Chord Electronics Maxx review

Maxx offers a glimpse of hi-fi's future, with superior performance and DAC ability Tested at £816

What Hi-Fi? Verdict

A forward-looking amplifier packed with features. A sign of the hi-fi to come?


  • +

    Agile, detailed sound

  • +

    Apt-X Bluetooth and DAC ability

  • +

    excellent build


  • -

    The mandatory power supply costs £155

  • -

    needs careful speaker matching

  • -

    fan noise

Why you can trust What Hi-Fi? Our expert team reviews products in dedicated test rooms, to help you make the best choice for your budget. Find out more about how we test.

If you like to pigeonhole kit, we suspect Chord’s Maxx will flummox you.

At heart it’s a stereo power amp with a volume control. That’s simple enough, but things don’t end there.

It’s also a USB DAC with a Bluetooth receiver. Combined with a suitable laptop or smartphone and a pair of decent quality speakers, the Maxx makes for a cutting-edge high-tech stereo solution.

A power output of just 20 Watts per channel suggests careful system matching is a must if you want high volume levels.

And that’s true to a certain extent, though we managed to get decent levels even from relatively inefficient speakers such as ATC’s SCM 11s.

Small, but very able
The Maxx runs hot. It does this despite the use of a somewhat noisy cooling fan and plenty of ventilation.

The heat is the side effect of using conventional analogue circuitry in a case barely bigger than a couple of packs of playing cards.

The Chord’s tiny size may lead some to underestimate its sonic ability. That would be a mistake.

The onboard DAC is a good one that delivers a bold and full-bodied sound from our Apple Macbook using uncompressed music files.

The Apt-X enabled Bluetooth connection sounds almost as good as the USB input, though lacks just a little of the former’s dynamic expression and transparency. The power amplifier sounds just like a baby Chord product should.

It’s precise, massively detailed and impressively agile.

It shines with Shake
With music such as PJ Harvey’s Let England Shake it shines while still having the refinement and finesse to make the most of Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E Minor Op.85.

It lacks only a bit of scale and authority compared to the more conventional amps available for similar money.

But then again, they don’t pack this Chord’s more advanced – and incredibly useful – features.

If the changing face of stereo music storage brings about interesting products such as this Chord we’re happy, particularly when they’re as good as the Maxx.

See all our power amp Best Buys

Follow whathifi on Twitter

Join whathifi on Facebook

What Hi-Fi?

What Hi-Fi?, founded in 1976, is the world's leading independent guide to buying and owning hi-fi and home entertainment products. Our comprehensive tests help you buy the very best for your money, with our advice sections giving you step-by-step information on how to get even more from your music and movies. Everything is tested by our dedicated team of in-house reviewers in our custom-built test rooms in London, Reading and Bath. Our coveted five-star rating and Awards are recognised all over the world as the ultimate seal of approval, so you can buy with absolute confidence.

Read more about how we test