This began as a kind of round two of the CH Precision/Wilson Benesch system we tested back in issue 159. The joy of both main parts of that system is the upgradability they bestow; every part of the CH Precision system can be upgraded through going monophonic and adding power supplies throughout. The WB loudspeakers can be similarly upgraded through the addition of one or more of the company’s own Torus ‘not a subwoofer’ Infrasonic Generators. Where we left the system as a result was kind of half way up the ladder, even if this vantage point put the system well above many of its rivals.
As it happens, though, the upgrade path quickly focussed in on one specific section of the whole system; both because it is fascinating in its own right, and because it shows in microcosm just how significant upgrades to a system can be. There’s also a deeper tale, the telling of which comes a little later. That section to receive ultimate focus is the L1 preamplifier.
By way of revision, the CH Precision L1 is a line-level, dual-monoaural, eight-input, Class A preamplifier that operates under and relies upon a logic control more in line with a computer than a traditional preamp. Far from overcomplicating matters, this is what might best be called ‘necessary complexity’ as it allows the CH Precision L1 a level of flexibility that is unparalleled in audio. And it is that flexibility that is the subject of this exploration… and it is an exploration.
Harking back to that original review, the rest of the system remained more or less extant. The front-end was either a Neodio Origine disc player or a Grand Prix Audio Parabolica turntable, the amplification was all CH Precision (P1 phono stage and M1.1 mono amplifiers), the loudspeakers were from Wilson Benesch (Eminence loudspeakers each with a powered Torus), the cables were all Nordost Odin 2, and the equipment supports were Wilson Benesch’s R1 Racks (for the electronics) and Grand Prix Audio (for the turntable). Roy Gregory reviewed that system originally, he re-received the system after 2019’s Munich High-End, and this was a high time to pay him a visit in his excellent new listening room in France, from which the original review was conducted.
The flexibility is core to CH Precision’s ethos in its own right. In the ten years the company has been in business, not a single product has been ‘left behind’. No product has been discontinued, any products where the original circuitry has either become unavailable (due to components being discontinued) or is too outmoded to be relevant has been upgraded and those upgrades are fully retrofittable. In addition, when it comes to upgrades, there are no ‘side-alleys’; no stepping-stone products that end up being surplus to requirements if and when you move up to the next level (the nearest to a side-alley is the recent integrated amplifier, which doesn’t have a major and obvious upgrade pathway into the pre/power electronics, although you can add in DACs and power amplifiers). So, in the case of the L1 preamplifier, there are options to add power supplies or a second L1 preamp to make it a pure monaural preamp, or even mono preamplifiers each with their own dedicated power supply. This could mean a few steps along the way that might work better or worse than others; what pathway is the right way?