Pretty In Pink?

CH Precision P1 Phono-stage updates

By Roy Gregory

Sneaking out almost unnoticed in the general kerfuffle around the Munich Show, CH Precision announced a small but worthwhile update to its benchmark P1 phono-stage. Not surprisingly, it was the arrival of the C10 DAC that got all of the attention, but this little nugget should show the company’s analogue customers that they haven’t been forgotten…

When the P10 was launched last year, amongst other features, it introduced screen colour indication of the selected EQ, as well as making the Neumann pole user selectable for all curves, not just e-RIAA. You might wonder why screen colour matters when it comes to switching EQ, but as most P1 owners will attest, it’s easy to inadvertently leave the phono-stage with an alternative EQ set at the end of a listening session, leaving you wondering what’s wrong with the system when you fire it up the next day with a different record. As well as providing visual confirmation when selecting an alternative EQ curve via the Control App, the screen colours act as an aide memoire, reminding you to check EQ setting when you come back to the system. The colours chosen are the same as those used in the P10, reflecting the colour of the relevant label – so yellow for Teldec/DGG, red for EMI and so on… Of course, if you don’t want the feature or you disagree with the purple chosen for Decca, you can change the colours or simply make them all the same, using the unit’s display menu.

The Neumann pole is rather more controversial, with many commentators disputing its very existence. But, like the whole question of replay EQ and the dates of RIAA compliance, it’s a subject that is geographically influenced. For instance, I have seen bald statements that EVERY stereo cutter head was a Westrex and Westrex only used RIAA EQ, ergo, all stereo records MUST be RIAA. While the Westrex cutter head may well have been the most commonly used hardware in the US, that certainly wasn’t true in Europe, where many of the largest and most prolific classical labels were based.

That same distinction applies to the so-called Neumann pole. I say ‘so called’ because it isn’t a proprietary Neumann technology, although it was found on Neumann cutting heads. Essentially, companies producing cutter heads started to apply an additional pole to curtail ultrasonic frequencies and interference that risked overloading the driving amplifier and generating distortion. Approaches were similar across different companies, but became generically referred to within the industry as the ‘Neumann pole’. How effective this was is debatable. But what isn’t debatable (just like the whole question of replay EQ in fact) is that some records sound very much better with the Neumann pole (or, technically, null) engaged. So what making the Neumann pole a selectable option does is extend the logic and facility that governs the whole CH approach to record replay EQ: they provide the facility – it’s up to you whether you want to use it. To that end, the variable replay EQ is itself an option, meaning that you don’t need to invest unless your listening habits and record collection are going to benefit.