Signals Chord Hifi vs other recent Naim events

Well i thought i would be polite to Naim and not post anything, but that rascal in Chesham @Nigelb gave me the assignment.
Three systems…the main one was Mscaler/Dave/ preamp CPA 5000, and a pair of new Ultima power amps into Dynaudio confidence 60 speakers. Speaker cables true signal revelation.
Next was Dave/MScaler/Etude into Kudos 505, true signal ultimate i think as the speaker cable.
Last system was the Chord TT series Hugo, Toby and a pair of Q Acoustics concept 300 with Qed Supremus speaker cables.
This is the Saturday morning session, so we had over an hour presentation from the Chord digital designer Rob Watts. He took us through his design philosophy, science, mathematics, history of digital conversion. Time flies quickly as it was very interesting and thought provoking. But you could easily come away with the thought that anything other than FPGA was just for the bin…only doing 8 bit.
I think for me the comment from Rob that put all this into perspective was we know a lot about human sight and brain processing of images. The eyes provide about 10% of what we see, the rest is interpolation and processing by our brains…hence the odd optical illusion. By comparison, the interaction of our ears and brain-is less well understood. So perhaps with different ears, brains etc…people liking different systems is understandable.

The main demo was of the new amps fed by Mscaler/Dave. The scaler was switched in and out from track to track…by the touch of a button by Maurice, our Chord host. To Rob and Maurice…the Mscaler is indispensable. To me , yes it sounded different to a bare Dave, personally i was not convinced. Overall the system sounded really good, refined, controlled, detailed, had great depth. Perhaps not that Naim PRAT of the Statement amps and an ND555 with these speakers. The Kudos 808 active with nap 500 takes some beating recently, but this Chord system although different is well worth an audition. An unfair price comparison? Whatever…a great system.

The Etude/Dave/MScaler into Kudos 505 just did not engage me at all. I listened to a couple of tracks of my music and then others. Compared to the Naim amps and streamers recently…no comparison. But the Etude is not in a 552 league…so unfair again?

The last system i thought was OK, the Q Acoustics seemed happy on the TT system.

In summary, i hope others will chime in as i have no Chord products in my system…i know i am biased. But i think some of the science Rob took us through…sort of explained why we lean to a particular sound. I know it would never happen, but it would have been interesting for Steve Sells going head to head with Rob Watts on dac technology implementation.

Thanks to Rob, Maurice from Chord and as ever the Signals guys for a great morning, interesting, good music, food and company👍 If i got the part of systems incorrect, apologies…Alistair will hopefully mop up my mess😉

Going to put my feet up listen to music and see what fireworks @nigelb put me up to.


Excellent write up.

I have the electronics. Shame they didn’t hook up some Falcon Acoustic LS3/5As - I really like Chord kit and was impressed by Falcons so wondered if they’d work well together. I’m currently using Eclipse Time Domain speakers. My Blu2 M-Scaler is indispensable :grinning:

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They do stock Falcon…but memories play tricks, so these comparisons are a bit unfair…you just have to say how you feel. The previous session of a Kudos 505 with Naim 282 and active 250, s is not a fair comparison. My earlier post of 552 was wrong.

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Very true - I still think the Cambridge Audio R50 (or possibly Magnepan 30.7) is the best loudspeaker I have heard, but no idea if I’d still like it as much if I heard it today.

The Falcons were the standout product for me at last year’s Bristol show.

I have heard nothing yet that beats transmission line speakers for bass, so though I never heard the R50 I had IMF TLS50ii, then RSPM, then PMC EB1i, now latter with ATC dome mid and better tweeter. PMC MB2 is great, but big, and Fact 12 small and surprisingly good. But I would love to hear ATC SCM40 with Wilson Benesch Torus…

But that is a digression, Chord Dave is just so clear and natural sounding that I have no desire to ever hear a other DAC. However i would like to hear it with MScaler - and I woukdn’t, in case it hooks me!

As for tge science and maths behind the DAC an MScaler development, even though I am a scientist I have no interest - all tgat matters is how they sound.

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Thanks Gazza, and I didn’t mean to put you on the spot, just interested in hearing your views on possibly the two best sounding ‘commercial’ systems commonly available in the UK today, as you have heard them both at Signals not too far apart. Clearly differing design philosophies and different sound signatures.

Of course an I can only judge by being there myself and, as Naim kit will only sound its best at home with familiar surroundings and familiar music, so too Chord kit. So yes, third hand, unfair and unscientific for me to deduce anything of substance but still interesting to observe from afar.

I am sure that. if I were not so ‘invested’ in Naim, I would look very closely at Chord, as I believe the designer really knows his stuff and I read so many good things about Chord, particularly Dave.

Thanks for indulging me Gazza, very interesting to rad your thoughts.

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What source was used for the Mscaler?

Was it USB based like Melco or Spdif like core

I found that sources sound different on Mscaler Dave

To my ears I prefer a good low noise Spdif source with a good coaxial cable.

I know that interconnects make a difference so for me personally I use vertere interconnects

As for speaker cable a vertere one can easily show Naca5 clean pair of heels.

So really to compare with a naim system, use the same cables as those used with the naim to compare.

As for amps, well one should use the same price category !

I would not go back to any other source other than Chord or for cables, vertere

But that is my preference, hi fi is a personal choice.

Melco in every room

No worries. I know you like Kudos, but these Dynaudio confidence speakers are certainly up there with them imo. If you have no intention of going active and just sticking with a 552/500 long term…the Confidence range should be on your demo list. I am sure Alistair could do you a demo comparison.

I was the only person not impressed by Mscaler…to be fair i often miss-the benefits of hifi kit in these demos. It took a private demo with my nd555 fir me to finally “get it”

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Fair enough since you also say you were the only one not impressed by Mscaler

While I like the ND555, I still prefer my Chord sources

I think there are too many variables here to draw conclusions.

Many people didn’t like statement NDS with certain speakers. Some do

It’s all preference and opinions

Absolutely, personal preference, the Ultima amps with Dynaudio were very good and i kept being drawn back to that system…albeit out of my league.


It would be interesting to hear the etude with dynaudio speakers

Perhaps, but I would not switch to an audiophile music server because they do not run software as comprehensive as J-River Media Centre. If one of these enterprising companies licensed JRMC then I could be persuaded. I live in hope.

On cables, if Rob were the demo then he must have been happy with cable choices. To be honest, I have attended Chord demos at a hifi show (Bristol) and would not have bought anything if that were the only chance I had to listen. However, I would think a dealer facilitated demo would give Gazza and Nigel a very good feel of what Chord offers. It was a dealer demo that did it for me, albeit a different dealer.

I use modestly priced cabling for my Chord system: mainly Canare and am delighted so no reason to change. Perhaps Vertere cabling would be better, but I’ll probably never know.

Whether you have a Naim, Linn or Chord system or a mixture. I feel sure you’d enjoy listening to your favourite music on it.

The main thing is you had an enjoyable day and you are happy with your own excellent system.

I have always liked Naim as company and its fine products. My problem is in my cottage, where most linear PSUs seem to suffer from mechanical buzzing. It is not a Naim only problem. So I searched for a system that would enable me to enjoy music without buzzing. Chord worked for me because its PSU design was cottage friendly. So I could never say Naim has better sound quality than Chord or vice versa. They are both superb.

I really liked your write up. Signals do some very interesting demos. Unfortunately, I cannot travel far at this time so cannot attend myself so it’s great to read others impressions.

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Signals have a good but perhaps smaller range of hifi companies they deal with than some of the bigger dealers. But what they do is try to be fair to all of the companies by including them in their demo days through the year…i think we have some more to be announced.
Glad the Chord system works for you in your cottage. After hearing their big system, i could have been drawn in…too late for me now. One guy had a demo into his Naim 252 with a mscaler/ Dave just as our demo morning was finishing. Chord and Signals no doubt delighted to attend this customers needs😃

Yes, I have heard the Confidence 30 (I think) at Bristol and the larger Confidence (60?) at Audio East Show. I was impressed on both occasions.

The trouble with these events is that it’s easy to be ‘impressed’. The acid test of course is to try them at home for a couple of weeks. I don’t want to be impressed by speakers, I want then to disappear and just leave engaging music. So many speakers do the boom boom tizzz wonderful but wholly artificial pinpoint imaging thing brilliantly but after an hour you’re desperate to turn the stereo off and get some peace. Of course, invisibility is the really impressive thing, if it can be achieved. But it’s a different impressive.

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You are preaching to the converted here HH. I never buy anything of significant cost without a home demo first, and that includes ‘peripherals’ like the MusicWorks ReFlex Ultra distribution box which I took home on a sale or return basis. Needless to say it didn’t go back. In fact not much (if any) Naim gear I have had on home demo has been returned to the dealer. If I were to rely on a dealer demo only, I wouldn’t have bought half the kit I own.

I actually find the opposite to you in that most kit does not sound at its best at a dealer or a show, and only really coming into its own during a lengthy home demo. When I demoed the 552 vs the ND555 at the dealer to help me prioritise, I knew either would sound better at home, so in fact I was somewhat ‘unimpressed’ with these (individually) at the dealer demo.

I realise some who are not near a Naim dealer or are abroad don’t have the luxury of testing Naim gear in their systems at home. For me however, this privilege is possibly the biggest single factor in my journey up the Naim hierarchy of kit. Long may it last.