Editor's Note: "Audio High Product Profile" is a new column by Michael Silver, resident audiophile and home theater expert for the Mountain View, California audio/video store. Each month Silver profiles one of the store's favorite products for AAJ, and offers special incentives for AAJ readers to purchase products, either in store or online.
This is the first in a monthly series of product spotlightsa place where we get to show off some of our favorite products and make them available to All About Jazz readers. I had a little trouble deciding with which product to start. There are many products at varying price points that we really love, but the two that stood out for me the most were Chord Electronics' integrated amps and Tetra speakers. And since I had to choose only one, I thought I'd start with the one that was shiny.
Chord CPM 2600 Integrated
Chord Electronics is a UK-based company whose product line includes amplifiers, preamps, integrated amps, DACs, CD player & Transport, a phono stage, home theater processors, and even a media server. Their products are used at LucasFilm, Abbey Road, Sony, Decca, Quad, EMI, and hundreds of other studios, including those of Paul McCartney, Ray Charles, and Herbie Hancock. The Royal Opera House has a staggering 206 of themone for every bone in the human body.
Chord Electronics has spent over 15 years perfecting high-frequency power supplies, which operate at a much higher frequency than conventional power supplies and are therefore much better suited to high-power applications. As a result, Chord amplifiers are smaller and lighter, run cooler, deliver more power, and respond faster. Chord amplifiers also feature lower distortion and an absolutely dead-quiet background.
Traditional amps are tied to the frequency of the A/C feed (60 cycles per second in the US) and thus they have the ability to supply power to the transistors only on this schedule. Chord amplifiers can supply power a staggering 120,000 times per second, making them much snappier, cleaner, and more musical, particularly for difficult instruments like the piano. Hearing a piano on a Chord amplifier is like hearing it live. Herbie Hancock, after hearing his expensive studio amps replaced by Chord amps remarked woefully, "Man, once you've heard the Chord you're screwed." He then replaced all his amps with Chord and still calls me to tell me how happy he is with the sound.
Dynamic coupling of the power supply rails means power delivery is always balanced and free from ground loop modulation distortion. The power supply rails operate at frequencies well above that which most amplifiers can accommodate. This, and other advanced techniques, enables the ultra high frequency low ESR power supply to store a great deal more energy far more efficiently. Clipping is virtually impossible. Finally, the output signal path is totally free of any fuses or sound-degrading resistive components often employed for overload sensing. Chord Electronics amplifiers are designed to surpass the highest European safety and electromagnetic interference standards.
According to John Franks, Chord's founder and chief engineer, "the amplifier sections are also highly sophisticated designs that make the most of the best high voltage, lateral structure MOSFETs available. The result is a sliding bias class A/B design with all drive circuitry operating in class A. At usual listening levels most of the music will be reproduced in class A; thus Chord amplifiers combine the subtlety and musicality of a good valve design with the punch and accuracy of 'state of the art' solid state products."
Chord's innovative technology results in electronics which allow delicate signals to be controlled with the absolute minimum of interference and coloration. Chord amplifiers provide enormous reserves of instantly delivered, precisely controlled power. The result is a breath-taking presentation of rhythm, pace and detail combined with exceptional smoothness, transparency and an unbelievable open airy sound that you just have to hear.
The Chord Sound
When people first hear Chord amps they are surprised at the liquidity of the sound, the musical fidelity, and the amount of detail they hear. It's like the best of tube amps coupled with the best of solid state. Play any Chord amp and you'll be sucked into the music right away. Audiophiles sometimes have a hard time evaluating a Chord system because they get so involved in the music they forget to attempt to dissect the sound. That's a good thing.
Compare the sound of a Chord amp to the best amps from other manufacturers (and we sell many brands, so this is easy to do if you are local) and you soon see that Chord not only outperforms other amps, but does so at a lower relative cost. Put any Chord amp against a similarly priced amp from its competitors and it quickly becomes clear why Chord amps are used in so many studios and by professional musicians.Integrated Amps