Steve Earle’s ‘Copperhead Road’ opens with a monster chord that sounds like a something big and very dead, crashing to the floor of the studio. It’s the sort of heavily compressed thud to send a shudder through the whole room. Most amps get the weight and the thud. Some can separate out a few layers within the thud. A very select few can isolate the bass drum, the rest of the kit, the bass guitar and the keys. CH Precision’s A-1.5 is one of those – and it performs this aural sleight of hand while delivering all the thuddiness of that thud with the best of them. That’s the beauty of the A-1.5; it does more than you expect – without you noticing the doing.
This may be CH’s smallest power amp, but don’t let that fool you. There’s a lot more behind that beautifully finished fascia and fixing-free casework than meets the eye. At £31,800 the A-1.5 seems compact, even petite for the price – until you try and pick it up. Those super-smooth chassis panels enclose a grunt inducing 47kg of hardware, capable of generating anything up to 800-Watts continuous output into a 4 Ohm load.
CH has never been one of those me-too companies. Their modular approach, both to constructing or specifying components and system topology sets them firmly apart from the crowd. How is that reflected in something as simple as a stereo amp, with its single sets of inputs and outputs? Well, like I said, there’s an awful lot going on behind that beautifully sculpted fascia. Those five buttons to the left of the display allow access to the menu driven control software – and a host of configuration options. In fact, users can define everything from the information appearing on the display to the colour of the text. You can’t choose the font, but that’s probably a simple oversight on the part of whoever wrote the code! What you can choose (or change at will) is what sort of amplifier you want the A-1.5 to be, with options that include: a straight 150W into 8 Ohms stereo; 150W in a bi-amp configuration (where both channels receive the same signal from a single input); high-current 275W or bridged-mono 550W output topology. Naturally, it is equipped with both balanced and single-ended inputs, as well as a pass-through for multi-amp set ups. The gain and global feedback ratio (damping factor) can even be set for each channel independently and, if you know you don’t need it, you can dispense with the second input card and save a bit of cash.
Think that through and it quickly becomes apparent that this is an amp that not only rationalises infrastructure by minimising cable requirements, it can grow with or adapt to changes in your system. The relationship between amp and speakers is the most complex, intimate and demanding in the entire audio chain, but the A-1.5 is uniquely configurable to meet those demands – even if they change. Of course, such sophistication doesn’t come cheap, but although the initial cost might seem high, there’s serious value in that adaptability. Every time you change a component in your system it costs you money – not just to buy the new unit but in terms of the loss you suffer selling or trading-in the existing one. But with the A-1.5, your can reconfigure your existing amp to meet changing system requirements – a potentially significant saving that’s not to be sniffed at.