CH Precision A1.5 Power Amplifier

Swiss Precision

Equipment report
Solid-state power amplifiers
CH Precision A1.5 Power Amplifier

Another excursion into the world of brass that I seem to make regularly comes by way of the Hungarian trumpeter Gabor Boldoczki’s CD Gloria with the organist Hedwig Bilgram, who often accompanied the French trumpet virtuoso Maurice André on Erato recordings. A good stereo system will emphasize the difference in sound produced by such top-flight performers. The sound of a trumpet is always going to be the unique expression of the performer, his or her physique, embouchure, and sheer lung power. André liked to claim that he had the ability to blow up a tire and apparently advised his students to put a piece of paper on the wall and blow forcefully enough to keep it pinned there while slowly walking backwards. Try it. It isn’t easy. Boldoczki possesses ample lung power to judge by his fortissimo passages on his renditions of Giulio Caccini’s and Charles Gounod’s respective versions of “Ave Maria,” but he possesses a more feathery and sinuous sound than André, almost as though the notes were molting at times. The A1.5 clearly delineates these kinds of distinctions, rendering fine detail and tonal colors with great fidelity.

On the soundtrack to the biopic Bolden, a tribute to the New Orleans cornetist Buddy Bolden, which is composed and played by Wynton Marsalis, the venerable ballad “Stardust” features some fancy trumpet footwork and genial singing. But overall the recording, it must be confessed, tends to lean toward the etched side, a slight digital glaze marring the proceedings. The very low distortion of the A1.5 allows it to subdue, if not entirely tame, this aspect of the recording. 

Overall, the A1.5, particularly when I mated it with all four Wilson loudspeakers, had great clarity. It was almost like starting into the void. It made me think of a trip that I made a few years ago through Oregon that included a visit to Crater Lake, the deepest lake in America and famed for its pristine blue water. It has a hallucinatory effect: You stare down it from the side of a cliff and feel like you can see all the way to the bottom. That’s the kind of feeling that the CH Precision gear can evoke as well. You get the sense that you’re seeing into and around the instruments all the way to the rear of the hall.

At the same time, the CH equipment does not attain this kind of nuanced detail by bleaching out the sound. If anything, it tends to be voiced on the warmer side, leading some detractors to accuse it of being overly warm and fuzzy. That wasn’t my impression. I didn’t hear anything resembling the kind of warmth that is often associated with tube amplifiers. What I did keep hearing was clarity on steroids.

Where it didn’t quite match the pricier amplifiers that I’ve recently had in my system like the D’Agostino Relentless, which comes in at a cool $250,000 a pair, or the Ypsilon Hyperions, is in the ultimate degree of relaxation and grip and control. It may sound wacky, but the fact is that there is even more performance to be had than this amplifier delivers. That’s something CH knows—and why you can go up the line in its offerings to bigger and better amps. But make no mistake: What the A1.5 offers you is more than an introduction to the high end. It constitutes an invitation to a high level of performance that is unlikely to leaving you feeling neutral about its sonic prowess. 

Specs & Pricing

Output power: 2x 150W/8 ohms, 2x 275W/4 ohms, 2x 450W/2 ohms in stereo and bi-amp modes, 1x 275W/4 ohms, 1x 450W/2 ohms, 1x 700W/1 ohm in monaural mode, 1x 550W/8 ohms, 1x 800W/4 ohms, 1x 1200W/2 ohms in bridge mode
Bandwidth: DC to 450kHz (–3dB) at 1W into an 8 ohm resistive load
SNR: > 115dB in stereo and bi-amp modes, > 118dB in bridge mode
THD + noise: < 0.1% (0% global feedback), < 0.01% (100% global feedback) 
Dimensions: 440 x 198 x 440mm
Weight: 47kg
Price: $39,500 (stereo version)

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