Posted on 9th November, 2018


Chord Electronics will soon be celebrating its 30th anniversary and what better way to mark it than by launching a state-of-the-art flagship amplifier? There's only one better way I can think of, and that's to launch a flagship amplifier called ULTIMA.

The Chord Electronics ULTIMA amplifier features John Franks' latest circuit topology, the first all-new design in three decades.

The ULTIMA comprises of a reference-quality preamp and two mono power amplifiers, all costing £30,000 each just in case you need to check your bank account.  

As you can imagine, Chord Electronics states that ULTIMA is their most accomplished amplifier in its 30-year history and one that draws on all of the company's three decades of research, design and engineering based in Great Britain.

ULTIMA's technology is based on a technical paper by Dr Malcolm J Hawksford (emeritus professor at Essex University) which was taken up and refined by Bob Cordell of Bell Labs. Chord Electronics' owner and Chief Designer, John Franks, then took the theory and developed it to a much higher level. The resulting tech is a progression of Cordell's advanced dual-feedforward error-correction topology incorporating Franks' own advanced concepts in ultra-high-frequency power supplies.

Each 86kg mono amplifier is painstakingly hand-built at the riverside Kent factory, The Pumphouse, over several days while being overseen by a dedicated engineer.

Naturally, the new amplifier is dressed in Chord Electronics' renowned aircraft-grade solid aluminium casework. Not only because it looks, but it also happens to offer a reassuringly high-end and entirely non-resonant enclosure for the electronics. The casework is neatly complemented by the unique Integra Leg system which provides both striking visuals and the ability to stack with various other full-size Chord Electronics products as well as the Choral units. Great news if you already own components such as the DAVE DAC/preamp and BLU MKII CD/digital transport on the dedicated Choral Ensemble stand.

Chord Electronics ULTIMA preamp

Chord Electronics ULTIMA

The ULTIMA preamp is a world-class solution with cutting-edge proprietary technology. It benefits from true dual-mono construction with separate ultra-high-frequency power supplies for each channel, giving the best possible separation. With the addition of Chord Electronics' low-noise circuitry, noise floor performance is exceptional, at beyond -135dB.

The unit is equipped with three pairs of fully balanced outputs and three unbalanced outputs; inputs include four unbalanced and four balanced with six-step gain adjustment. Selection is made via remote control or from the front panel, which uniquely features separate frequency EQ adjust controls for the left and right channels.

Chord Electronics ULTIMA

To prevent RF interference each of the power supplies and the sensitive volume, balance and EQ controls, are surrounded internally by solid milled aluminium shielding. Fully balanced A/V bypass circuitry allows direct connection to A/V processors.

Further features include defeatable front panel VU meters with BBC ballistics, two low-distortion, low-noise front-panel headphone output jacks and 12V remote triggering outputs.

Chord Electronics ULTIMA mono power amp

Chord Electronics ULTIMA

Chord Electronics' proprietary amplifier technology has seen numerous refinements and updates over the past 30 years. However, ULTIMA receives John Franks' all-new circuit topology.

The new dual-feed-forward error-correction amplifier technology was first implemented on a medium scale in the Etude power amp (unveiled at High End, Munich in 2018). Realising its significant benefits, Chord Electronics started work on a replacement circuit for its range of uncompromising full-size mono amplifiers, ULTIMA being the largest, most advanced and most powerful in the portfolio.

The ULTIMA mono amplifier unit has an incredible 64 proprietary MOSFET power devices that demand the most advanced and refined drive circuitry, suitably devoid of sound-degrading components. The drive circuitry features an ultra-low-distortion, high-voltage amplifier operating at very high speed: 300 volts per microsecond technologies with advanced feed-forward and feedback compensation techniques. Additionally, it also benefits from Chord Electronics' TO3-style dual die lateral matched MOSFETs. Those transistors are continuously monitored with output stage error-correction circuitry and feature fully balanced input circuitry with DC-tracking servos and full temperature compensation.

With a name such as ULTIMA, you would expect it to be potent. Fortunately, it is with 780 watts into 8 ohms, 1,400 watts into 4 ohms and 2,500 watts into 2 ohms. ULTIMA's peak output current exceeds 500 amps, an extremely high current differentiated by the speed at which the dynamic peaks can be delivered. That list all adds up to, we're told, astonishing dynamics, fidelity and unrivalled musicality.

This next-generation mono power amp and new preamp are sure to set new standards for performance and sound quality.

ULTIMA is to make its UK debut at The Hi-Fi Show Live 2018, Old Windsor (November 10th/11th).

Price and availability

ULTIMA pre £30,000; ULTIMA mono power amps £30,000 (each); both are available now.

For more information, go to Chord Electronics.

Technical specifications

ULTIMA preamp

  • Frequency Range: 2.5Hz – 200kHz +/- 3dB
  • Total Harmonic Distortion: 0.0008% 20Hz – 20kHz
  • Intermodulation Distortion: -125dB on all inputs
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: -125dB on all inputs
  • Channel Balance: 0.01dB
  • Input Max Voltage: 17V RMS Balanced – 8.5V RMS Unbalanced
  • Output Max Voltage: 17V RMS Balanced – 8.5V RMS Unbalanced
  • Output Offset: 0mV (Both Channels)
  • Potentiometer Performance: 0dB 0.5dB, -20dB 0.2dB, -60dB 0.24dB (13 seconds Full Travel)
  • Nominal Gain: All inputs subject to six levels of switchable gain (x0.5, x1, x1.5, x2, x2.5, x3)
  • Input Impedance: 100kΩ balanced – 50 kΩ unbalanced
  • Output Impedance: 100Ω (Short Circuit Protected)
  • Operating Voltage: 85V – 270V AC (50Hz – 60Hz) Auto Switching
  • Power Consumption: 15W
  • Channel separation: 98dBV
  • Dimensions Without Integra Legs: 420mm (w) x 355mm (d) x 310mm (h)
  • Dimensions With Included Integra Legs: 480mm (w) x 355mm (d) x 350mm (h)
  • Weight: 30kg

ULTIMA mono power amp

  • Output Power: 780W RMS per channel @0.05% distortion into 8Ω, 1,400 RMS per channel into 4Ω; waveform continuous at 5Hz to 20kHz
  • Total harmonic distortion 0.0005 per cent (at 1V) 10Hz to 20kHz (8- or 4-ohm loaded)
  • Phase intermodulation distortion: 0.0005 per cent
  • Interface intermodulation distortion at 75 percent rated power into 8 ohms resistive load was 0.0002 percent at 1kHz
  • Peak output current: exceeds 500 amperes
  • Frequency Response: 0.1dBV from 5Hz to 100kHz any loading between 4 and 8 ohms
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: Better than -103dB
  • Input Impedance: 100kΩ Unbalanced/Balanced
  • Output Impedance: <0.01Ω
  • Gain: 30dB
  • Dimensions Without Integra Legs: 420mm (w) x 670mm (d) x 310mm (h)
  • Dimensions With Included Integra Legs: 480mm (w) x 670 (d) x 350mm (h)
  • Weight: 86kg


Jay Garrett's avatar

Jay Garrett

StereoNET UK’s Editor and Bass playing gadget junkie. He’s captained the good ship GadgetyNews for over a decade, making low jargon high tech a very handy thing. His passion for gadgets and Hi-Fi is second only to being a touring musician.

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Posted in: Hi-Fi
Tags: chord electronics