The Chord Company Signature Tuned ARAY RCA is an exceptional interconnect for the audiophile. This HiFi component is critical in any premium system and can easily prove its worth.
Founded in 1985 by Sally Kennedy, The Chord Company is a British born brand with a long history of producing awe inspiring premium HiFi related interconnects. Back in the early 80’s it was largely thought that the short length analogue cables that consumers used to connect their HiFi separates components had little or no bearing on the tone or overall performance, although mid-way through this decade keepers of such premium Naim HiFi systems demanded unparalleled quality throughout the signal chain. However, as The Chord Company expanded their range, due to increasing demand, it was in 1994 that their products begun to create a storm when their designs received significant attention in the printed media. Now, as it stands, hundreds of designs have been produced, tens of thousands of cable configurations have been scrutinised in research and development, but the Signature series is one that has now been out for almost none years (introduced in 2005). With significant history behind its design, the Signature RCA was finally updated to include The Chord Companies critically acclaimed ARAY technology. Ultimately this painstaking labor of love legacy has created one of the finest RCA interconnects to ever exist.
The technology that we have used to process this one meter Signature Tuned ARAY interconnect review is the following: CAD 1543 DAC, Chord Electronics Hugo DAC/AMP, Beyerdynamic A2 Headphone Amp, Chord Electronics Toucan Headphone Amp, Cambridge Audio AZUR 540D (Wolfson 8740 D2A), Beyerdynamic T90 Over Ear Headphones, Noble Audio K10, and Noble Audio FR. As a final note this RCA comes in three lengths as standard (1m, 2m, or 3m), but the user can request other custom lengths.
Unboxing and Presentation
The packaging of the Signature Tuned ARAY is exceptionally minimalist and exudes a certain element of sophistication and quality. The outer package is present in the form of a printed PPE sputtered sleeve that details various information in a well thought out manner. Removal of this sleeve welcomes a white glossy ‘The Chord Company’ branded presentation box and opens horizontally. Once open the Signature Tuned ARAY is twist coiled and encased in a frosted flexible plastic fold that simply opens without ripping or tearing the package structure. This concludes the entire package.
Build Quality, Construction, and Visual Inspection
Obvious immediate inspection yields that this is an exceptionally well built RCA. The physical construction feels solid and stiff in the hand to reduce mechanical noise and, just like many of The Chord Companies premium cables, sports a woven black plastic composite jacket to provide first level vibration dampening before reaching inner cable construction. This outer jacket appears to be fixed in place via a heat shrinking process and at either end is terminated with two inch PTFE tubing before entering into the RCA plugs. This purpose clearly helps to further eliminate any set frequencies from resonating within the outer jacket. As the jacket enters the RCA plugs there is also an printed silver arrow that clearly identifies the input and output path. However, I am currently unsure of whether this makes a drastic difference to the performance or not. Regardless, underneath the external shield is a layer of foamed PTFE that coats a silver braided RF shield before entering into another layer of dense precision extruded PTFE. Below this is the core conductor which is made from a flawless sliver plated oxygen free copper (OFC) cable.
As we now turn our attention to the RCA plugs we notice that they have a precision construction. The Signature Tuned ARAY uses micro polished silver plated conductors that have a very tight fit to ensure that there is a good and consistent contact point whilst maintaining a super low mass. The centre pin itself is isolated from the outer by being separately encased in a dedicated PTFE insulation block before entering into the cable. Likewise the same attention to detail has been paid to the outer construction of the RCA plug as The Chord Company have chosen to use hand machined acrylic plugs by a company that machines precision acrylic components for the medical industry. The use of these acrylic plugs means that they are made with exceptionally high tolerances and are engineered to exacting standards, in fact this is a guarded secret that manages to reduce vibrations.
After the cable has made The Chord Company puts the Signature Tuned ARAY into a system that they call ‘the cable toaster’ which rapidly burns in the cable prior to shipping and represents hundreds of hours of consumer burn in so that they receive a product that immediately performs at 100% as soon as it is implemented. I have to say at this point that the build quality as a whole is extremely impressive and certainly lives up to its premium construction.
Do I Need the Signature Tuned ARAY in My System?
Although the price is too high for many, I was extremely impressed with its performance regardless of the signal chain. Even when implemented on the most outrageously budget systems the quality was consistent across the range, improving imaging, noise floor, and dynamic performance when used in comparison to The Chord Companies Chameleon VEE3 RCA and Cadenza Reference RCA. On this basis you would have to be mad to believe that this is the upgrade you need on a lower end system as this analysis was performed out of sheer curiosity and trying to gauge consistent performance or ‘translation’. On this end it excelled in consistently and therefore I cannot exclude its use in any signal chain at all. All I can say is that it is advisable that, if you have spent a few thousand (plus) on your HiFi separates, then this analogue interconnect will most likely suit your needs.
As a whole, the Signature Tuned ARAY presents a very agreeable platform that is, on the whole, neutral by not adding any noticeable colour into the signal path. Instead you will be greeted with an exceptional analogous soundstage that enables both a clearing and sense of air that is somewhat missing from other interconnects. One of the main reasons for this quality is that there is so little noise or distortion present that it allows for a clean spacious stereo image where the finer nuances have an opportunity to make themselves known without being masked or lacking detail. Often in music it is these finer nuances, or details, are the qualities that make the music; musical, pleasant, and familiar to the ears. For this reason alone the audiophile Signature Tuned ARAY RCA interconnect is a deeply impressive example of British engineering.
In part, the way that this particular RCA manages to create a multifaceted performance is by transmitting a highly articulate dynamic performance that does not add any detrimental qualities to the signal as it leaves the source component. In fact the dynamic range is maintained and sounds texture rich, brimming with detail. Often you may notice that, even on higher end cables, that the sharpness or dynamic peaks feel ironed out, flat, insipid, or rounded. The problem here is with the signal ineffectively traveling through the conductor and being influenced by radio frequencies or mechanical noise. Thankfully the level of detail in the timing that The Chord Company has put into the Signature Tuned ARAY more than adequately maintains a precision signal and does not suffer from any of these audible faux pas. As a whole the dynamic performance symbiotically works hand in hand with the stereo signal presentation and this is how you can experience an cohesive out of this world performance as it should sound right across the frequency spectrum. A good example of how this RCA best represents the audio is how well it reflects the type and size of reverb tails or stereo delays, even right down to the creeks on a chair and arm movement on vocal performances without gating. Reverb tails are discernible and easily give away their type and size without a second thought which shows the level of detail that can be attained by using this interconnect in your system. Additionally stereo delays, mainly ‘ping pong’ classified delays, can be heard decaying into the distance and the difference is that this presentation is highly textual, multifaceted, and crisp. In terms of presentation all genres perform equally as well, particularly electronic genres benefit from this type of transmission as it deliveries a whole new level of articulation and stereo presentation so that glistening arpeggiators cut through the mix. Bass comes across as true and strong, the mids feel lush and well balanced or seated, and the highs sound precise, metered, beautifully clear.
The Chord Company Signature Tuned ARAY RCA interconnect is a superb cable that performs exceptionally with any range of HiFi system that you use it with. This is most definitely a neutral dynamic cable that will suit all kinds of audiophiles, and provides a superb platform that does not take any detail away from the original source. This highly recommended interconnect achieves a four and a half star rating.