Post by MartinT on Jun 17, 2014 21:33:29 GMT
I have owned this amplifier for 13 years now, making it the oldest surviving hi-fi component still running in my system. There's a good reason that it hasn't been ousted by any other power amp I've tried in my system: none of them have outperformed it. Some have come close, but many have disappointed me.
The Chord SPM-1200E is a 350W per channel MOSFET power amplifier that has a sliding bias arrangement, all driver circuitry running in class A and dynamic coupled power rails. It has all-important balanced inputs and two sets of heavy duty WBT speaker terminals. It is virtually maintenance-free (I've only sent it back once for a service where Chord changed a few distortion setting resistors and pronounced it as good as new) and just goes on working no matter what. There are 16 power MOSFETs per channel. It runs dead quiet and consumes little power (about 40W at idle) meaning that it can be left on permanently, which aids sound quality.
The unusual aspect of the Chord's design is a high frequency high performance switched mode power supply, making it quite compact for its rated output. The fact that the SMPS runs at such a high frequency, with very short recharge cycles to the reservoirs, is why I find it such a fast amplifier, turning on a sixpence when responding to big transients. It also runs cool at all times, never getting more than warm when I'm pushing some serious decibels. One thing that is hard to comprehend is that, despite the SMPS, it responds very well indeed to regenerated power, sounding even cleaner and more dynamic.
It's very hard to describe the Chord, which is why this review is going to be unusually short. It doesn't sound of anything but constantly responds to system changes by remaining ultra revealing. It is like a wide open window, just powering the speakers with immense control no matter what it's driven with. You do not want to use this amp in a poor system as it will simply show up all system deficiencies. I think this is why Chord power amps have an undeserved reputation for being cold and hard. It is nothing of the sort, which a quick listen to my system will confirm. It just plays what it's fed. It seems to have almost limitless headroom and bass power as I have never even come close to hearing it clip or struggle at all. I think my speakers would blow first.
So there is little danger of the Chord leaving my system any time soon, despite its age. I cannot give a better recommendation than that.