Chord is a well-established British company who make a wide range of equipment covering a very broad price band. You can spend just a few £hundred on a DAC or large multiples of tens of thousands on a fridge-sized amplifier! Chord have a penchant for very distinctive-looking equipment chassis, lots of silver aluminium and a high tech – OK, some would say blingy! – appearance. Chord are not shy of providing transparent windows into the chassis with internal lighting provided by LED – that wasn’t on offer with the CPM2600, though.
Since their foundation Chord have used switch mode power supplies (SMPS) which are much lighter, smaller and more efficient than the more traditional type, although they don’t have universal compatibility with partnering equipment. And some audiophiles have no time for them at all because of perceived sonic characteristics.
The CPM2600 retailed at around £4,000, including the fancy Syntegra legs that mine was fitted with. It has now been superseded by the very similar looking CPM2650.
Power is 120wpc into an 8 ohm load.
I’d had valve amp based systems for quite a while (Audio Innovations 500 and then Croft Series 5 and Melody SP3) and felt that it was time for a bit of a change.
Perusing eBay I came across the CPM2600 and decided to go for it..
Bright & soulless are often descriptors used for Chord amps. Well, if I wanted a change from tubes this seemed an ideal candidate! I collected it a week or so later.
In a blingy way, it looks stunning, imo.
Note that there are no connector name labels by the sockets. None at all! No documentation came with the amp, but it is available for download from the Chord website and luckily, in my Googling research prior to purchase I had come across a photo of the rear of an example from later in production when, presumably, the numpties had been harangued into providing decent labelling!
… oh, and the remote is massively impressive, too.
The main operational oddity is that there are two independent input ‘buses’ – this to ensure that with 2 tape loops you cannot get that speaker destroying feedback howl. Confusing at first, but it doesn’t take long to get it sussed.
First listening impressions
First impressions, just swapping out my old UnicoPRE valve hybrid pre and Melody valve amp, were of a very transparent and detailed sound. But too bright, much too bright, a real sting at the top for classical listening anyway – I know some rockheads who would have fallen in love with it straight away!
Listening the first night to a staged production on DVD of Gilbert & Sullivan’s operetta Patience. Lordy – I was hearing small details (the rustle of clothing etc, background footsteps) that I had never noticed before and that made the musical experience so much more real – and I’ve played this on all manner of systems in the past. The retrieval of fine detail is second to none from the Chord, although I am sure this was accentuated by the bright tonality.
The soundstage was a bit flat, but pointing my Infinity RS2.5 speakers in a bit provided some improvement. (See separate Hifi Pig review of the Infinity speakers.)
I’d bought this in February of a very cold winter – and the amp had been stored in an unheated loft for months prior to the sale.
I had my Croft Series 5 valve power amp rigged up at the same time, and it was an easy task to swap between the two amps.
See photo for them set up together – beauty and the beast! – although I leave it to the reader to decide which is which!
I therefore had an easy reference to judge was happened with the Chord amp as it warmed up.
And warm up it did – over the course of 2 weeks it went from way too bright to a touch on the warm / smooth side.
Once it had recovered from its ‘freezing loft experience’, I could turn it on and off with impunity, the amp always sounding good even from cold.
I had one issue with the amp during the several months it stayed with me. The volume control started sticking when operated by the remote control. It had to be returned to the factory for repair. I was told that this happened now and then, and the engineer I spoke to clearly recognised the problem. Sadly, it cost me £150 or so to get it fixed.
I have no idea if this design flaw has been sorted in the newer model.
Sonic summary of the amp …
Very very transparent. Probably the most detail I heard from the Infinity speakers, whose ribbon mids and tweeter allow a [u]lot[/u] of detail thru!.
Soundstage – ah, pretty good, but I didn’t get the 3D ‘fall into the acoustic’ effects that were so much fun with the old valve amps. Maybe that was a valve colouration – but it sure was fun! Actually, I suspect it was a characteristic of the Chord – my current Parasound A21 power amp provides a much deeper soundstage.
No, the Chord doesn’t project everything onto a thin plane between the speakers (I would hate that), images hang in space with reasonable depth between and slightly behind the speakers, but a 3D holographic extravaganza it is not.
Bass is deep and tuneful, but it lacks a bit of slam. It’s “comfortable” bass rather than impressive. Which is fine by me, but may not be suitable for those who like to rock-out.
Midrange – genuinely sweet and unfatiguing, but very detailed. I think it gets instrumental midrange tonality just about spot on – all the colours of acoustic instruments are there in an unexaggerated and non-thinned-out way.
Treble – ooo, sweet and pure, and just a tad rolled off and smooth.
No, it doesn’t have the succulent “valve warmth” craved by many (and which I enjoy myself). It’s clearly a solid state sound, but of unusual purity for solid state.
Bright and soulless? … nothing could be further from the truth!
Author – Jerry
Output Power: 2 x 120 W RMS into 8 Ohms
2 x 170 W RMS into 4 Ohms
2 x 220 W RMS burst into 4 Ohms
Signal / Noise Ratio: 93 dB
Channel Separation: 90 dB
Harmonic Distortion (THD): 0.05 %
Channel Balance: 0.01 dB
Chord remote control supplied as standard
Dimensions (mm): 480(w) x 138(h) x 355(d) Integra legs fitted
Weight: 20 Kgs. (incl. Integra legs)