Installation Notes

The CH Precision D1.5 CD/SACD transport/player

By Roy Gregory

CH Precision recently announced a replacement for their longest-running component, the D1 CD/SACD player/transport. Having now spent time with the new D1.5 in three different systems, it’s possible to provide a few observations on set up and optimization (especially as regards the revised mechanical grounding hardware, notes that will apply to all CH components, regardless of series or stripe) as well as some preliminary sonic and musical impressions.

Having had a slightly confused relationship with CH Precision’s D1 disc player, I was certainly intrigued by the arrival of the D1.5, both from a performance standpoint and in terms of the company’s continued faith in the optical disc. Using the D1 as a transport, connected to the C1 DAC by the proprietary, high-definition capable CH Link-HD produced some of the best SACD replay I’ve enjoyed. But, using it as a standalone player with the optional internal DAC cards (stereo or dual-mono) was considerably less impressive, undermining its value as a standalone solution. This was particularly galling as high-quality, single-box CD/SACD machines are far from common. So, high on my list of questions to be posed to the D1.5 was its willingness not just to play nice with other CH units but whether it was happy to entertain by itself?

Outwardly, aside from the designation inscribed on the display window, there’s almost nothing to separate the D1.5 from is predecessor. Like the D1, this is strictly a player/transport, with no digital input or switching capabilities. As far as the CH product line goes, for those, you’d need a C1 DAC or I1 integrated amp – on which subject, more later. The eagle-eyed will note that the disc drawer is located at a different height and that’s the first real indication that inside, it’s all change.

Building better…

The decision by TEAC to discontinue supply of the VRDS SACD/CD transport mechanism has left a host of high-end manufacturers faced with a difficult choice: stop production of disc players or, source a different transport – and there aren’t many to choose from! For CH, I suspect the decision was easy, given Japanese interest in both the brand and optical disc replay. But typically, having been faced with losing the TEAC transport, the CH response was to improve on its performance. To do that, they fastened on a Denon/Marantz CD/SACD transport to use as a donor unit. From this they took the motor, the optical head and the disc drawer, discarding all of the structural elements and motor control electronics. They then built an entirely new, high-mass, ultra rigid structure that in turn supported a precision brass ‘sled’ weighing almost a kilogram and isolated on a critically tuned alphagel suspension. This carried the motor, optical head and newly manufactured moving parts, while the tray was modified and mounted on the main structure. Together with new motor control PCBs (and software), the whole assembly weighs in at around 3kg and has been named MORSe – which stands for Mechanically Optimized Reading System. Some observers have suggested that the acronym is drawn from morse code and its binary digital form, but I suspect the transport is actually named for the eponymous, fictional, English detective, a man capable of dealing with and solving the most devilishly difficult and intricate mysteries!

One step at a time…

Why all this discussion of the transport mechanism. Because it has a direct impact on how you should position and support the D1.5. The rigid structure of the transport is bolted directly to the base plate of the player, which is in turn supported by the four adjustable spikes of the CH mechanical grounding system. The D1.5 arrives with a set of the latest, composite grounding spikes, with hardened aluminium tips and white polymer posts. Dropped through the shafts positioned below the caps in the top-plate of the unit, these allow users to mechanically ground and level the D1.5. Both are critical to achieving the best performance from the unit. Experience suggests that you approach this task as follows:

  • Select the supporting surface and ensure that it is as level as possible. If it is not the top shelf of a rack, ensure hat there is sufficient space above the unit to reach in with the supplied screwdriver in order to adjust the spikes and replace the top caps.
  • The supporting shelf should ideally be lossy in nature. Composite materials, plywood or bamboo shelving all deliver excellent results.
  • Avoid glass or hard surfaces such as marble/granite. These will tend to reflect energy back into the unit rather than dissipating it. If they represent the only option, you can experiment with the polymer surface protection glides supplied with the machine., or simply use a laminated bamboo board between the spikes and the shelf. The best solution that I have found in the case of the HRS M3X platform with its granite surface, is (perhaps unsurprisingly) the Nimbus footers used in conjunction with a damping plate on the top panel of the D1.5.