EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH CH PRECISION - FLORIAN COSSY

 

It took quite a while to finish this interview, but now it is finally completed. You are invited to explore the unique world of CH Precision splendidly presented by Florian Cossy... Questions by your truly.

It's been a while, almost six years since our last interview. A lot of things have happened in between. What would you say characterises CH Precision’s progress in these years? 

Six years ago we were mostly known for our digital front end. But since then we have released power amplifiers, the line- and phono-stages and all these products have been really well received, both in the press and in the market. This has given CH Precision a profile and status as a manufacturer of ‘electronics’, producing state-of-the-art analogue products, rather than just ‘digital source’ components.

You've gained a remarkable status on the market. What would you say is the reason? 

Our core business is to offer products that offer the best possible performance, are technically on top, reliable and sold at a fair price. They are the product of team work, combining in-house engineers, our own, highly skilled people that take care of the products’ assembly, and  carefully selected external partners. Once you fulfill these conditions, the key is to let the world know about your products.

Kindly list the current product line. 

Our 1 Series range now offers a full line of electronics: the D1 SACD/CD player, the C1 D/A controller, the T1 clock generator, the P1 phono equalizer, the L1 line preamplifier, the X1 external power supply, the A1.5 & M1.1 power amplifiers and the I1 integrated amplifier. Of course, the modular, configurable  nature of each component means that they are all expandable into true monoaural versions, with up to four boxes for the line and phono-stages and anything up to nine boxes for the digital front-end!


Can you tell us about the latest aftermarket product upgrades that you're offering. What significance do they have in terms of performance? 

We have already instituted upgrades for the power amplifiers as well as for the digital front-end. For the power amplifiers, we have introduced rectifying capacitors built to our specs, while for the digital front-end a new proprietary HD-link was adopted between drive and converter, allowing the transfer of native data from SACDs. On the software side, a brand new interpolation filter for the D/A converter was introduced based on real-time polynomial interpolation. The feedback we’ve received from both the press and happy customers for both the hardware and the software updgrades confirms our belief that they represent major improvements. 

10th anniversary!? Time flies!? 

Aren’t we a startup anymore ? LOL

Can you tell us more about the anniversary products you showed in project form at the Munich High-End Audio Show 2019? 

These will be the start of a new line of products, named the 10 Series. The target of the 10 Series is to advance the current state-of-the-art (represented by our 1 Series) by applying everything that we have learnt in the last ten years to refining the concept and topology on which our circuits are based, looking at new materials and components and improved mechanical construction. As a genuine cost-no-object project, we can consider both components and mechanical solutions that were simply not possible with the 1 Series. The L10 line preamplifier and M10 power amplifier will be introduced shortly.

What would the line consist of? 

We don’t like to speak about products that are not available for purchase, or at least that are not at an advanced prototype stage. But the plan is to launch a full line of products over time.

Will they also offer the same modularity? 

Yes. We believe that at this price level, modularity - both of the components themselves and in terms of configuring them within a system - is a huge benefit for customers, allowing us to offer performance enhancing updates and then to advance up a carefully structured and cost-effective upgrade path. As a result our customers can access major performance improvements and system upgrades without suffering the heavy cost penalty of redundant equipment. Naturally, anybody investing in 10 Series wants to know that their investment is protected, but the financial commitment for a 1 Series owner might be just as significant, so this concept is something we feel is important for ALL customers, irrespective of price.


High-end audio has certainly come to the point. What does utmost, state-of-the-art performance mean for CH Precision? 

In essence, advancing high-end audio performance means minimising error and maximising communication. It’s not just about information or detail, but what you do with that detail and how much sense you make of it.

You've been at many shows over the years and heard many clients systems. Did you discover any particular synergies with particular speakers (brands)? 

It would be difficult to list all the speaker brands with which our electronics give good results – not to mention the risk of overlooking some of them! But one thing is for sure: over the years, more and more manufacturers are relying on our electronics as a key component in their development process and in their listening rooms, and this makes us extremely happy.

I've asked this before, but do you feel that Swiss engineering and manufacturing quality still matters when it comes to fit, finish and execution? 

I believe it is more the quality of your network of suppliers and subcontractors that matters, as opposed to the location itself. But let’s say that in Switzerland we benefit from an Atelier culture of high quality sub-contracting. This belief in the value of a job well-done really helps when it comes to building a reliable network of partners and suppliers.

Does made in Switzerland provide an advantage over the competition? 

Only if the products that result deliver on the promise and justify the reputation.

What would you say that sets CH Precision apart from the competition? 


By leveraging the power of software control and combining it with ultra-short, discrete and fully balanced topologies, we can build highly sophisticated and reliable products that are delivering the expected performance, but which are also easily serviced. There are very few products as future proof, upgradable or expandable as ours.

What about your unique bias circuitry and adjustable amplifier feedback? 

Those are a perfect case in point. The output stage bias current is absolutely critical in a power amplifier. It should stay constant over time. Regular class-AB (and even pure class-A) amplifiers do not fulfill this requirement, but our ExactBias circuitry allows us to compensate for any variation in bias current by monitoring the output stage transistor’s temperature in real time, delivering unprecedented stability.  The ability to adjust the global feedback ratio in an amplifier like the M1.1 allows users to adjust the unit’s damping factor to achieve a better match between amp, speaker and room. Both of these things ultimately have a direct affect on just how convincing and communicative your system is.


Is R2R the ultimate approach to digital decoding? 

There certainly exist many ways to achieve the same goal. But so far, no delta-sigma modulator in a digital to analog converter – be it single bit or multibit – surpasses the R-2R process in my opinion.

After the digital conversion how much importance is dedicated to the analog output board? 

In fact everything matters ; not just the analog output stage but also its power supply, the mechanical construction, etc. .. The result is not just the sum of all the parts – it is limited by the weakest

Is it competition that drives you forward or are you more interested in following your own focus? 

We listen a lot to what the end customers and the sales network tell us, especially before starting any new product. Defining the form and goals for a new product is something which is driven by demand, not driven by competition. We seek to apply our techniques, technology, experience and engineering solutions to a carefully defined challenge. In that sense there’s nothing ‘me too’ about our products.


We certainly hit the luxury price point within the high-end audio industry. Do you feel that the audio and luxury sectors overlap or we are already a sub-section of the luxury market? 

There is little or no doubt that high-end audio is part of the luxury industry. But luxury high-end audio doesn’t mean that the only thing you need to provide is a nicely designed box. If you think about luxury cars, they provide outstanding comfort and interior finish combined with their astonishing performance. For audio, in fact, the equation is almost reversed. The only thing that can really justify the prices we ask is genuine, useable performance. The fit and finish, top-notch customer service and luxury appearance should all be givens. Still, at least we don’t need a race track to deliver what’s possible. Dedicated listening rooms are much more affordable than that! 

With ten years behind you, what can you say about CH Precision’s customers? What makes them different and why do they choose your products? 

Fortunately we do not have one type of customer, or a single customer profile. Some customers build their set-up unit by unit, while others purchase a full set right at the start. Others choose a single product in our range, and this also makes us happy – partly because we are confident they will appreciate its qualities and that may well lead to other purchases. But the one thing that they all value is the extraordinary reliability and longevity of CH products. That’s why you see so few of our products for sale second-hand. 

In the past few years, we have enjoyed both high quality analogue and digital releases. Product wise, does digital win over analogue when it comes to sales? 

There is no winner here: in some countries more digital products are sold, in others more analogue products are sold, while in most countries it is perfectly balanced.

What can you tell us about growth of high-resolution digital file replay and streaming? How has this impacted CH Precision products and technology? 


Honestly, streaming hi-res files was always part of the plan for our digital sources. When we started the company ten years ago, everybody was already speaking about hi-res files so we knew we needed to factor them in to our concepts and plans.

Lately you've finally implemented Roon. Can you comment about the Roon integration and why you think it's a necessary addition? 

Roon offers a very nice user interface experience for people who use streaming as their main source. The Roon approach of giving more information than just the basic file tags is virtually unique and can be seen as the 2.0 equivalent of playing physical media – be it a CD or an LP. 

How about the splendid P1? Any plans for an upgrade? 

Thanks for the compliment! Actually there is currently no plan to upgrade the P1 but maybe one day we’ll find a new topology that enhances the overall performances of the unit. At that time we will release a new board which will be compatible with the current P1, so that all existing P1 owners can benefit. However, as I mentioned earlier, any P1 can be upgraded by adding an X1 external power supply, expanding it to a dual-chassis P1 Mono or going all the way to a true-monaural 4-box P1 set-up - so any P1 owner already has tremendous scope to upgrade – and believe me, the true monaural system is a revelation, especially as the same opportunity exists with the C1 and the L1.

Can you tell us about your reference system and listening room? What are you currently using? 

The listening room at the office is a 60sqm room with 2.5m ceiling. Currently we've got a pair of Göbel Epoque Reference and a Baforce sub-woofer, Magico M3, Magico S1 Mk2 and Stenheim Alumine Five SE loudspeakers. At the moment, as I write these lines, the L10 and M10 pre-series units are driving the Magico M3 together with a D1/C1/T1/X1 digital front end.

You were planning more affordable products. Do you still have plans to introduce them? 

Yes. We should be making an announcement on this topic early in 2021.

What can we expect from CH Precision in the near future? 

As we’ve already discussed, you will soon see (and hear) the new L10 line preamplifier and the M10 power amplifier. There will be a few mechanical ‘trickle down’ upgrades to the 1 Series and as usual, these will be made available as upgrades to existing owners, so that even an I1 system can/will take advantage of a little piece of 10 Series performance and technology. 

Any last thoughts for our readers? 

I would like to thank you for this long interview which gives me the opportunity to give your readers and our customers a little insight into the team work, thinking behind and working of our company.