Looking for a high-end speaker cable upgrade? Paul Rigby tries the Chord Signature Reference
Often hi-fi ancillary attention can be focused in and around the boxes, the amplifiers, the CD players and the turntables with even enlightened hi-fi users sometimes relegating the speakers to add-on necessities in terms of quality cabling. Yet the speaker cables are an essential and necessary ingredient. Suffice to say, get this bit right, you’ll certainly notice and your music will thank you for it.
Chord’s Signature speaker cables have actually been around for some time. In fact, they’ve been selling nicely for around ten years and it was only when Chord took a second look at the model and realised that it could upgrade them that the Signatures were hauled back into the workshop for a wash and a brush up.
Well, actually, it’s a bit more than that because Chord has added more “efficient” shielding, silver-plated conductors and PTFE insulation. You’ll notice from the accompanying images that the cables are also twisted to improve sound quality while that shielding features high density foil and 95% coverage of a metallic braid. The thrust of these upgrades was (hopefully) to produce a neutral tone. So I’ll be looking out for that during the sound tests. Standard colours are red and black or all black, but if there’s a particular colour you really want, please ask and I’m sure the company will be able to sort you out.
I began with a slice of David Bowie and his Low album. Playing the track, Breaking Glass, I was happy to hear that the bass had an articulate aspect that helped to separate it from the drums. Both occupied the stereo image section of the soundstage which meant that there was plenty of opportunity for confusion and for both instruments to become confused with each other, promoting smearing in the mids and bloom in the bass. That never happened with the Signature Reference, though. Not only were both kept apart but the bass guitar was focused enough to provide a rhythm that was easily followed by the ear. At no time did the bass guitar go AWOL and at no time did the processed, gated drum sound lose control.
Further, I was impressed by the dynamic performance of the Signature Reference cables during Don Cornell and Heart of my Heart from the original Great Hits Dot release. The bass was appreciably low and rumbling while the upper mids and treble were fragile and delicately detailed. To illustrate that, I noticed that the cymbals and piano offered enough precision to offer the ear quite intricate work. Via average cables, this complex business blurs into a single noise. The Chords managed to dig into the recording to provide all of the necessary information.
High-end cable design asks a lot of the designers partly because the price places expectations upon the same. Chord has nothing to fear here because this set of cables provides a splendid array of sonic highlights that provides enough transparency and, yes, neutrality to enhance music detail.
CHORD SIGNATURE REFERENCE SPEAKER CABLES
Price: £1,350 (for 3m, other lengths are available)
Tel: 01980 625700
GOOD: dynamic reach, instrumental separation, clarity
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