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.