It took quite some time, but finally we managed to finished the questionnaire. Matej Isak interviews Florian Cossy, CEO of CH Precision from Swiss. Prepare some snack and glass of drink. Here we go:
Where and how did it all start for Florian Cossy?
Back in the mid-90 I was hired by Goldmund straight after university, it was my first job. I was dreaming of working there one day and it happened in fact on the first day of my working life!
When I was a student, a good friend of mine was the owner of a high-end audio shop. He gave me the opportunity to work in this field. Once I perfected my technical knowledge I headed the after-sale service of some famous English audio brands for the whole of Switzerland. The logical next step for me was to work as an R&D engineer for the high-end audio industry.
Would you consider yourself as an audiophile?
I would more consider myself as a music lover. But it's true that when the music is well reproduced, that's definitely giving more magic.
Who were your inspirations (and still are)?
People who are thinking out of the box and do not apply the « monkey-see-monkey-do » rule.
Kindly list all of the present products from CH Precision?
Currently there is the D1 CD/SACD drive, the C1 D/A controller, the L1 analog preamplifier, the A1 and M1 power amplifiers. The X1 external power supply can be paired with D1, C1 and L1.
Why the name CH Precision?
It comes from the founder's last names, Cossy and Heeb. As it is also the country code for Switzerland, the brand name's choice was obvious...
When did you establish CH Precision and why?
The company was founded five years ago, after having spent 10 years into the OEM business. During that time, cost versus performances was always a trade-off. When you are running a brand like CH Precision, performance is what really matters, cost has to come second.
Do you produce everything in house?
R&D is done in house, as well as all production boards performance measurements – every single board is tested, individual traced and key numbers are stored. Product development and prototyping are also fully done at our offices. On the other hand, production units are manufactured at a subcontractor’s facility, where people have been trained to meet our build quality expectations.
Still believe in traditional Swiss quality?
Yes, there is a definitely the culture of the job well done.
Your products designs reflects luxury high-end watches. Can you tell us more?
Well, first thanks for the comparison, as it is exactly the main guideline that was given to our designer for the casing. What is funny is that we've also taken some of the cabinet construction tricks from the watch industry: for example small pins are used to accurately position parts, while screws are only used to secure parts together.
You don’t implement any tubes, but only solid state. How so?
Why did you choose only Solid State in your designs? Tubes have their advantages over transistors – I'm thinking of speed for example – but on the other hand their characteristics are permanently changing over time. A lot of compensation needs to be done around them in order not to suffer from these changes. In our products, reliability, repeatability and parts replacement are essential parameters which can be much better achieved with solid state devices.
Have you ever even thought about implementing tubes into your products?
Honestly tubes have not been part of the options we've discussed for the actual products. But as one never should say « never », maybe one day one of our products will have tubes inside...
Tubes vs. Transistors?
Currently I don't think there is a single way to achieve a desired function: tubes or transistors can be used for music reproduction just as well. I believe that the performances and the audible results depend more on the chosen electronic circuit topology than the type of devices. This is also true in the mosfet vs. fet vs. bipolar debate.
You amplifiers go up to 4kw. Is that a must?
It's always interesting to look at the A1/M1 front panel meter when it is set to display peak power. At normal listening level, only a few watts are needed. But when one plays at realistic level in a large room, the display sometimes indicates 200-500-1500-4000W... So in order to listen at a realistic level, there is no choice but to have ample energy available in the amp and the ability to deliver it quickly.
What is your approach and specific to your topology?
We like designs to be fully symmetrical with dual supplies, without coupling capacitors, with local feedback and with as few stages into the signal path as possible. This very often requires a lot of compensation circuitry and efforts around the simple audio core in order to get the best out of it.
You don’t play any mystical games. Just honest and clever engineering?
That's absolutely correct; every single part into our products has a purpose and can be explained. There is no black-magic in our designs, but a lot of work and time spent in simulating circuits, as well as in testing and measuring prototypes. Finally, the listening process plays an important role in confirming all the work made upstream.
What does state of the art solid-state performance stand in the CH Precision way of doing things?
Good engineering and a humble bit of flair allows us to develop products that perform accurately, but are also natural and musical. We strive to improve the performances of our products by studying the strengths and the weakness inherent to transistor topologies, and we come up with solutions that surpass these limitations. A good example is the ExactBias circuit topology which ensures a stable bias current in our power amplifiers, whatever the input signal, load or the unit’s temperature.
Do you think balanced topology is a must for best sound?
The balanced topology has the advantage over single-ended topology when it comes to common-mode noise reduction – at least when the following stage has real balanced inputs. It is very useful between units, where some interference noise can be caught by long cables or inside the units when the electronic stages are sensitive to power supply noise. Depending of the chosen topology, it allows us to get the best performances.
What kind of speakers do you see as state of the art and being connected to the CH Precision?
Many amazing loudspeakers are available on the market, whatever the technology behind it. I wouldn't recommend a specific technology, but would avoid large horns speakers in very small rooms and low sensitivity electrostatic speakers in large halls.
What would you say sets apart CH Precision design above other manufacturers?
That's definitely the expertise in both the digital and analog domains. For example this allows us to build a fully analog preamplifier with software-driven DC offset compensation. We are able to balance the advantages & drawbacks of both domains at a very early stage of a product development.
Would you say, that one love for music reflects in the high-end audio end products?
Where one draws the think line between luxury and quality? Is there a line to draw ? For me « luxury » is more related to the look of a product while « quality » is more related to how a product has been internally built, the chosen components, etc... I don't see any conflict with having a single product matching these two words.
There is the high-end and ultra high-end. What is the difference in your view? It's a question of personal scaling. Some products could even be placed into the « cost-no-object » category, that some are calling «ultra high-end » or « high-end »
High prices. A must?
Well, it is possible to build an audio system with decent overall results at a relatively low cost. However, in order for each of the components of a system to reach the next level of improvement, additional & very complex techniques have to be developed requiring expensive parts and careful assembly. No compromises were made during the development of our products in order to reach the level of quality we strive for. The price is actual fact a true representation of the level of complexity and quality of our products.
To what extent do you use pure class A is your signal chain?
Pure class A is used on all analog stages, to the exception of the power amplifiers output stage. In the latter, special technologies were developed to ensure a correct bias whatever the load, temperature and output power is.
What is your take on AB Class?
Class AB simply means that some current is kept into the output stage devices in order to avoid the zero-crossing typical distortion of class B stages. It is a way to keep the power amplifiers output stage linearity without dissipating too much energy. But class AB doesn't say anything about how an amplifier is behaving with complex loads or during transients.
How important is the power supply in your view?
It's one of the key elements of our products. When one is using discrete stages instead of integrated chips, one of the drawbacks is the power supply noise rejection. Great care to the power supplies must be taken for example in order to avoid crosstalk or noise propagation.
What is specific to you approach?
All power supplies are using oversized toroidal transformers, and are regulated in a linear way using discrete regulators. For critical stages, a shunt regulator has been designed to maximize the regulation performances. Besides this we are using a dedicated small toroidal transformer that works only in standby mode, this ensures minimal consumption while the unit is in standby mode – an important factor to take into consideration in today's world.
What importance do you give to built in[components]?
Is there a need of exotics parts and how do you use them? Components quality is essential, as well as the supply chain in order to have performance repeatability. However no exotic parts are designed into our designs, only high-quality industrial parts are used and allow a product life as long as possible.
What do you see as ultimate music test for ultra high-end?
The music you love and are used to, but also the one you've heard during live concert.
What is your opinion on digital music revolution and high-resolution recordings?
It's a fantastic improvement to be able to store music on computers or servers instead of relying only on discs. I strongly believe that in the long-term every audio setup will be connected to a server – be it local or cloud based – to stream music.
The high-resolution files are now offering an alternative to standard CD-quality files, with a real improvement in reproduction. But one needs to keep in mind that real high-resolution files can only come from recordings done in DSD or DXD, with mixing and mastering also done into the same format. Nowadays many so-called high-resolution files are actually CD-quality files, but were simply up-sampled. This kind of files has no interest whatsoever, and should be kept in native format.
Where is the fine line between, resolution, transparency and musicality? Is there a fine line?
I don't think so...
What is the ultimate goal of CH Precision?
To have customers happy when they switch on their audio setup.
What is the reference for your when designing to products?
Each product is starting from scratch, with a blank sheet of paper. However we build up on topologies we know work, concept and development that have already been proven in our previous designs, in order to reach the next level of accuracy and refinement.
What are your views on of Class D?
Class D in theory is a very nice and efficient way to amplify music. There are many topologies around class D amplifiers – for example with/without output filter inside the feedback loop – which are giving very different results. I wouldn't say class D is good or bad, like I wouldn't say class A is good or bad.
How close can one get with digital reproduction in comparing to analog in your opinion?
Nowadays all recordings are converted to digital prior to mixing, whatever the end format is – disc, file or LP. This simply means that the high-resolution file should be the best media for reproduction assuming that your D/A converter is as good as the one in the studio. But it is not always as simple as that. The way the mixing & mastering engineers are working for each support is much more important than the analog vs digital debate.
Any plans for more affordable CH Precision products?
Yes there are plans to market a more affordable line, however there is currently no set plan nor release dates. Stay connected!
How important are the room acoustics in your view?
It's definitely one very important thing, as frequency response is usually very non-linear. Peaks and dips of many dBs can be seen, which are often bigger than the loudspeaker non-linearity. Treating the room is often the thing many audiophiles are forgetting, and which is bringing one of the greatest improvement.
How do you know when to stop with the designing and go into actual production?
The design process can be split into four main phases: concept, simulation, prototypes building and tests. During simulation stage we are usually trying to find the limits of the concept, and then during tests the goal is to measure the same limits. Once this is found and the prototypes have been adjusted, nothing is changed for the production units.
How do you see the state of the present high-end society?
I'm seeing new brands arriving on the market with new ideas, new technologies, usually run by young people and this makes me happy. This means that there is a future for high-end audio.
And what about High-end magazines? Do you believe in traditional High-end audio magazine reviews?
That's one of the way to introduce new products & new brands, paper magazines are still popular in many countries. But the online magazines are becoming more and more popular, which is giving the opportunity to potential customers to read opinions/reviews from all over the world.
I like to think, that serious audiophiles are more than intelligent when spending the money. How do you see this?
As the audio business is a subjective domain, there is room for people pretending hearing better than others, or gurus. Fortunately there are audiophiles who only believe what they are hearing, and do not follow other people’s opinion.
Would you say that high quality is more affordable today or you have to pay premium price for best components and sound?
I would answer 'yes' and 'yes' to both parts of your question. The overall quality has well improved in last years, a good setup can be built today for a reasonable budget. On the other hand it is also true that getting the last bit of performances from a unit is very costly, and this cost tends to increase because the average products' quality becomes better.
Who would you say typical CH Precision audio customers are?
True music lovers.
Any last thoughts for our readers?
First of all, I would like to thank you for having given me the opportunity to answer to all of your questions. Lots of things have been discussed, and I hope to have not been too technical nor too vague for your readers.
With my very best regards,