REFERENCE AUDIO – WITHAM ESSEX
BOB’s Review Series - No 65 – Chord Electronics Ultima Integrated Amplifier
Chord Electronics have been rumoured to be working on new Ultima products for some time, so it was with great anticipation that I unboxed the latest in the Ultima range, the aptly named Ultima Integrated, their first new integrated amplifier for 7 years. This is a 125w into 8-ohm one box amplifier that precisely follows the aesthetic design of all other Ultima products, including the light show that is now a Chord given. And I must say it looked spectacular in silver finish. Priced at £8495 it offers great value for money in terms of performance per pound. It oodles build quality as do all other Chord Electronics products, just connect a source and speakers and enjoy.
- 125w into 8ohm
- 4 analogue inputs, 3 on RCA and 1 on XLR.
- Available in black or silver finish
- 480mm wide (with Integra legs), x 130mm high x 380mm deep
- Weight 14.75kg
Straight from the box the Ultima Integrated showed it merits as we have come to expect from Chord Electronics Ultima products. It didn’t need much warming up to give its best and I was able to listen critically almost immediately. I teamed it up with a pair of Dali Epicon 2 speakers and an Ideon three stack comprising EOS Streamer, Timer and DAC and sat down for an enjoyable listening session. This amp is certainly powerful driving the 87dB efficiency Dali speakers with ultimate control (see what I did there) and leaving me wondering why anyone would want for more. My only criticism and one I raise with every Chord Electronics amplifier is the usability of the volume controls full range. It will turn from zero all the way around to 5 o’clock but is only effective for sensible listening up to around the 10 o’clock position after which it is just too loud for normal listening even with relatively inefficient speakers. I guess there must be a reason why Chord does this, but it always baffles me. For most of my listening it was set at around the 9 o’clock position in our 5.5 x 3.2m demo room and was plenty loud enough. The new remote control however is excellent and a big improvement on earlier versions. Built into a solid shaped aluminium block it is now easier than ever to select the source and even to dim the display because every button has an easy-to-read description on it.
Apart from my niggle about the volume control (probably just a personal thing) I have nothing but praise for the Ultima Integrated amplifier. It performed faultlessly giving a solid performance that belies its modest 125w output (by today’s standards) and will drive most speakers with rock solid determinism. Chord Electronics continue to make the finest amplifiers around and now their Ultima range has something for almost everyone covering a wide pricing band. I have also used it with a number of other speakers including demanding floor standers and in every case it was a joy to use and listen to. This is a dynamic, powerful and controlling amplifier that will create a wide soundstage, drive most speakers and always result in enjoyable and entertaining listening sessions. What more can we ask for.
One final note, be careful how you use the large right-hand knob on the front plate, it’s labelled as Balance/AV and I can see it being pressed by mistake turning the amp into AV bypass mode, whereupon you coveted speaker drive units will last be seen heading for orbit!
Please call us to book a demo if you would like to hear the Chord Electronics Ultima Integrated in action.
Bob – Team Reference Audio