Chord Electronics Ultima Integrated Amplifier Review

Chord Electronics Ultima Integrated Amplifier Review

Chord Electronics

Ultima Integrated Amplifier

AUD $18,500 RRP

Chord Ultima Integrated Amplifier Review

Chord Electronics was based in 1989 by John Franks, a person whose engineering background is within the avionics business. He bought a few of his first amplifiers to the skilled audio market—initially to the BBC, then to studios corresponding to Abbey Road, Sony Music (New York), and The Royal Opera House. Since then, the corporate has gone from energy to energy, with newer stellar success due to its fine-sounding digital converters.

Some say that amplification is the place John’s coronary heart lies, nonetheless, and so it is at all times thrilling when a brand new design breaks cowl. Chord Electronics’ extremely anticipated new built-in lastly made its UK debut on the Bristol Hi-Fi Show this February, after first surfacing on the High End Show in Munich the yr earlier than. The Ultima unit right here is the corporate’s first built-in, if you happen to low cost the diminutive Anni desktop amplifier. As you would possibly count on, it sports activities a number of trickle-down tech from the costlier Ultima energy amps.


You can not help however be impressed by the development high quality of this amp, with its precision-machined casework made out of strong aircraft-grade aluminium and chunky 28mm thick entrance panel. As a bonus, once you swap it on, you get the same old show of lights contained in the case courtesy of a hoop of LEDs. It actually helps it stand out from the group. There can be a lightweight across the fringe of the massive quantity/enter selector knob, altering color to point which supply is chosen. The massive, central domed push-button energy swap additionally lights up and modifications from crimson for standby to cyan for ready-to-use. The right-hand knob adjusts steadiness and may choose AV bypass.

Chord Ultima Integrated Amplifier Review

You have three RCA unbalanced inputs on the again panel and one XLR balanced in. The Ultima additionally has a preamp output and AV bypass sockets that route the output of an AV processor straight to the facility amplifier. That trickle-down tech I discussed comes within the type of its ultra-high frequency switching energy provides and twin feed-forward error correction. This kind of energy provide has at all times attracted controversy, as some imagine it generates noise and interference. However, I bear in mind how Sony’s TA-E88 and TA-N88 Esprit pre/energy combo – which used such an association – gave the extremely revered Naim NAC32/NAP250 a really laborious run for its a refund within the early nineteen eighties.

Franks says it took him the most effective a part of a decade to beat a number of the issues, however he firmly believes in the advantages that one of these energy provide brings. Using a financial institution of smaller capacitors reasonably than the bigger values utilized in typical energy provides, he says that his energy provides ship glorious transient response. They are quicker to reply to the calls for of a loudspeaker drive unit that must be stopped and began microsecond by microsecond, he contends. The Ultima Integrated has 4 of Chord’s smaller energy provides to be able to match neatly into the case.

Chord Ultima Integrated Amplifier Review

The incoming mains is filtered, rectified after which chopped utilizing excessive voltage MOSFETs and despatched to a ceramic-cored transformer working at 80kHz, which implies it may be a lot smaller than one toroidal kind operating at 50Hz. Chord Electronics additionally says this ensures it won’t intervene with any audio indicators. Some of the corporate’s bigger energy provides are rated at 4,000 watts, and Franks factors out {that a} typical transformer would have to be the dimensions of a automobile wheel to attain that.

The Ultima delivers its claimed 125 watts into 8 ohms via the corporate’s personal custom-made, matched MOSFET output gadgets working in Class AB sliding bias mode. Lower ranges are dealt with in Class A, with Class B kicking in for the loudest bits.

The different fascinating design characteristic of the amp is its twin feed-forward circuitry, which Franks first got here throughout when studying articles by the legendary Malcolm Hawksford of Essex University. This was then picked up by a younger engineer at Bell Labs, Bob Cordell. Franks says Cordell made a superb low-powered amplifier, and he determined to develop that expertise additional. Basically, this circuitry displays what is occurring on the MOSFET output gadgets and generates an error sign that’s then in contrast with the usual suggestions sign. If a discrepancy is detected, it provides a distinction sign to counteract it. The corrected sign is then fed again once more.

Chord Ultima Integrated Amplifier Review

Franks has used this method to beat what he sees as a weak point in Class AB and B amps when the N channel transistors hand over to the P channel gadgets for the unfavourable a part of the waveform. This is the place crossover distortion is generated, and he says the feed-forward circuitry he now makes use of ends in considerably decrease distortion figures – a claimed 0.01% THD.

With all of its digital wizardry, I used to be naturally eager to search out out what the Ultima would ship when it comes to sound high quality. To this finish, I hooked it up in my lounge to a pair of Russell Ok Red 120Se audio system, that are a favorite of mine simply now, with my chosen supply elements being an Audio Note CDT-Five CD transport and DAC5 Special DAC. By the way in which, there isn’t any phono stage fitted to the Ultima, so anybody wishing to play their vinyl might want to purchase one. Chord after all has its Huei MM phono stage and you probably have a shifting coil, there may be the Symphony.


This is one critically succesful built-in amplifier. With the excellent Hey Nineteen from Steely Dan‘s Gaucho album, you’ll be able to instantly hear the management of the Ultima. I liked its rendition of the punchy, staccato rhythm and the wonderful bass grip. Drums have been dynamic and detailed of their presentation, and people stabbing synth bursts had energy and poise. Vocals have been open and articulate, and the entire monitor moved effectively with a compelling and tight rhythmic push. It was fairly an auditory expertise.

Chord Ultima Integrated Amplifier Review

I’m an enormous fan of guitarist Larry Carlton. His Discovery album, together with Alone But Never Alone earlier than it, was a serious departure for him as he performed solely acoustic guitar on them versus his signature electrical – bear in mind, he is named Mr 335 (Gibson ES335, that’s). On the monitor A Place for Skipper, the Ultima gave nice perception into his taking part in and the way every observe was formed. When his play sped up, and his fingers flew this tremendous fast-sounding amplifier proved no slouch and didn’t maintain him again. The drum equipment was dealt with with nice dynamics, element and delicacy, offering insights into the load of every strike on steel or skins. The monitor moved effectively, too, with the ebb and move of its great bass line being versatile and fluid.

Moving to the album Heartfelt from jazz combo Fourplay (Bob James, Nathan East, Harvey Mason and Larry Carlton), I performed the monitor Galaxia. Straight away, I used to be captivated by the hypnotic piano taking part in, with the Ultima making brief work of the fast-fingered runs on the keys, holding notes separate and distinct. Bob James‘s masterfully understated piano was matched by Nathan East on bass. The Ultima stored it tremendous tight and tuneful, whereas the drum equipment was explosive and dynamic – however with subtlety the place it was wanted on cymbals and snare. The monitor hung collectively fantastically and moved in the way in which you’d count on from 4 of the most effective jazz artists on the planet.

Chord Ultima Integrated Amplifier Review

So the Ultima is quick and nimble with jazz, but it additionally delights with rock. Hurts So Good from John Mellencamp‘s The Best That I Can Do is a standout monitor and this built-in confirmed why. The vocals had the sting that they need to have, but have been devoid of sibilance, whereas the drum work was tight and highly effective. The guitars have been articulate and purposeful, and the entire monitor simply actually powered alongside because it ought to. It is a simple monitor to make sound ahead and aggressive, however the Ultima didn’t do this. It was poised, detailed and straightforward to take heed to whereas conveying the laborious, rocky edge that the monitor naturally possesses.

Overall then, this amplifier presents distinctive efficiency and is surprisingly even-handed with it – no musical style will get preferential therapy. Whatever I threw at it, it took in its stride – from the laborious rock of John Mellencamp to the graceful jazz of Fourplay. It sounds highly effective, poised, articulate and dynamic, reveals all of the layers of a recording, and gels fantastically collectively right into a coherent entire.


The fantastically constructed and completed Chord Electronics Ultima Integrated amplifier isn’t cheap however nonetheless represents tremendous worth for cash. At this value, it’s, after all, up in opposition to stiff competitors, however I nonetheless got here away fairly beguiled by it. During my time reviewing it, I grew to love the Ultima Integrated lots, and I can say with confidence that in case you are out there for a high-end built-in amplifier, you would be silly to not have it in your shortlist. It actually is a necessary audition.

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by way of StereoNET Australia | Hi-Fi information and opinions Reviews https://ift.tt/DUl89od

March 21, 2024 at 05:08AM

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