Chord Electronics Ultima Integrated Amplifier Review

I was at the Bristol HiFi Show 2024 recently and had the chance to listen to the newly launched Ultima Integrated amplifier which had it's UK debut at the show, it was paired with the incredible ATC SCM40 speakers and it was some of the best sounds at this years show with an extremely musically engaging sound, partnered with the Qutest DAC and impressive Hugo M Scaler proving to listeners what this all British system can do when in full flow !

John Franks the designer and owner founded Chord Electronics in 1989 and has a long and established career and has mastered and crafted what is now a worldwide brand, based in Kent in the UK they produce some of the best DAC's and HiFi components with the new Ultima amplifier topology being his latest and IMO the best sounding amplifier technology to date from Chord Electronics.

I currently run the new BerTTi stereo power amplifier (just reviewed) in my system and it recently picked up another Editor Choice award for its sheer musical ability and power from this beautiful yet compact design and is Chord Electronics most affordable power amplifier featuring the new Ultima tech, with the new Integrated this tech is taken further with a fully integrated amplifier and boosted power to offer a one box solution, so when I was offered the chance to review it in my own system I could not wait and jumped at the chance.

Build Quality and Features

The Ultima Integrated amplifier is a full width design and like all Chord Electronics components built from a solid billet of  aircraft grade aluminium, in the jet black finish I think this is one of the most beautiful and stylish components that I have had in my living room, the front of the unit only has two dials and an oversized polychromatic illuminated ON/OFF button in the Ultima fashion that defines the range, the volume dial also acts as the input selector and the balance dial can also select the AV option and that is it, keeping the front of the unit fuss free and uncluttered unlike other amplifiers, this is what I love about Chord and how they design their products, form follows function and how they implement features, they stick with the different colour lights to inform you what inputs are selected and once accustomed to what colour represents each one of the four inputs it is easy to navigate, ie red is the balanced input and yellow is input 2, this is clever approach and like their DACs allows for a uniform of products which is unmistakably in the Chord Electronics style.

Build quality really is second to none, it looks beautiful in pictures but once you have it in the flesh and get to handle the amplifier it really is one solid piece of kit and you get to appreciate how it is machined from a solid billet and all the work that has gone into producing it. The Ultima comes with the Integra legs fitted but you can also get custom side panels if you do not want it to have the Integra legs, the legs allows for stacking of the units like the Chord DAVE DAC which has been shown in the press release and IMO looks stunning, its clever as the feet have 3 rubber points on the base of each of them which sits in the indentations of the integra legs allowing for a solid connection of products, again form follows function perfectly.

The rear of the Ultima Integrated is for the purist audiophile with an all analogue affair, there is one balanced input and three unbalanced, there is also a balanced pre-out for connection of a power amplifier if you so wish and a balanced connection to integrate into an AV system. Mains input and L/R speaker outputs and that is it, again uncluttered and only what is needed for the purist audiophile.

The Ultima Integrated features 125 watts of power output into 8 ohms and benefiting from the latest dual-feed-forward error-correction topology it is bolstered by the proprietary ultra-high frequency PSU and advances in power technology means it has an extremely low-noise and low-distortion power supply allowing for greater fidelity, with the Ultima topology it corrects the audio signal before it reaches the output stage which in turn offers a greater signal accuracy from this integrated design. The amplifier comes with a lovely solid remote which is finished from aluminium and feels weighty, all the buttons are very tactile to touch and is very intuitive with everything laid out nicely and easy to understand. One of the most beautiful aesthetics of the unit is when powered on, the top has this wonderful blue glow from all the lights that are in the unit and it really does make it stand out as a high end premium product and is what sets the Ultima range of products apart from other manufacturers, Chord Electronics design is unique and beautifully done allowing you to see all the high quality components inside the Ultima amplifier.

Placed in my system I will be using the stunning AVID HiFi EVO Four speakers which I have just reviewed and also the Chord Electronics Hugo TT2 DAC and Hugo M Scaler which is set to operate in DAC mode rather than as the preamplifier setting and then connected into the balanced input of the amplifier, I will be streaming music stored on NAS drives via my Bluesound NODE and music services via Tidal and Spotify, CDs are from my Cyrus Audio CD8SE player with PSXR and connected up with Chord Company EpicX speaker cables and Chord EpicX coaxial and RCA cables and also a pair of Chord C-Line RCA cables for connection of my Denon DP400 turntable for vinyl playback.

Sound Quality and Performance

For my first album I am listening to an album which I have owned for quite some time and love the sound of, as it features some fantastic music from DubXanne, who uniquely cover The Police music in Dub style with stunning effect, stored on my NAS drive in FLAC 16bit 44.1kHz resolution. Track 2 Roxanne features some superb vocals from EASED from the group SEED with an unmistakable sound and really does this classic song justice with this Dub style mix, the Ultima manages to render incredible bass and low level detail, the bass was always very powerful with this album but the Chord manages to muster up prodigious levels from the AVID speakers which are no slouch when it comes to bass but with the Ultima in command they really do come alive with such rhythmic powerful and dynamic bass but with so many different layers of texture to the sound, the sound stage that the speakers manage to throw out is also improved with such a wide and deep image produced breaking free of the speaker boundaries, instruments are placed in their own space within the soundstage and the vocals being projected front and centre with the backing singers vocals placed behind EASED main vocals, the percussion instruments have a startling clarity and immediacy to the sound that defines the sonic signature of the Ultima amplifier tech, it is one of the most musically enjoyable solid state amplifiers that I have had in my room. Track 6 Message in a Bottle is another superb dub mix of this 80s classic featuring vocals from Earl 16 and lots of echoey reverb thrown in and works so well with the huge soundstage that the Ultima and AVID speakers manages to produce, once again the low level detail retrieval that this amplifier manages to resolve is incredible and even at lower volumes the bass has such a rich and natural sound, whatever the level of the volume the amplifier manages to produce crystal clear vocals and bass that is so rhythmically satisfying, the amplifier keeps a vice like grip of the speakers with mids, high and low frequencies which are so well balanced whatever the volume level. Track 13 is such a beautiful sounding track and compared to the rest of the songs very laid back with the acoustic guitar and accordian having such a natural sound which is rendered perfectly from the Ultima and AVID speakers, the dynamics from this amplifier is phenomenal when the drums come in, shimmering cymbals and the leading edge of notes have real bite with sheer musical pleasure and you just cannot help but tap along to the wonderful sounds, meanwhile the bass line underpins the music with a pulsating and hypnotic feel to the music, this amplifier is just so musically proficient in its delivery easily the best I have heard this album sound !


For my next album I am listening to the latest offering from Boris Blank and his new album Resonance in high resolution 24bit 48kHz, it is another fantastic album from this legendary artist so well known for his electronic music and reminds me of the brilliant album Electrified which I love and listen to constantly. Track 1 Vertigo Heroes (Part 1) reminds me of Time Tunnel off of Electrified which is a fast and relentless track with synthesised sounds reverberating all around the room and with the volume cranked up the bass notes pulsate out of the speakers, the Ultima has complete control over the EVO Four speakers and really does make them sing, with the bass notes starting and stopping on a dime, meanwhile the soundstage is vast and wide with instruments spread across the soundstage with complete spatial context. Track 7 Elements of Life sounds simply incredible with bass that energises the room effortlessly, the Ultima’s overall fidelity and grip on the speakers at high levels is astounding and something that I love about the Ultima technology as it just delivers it in spades, but it always manages to have complete composure over the music and sounding extremely musical at the same time, as with all of Boris Blank’s music it is a complete roller coaster of sounds in the ambient world that he constructs through his music and no more so than Track 11 Vertigo Heroes (Part II) and the Ultima allows the music to be heard with all the space and ambient sounds that Blank intended, crucially this amplifier manages to render the music perfectly as imagined and feels like an assault on your senses with an almost immersive experience into his world of music, this is the highest of regards that I can give to an amplifier which is so capable of delivering the sounds and in such a way that it really does allow you to feel every part of the music being played and the emotions that it creates. This is what good HiFi is all about, it gets you excited to listen to and discover more music.

On to my final album and this is one that I own on vinyl and it is the brilliant Wish You Were Here by Pink Floyd, it is one of my favourites and remastered on to a 180g vinyl pressing. Track 1 Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Parts 1-5) is an epic track and for 13 minutes has to be one of the most satisfying listens that I own on vinyl, and with the Ultima it manages to produce an absolutely stunning rendition, the soundstage is wide and deep with Richard Wrights electric organ and synthesiser intro which has a haunting sound while the ambient chimes echo around the room before Gilmours iconic guitar comes in, the Ultima manages to produce a wonderfully natural analogue sound of the vinyl with nothing added instead just a beautifully rendered 3D picture of what is being played in front of me, when Nick Masons drumming comes in it is a visceral display of how well this amplifier handles the quick shifts in dynamics with plenty of slam from the drums delivery and with lightning fast shifts in tone, vocals from the artists have such beautiful harmonious balance across the sound stage it’s hard to believe this was first recorded back in 1975, when the saxophone comes in towards the end of the track it is perfectly placed in its own space to the left of the sound stage, the Ultima allows you to hear every detail from this track with startling clarity and definition with so many different layers and textures to the music. On side 2 track 2 Wish You Were Here it starts off with the acoustic guitar from Gilmour centre stage having a wonderfully natural sound before his powerful vocals kick in and the Ultima manages to project these with a stunning clarity and depth to the sound before Nick Mason on drums comes in with such impact and the transient shifts which are lightning fast, but the Ultima always manages to keep the composure of the music in check. The final part of Shine on You Crazy Diamond (Parts 6-9) on side 2 is the finale to this stunning album and with the Ultima’s volume dial turned right up the pshycadelic sounds are utterly reminiscent of the 70s music but unmistakably Pink Floyd with a barrage of electronic synthesised sounds and some stunning drumming from Nick Mason, the amount of detail that this amplifier manages to dig out is just incredible, mean while the vocals sound so powerful and are projected out into the room, it is an unbelievably good album and some of the best music I have, the Chord Electronics Ultima Integrated amplifier manages to produce it effortlessly and allows you to appreciate the beauty of the music fully from this perfectly remastered version of this album.

Conclusions and Final Thoughts

The Chord Electronics Ultima Integrated Amplifier proves it does not matter what type of music you put through it, it delivers it with exceptional musicality and rhythmic drive that it simply excels at, it is a purist amplifier and I have listened to and owned many solid state Integrated amplifiers in the past and this is one of the finest from this British brand up there with the best, the Ultima amplifier technology is far superior to anything that I have had in in the past and if you are looking for a one box solution then look no further and considering its price point I think it should be at the top of anyone’s list !

The Speaker Shack awards the Chord Electronics Ultima Integrated Amplfiier with a 5 star Reference award for what is a highly accomplished Integrated amplifier !

Price at time of review: £8,500

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