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 them—one for every bone in the human body.

Atlantic Technology

Chord Technology

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.

“Chord’s innovative technology results in electronics which allow delicate signals to be controlled with the absolute minimum of interference and coloration”

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

Chord Electronics makes two different integrated amps, similar in design, but differing in power and switching frequency. The 2600 integrated amp was built specifically to allow the average music lover to experience the Chord sound at a relatively low price ($6500). Chord’s standalone amps range in price from $6,500-$75,000. For $6,500 you get not only the amplifier, but the preamp in an elegant design and with one less set of interconnects to worry about.

All Chord preamps support two buses, and the 2600 is no exception. Because they come from the professional world, Chord designs their products to allow listening on one bus and recording on the other. A home user could use this to listen to two different sources in two different rooms or to play music while recording something else. Or you can do what I do and just listen to bus A and be happy.

The 2600 can be ordered in all silver, as pictured above, or with gold knobs and badge, as the 3300 is shown below.

Chord CPM 3300 Integrated

Where to Buy

Audio High supplies Chord products to all of California and many surrounding states. While we have clients across the country, if you live close to another Chord dealer, you should purchase directly from them. A complete list of Chord dealers can be found here.

Michael Silver is Audio High’s resident audiophile and home theater expert. Before founding Audio High, he was involved with a number of technology companies in the Bay Area. For seven years, he was a development manager at Apple Computer, overseeing three groups concurrently. During his tenure at Apple, he wrote and published a programming book; wrote the telecommunications code that sent the first e-mail from space and supported the astronauts during that mission; and re-architected America Online to support other languages, cultures, and writing systems. In addition, he co-designed the telecommunications language used by AOL, Apple, CompuServe, GE, and others; and designed the Unicode compression algorithm used by Apple and AOL. He also designed the user interfaces for several Apple products, wrote a suite of online content publishing tools, and was the technical editor for numerous publications. He is currently the Editor-in-Chief of On Sound and Music, an online journal for professionals in the music industry and music enthusiasts.