Striking a Chord

English manufacturer Chord Electronics is known for its sophisticated CD players, which use sophisticated DACs. Indeed there was a huge picture denoting Chord's latest-generation DAC, the QBD 76, at the center of the back wall. As my beat was amplifiers, Chord's designer, John Franks (pictured above), spent the next 30 minutes walking me through the design of Chord's latest amplifier, the SPM 1200 MkII ($14,000), a solid-state, 350Wpc stereo mode. The amplifier sits at the bottom of the short stack of audio equipment John is leaning on. He explained that the amplifier has a high-frequency, 2kW, switch-mode power supply, and uses an output stage based on dual-die, lateral-structure MOSFETs with a soft turn/on-turn/off characteristic. This allowed John to use a sliding class-AB design.

Sitting on top of the amplifier, in the middle of the stack in the photograph, was Chord's CPA 5000 preamplifier ($20,000) which features 4 pairs of balanced inputs, all switching via relays, AV bypass for home theater, and front-panel meters with BBC ballistics. Sitting on top of the stack was Chord's CD Red Reference player ($25,000). Like Chord's DSX1000 digital streamer ($13,000), the CD Red Reference CD player uses the DAC circuitry from the QBD 76, which John claimed was 40dB quieter than any other DAC on the market.—Larry Greenhill

Jason Victor Serinus comments: Having recently auditioned Chord products in an exceedingly dark, damped acoustic, it was ear-opening to discover, when mated with Peak Consult InCognito XII loudspeakers and Van den Hul cabling, how much captivating air and depth they can produce in a different space. To Larry’s write-up of the chord SPM 1200 MkII, I would add that the unit, which replaces the SPM 1200E yet costs a little less—surprise!—is a fully balanced design with single-ended and balanced outputs. (John Franks prefers balanced.) And in an age when many products no longer offer speaker outputs that accept banana plugs, Chord smiles at both bananas and spades connectors.