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Chord Company ChordMusic cables – hearing is believing

chordmusicOne sure-fire way of starting a flame war on forums and Facebook pages is by mentioning the abilities of cables in your Hi-Fi system. Some will argue based on pure science, others by experience. Personally, I choose to use my ears and a healthy dollop of skepticism. The thing is, no matter the reason, leads from the Chord Company tend to impress. The Music line, is their top level cable and I went to have a listen. With my ears.

I do understand why interconnects and speaker cables divide opinion. Up until very recently I would balk at paying more than £20 for a Hi-Fi cable. The thing is, I regularly pay (not happily, but I do) £35+ for bass strings and the leads I use in my live rig are all around the £40ish mark – except the Cream lead from Chord that I have been fortunate enough to be allowed to keep.

Why are people so reticent in spending money on joining their systems together when paying hundreds, sometimes thousands, on elements of their Hi-Fi? Again, some will quote science at you stating that only quantifiable results matter and therefore once you start paying more than £20 you’re buying in to mythology and unicorn tears. Others will state it is purely budget constraints as to why they can’t/won’t spend more. I do hear you on the latter my friends.

All this preamble is leading up to an experience I had recently at KJ West One. The Chord Company were in the house to let people hear the evolution of their cables culminating in demonstrating their top of the range ChordMusic leads.

ChordMusic test system

Alan Gibb, Managing Director of The Chord Company, explained to an eager audience that the only thing he will be changing throughout the evening would be the interconnects. Jason, from KJ West One, was handling the music selection. Oddly enough, Alan and Jason match mine and my dad’s first names. Howsabout that for some useless information?

The point I was going to make before I inserted that pointless aside was that Alan would not be able to mess around with any settings – not that he would, but there are those out there that might accuse such.

chordmusic-test-systemAs for the Hi-Fi being used, it was not a budget affair. In front of us sat a full dCS digital front end partnered by Naim Statement amps and preamp feeding a pair of Wilson Audio Alexia.

So, we’re talking high end components with a high end price tag. But then, ChordMusic cables are not exactly impulse buying fare. These leads will return you minimum change out of £4,000 for a 1m pair of analogue cables. The rest of the cables in the ChordMusic range are similarly priced.

Chord Sarum evolution

The half-dozen off us all settled down in to the auditioning room, most with a glass of red or white grape-based libation.

This first pass will be to show how Chord are always on the look-out as to how to improve their cables.

Alan explained that the only thing he will be changing will be the 1m RCA cables in the system.

alan-and-jasonOver the next 15 minutes-or-so we basically traveled through a history of Chord’s Sarum cable. Their latest incarnation will set you back around £1,900 for a stereo pair of RCAs.

Starting off with the original Sarum we then moved to the Sarum Tuned ARAY.

The Tuned Array certainly brings something to the table. I am not saying that there was a huge difference between the original and the Tuned Array version, but a difference there was.

Chord Sarum Super ARAY

From here we visited the Sarum Super ARAY. This version was equipped with acrylic plugs. From the Tuned to Super Array there was another incremental audible improvement; from the original to Super ARAY, I’d say a marked one.

There was more detail, nuance and, dare I say, emotion coming through. That and, to my ears, a tighter feel to the bass.

sarum_super_arayThe Super Array was then swapped out for the same cable but terminated with Teflon plugs. This is the latest development and has trickled down from their top tier range. The website says:

The new Sarum Super ARAY RCA cable is fitted with a new PTFE (Polytetrafluoroethylene or, to use the brand name, Teflon) plug surround.  Like the acrylic plug surround fitted to the Sarum Tuned ARAY, the new PTFE version has been precision machined by a specialist company in the UK.  We’ve used PTFE for many years and the benefits of switching from the acrylic surround to the PTFE plug surround are extremely easy to hear.

“It’s marketing and snake oil” I hear you cry (probably). So why could even I, a cable skeptic, hear the difference. “It’s placebo” you might retort. “Does that really matter?” is my response.

The thing is I am listening to the same system where the only component being altered is the cable. Each time, it does sound different. Was this a blind test? No. Did Alan, at any point, pretend to swap cables to see if he could catch anyone out? No. Does that make my opinion any less valid? It depends what type of person you are reading this.

ChordMusic

Next was the ChordMusic and, at double the price, expectations were high. I am sure that there were people in the room willing there to be a leap in difference. For me, with no agenda, I was open and intrigued.

In it went and instantly I could hear more detail. The best analogy I can give is that the previous takes I heard where of a band in full dress rehearsal; now I was hearing the band for real.

kj-chord-cm-banner-001The whole thing sounded better together, more coherent. There seemed more emotion in the vocals and everyone was in the pocket. How do you quantify more emotion coming through from the same performance? What unit of measurement would that be in?

Alan said that the main difference between this and the previous cable was the change in insulation. The Music are fitted with Taylon.

Taylon

If this is so, why the huge leap in price? Well, Taylon is apparently military tech under a different name and Chord are the only ones in the music business with access to it at the moment. The manufacturing tolerances are therefore very low in regards to material being rejected because it just doesn’t make the grade. This stuff is all about phasing.

PTFE and silver-plated conductors are not uncommon in cables as it possess a pretty neutral and less tonal influence on the signal it carries. Now, ChordMusic benefits from Chord’s 30 years of experience in that pairing as well as using the same Super ARAY as the Sarum but adds Taylon.

chordmusic-groupTaylon is not only a great insulator it is phase-stable at typical room temperatures.

Chord as put this in to a Hi-Fi cable in order to stop any nasty phasing happening as the signals pass through the chain.

Alan then went a step further and replaced all of the interconnects with ChordMusic cables. One audience member exclaimed that it was a “night and day” difference between the last Sarum and the current crop of Music.

For me the main difference between the Sarum Super ARAY and the ChordMusic was in the higher frequencies. Cymbals, rim shots and violins sound even more natural. The difference was again noticeable even to this writer who was brought up with the financial habits of deepest Yorkshire.

Chord ChordMusic cable conclusion

Four grand is a lot to ask for a cable. Even when you consider that these are hand-built using super-special secret military gubbins, it’s still a lot of money.

I am perhaps not the perfect demographic for this cable. I have only just bought a car that costs the same as a pair these 1m cables. But, there was a chap who was interested in buying a full set for his system – and looked both happy and excited about it!

Even so, even I cannot deny that there were changes and, to my ears, improvements at every cable change. The ChordMusic is definitely the cream of the current crop.

If you are looking for the finishing touch to your dream system, ChordMusic may well be it.

 

Chord Company ChordMusic cables – hearing is believing

by Jay Garrett time to read: 6 min
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