Reviews

Review: Chord Ultima Integrated Amplifier – Ultimate Sound Experience

Review: Dive into the world of audio perfection with the Chord Ultima Integrated Amplifier. Experience unparalleled sound quality and innovation in this groundbreaking flagship amplifier.

Introduction

Chord Electronics has long been synonymous with cutting-edge audio engineering and uncompromising sound quality. Founded by John Franks, whose expertise in aviation electronics laid the groundwork for a remarkable foray into high-end audio, the company has continually pushed the boundaries of amplifier design and performance. Five years after launching their acclaimed Ultima preamplifiers and power amplifiers, Chord Electronics unveils the Ultima Integrated amplifier, catering to audiophiles and enthusiasts seeking premium sound in a more compact package.

With its striking design and meticulous craftsmanship, the Ultima Integrated amplifier is a testament to Chord’s commitment to form and function. Boasting a unique aesthetic that reflects John Franks’ design ethos and advanced technological features, this amplifier represents a bold step forward in pursuing sonic excellence. As we delve deeper into its technical specifications and listening experience, it becomes evident that the Ultima Integrated is not just an amplifier but a gateway to a transcendent auditory journey.

Technical Details

TypeStereo transistor integrated amplifier
Frequency response10 Hz-200 kHz +/- 3 dB
THD0.01% 20 Hz-20 kHz
Signal-to-noise ratio90 dB on all inputs.
Input impedance 100 kiloohms
Input impedance100 Kiloohm
Maximum input voltage3 Volts RMS
Maximum voltage output35 Volt RMS
Reinforcement21 dB
Channel separation100 dB
Operating voltage80-250V AC automatic switching
Output power125 W in 8 Ohm
Power consumptionStandby: 1 Watt
idle45 Watt
Operation200 Watt
ExplanationsBlack or silver, optional side panels made of glossy black acrylic
Dimensions with included Integra legs13 cm (H) x 48 cm (B) x 38 cm (T)
Dimensions with optional side blocks (not stackable)11 cm (H) x 43 cm (B) x 38 cm (T)
Weight14,75 kg
Guarantee5 years
Price9.990 Euro

Design, Build Quality, and Engineering

The Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier is a masterclass in aesthetic appeal and engineering prowess, setting a new standard for high-end audio equipment. Every aspect of this amplifier reflects Chord Electronics’ unwavering commitment to excellence, from its innovative design to its meticulous construction and advanced engineering.

Starting with the design, the Ultima Integrated exudes sophistication and modernity. Its sleek lines and minimalist aesthetic make it a standout piece in any audio setup. Crafted from premium materials such as aircraft-grade aluminum, the amplifier looks luxurious and boasts exceptional durability and longevity. The attention to detail is evident in every aspect of its construction, from the precisely machined controls to the seamless integration of illumination elements.

The Ultima Integrated’s build quality is second to none. Each component is carefully selected and assembled to ensure optimal performance and reliability. Every circuit board, transformer, and connector is expertly engineered and meticulously tested to meet the highest quality control standards. The result is a robust and dependable amplifier that delivers consistent performance over the long term.

Underneath its elegant exterior, the Ultima Integrated houses cutting-edge technology and engineering innovation. The amplifier’s circuitry is designed with precision and care, utilizing state-of-the-art components and proprietary techniques to achieve unparalleled sound quality. From its advanced power supply system to its sophisticated signal processing algorithms, every aspect of the amplifier’s design is optimized for maximum performance and fidelity.

Furthermore, the engineering behind the Ultima Integrated is driven by a deep understanding of audio reproduction principles and a relentless pursuit of perfection. Each component is carefully selected and meticulously tuned to deliver a natural, lifelike sound that faithfully reproduces the original recording. Whether the dynamic range, frequency response, or transient response, every aspect of the amplifier’s performance is finely tuned to deliver an immersive and engaging listening experience.

In conclusion, the design, build quality, and engineering of the Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier combine to create a truly exceptional audio component. With its striking aesthetics, rock-solid construction, and state-of-the-art technology, this amplifier represents the pinnacle of high-end audio engineering. It sets a new standard for performance and craftsmanship in the industry.

Connection, Connectivity, and Setting Up

The Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier offers a comprehensive range of connection options and intuitive setup features, ensuring seamless integration into any audio system. With its versatile connectivity and user-friendly interface, setting up the amplifier is straightforward and allows users to optimize their listening experience.

Connection Options: The Ultima Integrated amplifier provides various input and output options to accommodate different audio sources and components. It features XLR and RCA input pairs, allowing users to connect analog audio devices such as CD players, turntables, or streaming devices. Additionally, the amplifier offers balanced and unbalanced outputs for connecting to external power amplifiers or audio processors.

Versatile Connectivity: Besides its analog input options, the Ultima Integrated amplifier boasts digital connectivity for enhanced versatility. It features digital input ports, including coaxial and optical connections, enabling users to connect digital audio sources such as TVs, gaming consoles, or media players. This digital connectivity expands the amplifier’s compatibility with a wide range of modern audio devices, ensuring maximum flexibility in system setup.

User-Friendly Setup: Thanks to its intuitive controls and user-friendly interface, setting up the Ultima integrated amplifier is straightforward. The front panel features clearly labeled input selectors and volume controls, allowing users to easily adjust settings and switch between audio sources. The included remote control provides convenient access to all amplifier functions, allowing for effortless operation from a distance.

Optimizing the Listening Experience: Once the amplifier is connected and set up, users can optimize their listening experience by fine-tuning various audio settings. The amplifier features adjustable balance controls, allowing users to tailor the sound balance to their preferences and listening environment. Additionally, the amplifier’s built-in tone controls and equalization settings enable users to adjust bass, treble, and other audio parameters to achieve the desired sound quality.

Overall, the Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier offers a comprehensive range of connection options, versatile connectivity, and user-friendly setup features. Whether connecting analog or digital audio sources, users can easily integrate the amplifier into their audio system and optimize their listening experience with minimal effort. With its intuitive controls and advanced features, the Ultima Integrated amplifier sets a new standard for convenience and performance in high-end audio amplification.

Technical Specifications

The Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier boasts a formidable array of technical specifications, leveraging advanced engineering and innovative design to deliver exceptional audio performance. From its power supply system to its signal processing capabilities, every aspect of the amplifier is meticulously engineered to achieve optimal sound quality and reliability.

Power Supply System: At the heart of the Ultima Integrated amplifier lies a sophisticated power supply system designed to provide clean, stable power to the audio circuitry. The amplifier features four separate high-performance power supplies to ensure high energy levels and fast transient response for dynamic and accurate sound reproduction. This robust power supply system filters incoming current and produces high-voltage direct current, providing ample power to drive even the most demanding audio systems.

Signal Processing and Amplification: The Ultima Integrated amplifier utilizes advanced signal processing and amplification technologies for superior audio performance. With individual buffering and filtering for each input, the amplifier minimizes potential interference and distortion, ensuring pristine sound quality. Microprocessor-controlled encapsulated relays facilitate seamless switching between audio sources, while analog signal processing circuits maintain signal integrity and accuracy.

Dynamic Coupling Technology: One of the amplifier’s standout features is its dynamic coupling technology, developed by Chord Electronics founder John Franks. This innovative technology enables close coupling of the positive and negative rail voltages through a variable magnetic field, ensuring consistent power delivery and minimizing distortion, even during peak voltage fluctuations. This results in enhanced dynamic range, improved transient response, and cleaner sound reproduction.

Error Correction Topology: The Ultima Integrated amplifier incorporates Chord’s proprietary error correction topology, which monitors signals before the output stage and immediately corrects any errors or distortions. This ensures exceptional signal accuracy and fidelity, allowing the amplifier to reproduce the original recording with unmatched precision faithfully. Each input stage features double feed-forward error correction, controlling amplification stages and eliminating unwanted noise or distortion for pristine sound quality.

Handcrafted Construction: Handcrafted with meticulous attention to detail at The Pumphouse factory in Maidstone, Kent, the Ultima Integrated amplifier epitomizes Chord Electronics’ commitment to quality craftsmanship. Every amplifier undergoes rigorous testing and assembly over several days, ensuring consistent performance and reliability. Each component, from the power MOSFETs to the circuit boards, is meticulously assembled and matched for optimal performance, resulting in a truly exceptional audio amplifier.

In conclusion, the Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier sets a new standard for technical excellence and audio performance. With its advanced power supply system, innovative signal processing technologies, and meticulous handcrafted construction, this amplifier delivers unparalleled sound quality and reliability, making it a standout choice for discerning audiophiles and enthusiasts alike.

Listening Experience

The Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier offers an unparalleled listening experience that transcends the boundaries of traditional audio reproduction. With its advanced engineering and meticulous craftsmanship, this amplifier elevates the enjoyment of music to new heights, captivating listeners with its exceptional sound quality and immersive performance.

Spatial Imaging and Detail: One of the most remarkable aspects of the Ultima Integrated amplifier is its ability to create a spacious and detailed soundstage. Whether listening to intimate vocal performances or expansive orchestral compositions, the amplifier delivers a sense of depth and realism that draws listeners into the heart of the music. Instruments and voices are precisely positioned within the soundstage, allowing for a nuanced and immersive listening experience that reveals new details with each playback.

Dynamic Range and Transparency: The Ultima Integrated amplifier effectively conveys the full dynamic range of musical recordings with clarity and transparency. From whisper-quiet passages to thunderous crescendos, the amplifier effortlessly handles any genre’s dynamic shifts, preserving the music’s subtle nuances and emotional impact. Every note is rendered with precision and accuracy, allowing listeners to experience the full range of expression and intensity intended by the artist.

Timbral Accuracy and Musicality: With its exceptional timbral accuracy and musicality, the Ultima Integrated amplifier breathes life into every performance, capturing the essence and emotion of the music with breathtaking fidelity. Instruments and voices are rendered with lifelike realism, with rich tonal colors and textures that resonate with authenticity. Whether it’s the warmth of a cello or the shimmering of a hi-hat, the amplifier reproduces the subtle nuances of timbre with astonishing accuracy, immersing listeners in a sonic tapestry of unparalleled beauty.

Dynamic Response and Control: The Ultima Integrated amplifier exhibits an impressive dynamic response and control that brings music to life with vitality and energy. Transients are reproduced with lightning-fast speed and precision, capturing the subtle nuances of attack and decay with breathtaking realism. From the punchy impact of drums to the delicate decay of strings, the amplifier delivers a sense of immediacy and presence that imbues the music with a palpable energy and excitement.

Overall Immersion and Engagement: In summary, the Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier offers a listening experience that transcends mere audio reproduction, engaging listeners on a profound emotional and sensory level. With its spacious imaging, transparent dynamics, accurate timbre, and dynamic control, the amplifier captivates listeners with its ability to convey the full depth and richness of the musical experience. Whether enjoying beloved classics or discovering new favorites, the Ultima Integrated amplifier invites listeners to embark on a transformative journey through sound.

Technical Excellence and Unique Features Compared to Competitors

The Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier is a beacon of technical excellence in the realm of high-end audio equipment. It boasts unique features that set it apart from its competitors and redefine the standards of audio reproduction.

Proprietary Technology and Engineering Innovation: At the core of the Ultima Integrated amplifier’s technical prowess lies proprietary technology and engineering innovation. From its dynamic coupling technology to its error correction topology, every aspect of the amplifier’s design has been meticulously crafted to achieve optimal performance and fidelity. Unlike many competitors, Chord Electronics has developed and refined its unique circuitry and signal processing algorithms, enabling the Ultima Integrated amplifier to deliver a level of sonic accuracy and transparency unmatched in its class.

Advanced Power Supply System: One of the standout features of the Ultima Integrated amplifier is its advanced power supply system, which utilizes four separate high-performance power supplies to deliver clean, stable power to the audio circuitry. This robust power supply design ensures high energy levels and fast transient response, allowing the amplifier to effortlessly reproduce musical recordings’ dynamic peaks and subtle nuances with unrivaled clarity and precision. In contrast, many competitors rely on off-the-shelf power supply components, resulting in inferior performance and compromised sound quality.

Dynamic Coupling Technology and Error Correction Topology: Another key differentiator of the Ultima Integrated amplifier is its dynamic coupling technology and error correction topology, which work in tandem to minimize distortion and maximize signal accuracy. The amplifier ensures consistent power delivery by closely coupling the positive and negative rail voltages through a variable magnetic field. It minimizes voltage fluctuations, resulting in improved dynamic range and transient response. Additionally, Chord’s error correction topology monitors signals before the output stage and immediately corrects any errors or distortions, ensuring pristine sound quality even under the most demanding listening conditions.

Handcrafted Construction and Attention to Detail: Besides its technical superiority, the Ultima Integrated amplifier sets itself apart from competitors with its handcrafted construction and attention to detail. Each amplifier undergoes rigorous testing and assembly at The Pumphouse factory in Maidstone, Kent, where skilled craftsmen meticulously assemble and match every component to ensure optimal performance and reliability. This commitment to quality craftsmanship is evident in every aspect of the amplifier’s design, from the precision-machined controls to the seamless integration of illumination elements.

In summary, the Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier is a testament to the pursuit of technical excellence and innovation in high-end audio equipment. With its proprietary technology, advanced power supply system, and handcrafted construction, the amplifier sets a new standard for audio performance and fidelity, surpassing its competitors in technical capability and sonic refinement. Whether enjoying the subtle nuances of a classical symphony or the raw energy of a rock concert, the Ultima Integrated amplifier invites listeners to experience music in a new light with unparalleled clarity, depth, and emotion.

Usability and Functionality

The Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier delivers exceptional sound quality and offers intuitive usability and versatile functionality, making it a standout choice for audiophiles and enthusiasts seeking a premium audio experience.

Intuitive Controls and Interface: The Ultima Integrated amplifier features intuitive controls and a user-friendly interface to streamline the listening experience. The front panel is elegantly laid out, with clearly labeled buttons and knobs for effortless operation. Users can easily adjust volume levels, select input sources, and fine-tune audio settings with precision and ease. Additionally, the included remote control provides convenient access to all amplifier functions, allowing for seamless operation from the comfort of the listening area.

Versatile Connectivity Options: One of the key strengths of the Ultima Integrated amplifier is its versatile connectivity options, which enable seamless integration with a wide range of audio sources and components. With analog and digital input ports, including XLR, RCA, coaxial, and optical connections, users can easily connect devices such as CD players, turntables, streaming devices, TVs, and gaming consoles. This flexibility ensures compatibility with virtually any audio setup, allowing users to enjoy their favorite music and media easily.

Customizable Settings and Presets: The Ultima Integrated amplifier offers customizable settings and presets that allow users to tailor the sound to their preferences and listening environment. With adjustable tone controls, equalization settings, and balance adjustments, users can fine-tune the sound to achieve the perfect balance of clarity, warmth, and detail. Additionally, the amplifier’s built-in presets enable users to save and recall their favorite audio configurations, making it easy to switch between different listening modes or sources with the touch of a button.

Seamless Integration with Audio Systems: Whether used as a standalone amplifier or as part of a larger audio system, the Ultima Integrated amplifier seamlessly integrates with other components to deliver a cohesive and immersive listening experience. Its balanced and unbalanced outputs allow for easy connection to external power amplifiers, speakers, and audio processors, while its digital input ports enable integration with digital audio sources and devices. This versatility ensures compatibility with various audio systems and setups, making the Ultima Integrated amplifier a versatile and flexible solution for any listening environment.

Reliability and Durability: Built to the highest standards of quality and craftsmanship, the Ultima Integrated amplifier is designed to provide reliable performance and durability for years to come. Each amplifier undergoes rigorous testing and quality control measures to ensure optimal performance and reliability. In contrast, its robust construction and premium materials ensure long-lasting durability even under the most demanding conditions. Users can trust the Ultima Integrated amplifier to deliver exceptional sound quality and performance daily, year after year, making it a worthy investment for any audio enthusiast.

In conclusion, the Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier combines exceptional sound quality, intuitive usability, and versatile functionality, making it a standout choice for discerning audiophiles and enthusiasts. With its intuitive controls, versatile connectivity options, customizable settings, and seamless integration with audio systems, the Ultima Integrated amplifier offers a premium listening experience that is both accessible and enjoyable. Whether used for casual listening or critical listening sessions, the Ultima Integrated amplifier delivers unparalleled performance and reliability, making it a worthy addition to any audio setup.

Read more: Review: Chord Hugo 2 Portable DACĀ 

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier is a pinnacle of audio engineering, offering an unrivaled combination of technical excellence, usability, and functionality. With its proprietary technology, advanced power supply system, and meticulous craftsmanship, the amplifier sets a new audio performance and fidelity standard, captivating listeners with its exceptional sound quality and immersive listening experience. Whether enjoying the subtle nuances of a classical symphony or the raw energy of a rock concert, the Ultima Integrated amplifier invites listeners to embark on a transformative journey through the world of sound, delivering unparalleled clarity, depth, and emotion.

From its intuitive controls and versatile connectivity options to its seamless integration with audio systems and unwavering reliability, the Ultima Integrated amplifier is a testament to the pursuit of perfection in high-end audio equipment. With its ability to effortlessly reproduce the dynamic peaks and subtle nuances of musical recordings, the Ultima Integrated amplifier transcends the boundaries of traditional audio reproduction, immersing listeners in a sonic landscape of unparalleled beauty and realism. As a flagship offering from Chord Electronics, the Ultima Integrated amplifier represents the pinnacle of audio excellence, making it a standout choice for discerning audiophiles and enthusiasts seeking the ultimate listening experience.

Reasons to Buy:

  1. Unmatched Sound Quality: The Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier delivers exceptional performance characterized by pristine clarity, lifelike dynamics, and immersive spatial imaging. Whether you’re a discerning audiophile or a casual listener, the amplifier’s ability to reproduce music with unparalleled fidelity makes it a worthwhile investment for those who prioritize sonic excellence.
  2. Innovative Technology: With proprietary features such as dynamic coupling technology and error correction topology, the Ultima Integrated amplifier represents the cutting edge of audio engineering. Its advanced power supply system and meticulous circuit design ensure optimal performance and reliability, setting it apart from competitors and justifying its premium price tag.
  3. Versatile Connectivity and Functionality: The amplifier offers a comprehensive range of input and output options, making it compatible with various audio sources and components. Its intuitive controls, customizable settings, and seamless integration with audio systems further enhance its usability, allowing for effortless operation and flexibility in setup.

Reasons Not to Buy:

  1. High Price Point: The Chord Ultima Integrated amplifier commands a significant investment, which may be prohibitive for budget-conscious consumers or those seeking more affordable alternatives. While its exceptional sound quality and innovative features justify its premium price, some may find it difficult to justify the cost relative to other amplifiers on the market.
  2. Complexity and Learning Curve: The Ultima Integrated amplifier may have a steeper learning curve due to its advanced technology and sophisticated features than simpler audio equipment. Users who prefer a more straightforward setup or are unfamiliar with high-end audio systems may find the amplifier’s complexity daunting, potentially diminishing the overall enjoyment of the listening experience.
  3. Limited Availability and Support: As a flagship product from a niche manufacturer, the Ultima Integrated amplifier may have limited availability in certain regions and may not be as widely supported as more mainstream audio brands. This could pose challenges in purchasing, servicing, and obtaining technical support, particularly for customers outside of major metropolitan areas or international markets.