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Is the Chord ULTIMA PRE 3 the Ultimate Stereo Preamplifier?

The Chord ULTIMA PRE 3 leverages 30 years of amplifier building expertise, the latest in power supply technologies and a new fascia.

Chord ULTIMA PRE 3 Preamplifier Silver

Chord has just announced their third and most affordable stereo preamplifier in the ULTIMA line called the ULTIMA PRE 3. It joins the existing preamp models, which include the ULTIMA PRE 2 and flagship ULTIMA PRE (no number).

Affordability from the esteemed British high-end audio brand still garners a high asking price of 6,000 pounds (~$7500 USD). With that brings an entirely new analog design along with a striking new fascia design, all masterminded by the company’s founder and owner, John Franks.   

Chord ULTIMA PRE 3 Preamplifier Top

The ULTIMA PRE 3 harnesses more than 30 years of British amplifier-building expertise and takes advantage of the very latest developments in advanced low-distortion power supplies; these new devices offer exceptionally low noise and outstanding amplifier operation. Coupled with the company’s latest circuit design, the ULTIMA PRE 3 offers new levels of preamplifier performance.  

Benefiting from five analogue inputs, two balanced and three unbalanced, plus a separate AV bypass input, all five of the ULTIMA PRE 3’s main inputs enjoy individual buffering and are selectively filtered against potential ingress from radio frequency interference. Selection switching is performed via sealed relays, controlled by microprocessors. 

Chord ULTIMA PRE 3 Preamplifier Black

Externally, the ULTIMA PRE 3 benefits from a completely redesigned front panel. The new fascia offers a perfectly symmetrical design, centered on a circular power on/off sphere which uses the company’s familiar polychromatic indicator lighting, giving a clear and simple indication of the amplifier’s playing status. The power sphere is flanked by a newly designed combined volume and input selector, plus a combined balance and AV bypass control.

All casework is precision-machined from solid aircraft-grade aluminium, including the Integra legs. A black acrylic side-block alternative to the Integra legs is also available as a no-cost option. The upper panel features a pleasing vented design, which is enhanced with a dimmable LED light.

Chord ULTIMA PRE 3 Preamplifier Silver Back

In addition to its five inputs, the ULTIMA PRE 3’s rear panel features both balanced and unbalanced outputs, a 12 V trigger and IEC power inlet, plus a convenient 5 V/3 A USB Type-A output to power peripheral devices, including Chord Electronics’ DACs such as the Qutest and Hugo 2.

The new ULTIMA PRE 3 is perfectly suited to a wide range of power amps, including the ULTIMA 5 and ULTIMA 6 stereo power amplifiers. It can also be used with the ULTIMA 2 and ULTIMA 3 monoblocks. 

Price & Availability

The Chord ULTIMA PRE 3 is available to order now UK SRP: £6,000 in either Jett black or Argent silver. It will make its European show debut at High End, Munich, 2022.

For more information: chordelectronics.co.uk

Comparison

ULTIMA PRE 3ULTIMA PRE 2ULTIMA PRE
MSRP£6000£12,500£30,000
Frequency response10 Hz-200 kHz +/- 3 dB10Hz – 200kHz +/- 3dB10Hz – 200kHz +/- 3dB
THD0.002 % 20Hz-20 kHz0.002% 20Hz – 20 kHz0.002% 20Hz – 20 kHz
Signal to noise ratio-105 dB on all inputs-102dB on all inputs-102dB on all inputs
Inputs (XLR)244
Inputs (RCA)344
Inputs (XLR Bypass)111
Outputs (XLR)113
Outputs (RCA)1selectable (1)selectable (3)
USB Type-A1– – 
12v TriggerYesYes
Input/Output Buffering– YesYes
Input impedance100 kΩ100 kΩ100 kΩ
Output impedance560 Ω100 Ω100 Ω
Input maximum voltage10V RMS10V RMS10V RMS
Output maximum voltage17V RMS17V RMS17V RMS
Gainx1x0.5, x1, x1.5, x2, x2.5, and x3 x0.5, x1, x1.5, x2, x2.5, and x3 
Channel separation100 dB100 dB100 dB
Operation voltage80-250 V AC auto-switching 80-250V AC auto-switching 80-250V AC auto-switching 
Power consumption40W30W60W
Dimensions with legs485 mm (w) x 355 mm (d) x 130 mm (h)420mm (w) x 355mm (d) x 133mm (h)420mm (w) x 355mm (d) x 310mm (h)
Dimensions with included Integra Legs480mm (w) x 355mm (d) x 173mm (h)480mm (w) x 355mm (d) x 350mm (h)
Weight12.7 kg18 kg30 kg
Warranty5 years5 years5 years

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