CH Precision L10 four-box line-stage preamplifier

Living large and learning lessons….

By Roy Gregory

There’s been a great deal written about the CH Precision L1 line-stage, its expandable, upgradable nature and its operational versatility. There’s been even more written about its impressive sonic and musical capabilities. The new 10 Series components are garnering a whole host of accolades and even more word-count. Mind you, at $76,000 USD for the two-box L10 line-stage, it rather begs the question; “Is there no end to this extravagance?” I’m not going to re-hash that ground here, or wade through the technicalities that these products deliver. Instead I want to look at two specific aspects of the L10 experience: Does the upgradability of the L1 also apply to the L10 and, what does the L1/L10 experience tell us about the role of the line-stage and its continued relevance in high-end audio? In product specific terms, that means getting way, way more extravagant than ‘just’ an L10. But in terms of general understanding, the lessons learnt are salutary, to say the least.

But first a quick reprise. It’s fair to say that the CH Precision experience has pretty much rocked our world. Repeated exposure to the various pieces of the ambitious, costly, innovative and well-established 1 Series product line has left us grasping forlornly for the expressive vocabulary to explain and define what have become benchmark performers, defining – or redefining – the limits and expectations of audio performance. Now comes the 10 Series, not a replacement for the already costly 1 Series, but a range intended to deliver an even higher level of performance at the price of a price that sits around 60% higher than the already barely unaffordable 1 Series.

Exposure to the L10 can come as quite a shock. The L1 is impressive enough, with the four-box version of that unit representing, “one of the finest pre-amps ever built” – at least according to one well-established commentator. Yet the two-box L10 trumps that performance with disarming ease, to the extent that it leaves you wondering just how come you were so impressed with the L1 in the first place. Of course, the L1 didn’t stop being a great line-stage, and the various upgrades, all the way to four-box, true monaural topology remain just as impressive – a fact that reflects the new flagship model’s margin of superiority. But as anybody familiar with the modular, expandable nature of CH Precision’s 1 Series products will tell you, the company is a firm believer in that once popular audio diktat, “Why use one box when you can use four instead?” Just like the L1 before it, the L10 can be doubled up, creating a system in which each channel enjoys its own dedicated signal chassis and separate power supply. And, just like with the L1, the step up from two-boxes to four delivers both a significant and a musically fundamental lift in performance. So perhaps the real question becomes, if the L10 is clearly already one of the best sounding line-stages out there, what makes it so good – and what makes the four-box version so much better?