Chord Electronics redefines CD performance with its new FPGA-based upscaling transport Blu MkII
Chord Electronics has set new standards for CD sound quality with its new Blu MkII, an upscaling CD transport which uses the very latest FPGA technology to implement advanced proprietary filtering and upscaling techniques £7,995
Known for its world-class amplifiers and its class-leading FPGA-based (Field Programmable Gate Aray) DACs, Chord Electronics has implemented the latest FPGA technology into a next-generation CD transport. The new Blu MkII, which will replace the original Blu, incorporates a powerful new FPGA core with extraordinary capability.
Chord Electronics’ Digital Consultant, Rob Watts, has harnessed the power of the new Xilinx XC7A200T FPGA, which has a standout 740 DSP cores, to develop sophisticated WTA (Watts Transient Alignment) filtering and upscaling algorithms which can output digital data at 705.6kHz (16 x CD’s 44.1kHz native resolution). When partnered with the critically acclaimed DAVE DAC/preamp, with its 705.6kHz-capable digital inputs, the Blu MkII sets a new technical benchmark for CD performance, while redefining sound quality from the medium.
At the heart of the Blu MkII, lies Rob Watts’ new WTA M-Scaler technology, which incorporates the most advanced filter of its kind in the world. Rob Watts has developed completely new filter architecture for the Blu MkII, to ensure maximum memory efficiency and to allow the FPGA to run with sufficient speed.
The enormous processing power of the Xilinx XC7A200T FPGA has enabled a key breakthrough in tap-length (the technical indicator of how complex the interpolation filter is). To perfectly reconstruct an analogue signal, an infinite tap-length filter is required. The original Chord DAC 64 (1999) had 1,024 taps; Hugo (2013) 26,000 and DAVE (2015) 164,000. Each successive increase in tap-length, together with continuous improvements to the WTA algorithm, has given significantly better sound quality.
The new Blu MkII offers an incredible 1,015,808 taps! This remarkable capability takes transient accuracy to a completely unprecedented level: it becomes simpler to perceive the leading edge of transient notes, creating a life-like sound-field. Bass definition is massively improved, with greater ability to follow the tune. Sound-staging, instrument separation and focus are also noticeably better, along with vastly improved variation in instrument timbre.
Blu MkII with DAVE: the world’s most advanced CD playback system
The Xilinx XC7A200T consumes an enormous 10 amps of current, so it couldn’t be implemented in DAVE as the sheer amount of current could upset DAVE’s comprehensive signal-processing. The engineering solution was to isolate this new FPGA and employ an external scaler — Blu MkII has (RF-isolated) 705.6kHz outputs to feed DAVE directly. The combination has created the world’s most advanced CD playback system.
Completely revised on the outside, too
The Blu MkII has also undergone extensive revisions on the outside. Chord’s Chief Designer, John Franks, has streamlined the aesthetic with a beautiful new top-plate that simply features the most commonly used functions. A useful display gives track information etc. and Chord’s elegant hinged self-supporting lid design offers a touch of class when loading/removing discs and positions the disc-puck perfectly. It also automatically stops play when lifted. A full remote offers further control options.
A comprehensive suite of high-performance connectivity is offered, including (for the digital outputs): AES (to 176.4KHz); single optical, single S/PDIF and dual BNC S/PDIF; the dual BNC S/PDIF output transmits up to 768kHz into Chord’s DAVE DAC/preamp using twin cables.
The Blu MkII also features a BNC S/PDIF digital input, meaning that it can also be used a standalone high-performance upsampler, for use with other digital sources, such as streamers, in addition to its primary function as a CD transport. This enables a digitally connected device to benefit from the Blu MkII’s advanced FPGA technology and if deployed, DAVE’s class-leading digital-to-analogue conversion.
Further features include Chord Electronics’ legendary proprietary high-frequency switching power supply and a dedicated CD-only laser mechanism for an uncompromising performance. A dedicated equipment support (in the Blu MkII/DAVE image) is also available for a supplement.
Like all Chord Electronics’ products, the Blu MkII is hand-made in the UK and features a precision-milled chassis, crafted from aircraft-grade aluminium.