he Chord Company is best known for its common-sense, value-for-the-money approach to the vexed question of audio cables. Not only do they major on affordable, high-performance cabling, but their in-house build-and-terminate policy means that they can provide pretty much any combination of plugs or connections you might need. Want to hook up that elderly Mark Levinson preamp to a Naim power amp? Chord Company are your guys.
Its a business model that has generally stressed evolution at the expense of revolution, building on solid performance and proven materials. But two years ago the company quietly took a step into the blue, launching a seriously impressive flagship line dubbed ChordMusic. What set the new cable apart from the existing range was two things: it cost twice as much as anything else Chord Company had made and it featured a new proprietary insulation material called Taylon, which is big news. Developed specifically for use in precision-guided weapons systems, Taylon was designed to overcome the shortcomings in the stability and performance of PTFE -- the same PTFE that gets used in most of the worlds audio cables.
What many cable manufacturers either dont know or dont want you to know is that the performance of PTFE (and its near neighbor, FEP) suffer from temperature-related phase shifts and mechanical instability -- and that these changes occur at or around room temperature. This helps explain why so many of the best-sounding and most expensive audio cables (Nordost and Crystal Cable, to name just two) go to such enormous lengths to minimize the influence of PTFE-type insulation in their designs. At more modest price levels and carefully used, PTFE more than holds its own, but when you try to push the performance envelope it becomes a serious limiting factor -- one that Chord Company eliminated altogether with the introduction of Taylon. The results in the case of ChordMusic were immediately impressive, with a natural, communicative quality, exceptional musical energy, presence and instrumental color making it a cable capable of challenging the very best but at considerably less than half the price. It has taken Chord Company a while to fill out the range and ramp up production, but ChordMusic has been winning a lot of friends in the meantime.
Well, things just got a whole lot more interesting. The company has just applied the Taylon treatment to their second-string Sarum cables, creating Sarum T. Combining the Talon-insulated conductors with a refined version of the Sarums established Super ARAY mechanical tuning system and proprietary connectors has created a giant-killer cable at around half the price of ChordMusic. With the same impressive musical characteristics (and absence of PTFE signature) as the flagship, a set of 1.0m Sarum T interconnects will cost a mere £2100 and a 1.5m pair of speaker cables £1800 -- not exactly chicken feed but little more than loose change in the world of state-of-the-art audio cables. And dont scoff until youve heard the results. Sarum T is extremely impressive, sonically and musically, so much so that it promises to be a serious game-changer when it comes to the performance/price equation.
But perhaps best of all, Chord Companys hand-built construction means that owners of existing Sarum digital, interconnect and power cords can have them rebuilt to full Sarum T specification and performance for around 40% of the new models retail price. (That offer cant extend to the speaker leads, simply because they consist of little more than the raw conductors, rather than the complex, shielded construction of the various interconnects.) Owners of existing Sarum leads should contact their dealer for details.
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