So, even on paper, these are not your normal amps. But the really remarkable thing in this case is not so much the raw numbers or mind boggling flexibility, it’s how the amplifiers deploy their output, the way they set about their business. Of course, part of that does come back to the flexibility and adaptability of the electronics. Think of a parameter, be it gain, feedback, phase, or heaven knows what, and there’s probably an option to fiddle with it. And the tweaking is easy. There’s an App, and the pre and power can connect into your network via ethernet, or into a standalone wi-fi router, so you can adjust the various parameters from any Android device. You can also use the App as a remote control, changing inputs, adjusting volume and switching absolute phase at the merest twitch of a finger. If you don’t want to use the App, you can do it all from menus selected by either the various buttons on the power amp, or the multifunction dual concentric rotary control on the pre-amp, with everything displayed on the generously sized OLED screens. Oh, and there’s a very cool and dinky basic IR remote which attaches magnetically to the side of the unit – no more hunting deep in the sofa cushions – for things like input selection, volume, mute and standby mode. But let’s not lose sight of the critical aspect of all this, it’s NOT about the adjustments themselves: this is all about harnessing those adjustments to maximise musical performance.
Go to any hi-fi show, and it’s hard to escape the gentle but relentless barrage of girl and guitar. It’s everywhere, and conventional wisdom is that this sort of music is undemanding, and beautiful, so any damn fool and his half-baked system can make it sound decent. There’s probably some truth in that, but here’s a thing: the CH Precision L1 / A1.5 makes it obvious that, actually, there’s more to simple girl and guitar than that. It’s not so simple, after all. Take ‘Songbird’, the evergreen title track from Eva Cassidy’s album. She has an undeniably beautiful voice, but here there are new, fresh layers of texture and detail, vocal subtlety, and more sense of natural instruments sounding like themselves. This is an experience far closer to being in the presence of the performer than I’ve heard before. If reproducing girl and guitar is so straightforward, why doesn’t it always sound like this?
Anyway. Back to work.
One aspect of that adjustability is the way in which the amplifiers can be matched not just to sources or speakers, but also other amplification components. However, the sonic character and capabilities of the CH pieces also mean that they fit together like hand and glove – to the extent that I soon found myself thinking of and referring to them in the singular: the amplifier. Why fight it? So when I say “amp”, understand that it really means L1 and A1.5, definitely not just the A1.5 on its own.