22nd October 2019, Kent, England: Award-winning British amplification and digital audio expert, Chord Electronics, will be demonstrating its new ULTIMA 3 mono power amplifiers for the first time in the UK at The UK Hi-Fi Show Live 2019. Three decades in development, the ULTIMA-technology amplifiers distil 30 years of UK amplifier design, engineering and manufacturing into a range boasting unprecedented resolution, transparency and dynamics.

The Kent-based company will be introducing the myriad sonic benefits of its new state-of-the-art dual-feed-forward power amp technology, which also incorporates MD John Franks’ own advanced concepts in ultra-high-frequency power supplies. Chord Electronics’ show system will also include its flagship front-end, the BLU MKII digital/CD transport, which includes the company’s latest FPGA-based 768KHz upscaling technology, its reference-level DAC, DAVE, plus the company’s CPA5000 preamp.

The British-made electronics will be joined by (fellow Maidstonian) KEF’s Blade 2 loudspeakers and Chord Company’s flagship ChordMusic cables in a remarkable ‘Best of British’ system that celebrates some of the best British audio engineering available while echoing the event’s high-end ethos.

More about the ULTIMA 3 mono power amplifier

First unveiled in October 2018, the new ULTIMA amplifier topology (which originally was exclusive to the range-topping £30,000 ULTIMA power amp), is now more affordable than ever having trickled down into the new ULTIMA 3 mono power amps (£11,000 each).

Sharing the same Chord Electronics’ DNA as the flagship ULTIMA, the new 480-watt ULTIMA 3 is a direct replacement for the company’s SPM 1400 MKII and sits in the Full Size range. The new amplifier has been redesigned with a remodelled fascia featuring Chord Electronics’ MD, owner and Chief Designer, John Franks’, latest design.

The new precision-machined fascia is made from aircraft-grade aluminium and features a reassuringly solid 28 mm-thick front panel, enhanced by a recessed spherical power button which illuminates for both operation and standby modes. A hidden front-panel switch, neatly located in the vertical split line, enables the lighting to be dimmed if required.

Like all Chord Electronics’ Full Size and Reference range amplifiers, the new ULTIMA 3 is available in a choice of Jett Black or Argent Silver finishes. The amplifier can be specified with either the famous stackable Integra Leg system (above) in Jett Black, Argent Silver or Nickel finishes or the highly polished black acrylic side block option. The amp offers both balanced and unbalanced connections plus high-quality loudspeaker terminals.

Chord Electronics’ ULTIMATE performance

The ULTIMA topology is a state-of-the-art design featuring John Franks’ latest circuit creation, the first all-new design in three decades. ULTIMA is the ultimate expression of the finest high-performance, ultra-fast, high-power amplifier technology available today.

ULTIMA technology is Chord Electronics’ most accomplished amplifier design and one that draws on the company’s 30 years of research, design and engineering in Great Britain. The ULTIMA mono power amplifiers have been engineered for the very finest hi-fi systems, those which by their very nature, have the most demanding and difficult-to-drive speakers.

ULTIMA technology background

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’ John Franks, took the theory and developed it to a much higher level, a progression of Cordell’s advanced dual-feed-forward error-correction topology incorporating Franks’ own advanced concepts in ultra-high-frequency power supplies, which have been a cornerstone of the company’s proprietary-technology amplifiers since its inception in 1989.

Each mono amplifier is painstakingly hand-built at the riverside Kent factory, The Pumphouse, over a period of several days, with each build overseen by a dedicated engineer. Chord Electronics’ renowned aircraft-grade solid aluminium casework offers a reassuringly high-end and entirely non-resonant enclosure for the electronics. The casework is neatly complemented by the unique Integra Leg system (or side blocks) which offers both striking visuals and the ability to stack with various other full-size Chord Electronics products as well as the Choral units, such as the DAVE DAC/preamp and BLU MKII CD/digital transport, when using the dedicated Choral Ensemble stand.

The ULTIMA 3 mono amplifier has an incredible 32 proprietary MOSFET power devices which 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. It also benefits from Chord Electronics’ TO3-style dual die lateral matched MOSFETs, which are continuously monitored with output stage error-correction circuitry and feature fully balanced input circuitry with DC-tracking servos and full temperature compensation.

The ULTIMA topology is incredibly powerful with an extraordinarily high peak output current (the speed at which the dynamic peaks can be delivered), bringing astonishing dynamics, fidelity and timing accuracy. ULTIMA is a truly unprecedented amplifier topology with exceptional performance and is one of the most advanced amplifier technologies in the world.

Technical specifications
  • Output Power: 480W RMS per channel @ 0.05% distortion into 8Ω; 
  • Frequency Response: 1dB @ 0.2Hz to 46kHz and -3dB 0.1Hz to 200kHz
  • Signal to Noise Ratio: Better than -84dB
  • Channel Separation: Better than 90dB
  • Input Impedance: 100kΩ Unbalanced/Balanced
  • Output Impedance: 0.04Ω
  • Dimensions with included integra legs: 481mm x 176mm x 377mm

Price and availability

ULTIMA 3 £11,000 (each); available now