The Chord Anni is an ultra compact amplifier designed to power headphones and small speakers. Designed to sit discreetly on a desk, this mini-amp has a dual headphone output: 3.5 mm mini-jack and 6.35 mm jack. Its speaker outputs are associated with a 10 watt amplification stage, a modest amount of power which makes it suitable for highly sensitive compact speakers. Marketed at €1490, can this amplifier manage to bring music to life in such a compact format?
Chord Anni: packaging & accessories
The Chord Anni headphone amplifier comes in a compact box with decorated with the brand’s logo along with the inscription “Your journey begins now”. The box containing the amplifier opens elegantly by rotating its upper part upwards. We then discover the Chord Anni, correctly wedged in foam plates. The AC adapter, the only accessory that accompanies the Chord Anni, is placed in a drawer box located under the headphone amplifier.
Chord Anni: presentation
The Chord Anni amplifier is an ultra compact model weighing less than 630g and measuring 16cm by 4.2cm with a depth of 9.6cm. A very compact format which is not unlike that of theChord Electronics QuTest DAC and Chord Huei pre-amp. The British manufacturer also announces that the Chord Anni is an ideal complement to these two electronics, both musically and aesthetically thanks to a rack system allowing the three devices to be stacked.
The Chord Anni headphone amplifier comes in the form of a mini device with a rugged design using an all-metal chassis in the tradition of the British manufacturer. The Chord Anni is slightly perforated on the top to cool it down as it tends to heat up quite a lot after a few hours of operation. A very discreet fan also expels hot air from the device via these vents. However, the fan is continuously powered, even when the amplifier is switched off, which means that the device must be electrically disconnected to end the ventilation. It is a slightly annoying drawback.
Two backlit spherical buttons are placed in notches on the upper face of the Chord Anni amplifier, which is a distinctive feature of the English manufacturer’s electronics. These allow you to turn the amplifier on and off, as well as adjust the gain of the headphone and speaker outputs.
The rear pannel of the Chord Anni amplifier hosts a fairly minimalist range of connectors. This consists of two analog stereo RCA inputs to connect a DAC, a network player or a pre-amplified turntable. In the latter case, a grounding terminal lets your ground the turntable. There is also a 12 V output that can be used to power the Chord Huei. Finally, two pairs of terminal exclusively compatible with banana plugs allow the connection of a pair of speakers.
The British manufacturer remains fairly evasive on the components and technologies used by the amplification stage of the Chord Anni. On the other hand, we know that it operates in class AB and has a dual-feed-forward error-correction circuit, an innovative system that the brand presents under the name Ultima. This makes it possible to compare and anticipate the signals at the input and output of the amplification stage to ensure their fidelity and precision over a wide bandwidth which extends easily from 5 Hz to 60 kHz. This design is just as beneficial when listening using headphones as it does with speakers.
The Chord Anni amplifier has two headphone outputs: a first in 3.5 mm mini-jack format and a second in 6.35 mm jack format. The power is not communicated, but the Chord Anni has not shown the slightest sign of weakness driving the various headphones that used, even with models with an impedance of over 250 ohms. The speaker outputs are coupled to an amplification stage rated 10 watts into 8 ohms. It is a somewhat modest amount of power, but that the Chord Anni exploits in a very efficient way, as long as it is paired with highly-sensitive and energy-efficient speakers. It is thus designed to find its place in an office accompanied by bookshelf speakers or satellite speakers rather than in a living room with floorstanding speakers.
The Chord Anni amplifier features a 6.35 mm jack headphone output and a 3.5 mm mini-jack output, compatible with high impedance headphones.
The absence of a remote control requires keeping the Chord Anni amplifier close at hand to control its various commands. The controls are very simple. The potentiometer can be used to switch between the two inputs and adjust the volume. The volume control knob is smooth and precise with highly sensitive speakers or headphones. However, it can be tricky to make subtle volume adjustments with very sensitive headphones or earphones, even with the gain turned off. Another drawback is that the volume potentiometer is located right between the two headphone outputs, leaving little space when one or two outputs are used. This is not prohibitive, but can be frustrating for bigger connectors.
Chord Anni: key specs
- Headphone amplifier and hi-fi amplifier
- 10 watts RMS into 8 ohms
- Ultra compact format
- Two RCA stereo inputs
- Headphone output 3.5mm and 6.35mm jack
- Gain control
Chord Anni: testing conditions
For this test of the Chord Anni amp, we paired it with the Volumio Primo Hi-Fi Edition network player, a compact model that also fits on a desk. The latter was connected using Audioquest Red River RCA cables and was used to play FLAC music in 24-bits/192kHz shared on the local network, as well as tracks streamed from Qobuz. We took used the headphone outputs to connect the 25 ohm Audioquest NightHawk headphones and the 250 ohm Beyerdynamic Amiron Home . We connected a pair of Dali Opticon 2 MKII speakers to the speaker terminals.
Chord Anni: listening impressions
Chord Anni with loudspeakers
Used with Dali Opticon 2 MKII speakers, the Chord Anni amplifier impressed us by its ability to make these little compact Danish loudspeaker sing, even though their 86.5 dB sensitivity rating means they’re not the easiest speakers to drive. The full 10 watts of the amp’s power were exploited without an ounce of modesty and the Anni managed to deliver all the music listened to with authority and energy. At ¼ of the volume, the sound level was perfect for background music, while we managed to get a satisfying sound volume in our 16 m2 office even before turning the potentiometer halfway. It’s amazing for such a compact device delivering only 10 watts!
The Chord Anni shows all the caracteristics of a great amplifier and displays a dynamic and muscular character that is usually found on much bigger models. Its performance honors the expertise of the brand and allows music to expand naturally and easily. The sound benefits from a beautiful definition, a warm texture and a pleasant transparency contributing to an effective restitution of details. The tonal balance is well marked, with a smooth and precise high end register, round and soft mids, all accompanied by tight lows. The lows are plentiful, well-structured and sturdy. The depth is nice, although the speaker cannot deliver the same amount of bass as it would be with a more powerful amplifier. It is still very pleasant and ideal for a room less than 20 m2.
Chord Anni used with headphones
The headphone amp section of the Chord Anni retains the same sound signature, with a dynamic character and grat energy. The restitution benefits from a seductive transparency and the different arrangements flourish in a spacious and layered scene. The Chord Anni manages to extract a lot of information that it delivers in a well organized and controlled space. The percussion attacks are clear, precise and frank. The tonal balance is even more respectful, with authoritative lows that are even deeper and tighter. On the other hand, the lows can remain frustrating with electronic music or tracks that require truly abysmal bass. In addition, the midrange is also optimized when listening through headphones, with a surgically precise articulation and texture as well as a very smooth feeling.
The Chord Anni adapts effectively to any musical style and manages to reproduce with softness and warmth jazz improvisations, while showing power and dynamics with the most majestic orchestral compositions. It has plenty of punch to bring life and rythm to the works of the greatest artists. The voices are natural, and are reproduced with an unwavering mastery as well as a beautiful consistency. This amp manages to stay in control of the music at all times and the distortion always remains at an imperceptible level, even when the volume is turned all the way up. It always sounds clean, precise and stable.
Chord Anni: compared to …
With its speaker outputs, the Chord Anni headphone amplifier is a extremely rare model that has few competitors. Leaving aside its speaker outputs, it can still be compared to the Chord Electronics Hugo 2 . Just a little bit more compact, the Chord Electronics Hugo 2 is the British manufacturer’s benchmark headphone amplifier. It has a pure class A amplification section associated with a DAC made by Chord compatible with 32-bit PCM / 768kHz and DSD 11.2MHz. The Chord Electronics Hugo 2 is a little rounder, warmer, but slightly less dynamic. It is also intended exclusively to drive headphones (3.5 mm mini-jack and 6.35 mm jack output), unlike the Chord Anni which can also be associated with a pair of compact speakers.
Chord Anni: who is it for?
The Chord Anni is intended for any music lover wishing to enjoy great musicality, without multiplying the devices or cluttering their workspace. It offers the best performance when paired with headphones or in-ear monitors, but it is comparable to significantly larger amps when used to drive energy-efficient speakers . As such, the Chord Anni is the best versatile and compact solution for enjoying sound with headphones and a pair of bookshelf speakers.
Chord Anni: conclusion
With the Chord Anni, the British manufacturer delivers an ultra compact and minimalist device that manages to do better and more than many much larger devices. Its 10-watt amplification power is surprisingly energetic, tireless, and more than enough for appropriate sound volume in an office or mid-sized room. It is surprising to get so much musicality and consistency out of such a small amplifier which delivers all styles of music with balance, agility and naturalness. The overall performances are precise and detailed, in particular with the headphone outputs which are even better stepped and manage to make high impedance headphones sing. So many things that make the Chord Anni the best compact and versatile system that any music lover deserves to have on their desk.
What we liked
- The ultra compact and discreet format
- The great dynamics
- Power used efficiently
What we would have liked
- Even more power for more demanding speakers
- Easily accessible volume potentiometer
- Switching off the fan with the power button