Chord Chordette Gem D/A processor Manufacturer's Comments

Manufacturer's Comments

Editor: Wow, did you guys ever miss the point of the Chordette Gem!

No one said Bluetooth is the "perfect" medium for "the audio perfectionist." While that slant perhaps makes your article more interesting to read, unfortunately it has caused you to completely miss the point of this product.

There are millions of people out there enjoying MP3 and other lo- and hi-rez music formats. Who said you have to be a "perfectionist" to enjoy music? We believe our job is to help people enjoy their music more, however they wish to take it—not to tell them how to take it.

Everyone knows that Bluetooth is not a perfect medium. Less well known, but it should be pointed out, is the fact that different manufacturers implement Bluetooth with very different results. Therefore, the source has a dramatic effect on sound quality, so you need to be very careful when choosing and setting up a source. For example, even rebooting an iPad mid-demo can improve sound quality. This has nothing to do with Bluetooth or the Gem, but is strictly a function of the source.

I had a very skilled and experienced dealer relate a story in which a customer brought into the store his own source, loaded with FLAC files, and demonstrated to the dealer just how good the Chordette Gem could sound. Unfortunately, it seems that while people are enjoying their music more than ever using this technology, the high-end audio industry is lagging behind consumers in terms of their knowledge of this technology and their skill in implementing it.

The market for digital audio and Bluetooth is rapidly evolving, and quality is improving at an exponential rate. The point is not that the Chordette Gem is the perfect musical solution for the audio perfectionist; the point is that the Gem has provided a gateway for thousands of consumers who are now listening to music on higher-quality audio systems, enjoying their music more, and finally now realizing just how good a quality audio system can sound!

The simple truth is that no product is perfect, but the fact is the Chordette Gem is a very good product that has helped many people enjoy their music more. Given the right source setup, the Chordette Gem, via Bluetooth, absolutely can deliver a very satisfying musical performance. It's a real shame you were not able to experience this. I invite you to come hear the Gem via Bluetooth in our room at the 2011 Consumer Electronics Show and then tell me it doesn't sound excellent.—Jay Rein, President
Bluebird Music

Editor: We rarely, if ever, respond to review editorials, preferring to let the comments and measured performance speak for themselves, but we feel in this case that the review really does need a reply.

The Chordette Gem was conceived some five years ago and the product was launched a year later. The idea of having an open-architecture streaming product was that it reconnected the downloading generations back to hi-fi systems. This seemed a pretty good idea to us, and when the product came to market, there were no competitors—not one! The product was then reviewed by several top magazines around the world to great acclaim, gaining both five stars from What Hi Fi? and several top awards. But at that time there was no interest from Stereophile to review such a radically outrageous computer-based product.

Re. the manual, of course there is a manual; it's small but beautifully formed, like the product. We suggest that it might be down the back of someone's Chesterfield. Careful negotiation of the Chord website would result in a manual in any case.

Concerning the listening tests with Bluetooth, we note that only one source-type product was used for the review. Whilst we do realize that they have the largest market share, we are sure they themselves would admit that they do not currently offer the best Bluetooth performance with current products. We have further information on this, and if John [Atkinson] would like to talk to us in confidence, we can update him.

We note that the reviewer is very new to his understanding of the Bluetooth issues involved. Some of the specifics we would like to comment on are the following: Your editorial criticized our product for the low output from the source. This is nonsense, because the source, not the Gem, defines the output level.

Second, when using the APT-X dongle, this takes the analog output from the iPod in all its glory, converts it to digital, and then encodes it via Bluetooth. We know this is an imperfect and temporary solution, until APT-X is fully incorporated into all US products, as it has been in many other products throughout the rest of the world. Where users of APT-X–encoded digital products with purely digital parts are used, everyone states that there is a night-and-day difference, and there truly is.

The detailed analysis in the extensive test results shows a level of performance that we here at Chord would also expect from the signals that have been fed into it! It's doing what it should in the circumstances, but it's not doing what it can do with an up-to-date input! It would be interesting for the reviewer to try a USB-to-Bluetooth APT-X adapter that can be plugged directly into the computer. This would negate some of the single-sourced inaccurate parameters in these measurements.

Finally, we would also like to comment on the editorial. Having had dinner several times with Art [Dudley] and finding him to be a charming and urbane raconteur, I was surprised at its sniping tone. But then again, maybe I am not surprised, as it sounds rather like someone who is bewildered and overtaken by aspects of technology that he would prefer to put in a drawer and leave well alone, and go back to polishing his tubes. We could all take this viewpoint and carry on selling dusty old products to old men, but Chord does not want to do that. We must be courageous and open our minds to new technologies and concepts, designs, and ideas, or we will risk all of our futures. Frankly, I am hopping mad over this review, as it is grossly inaccurate

You must understand that what is at issue here is that the measurements shown and commented on are of the combined RF and digital system, which cannot be individualized solely against our product, as has been done. There are amazingly complex factors coming from both ends of the total system, and we feel you are misleading your readers grossly.—John Franks, CEO, Matt Bartlett BEng CEng MIEE
Chord Electronics

Chord Electronics, Ltd.
US distributor: Bluebird Music Ltd.
Niagara Falls, NY 14305
(416) 638-8207