John Franks and how Chord Electronics took flight

Posted on: November 24, 2016

Chord Electronics took flight from an idea our founder and Chief Engineer John Franks had in the early 1980s, whilst working as a young electronics engineer. John worked for a large avionics company, Marconi Avionics, making electronics for aircraft. This specialised field of electronics was very demanding and the company’s young engineers were being pushed to develop highly advanced power supplies that were both ultra-reliable and very efficient.

Electronics within aviation demanded perfection and superior attention to detail, and above all, designs had to be best they possibly could for the intended application. John’s particular area of expertise was ultra-high-frequency power supplies and his definitive knowledge in power supply design enabled his unique concept of linking an amplifier’s power supply rails together using a strong magnetic flux within a specialised, high-frequency transformer.

The technique was named Dynamic Coupling and it eliminated short-term distortions associated with high currents feeding back into the ground loop of the amplifier. Dynamic Coupling allows the amplifier stages to be much faster, more transparent and more agile.  This innovative approach to design is paramount at Chord Electronics. Our ethos of doing things ‘right’, even if it increases effort and cost, is fundamental to what we do: we go to extraordinary lengths to make superior designs.

At the time of the first design, it was not possible to make a commercial product as it would have been too expensive to manufacture, so leaving the concept to one side, John continued his industrial career, eventually holding three directorships within Astec, Raythion and AT&T.  As time passed, reasonably priced components that enabled John’s designs to be realised became available and Chord was founded in 1989.

Our first major success followed a year later when the BBC was made aware of our efforts.  Samples were submitted and in a surprisingly short time, we had a broadcast-qualified unit.  Word spread and other notable installations, including EMI’s Abbey Road Studios, Sony (New York), Toshiba (Japan) and many others, including George Lucas’s studio, Skywalker Sound, soon followed in the professional arena.

Our heart, however, belonged in the consumer market where the majority of our development efforts progressed, pushing technology to the limit in both the digital field and power amplifier world. Today, we continue to design, engineer and build our products the ‘right’ way and have gained international recognition for our class-leading performance.