DA&T Q-V Awarded “Best Recommended Product” By AudioArt Magazine

While there are many excellent Taiwanese audio companies, DA&T is one of the rare few that commands the respect of AudioArt Magazine’s Chief Editor Liu. The looks, worksmanship, circuit design and audio concept implementation of DA&T products are among the best in the world. In recent years, DA&T has progressively released products utilising its signature Direct Digital System(D.D.S.) technology including the Q-18 digital stereo power amplifier, Q-23 digital mono power amplifier and Q-V digital volume control cum headphone amplifier. We will be reviewing the Q-V in this article.

>Direct Digital System Core Concept
First, we discuss the background to the development of the Q-V. While digital audio continues to evolve, its Achilles heel remains the most traditional and critical component: the volume control. Most digital volume controls operate only in 16-bit which is not precise enough to preserve the remainder information in volume attenuation arithmetic leading to a compression in the music dynamic range. Even if the volume control is set to operate in 24-bit or 32-bit mode, there is no guarantee that it is capable of true 24-bit or 32-bit arithmetic.

The Q-V resolves this critical weakness by playing the role of a true dedicated 32-bit digital volume control. It upsamples the input signals through asynchronous sampling rate conversion to 32-bit/384kHz, to minimise the DAC(in the Q-23 for stereo use or Q-V for headphone use) processing load thereby minimising distortion. The core essence and innovation lies in the Q-V’s volume control design. First, it performs true 32-bit digital volume control to preserve the volume information to the fullest extent. It also provides precise and smooth volume adjustment with a wide 100dB volume attenuation and 18dB volume gain range. Finally, it converts the digital signal to analog only at the headphone output thereby greatly reducing the analog transmission path and resultant analog noise.

The Q-V can be used for both headphone and stereo audio setups. The Q-V itself is an all-in-one headphone amplifier which supports a vast range of headphone outputs including single-ended 3.5mm and 6.3mm, 4-pin XLR and 3-pin 3.5mm XLR. The Q-V can also be paired with the DA&T Q-18 or Q-23 digital power amplifiers to form a Direct Digital System chain for stereo use.

>All-Round Performance
The first listening test was conducted using a MacBook Pro connected to the Q-V USB input to test the Q-V’s performance as a headphone amplifier. The test headphones used were the Beyerdynamic T1 2nd generation and Sennheiser HD800S. I was deeply impressed with the thick, solid and weighty sound that emerged when I started the test with the T1 2nd generation. When playing the large-scale orchestral tracks in the original movie soundtrack of the live action-adaptation of “Beauty and the Beast”, the Q-V reproduced every instrument with fullness, liveliness and highly-realistic body. The sound also possessed tremendous energy and delicate textures. The T1 2nd generation also brought about a warm sound signature. When playing the R&B arrangement of the “Beauty and the Beast” main theme, there was ample bass energy and punch and the musical picture remained stable even at high volumes.

The test was then conducted using the Sennheiser HD800S connected to the Q-V’s 4-pin XLR output. The hyper-expansive soundstage was of the standard of hifi stereo speakers. When playing large-scale orchestral works, every instrument was presented with meticulous detail and strength within the soundstage. It was also possible to accurately determine their focal point and relative position within the soundstage. The Q-V also elevated the HD800S to achieve the peak bass performance. The bass not only dug deep but also possessed excellent layering and resolution. When playing pop music, I could hear the different textures and imaging of the electronic bass beats. The performance of the Q-V as a headphone amplifier already warranted it a “Best Recommended Product”.

The second listening test was done using a pair of DA&T Q-23 digital mono power amplifiers and Magnat Shadow 207 loudspeakers. I was full of satisfaction and enjoyment at the fullness and excellent layering of the music, especially the music layering from front to back. The combination also provided ample power drive to enable the loudspeakers to sound balanced, all-rounded, with a smooth frequency response in bass, mids and highs, liveliness and delicateness.

>Direct Digital System – A Better Future
The DA&T Q-V is an excellent interface playing the role of a true dedicated 32-bit digital volume control to preserve the volume information for the best music reproduction. It also possesses strong headphone output support and can be used together with DA&T’s digital power amplifiers to set up a Direct Digital System stereo system. If you are playing both stereo and headphones, the Q-V will bring you on a first-class cabin experience to a brighter Direct Digital System future.

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