How relevant is a phono-stage that demands four shelves and 132,000 of your hard earned dollars? Given that anybody who owns or is contemplating owning a four-box P1 a) already has the space, and b) is only doing so because they want the best and they’re prepared to pay for it, I’d say the four-box P10 is actually surprisingly relevant – as the number already ordered underlines. It might be beyond your means. It’s certainly beyond mine. But just the fact that this level of performance actually exists and you may well have the opportunity to hear it –somewhere, someday – is reason enough to rejoice.
Cartridge matching gets serious…
As well as unprecedented performance, the P10 also offers an unprecedented level of cartridge and system matching. It offers the choice of current-gain or voltage-gain inputs. The former is ideally suited to cartridges with an internal impedance of less than 10Ω, while the latter is best for cartridges with an internal impedance of over 50Ω. In between those values you’ll need to suck it and see on a cartridge-by-cartridge and system-by-system basis, but as a rule of thumb, you’ll get better results from the current-gain inputs with cartridges that have a lower internal impedance, so anything below 20Ω is probably going to work better into the current inputs. Once upon a time, that was an issue, because the current-gain inputs on the P1 sounded significantly better than the voltage-gain MM/MC input. But CH has done considerable work on the voltage-gain inputs and brought performance into line with the current-gain option. Add to that the fact that both types of input now offer 3dB gain steps (as opposed to the 5dB steps in the P1), increased overall gain and impedance matching for the MM/MC inputs that start in 1Ω steps and run all the way to 100kΩ and you can really dial in cartridge/system matching and damping. In turn, what that does is make the P10 a much better match for cartridges like the Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement, with its 50Ω internal impedance (I know, because I tried it). I also ran the Nagaoka MP-500 moving-magnet into the P10, with results that probably warrant a separate article all of their own! The P1 was able to match a lot of cartridges. The P10 matches more – and it matches them better.
Local or global feedback?
In addition, the P10 adds settings for mono (omitted on the P1 because it was present in the L1 – but as I already mentioned, the P1 often finds itself outside of CH systems) and absolute phase. Finally, there’s the option to use local feedback only or global feedback. That isn’t as straightforward or knee-jerk a question as you might assume. In certain sectors of the industry, global feedback is a dirty word and certainly, its excessive application kills the life and dynamics in music. But few circuits are totally feedback free and the judicious use of global feedback can bring stability and definition to the sonic picture. The ability to select global feedback (or not) allows users to match the performance of the record replay chain to their system – or adapt it on a record-by-record basis.