Chord’s Chordette series is as bewildering a range of products as we have ever come across.
At the time of writing it’s nine-strong, and includes everything from a media centre PC to a phono stage, all built into a tiny cases barely bigger than a pair of playing cards packets stacked.
Unlike most rivals, Chord has happily acknowledged that future hi-fi systems are likely to be computer based.
Even so, the company has gone far further in accommodating such sources than many would have been expected.
Every one of the Chordette products has USB connectivity and on-board number crunching conversion circuitry – even the phono stage, though this goes the analogue-to-digital route to enable archiving onto a Mac or PC.
Centre of controversy
For this review, we’ve chosen to concentrate on the the most intriguing and controversial product, the Mogul. It’s like any other Windows 7 machine, but housed in a tiny Chordette-style case.
There’s an awful lot crammed in, too: a 1.2GHz, 64-bit VIA Nano U2500 processor and VIA VT1708S High Definition Audio Codec, 2GB of RAM, a 320GB hard drive and a small, rather noisy fan.
Connectivity is extensive. There are six USBs, an HDMI and stereo RCAs alongside normal PC connections such as Ethernet and VGA, and a wireless keyboard and wi-fi dongle are included.
A PC with some sonic muscle
We call the Mogul controversial because if you study the specs there’s little to distinguish it from a traditional PC costing a quarter as much.
Even Chord itself admits that it doesn’t think this will be a big seller. That said, the Mogul is a cool-looking thing, and if money isn’t an issue it really completes the system, visually and sonically.
It sounds powerful and full-bodied, delivering the kind of expression few would expect from a computer.
Detail levels are impressive, as is its sense of transparency. Video (1080p is supported) is decent given reasonable source material.
A few minor gripes
Moving away from sound quality we have a few complaints. The metal finishes on the units don’t match well: they vary in grain a little on our early production samples.
Cosmetically, the logos would look better if they all lined up properly, and we wish the front of the Mogul didn’t sprout unsightly inputs. We’d like a classier remote handset, too – the system deserves it.
It proves that high-end sound doesn’t need a system that dominates the room, and it doesn’t need to look ugly.
But as good as the Mogul is, that price gets in the way of a solid thumbs-up.