Meier Audio Corda Jazz ff Review
The underrated masterpiece
Pros: – Very analogue sounding
– Still precise and transparent
– Musical and engaging
– Excellent timbre
– Sophisticated volume control
– Build quality
Cons: – Could do a little better with dynamics and stage depth
– No preamplifier output
The Corda Jazz ff is a loaner unit kindly provided by Mr. Jan Meier at my own request because I was very curious to test a Meier-Audio amplifier.
Mr. Meier very strongly insisted that he doesn’t like favorable reviews but there was no reason to do so because I always provide my honest and subjective opinion.
Meier-Audio was started in the year 2000 by Mr. Jan Meier who was a pioneer figure to preach the need of a good headphone amplifier in order to enjoy the best sound of our beloved headphones.
Fast forward to 2021 and he is considered one of the best amplifier designers and manufacturers , at least here in Europe , famous for his proprietary crossfeed filter.
There are six models available from the entry level dac/amp Corda PCstep to the flagship Corda Soul.
All the models are engineered and designed in Germany but made in China to keep prices at a reasonable level.
Since the Asian invasion that flooded the market with low cost amplifiers and DACs the company philosophy has changed and in the future there will no longer develop low-budget gear.
Any new product will aim to deliver the best possible sound, without major limitations by costs.
The Meier-Audio Corda Jazz ff is not a new amplifier and it was first introduced back in 2011 as the plain Jazz model.
At some point it was upgraded with the proprietary ff technology and now it is only available as Jazz ff at a new reduced price of €425.(or €360 if you are located outside the EU)
You can order directly from their website Meier Audio
This amplifier may use a relatively simple (but sturdy) enclosure but at the inside it offers many technological ingredients not found in any other headphone amplifier in this price-range.
The Jazz ff not only uses the concept of active balanced ground but also has a discrete volume control (32 positions, two gain settings).
This volume control is technically very sophisticated.
The position of the potentiometer is measured with the use of an AD-converter.
The output of this converter is then used to set the proper volume level with a number of electronic switches. There are a total of 32 levels which allows for sufficient small stepsizes and a very analog feeling.
The advantages are strongly reduced channel-imbalances and a much cleaner and more detailed sound.
Of course this amp also has the proprietary crossfeed filter incorporated which helps to strongly reduce listening fatigue.
The application of the FF-technique results in an extremely high level of micro-detail without any harshness. Sound is smooth and silky and this amp is especially recommended for acoustical music like classic and jazz hence the name of it.
Full technical details
Output impedance < 0,1 ohm
Maximum output current 300 mA.
Maximum output voltage Jazz ff 15 V @ 200 Hz
Discrete volume control. Typical step size 1.4 dB, 31 steps.
Gain switch. Maximum gain factors +0 / +16 dB
Crossfeed filter switch:
1. Stereo / crossfeed OFF
2. Crossfeed ON
Input impedance 18 kOhm
Gold-plated input jacks.
Silver plated headphone jack (Neutrik).
Silver plated heavy duty switches
10 Watts toroidal transformer.
Power uptake 5 Watts
Built-in ground loop breaker.
Double regulated voltage lines.
Low impedance electrolytic buffer capacitors (Nichicon). Total Buffer capacity 39.000 uF.
Bypass capacitors in the power supply.
Polystyrene and polypropylene capacitors in the signal path.
Metal Film resistors in the signal path.
OPA209 op amps are biased into class-A.
A total of 4 BURR-BROWN BUF634 buffer amplifiers at the left, the right, and the ground output channel.
Active balanced headphone ground.
Signal paths and signal path components at the bottom side of the PCB for maximal shielding.
Build quality is excellent and the unit is very sturdy made of an anodized full aluminium enclosure.
The potentiometer knob is of good quality aluminum and the feeling is great.
It is a compact unit measuring 22.2×10.6×6.0 cm weighing 1.0 kg and can easily fit in the most cramped desktops.
At the front panel we can see the on/off switch , the 6.35mm headphone jack , the gain button , the potentiometer and the crossfeed on/off switch.
At the back we have the mains plug and a plain RCA stereo input as the amplifier doesn’t provide pre-amp output.
All listening sessions were performed with the Denafrips Venus mkii and Thivan Labs 9038 DAC’s.
We have used various headphones from our collection like the Meze Empyrean , the Sennheiser HD660S/650 , Drop+ Elex and HiFiMan Deva/HE400SE.
The amplifier is very powerful and could drive all the above mentioned headphones with ease and headroom to spare without clipping.
For example the HD650 where getting painfully loud at only 12 o’clock of the pot at high gain.
The older Corda Jazz wasn’t so powerful but this new ff model rest assured that it can easily drive every headphone at the market except maybe some very insensitive planar models.
The Jazz ff is a very balanced and natural sounding amplifier with great levels of transparency and an evenly flat frequency response.
A true high end performer that will pass all the sonic attributes of the source to the headphones with consistency and will highlight their unique sound personality.
The amplifier is very transparent and the end user should only be worried about source and headphone matching as the amplifier takes a step aside and out of the equation.
What left us impressed with the Jazz ff is that while it poses that level of transparency and clarity it never sounded clinical and boring but on the contrary it was very engaging with great emotional depth and some kind of harmonic richness and warmth.
We are talking here a very lifelike experience with immensely natural timbre and excellent articulation throughout the whole frequency band.
The Corda Jazz ff is reminiscent of class A or tube amplifiers with the same analogue like character but without any noticeable drawbacks.
Both extremes of the range are greatly extended with a full bodied , visceral bass presentation that is tight and controlled and a vivid but smooth top end that’s full of energy and light without any hint of roughness.
Mid range is not compressed at all and is allowed all the needed space to breath and sound alive without suffocating.
The noise floor is non-existent and the amplifier can resolve all the fine details and the small particles of the recording that are presented with a holistic approach in favor of the overall sense of realism without becoming analytical.
The amplifier can sound very dynamic when needed with fast attack and recovery but it cannot reach the extra slamming effect of some other rivals.
The Jazz ff has an inherent sense of rhythm and timing and it doesn’t lose it’s pacing even when facing very demanding and complex passages.
The soundstage is sufficiently large with proportional space allocation that never sounds fake and is characterized by pinpoint accuracy and minimal congestion.
Layering and depth are nicely rendered to give us a good sense of holography but it could do a little better.
The crossfeed is a nice option to have and while it will not perform miracles it may come very handy with some older recordings.
The effect will vary from headphone to headphone and it is a matter of taste if you are going to like it or not.
It adds a sense of speaker-like experience by slightly blending both channels in order not to sound so panned between left and right.
Sometimes it was quite enjoyable and some other times it didn’t produce any effect at all.
At the end
After spending a great amount of time listening with the Corda Jazz ff we have been left puzzled why this amplifier is so underrated and it doesn’t get the community attention it deserves.
It must be due to Mr. Jan Maier’s philosophy not to heavily promote and advertise his products in the various forums and websites and because the Jazz ff doesn’t pose that immediate wow effect that will draw potential buyers into enthusiasm with ten minutes of listening at an audio show.
This is a very mature sounding amplifier that needs time and trained ears in order to be appreciated and while it is suitable for all kinds of music , it is the classical and jazz where it really shines.
With a very engaging and analogue like character still full of transparency and precision is a solid choice – if not a bargain with the new lowered price – that will do full justice to all your headphones collection and is highly recommended as an end game reference amplifier for the budget conscious audiophiles.
Copyright – Laskis Petros 2021