Point out Chord Electronics and there’s a robust chance that one in all its class-leading digital-to-analogue convertors will come into thoughts. And rightly so; the corporate has produced an extended string of really excellent digital merchandise over the past couple of a long time and has a bursting trophy cupboard to show it.
So profitable has Chord been with DACs that it’s straightforward to miss the truth that it began off as an amplification model and has at all times made some wonderful merchandise on this subject. Now, you may depend the brand new Ultima 5 stereo energy amplifier amongst them.
Usually, we wish to overview full pre/energy mixtures, however on this case we’re making an exception. Surprisingly, Chord doesn’t make a price-comparable preamplifier to go along with the Ultima 5. As a substitute, most patrons use the corporate’s terrific DAVE DAC as a digital management hub, which provides quantity and input-changing skills.
That makes good sense when you have an all-digital set-up, and saves the appreciable price of a devoted analogue preamp. Doing issues this fashion additionally reduces the field depend and simplifies the sign path. After all, such an association solely works if the DAVE performs its preamp duties effectively. Now we have already reviewed the DAVE and it definitely does that, so right here we’re concentrating on the brand new Ultima 5 energy amplifier.
Few corporations can match Chord in terms of making a daring visible assertion – the scoops, the glitzy LED lighting beneath the highest panel, and the extrovert styling make the Ultima 5 stand out in a typically conservative a part of the market.
Chord Ultima 5 tech specs
Kind Stereo energy amplifier
Inputs Balanced XLR, single-ended RCA
Output energy 300W RMS per channel (8ohms)
Dimensions (hwd) 18 x 48 x 36cm (with legs)
That daring look is supported by really wonderful construct high quality, simply as this elevated value level calls for. The Ultima 5’s entrance panel is an immaculately crafted 28mm thick slab of aircraft-grade aluminium and each a part of this amplifier, from these trademark cylindrical legs to the rear panel that doubles as a heatsink, oozes high quality.
Have a look inside and also you’ll discover that the Ultima 5 differs from most rivals. That is principally right down to using Chord’s uncommon high-frequency energy provide association. This does away with standard cumbersome mains transformers and huge energy provide reservoir capacitors and replaces them with one thing the corporate considers extra environment friendly, responsive and cargo tolerant. It’s a compact resolution that’s central to the model’s DNA and has been utilized in its amplifiers from the start.
However the huge information within the new Ultima 5 is using a dual-feed-forward circuit topology, which is claimed to provide a quicker, extra dynamic sound with improved transparency over the already succesful earlier technology Chord designs. The Ultima 5 makes use of at least 64 proprietary MOSFET output gadgets and the result’s a claimed energy of 300W per channel. We doubt whether or not anybody will want extra, but when they do there’s additionally an identical-looking mono model of this amplifier referred to as the Ultima 6, which is rated at 180W every.
In relation to connectivity, energy amplifiers are usually easy issues, and that proves the best way right here. There are stereo inputs in each single-ended RCA and balanced XLR varieties, plus a set of chunky multi-way speaker binding posts.
An influence amplifier at this stage calls for a top-quality system. Our important sources are Naim’s ND555/555 PS DR music streamer and a Technics SL-1000R/Kiseki Purple Coronary heart MC report participant feeding Nagra’s wonderful Classic Phono (which, unsurprisingly, is a phono stage).
We additionally use our regular reference preamplifier, the Burmester 088/911 Mk3, alongside a Chord DAVE digital controller, and we full the set-up with our trusty ATC SCM50 audio system. We even have Wilson Benesch’s Precision P2.0 floorstanders and ProAc’s K1 standmounters readily available to see how the Chord responds to various audio system.
In use, the Ultima 5 is a strikingly succesful energy amplifier. It is impressively clear, taking up the character of no matter’s within the sign chain in entrance of it. If you happen to’re in search of readability, agility and element decision, it may rightly be thought-about class main.
Most high-powered amplifiers are inclined to sound muscular on a regular basis, no matter the music being performed. So we’re pleasantly stunned that the Ultima 5 doesn’t do this. Given intimate music, akin to Discovered Songs by Ólafur Arnalds, this Chord sounds suitably delicate and fleet-footed. There’s merely no trace of the large energy reserves on standby.
It delivers a tightly centered sound that brims with subtlety and texture. A few of Chord’s previous efforts might sound slightly medical and chilly, however this energy amplifier avoids that cost, delivering the pure heat and physique of devices convincingly.
Even so, the Ultima 5 might by no means be accused of sounding lush or wealthy. It’s a taut and extremely analytical pay attention, in a position to take aside recordings with out a lot effort. It’s not on this amplifier’s character to hold you away on a wave of exuberance (with appropriate music, after all), however if you wish to hear deep into the combination or monitor a low-level instrumental strand, this Chord is excellent.
Change to extra bombastic music and the Ultima responds effortlessly. That vast claimed energy output determine is definitely plausible when it kilos out Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. It’s uncommon to listen to an influence amplifier sound so composed and managed when confronted by such demanding music performed again at excessive quantity ranges. There’s by no means a touch of sonic stress. At most, that casework will get heat – although not unreasonably so – somewhat than something apparent taking place within the sound.
Listening to this symphony, we’re conscious of how even-handed and impartial the Chord sounds. We’re additionally struck by the way it units up an enormous, open stereo picture and populates it with impressively layered and crisply centered sounds. Most significantly, it’s able to organising the mass of data it resolves right into a cohesive and musical complete.
We hearken to a broad vary of music in our time with the Ultima 5 and it by no means fails to impress. Positive, there are rivals that may sound livelier when taking part in Kanye West’s Yeezus set by displaying extra in the best way of low-end punch and rhythmic drive. Others will even sound smoother and simpler on the ears with lower than good recordings. However, none we’ve heard can match the Chord’s cut-glass readability or resolve low-level info with as a lot ability.
The Chord Ultima 5 just isn’t an overtly characterful amplifier; it doesn’t attempt to sound ‘musical’. All it does is try to move on the sign as cleanly as attainable. And in that purpose, it’s vastly profitable.
Learn our information to the best stereo amplifiers
Learn our Chord DAVE review
Learn our Burmester 088/911 Mk 3 review
Learn our Nagra Classic AMP review