The CH Precision L1 pre-amp and A1.5 stereo power amplifier

The leading edge of notes arrive on cue, but also retain their shape, without obvious smearing, bending or blurring. Plucked bass notes, say Stanley Clarke soloing on his acoustic bass on ‘Bass Folk song #14 and #15’ from Up (Mack Avenue), there’s a clear sensation of that moment when the finger draws the string back and lets go, and it’s a vivid recreation of the physicality of the event, be it ever so minor, that constitutes the making of music. So, if the leading edges of the note arrive on schedule, in shape and properly aligned to each other, you can stop fretting about the timing because everything just happens exactly as it should, exactly when it should. Couple that to the natural sense of decay, and the whole note envelope is suddenly realised to a new level of exactitude. Which is a slightly pompous way of saying that the CH Precision kit gives you better musicians, playing better instruments.

More detail that makes more sense…

Transparency is so often associated with hearing the tiniest detail, that people assume that’s what you’re listening for when you describe a transparent hi-fi system: detail. But detail for detail’s sake is as musically irrelevant as all those interminable passages of descriptive prose that beset so many Victorian novels. Just as they add nothing to the narrative, detail without context adds nothing to the music. And that’s where the magic is to be found in the transparency delivered by this CH Precision combo. Take Youssou N’Dour, ‘Chimes of Freedom’ from The Guide (Columbia), another track I know so very, very well. Except that this time, there’s another level of context to the detail. The way the percussion has a little ripple on the off-beat now helps to keep up the pace, rather than just being a filler. And there’s more to the textures and timbres too. Sticks being struck together are more ‘sticky’ – there’s more physicality to all the percussion; the vocal isn’t just presented in a stable soundstage, it occupies a solid physical space, as do all the other instruments. It’s down to that timing thing again: not only do we get all the note’s envelope, but we get every last instant preserved in its relationship to its neighbours.

You are going to need loudspeakers capable of delivering on all this resolution, timbral, textural and temporal. At the very least, they’re going to need top pay close attention to phase and time coherence. The FinkTeam Kims really upped their game here. I knew they were good, but not this good. At the opposite end of the system, I used my own Accuphase DP570 CD/SACD player, but also the DP750, Accuphase’s best single-box player. The difference isn’t subtle, but in both cases, what the players major on is a sense of natural warmth, the humanity in the music. As partners to the L1/A1.5 the Accuphase players found their happy place, resolving the natural timbre of the instruments and music without being cloying or adding saccharine, while the amps just let it all through.

Familly portrait: the L1 and A1.5, shown stacked with the P1 phono-stage, the X1 external power supply and the larger, M1.1 amplifier, underlining the basic pairing’s growth potential.