Chord Company Signature Super ARAY, Tuned?ARAY, SignatureXL and SignatureX cables
Signature is the real-world top-of-the-range for most prospective Chord Company owners. While Sarum T and ChordMusic stand above Signature in price and performance terms, many Chord Company users fall into that mid-to-high-end bracket typified by Naim Audio’s Classic Series or Linn’s Akurate line. People who might conceivably spend around ￡1,050 on a good 1m interconnect but find ￡2,000 (or more) a step too far on a cable no matter how good it sounds.
Chord Company’s Signature also covers a broad church, with everything from analogue, digital and networked audio interconnects, loudspeaker cables and even power cords. The brand has been building and refining Signature for the longest time; the first cable to carry the name was launched in 1998. From the outset, Signature was the cable that took shielding seriously, investigating the (at the time) largely ignored problems generated by high-frequency interference. Now that we exist in a soup of such interference thanks to Wi?Fi, the research that gave us Signature was prescient and quickly filtered (pun intended) through the Chord Company’s products ever since.
There’s therefore a sense of completeness in looking at Chord Company’s long-running Signature range of cables. But with that completeness comes many acronyms and neologisms for technologies and configurations relating to different products in the range. The terminology needs a spot of decoding.
The most significant of these neologisms is ‘ARAY’, a form of mechanical tuning at one end of the interconnect, initially developed for digital cables to maintain a consistent impedance. The design began with S/PDIF because keeping a 75-ohm cable at 75-ohm is paramount, but quickly spread to analogue, digital and network cables alike.
An ARAY of cables
The original Tuned ARAY is reserved for interconnects, but even greater – Super ARAY – precision is used in Signature digital because listening tests found the added precision is of greater benefit in digital at this level. ARAYs are also used on the SignatureX power (and above) cables, plus ChordMusic speaker cable. According to Chord Company, the company’s recently incorporated XLPE (Cross-linked Polyethylene) insulation brings similar improvements. All feature silver-plated copper conductors, with the power cord and speaker cable using a braided/twisted pair layout.
It’s relatively easy to pour on the superlatives when it comes to products like ChordMusic with its innovative Taylon insulation and a price and performance that both cause a sharp intake of breath. Part of the reason hyperbole is easy to get is that these cables are used in cost-no-object settings. Signature has a tougher job; it must sound good and open the sound of a system, but not so wide that it undermines the performance of the components with which it’s likely to be used. You want the ear-opening experience, but not so ear-opening as to highlight the system’s limitations. It’s a task many cable brands get wrong, usually either by making a ‘MiniMe’ of their top cables or applying a touch of ‘The Peter Principle’ to lower-end cables and pimping them too far.
The Middle Ground
Signature, by way of contrast, gets all these things right; it’s a cable designed specifically for really good audio systems in this middle ground, and it does this beautifully. That’s not to say it fails to hit the spot when used with some exotic or humble audio equipment, but when used in the right context it shines like few others. Considering this, a combination of Primare electronics (a fully Prisma’d up I35 and the excellent R35) into a pair of KEF LS50 Meta on their own stands were nigh on perfect partners.
Signature has the right blend of raucous fun and civility regardless of your music. Bass lines are taut, deep, and extremely musically infectious; the midrange is open-sounding and articulate with just the right degree of forwardness to the presentation needed to give such systems a bit of emphasis and a lift. Then the treble was at once clean, extended and almost impassioned sounding. One of those cables clearly defined the two similar voices of Maddy Prior and June Tabor [Burning of Auchindoon, Silly Sisters, Chrysalis] singing harmoniously. This album from 1976 also highlighted the rhythmic and soundstage solidity that Signature brings to a system. It’s a very organic sound; measured, yet not so precise it deadens the music.
While there’s the merest hint of softening at the edges, the effect is not cumulative and works well in the context of electronics used here. But perhaps most of all, the smooth and satisfying performance is extremely true to life, making a sound more than detailed and informative enough for systems at this price point.
One of the two big things that come from Signature is consistency. I initially thought about breaking this review down into the individual performance characteristics of each cable but quickly realised this would be a simple repetition of the same review for each cable. They all do the same uplifting, fun yet solid sound well. That consistency works well in a complete cable system and points you toward a complete Chord Company Signature system if you try one of the cables. And that leads to the second big thing; its sense of balance. This is a perfectly poised cable, regardless of which of the Signature models we are discussing. If it has a sonic intent, it’s one of musical enjoyment rather than stark detailing. But it’s so well balanced in terms of price, performance, partners and probably some other things that don’t begin with the letter ‘P’.
Chord Company’s SignatureX, XL, Super and Tuned ARAY cables come in almost every connection but perform similarly. They are all about making music enjoyable and satisfying and are some of the best all-round bang for your buck you can get in cables today!
Price and Contact Details
- Signature Super ARAY streaming cable?￡1,050/1m
- Signature Super ARAY digital cable?￡1,050/1m
- Signature Tuned ARAY RCA interconnect cables?￡1,050/1m pair
- SignatureXL speaker cable ￡800/1m terminated pair
- SignatureX power cord?￡1,050/1m
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