We often describe sound of equipment as “fluid” and talk about “musical flow”, but the P10 renders such descriptors redundant. The P1 is one such unit and it is exceptionally fluid. Compared to the phono-stages that preceded it in my system (including the extraordinary Connoisseur 4.2 PLE) its ability to track the music, note-by-note, phrase-by-phrase, was a revelation. The shape it brought to instrumental lines and the articulation it revealed in a soloist’s playing were revelatory. The Connoisseur does an amazing job of placing you in the same space as the musicians, but the P1 made those musicians better: better individually but perhaps more importantly, better collectively, with a more developed sense of ensemble playing and more explicit relationships between instruments and parts.
Understanding the step up to the P10 demands a shift in perspective. Hearing the difference is smack you in the face obvious. Working out what’s behind that difference, why it is so musically significant, takes a little longer. In comparing products, we often try to quantify things – in most cases individual attributes: more transparent, more resolution, greater harmonic definition, more dimensional etc. It’s an appealing construct: such differences are easy to hear and describe – even if their overall importance is less clearly defined by the exercise. It’s just one step towards the dissection of a performance that should, above all, be holistic. Try the same thing with the P10 and you’ll come unstuck: not because there aren’t clearly audible differences, but because they defy convention. In most cases, there isn’t ‘more’ but ‘less’, the P10 making its mark through its sheer absence. Instead of action, you need to start thinking in terms of process: instead of effect you need to think in terms of facilitation.
Listen to any product or system and you are listening to the results of that product or system acting on the signal. In the case of a record, that signal starts as a tiny electro-mechanically generated voltage that is then amplified through multiple gain stages until it is converted into a substantial acoustic output at the speaker. Each separate stage in the process adds its own contribution in terms of the size or nature of the signal – but it also leaves its own mark on that signal. More often than not that mark takes the shape of a subtractive influence: flattened leading edges, diminished dynamics, lost low-level information. Think about the P10 in those terms and it suddenly becomes clear exactly what is happening here and what sets it so far apart from and above the norm – even if that ‘norm’ is as exceptional a benchmark as the P1. The P10 is quite simply the lowest-loss phono-stage I’ve ever used. The signal enters and is passed with maximum fidelity and minimum interference. The P10 responds more promptly and precisely to the signal’s demands and its responsibilities. In doing so it leaves less of a mark. It passes the signal without delay, without obstruction, without bending it out of shape and without squeezing it. At least that’s what it sounds like. It’s a zero-impedance transfer, the music dictating terms and strutting its stuff rather than stumbling and trying to fight its way through the component. The phrase that springs to mind is, “Path of least resistance,” which is strange, given just how ‘active’ a phono-stage is in terms of both amplification AND equalisation!