On Solid Ground…

For the sake of completeness I swapped out the Nimbus for the Vortex footers, which generated a more sculpted and urgent quality to the sound, with undoubted gains in terms of focus, separation and an increased sense of purpose. But – and ultimately it’s a big but – in this instance, the Vortex that work so well under the X1, mute the music’s tonal range and colour and stilt the rhythmic articulation and fluid phrasing that make the richer but slightly softer sounding Nimbus so enduringly enjoyable. The result was significant enough to make me throw a questioning glance the way of the Vortex sat beneath the X1, but replacing them with Nimbus was not a success. The Vortex delivers a quieter, blacker background that generates more emphatic dynamics and broader textural and tonal distinctions. As far as the HRS footers go – it’s definitely a case of horses for courses.

The 1 Series grounding posts: hardened aluminium tips with a deep screwdriver slot and a tiny lifting magnet at the other end.

Time then to investigate the CH Precision offerings – but first a few words of warning. Years of experience with mating aluminium or titanium components to various bicycle frames, has taught me the dangers of bi-metallic corrosion or binding. In short, leave two dissimilar metals in intimate contact and it won’t be long before you can’t get them apart. It’s a particular problem with titanium threads that seem to lock or bind for fun – which is why engineers have developed various anti-binding compounds or fancy greases. CH treat the threads on new units with a smear of the appropriate goo, but if you have an older unit, that won’t be the case. In fact, even if you have a new unit that comes with the second-generation spikes I’d still liberally grease the threads before installing them. It makes them easier to adjust anyway – as well as ensuring that they will stay adjustable and removable.

With the top-caps already removed, installing the aluminium CH spikes into the P1 was simplicity itself. Grease the threads, drop them into the spike wells and then use the supplied screwdriver to wind them down until they contact the supporting surface. At that point, with all four spikes installed, give each a full turn and they will lift the unit’s feet clear of the supporting surface. Which brings me to my second cautionary note: if you want to achieve optimum results (and who doesn’t) it is absolutely crucial to load all four spikes evenly and get the unit perfectly level. You can gauge the loading of the spikes by feeling their resistance when you try to turn them. It should be equal across all four of them. Levelling is simply a case of using a decent spirit level and taking the appropriate care – but make sure you do, ‘cos you can clearly hear the benefit.

How did the correctly installed aluminium spikes sound? Like a better version of the halfway point between the Nimbus and Vortex. The sound gained clarity, pace and purpose, with excellent separation and crisp dynamics, excellent rhythmic articulation and momentum. They delivered noticeably more detail than the alternatives at the cost of a subtle diminution of the overall tonal palette, but taking all things into account, this was by far the best-balanced performance so far.

Let’s dance…

Time then to wheel out the CH titanium spikes: could they improve on the aluminium version and could they possibly offer a worthwhile upgrade for 1 Series owners. In a word – Yes. Emphatically yes! Indeed, “emphatic” is the word. In common with previous experience, the titanium brought a sense of natural pace and fluidity, body, colour and presence to proceedings, taking the considerable benefits of the aluminium spikes and putting some serious flesh on their bones. The resulting musical substance and weight was impressive, without slowing or muddling the music, smearing rhythmic shifts or slugging dynamics. In fact, sudden shifts in dynamic range were even more dramatic, rhythmic hesitations, skips or jumps more sure-footed and articulate than ever. Twice the price, the titanium spikes deliver considerably more than twice the benefit. Musically speaking, this is a serious upgrade that really rams home the already impressive core virtues of the P1. Having lived for so long with the various Nordost Sort Kones, I shouldn’t be surprised by this result, but then it’s always nice to have your prejudices proved right…