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Chord Huei Phono Preamp Review

EJ3

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#22
My VINTAGE 1977 ADVENT 300 (buy used for $200 [or less}, refurbish for $300 {or less}): used as a phono Pre beats the Chord Huei strongly (unless you have a need for MC Phono [+you have another function: you can get FM]). It's looks are 'what you see is what you get' not 'what you see is absolutely confusing'. Chord needs to go back to the drawing board with the Huei. They stepped out of the digital lane (where the have a very good reputation) and into analog. I am sorry that this showing for them in analog was not so good..
 

dmac6419

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#24
This is a review and detailed measurements of the Chord Huei phono stage/pre-amplifier. It was kindly sent to me by a member. The Huei costs US $1,495.

The Huei is one of the most exquisite and nicest implementation of the Chord design language:

View attachment 92130

The unit weighs a ton and feels like excellently machined and finished piece of desktop audio. The back is even prettier than the front:

View attachment 92131

The shiny RCA jacks look and feel like jewelry. And I love the inclusion of the balanced XLR output to help reduce impact of noise and hum that RCA connections bring.

Despite all of the above, the functional design of the Huei is a total fail! If you are familiar with Chord products you know that they use colored LEDs to communicate the status of some setting. That makes the device difficult to operate due to the need to then remember the color of the button meaning different things. Here, that design has been taken to level of insanity with many settings encoded into colors. Take the impedance settings for moving magnet mode. These are the color indicators:

View attachment 92132

Are they crazy? Who the heck remembers these colors? No, you don't just set it and forget it. You can touch a button by accident and have it be a different impedance and you would not know it. They give you a cheat sheet that is tiny and definite proof of user interface fail.

Gain settings are not as numerous but you still have 7 or 8 to remember.

If you are going to have a microprocessor, why not have a proper display indicating what is going on? The whole design theses was a mistake to being with and now it is absurdly bad.

Chord Huei Measurements
Let's start with our usual dashboard using my preferred XLR Output with gain set similarly to other phono stages:

View attachment 92133

Whoa. What happened here? That low frequency noise is hugely high and is setting SINAD to its dismal value. You would think with high noise distortion can be hidden but even that is bad enough to show up as second and third harmonics. Teasing the two aspects apart we get:

View attachment 92134

Good grief. Using the sum SINAD in our ranking, the Huei finishes dead last:

View attachment 92135

Thought maybe balanced output has a problem so I measured RCA out and got the same response:

View attachment 92136

Here is the spectrum of noise with no input signal (but terminated):

View attachment 92137

The Huei is an incredible 45 dB worse in noise department than bargain Emotiva XPS-1. The Emotiva costs less than 10% of Huei!

Sadly there is more bad news. Here is the frequency response:

View attachment 92138

What is with peaking high frequencies? The error goes up to 1.2 dB at 20 kHz but company says they comply to ±0.1 dB?

No, we are not done. There is a rumble filter but it does absolutely nothing!

View attachment 92139

I tested this multiple times and even powered the unit on and off and it still does nothing. The switch goes from off to white as documented but nothing happens as far as filtering. Company says it starts to roll off from 50 Hz.

Edit: Looks like the rumble filter is not just a high-pass so disregard the above.

The only blessing here is good bit of headroom:

View attachment 92140

Interesting that the MC mode with its higher gain has much lower noise (although still bad). The lower input impedance may be helping there.

Conclusions
It is hard to imagine a phono stage being broken in so many aspects then the Chord Huei. Almost unusable interface. Huge amount of noise and fair bit of distortion. RIAA equalization that is not accurate, nor spec compliant. And Rumble filter that does nothing. The only thing it has going for it is that it is pretty!

Can't imagine a company like Chord producing something like this (other than the UI). They are known for needlessly overengineered DACs but otherwise performance is excellent. Not so here.

Needless to say, I can't recommend the Chord Huei in any form or fashion. In my opinion it should be pulled from the market and redesigned.

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amirm

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Thread Starter #26
Pics of the LED color coding stuff.
They never look at that good. You usually look at them horizontally, not vertically. Since the clear buttons are not that reflective, they lack good contrast when viewed sideways.
 

Soniclife

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#27
No, you don't just set it and forget it. You can touch a button by accident and have it be a different impedance and you would not know it.
If this had good performance this feature alone would stop me buying it. I could live with the multi colour confusion, as I would rarely need to look at them, but if they could change 'by themselves' it's a hard no. A simple lock configuration switch on the back would make a big difference.
 
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#30
I'd really love to see more measurements of the phono stages on integrated amps. We're always told how rubbish they are and that the stand alone units are the only high performance option, but clearly that's not the case. I'd be willing to bet the cost of this unit that the built in MM stage on my Marantz would wipe the floor with it.
 

Koeitje

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#31
Considering how well Chord DAC's (ignoring price, they are well designed) have been doing I'm surprised by this, it seems to be broken?
 

dougi

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#33
Ah, thanks. Thought there is a nice little disco show going on there :D
Quite a few iFi products use that approach too, for indicating sample rate, format and the like. Just as annoying too! I ended up writing on my iFi nanoDSD the code for the sampling rate.
 

Doodski

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#35
So the Chord Huei phono preamp delivers on external assurance with bejewelled LED orbs, RCAs and a solid case with terminations. But doesn't have the dope when it gets down to the basics. Is this the day you set the record and put out 3 tests today @amirm ? :D
 

Music1969

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#38
Can't imagine a company like Chord producing something like this (other than the UI). They are known for needlessly overengineered DACs but otherwise performance is excellent. Not so here.
Well it's the Rob Watts stuff that measures state of the art, like the Qutest you measured. Rob has his own private APx555 that he uses for his DAC designs.

Rob had nothing to do with this product or any Chord amps so far.
 

Tks

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#39
What the hell? I'd love to see company's response....
Why? Everyone knows the response is a toss up between the following:

"Working as intended."

or

"Defective units are covered by our warranty."


-------------------------------------------------------------------------

Bossman, if indeed Rob Watts contacts you privately or something, ask him how his sub -300dB distirtion-hearing ability was able to miss this during validation.
 

Chrispy

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#40
We really need more than a basic "like" or abstain option.....laughing hysterically in so many cases....
 
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