Exquisite Design Delivering
CH Precision – What makes this Swiss company so special?
CH Precision has quietly come to occupy a dominant position right across the high-end, with benchmark electronic components in almost every category. Yet it is a dominance achieved almost entirely by stealth. One moment it was all the old, familiar names sprinkling the discussion; the next, it seemed like CH Precision products were everywhere, setting standards and revising expectations, winning awards and winning over critics.
So just who are CH Precision?
Based in Lausanne, Switzerland, it’s no accident that CH Precision is located at the heart of the same atelier distributed manufacturing system on which the Swiss watch industry depends. This network of ultra-high-quality, specialist workshops means that CH can concentrate on design, safe in the knowledge that they have access to external manufacturing that’s second to none. That means that over half of the company’s employees are directly involved in product design and development – with most of the rest working in assembly and testing. It’s a structure that’s essential to support the levels of sophistication incorporated into the products, sophistication that is the result of an entirely new approach to audio product design.
It used to be the case that products could be versatile or they could sound good. The more facilities you incorporated, the more they impacted the sound. What Florian Cossy, CEO and chief design engineer at CH realized was that by leveraging the incredible power and versatility of software control systems, you could make simple, short signal path circuits that were more stable, more accurate AND more configurable than anything built before. It is this ability to offer both cutting edge performance and unprecedented levels of versatility and user choice that has enabled CH Precision products to rewrite the audio rulebook, impressing even the most jaded reviewers and customers.
What makes CH Precision products so special?
It doesn’t take long to realize that all the CH Precision components look pretty much the same. Even the power amps are just taller versions of the other boxes. That’s no accident. In fact, it’s the outward evidence of one of the most important aspects of every CH design – modularity.
No matter whether the final product will be a CD transport or DAC, a phono-stage or power supply, CH Precision adopt a modular construction topology that allows them to use as many common parts and components in every design as possible. So casework, displays, control circuitry and packaging can be shared across multiple platforms. That’s not being lazy. It’s an example of extremely smart design. Not only does it keep costs manageable but helps with manufacturing inventory, servicing, reliability and product longevity – and all of that makes owning a CH product a long and happy experience.
But that’s only the start. The creation of a card-cage design means that the product framework can be adapted or configured to different requirements. If you buy a C1 DAC/Control Unit, you get to choose what and how many digital and analog inputs and outputs you need. If your system changes, all you need to do is reconfigure those modular input/output cards – not buy a whole new unit. You can upgrade your C1 too: you can add an X1 external power supply, a T1 Time Reference Clock or turn it into a three-box, dual monaural C1 mono – all without a single box becoming redundant. Even the step up to the C1 mono only costs you the difference between the two units bought new. The same applies to the L1 line-stage and P1 phono-stage, both of which can expand from a single box to a four-box, true monaural set up with twin external supplies. Even the power amps are configurable and expandable, with each M1.1 or A1.5 offering the user no fewer than five discrete operational modes, from straight stereo to high-powered, bridged mono – with cable-saving bi-amped options in between. They’ll even adapt to different speakers and different rooms, with software control of overall gain and global feedback/damping factor.
Meanwhile, inside those boxes are the simplest, shortest signal paths, fully differential and fully discrete – the very model of ultimate audio and musical performance. As well as offering multiple user configurable options, what the software does is keep those circuits operating EXACTLY the way they should: from their temperature and operating voltages, noise-floor and freedom from DC to their isolation from AC interference. Sophisticated digital circuitry monitors every aspect of the digital or analogue signal path in real time, ensuring that you suffer no limitations in technical or noise performance. What you get is the music, just the music and nothing but the music.
All that technology and monitoring, software control options and configurable facilities are there to preserve the fragile musical signal – but they also preserve your investment. In the company’s entire history, it has only discontinued one product. When it replaced the original A1 amplifier with the new, larger and far more capable A1.5, all A1 owners were offered the option of a heavily subsidised upgrade. Likewise, when the M1 was revised to M1.1 status, the company upgraded existing units in the owner’s homes, thus avoiding system down-time and having to pack and ship a nearly 85kg unit (or two). Every other upgrade or series change has been fully retrofittable, meaning that each and every CH product can be kept fully up to date. This is a company that takes both the upgradable nature and longevity of its products very seriously indeed. CH Precision products might seem expensive, but when you start to appreciate just how capable and sophisticated they really are, their true value starts to emerge. That modular design and construction doesn’t just deliver cutting-edge musical performance and reduce cost, it protects your investment too.