Chord Company Epic USB

Intended to meet the demands that have arisen from connecting streamers and streaming head units to DACs and the need to provide them with an unadulterated signal, the Epic USB uses technology that debuted in Chord Co.’s more expensive Signature USB sibling. Key to this is the efforts that have gone into shielding the internals. Chord is relatively tight lipped about the nature of this insulation, but the outside of the cable is two-layer braided screen with a PTFE inner. Some tests running it coiled around a mains cable suggest that the composition is highly effectively at eliminating any incoming noise.

The connectors employ Chord’s Ohmic technology and internally are silver-plated copper arranged in the company’s Tuned Array configuration where two of the four sets of cables are individually shielded. Conductors and connectors are hand soldered together and the cable comes with a reasonable-use lifetime guarantee.

The Epic USB will bend to navigate most rack spaces without issue and is narrow enough to fit through most gaps. It is indisputably very well made and is available in a 1m length ‘off the peg’, but can be made to measure up to 5m.

To begin testing, I use the Epic USB connected from my Lenovo T560 laptop running as a Roon Core to Chord Electronics Hugo TT2 DAC/preamp. I have always found the differences between digital interconnects to be among the slightest of all cables, but there are some clear improvements using the Epic USB over a standard cable with the same connectors. The Lenovo is reasonably quiet for an off-the-shelf laptop, but it tends to introduce a fractional amount of noise into the USB output. The Epic USB is better at reducing this noise when it reaches the TT2 and even when listening via Sennheiser’s sensitive IE 800 S in-ear headphone (HFC 434), there is no sign of it.

The effect this has on the music is to lower the noise floor and help small details that can otherwise be lost to be more readily perceivable. Listening to the 2014 remaster of Tangerine Dream’s score for the film Sorcerer, the shimmering effects over the top of The Mountain Road are much more readily perceivable. With Runaway by Twin Shadow, George Lewis Jr.’s vocal turn becomes the absolute focus of the track, benefiting from the suppression of tiny but perceivable noise that interferes with it.

Using the Epic USB between an SOtM sMS-200 Neo network audio player (HFC 449) and Chord’s Hugo TT2 DAC/preamp yields similar but slightly less effective results. The reason for this is simple enough; unlike the Lenovo laptop, the SOtM is much less prone to introducing noise into its output – one of the reasons it is so effective as a network source component. As a result, the gains made by adding the Epic USB aren’t huge, but still remain potentially useful. With the cable in place there is a broadening to the scale and three-dimensionality of some material that is very useful. The 24/88.2 mix of Kraftwerk’s Tour De France Etape 2 is gloriously expansive and there is a perceivable feeling of the live venue that I have often missed on the digital version over its vinyl counterpart. This effect is less apparent on small-scale music, but the interplay between the members of the Alba Griot Ensemble on Shadow Queen is a little more obvious with the Epic USB interconnect in place.

As an addition to a computer-fronted music system, the Epic USB is a solid choice and seems to be able to screen off some of the unwanted inherent noise. With dedicated USB audio sources the outcome is less pronounced, but this can still be viewed as an effective upgrade even at the relatively high price. ES

Product: Chord Company Epic USB
Price: £400 for 1m
Type: Digital interconnect
Read the full review in November 2019 issue 455

Chord Company
01980 625700