu2 breaks all the walls and the notion of depth doesn’t exist. It’s completely unrestrained as far as soundscape.
  • Percussive definition – I’ve gone through quite a few percussive tracks and boy…I’ve never heard such definition and power in kick drums, cymbals, tambourines, or bells with this much speed, impact, detail, and dynamics. It’s not tight, it’s not clean, it’s not brilliant. It just sounds real. Drum brushes, in particular, have an organic sound to them.
  • Intelligibility – Until I A/B’ed with DAVE, I didn’t fully realize exactly what the intended style, character, and “motivation” of these recordings were about or how emotionally involved the musicians were. With BluDAVE, you get a physical presence and individualism that provides clear and coherent delivery of artistic technique, whether it be the finger work on a saxophone or the way the bow slides across a violin.
  • Dynamics – I thought the DAVE was superbly dynamic. You won’t realize how dynamic some of these recordings are until you hear the BluDAVE. Even within softer passages, you hear every textural note, at the proper speeds and if a kick drum or saxophone were to enter, its power and weight are fully realized without interrupting the more relax portions of the recording. Its capabilities in this provide a sense of authenticity adds that extra layer of realism that is nonexistent on most systems.
  • Imaging & Focus- This is one of the standouts of the Blu2. It takes stage recreation into another stratosphere. Most of the systems I’ve heard have great depth and separating but the imaging seems a bit piecewise and contrived. With the Blu2, you don’t have to try to visualize the band in front of you. You know precisely where the drummer is and the movement of the vocalist as he/she walks across the stage. With the help of the thicker and more rounded tone of the BluDAVE, you’re even able to gauge the size of the players and feel like you could reach out to them. You just have to hear it. Seriously.
  • Tone & Timbre – Woodwinds, brass, percussion, duets, everything just sounds as it should.
  • Sonic control – Everything from the layering to imaging, to explosive dynamics, the Blu2 does in proper (oh so British) fashion.

If you want to listen to the Chord Blu MKII in an uncompromising listening room, the staff at Brooks Berdan are experts in optimizing room acoustics and voicing speakers. They also had one of the most well-treated rooms at the Los Angeles Audio Show 2017. If you can’t wait for the September event, give them a call and schedule an appointment to listen to the Chord Blu Mk. 2 for yourself. Don’t forget to bring your favorite CDs! I want to thank Sheila, Rick, Ken, and Tom for this amazing opportunity.

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 you’ve canceled your order, I would reconsider. You get perfect resolution, tone, timbre, velvety contours, layering, infinite soundstage, and surreal imaging. There are always tradeoffs but with the Blu2, you get all the important pieces in one package. With the proper cables in place…there’s not a single thing I could knock it on. We’re usually “content” with our systems but deep down inside, we always feel there’s something missing. With the BluDAVE, this notion never crosses my mind at all. The Chord Blu MKII is perfect in so many ways. It is unequivocally a game changer for digital audio and is worthy of making Audio Bacon’s Finest Cuts.

Brooks Berdan 

110 W Olive Ave

Monrovia, CA 91016

(626)-359-9131

info@brooksberdanltd.com

brooksberdanltd.com

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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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