CH Precision 4 Chassis P1 Phono Stage / X1 Power Supply Review

CH Precision 4 Chassis P1 Phono Stage / X1 Power Supply Review by Richard H. Mak

When I think of Swiss products, two words usually come to mind:  Elegant and expensive.   I conjure up images of sparsely populated towns, where a third of its people are bankers, a third are engineers, and the rest walk their dogs while enjoying Confiserie Teuscher champagne truffles on streets which hasn’t seen a litter since 1972.   And when they have finished walking their dogs, they go back to their office and continue making expensive products which I can barely afford.   I have never been to Switzerland, but as an audiophile I am very familiar with Swiss audio names such as Goldmund, Dartzeel or DaVinci Audio.   They are some of the most beautiful audio equipment in the world.  And if it wasn’t because of my buddies Lawrence Lock and David Chan suddenly deciding to become the Canadian distributor for the Swiss brand CH Precision in 2015, I would have never thought of getting my hands on CH equipment, even though I have heard of their name since the 2012 CES.   They know I am an analog junkie so they offered to let me try out CH’s all new P1 phono stage.  I thought to myself what a lucky day!    

The CH Precision P1 Phono Preamplfier, is the Swiss manufacturing company’s latest foray into the cost no object, high end separate chassis phono stage arena.   The letters in CH Precision represent the initials of its two founders, Florian Cossy and Thierry Heeb.  Cossy and Heeb were revered design engineers at Goldmund in the early 90s.   Both Florian and Thierry left Goldmund in 1999 to create an OEM company designing components for others in the audio industry.   In 2009, they sold the company to create CH Precision.   As its name would suggest, CH adopts a Precision-based engineering approach to its design philosophy, placing a heavy emphasis on accurate signal amplification at a lowest possible level of distortion;   the subjective sonic preference of the designer, is rather a low priority in the equation.  CH products also carry an elegance  that are Swiss clockwork-like when it comes to fit and finishing. 
The stand alone CH P1 is a single chassis dual mono MM/MC phono preamplifier.   The typical MC cartridge generates between 0.1mV to 0.9mV, that’s 0.0001 volts!   The MC circuit bears the difficult task of amplifying the tiny signals by 1,000 to 10,000x (60-80dB) in order to reach nominal line levels before the signal can be transferred to the line section of the preamplifier.   If you want to be meticulous about having the best possible performance, CH provides the option of adding a separate X1 power supply as well as further separating the circuits into a separate chassis. In other words, you can turn a one box phono stage into two, three, or even four boxes with five possible configurations, each with distinct sonic improvements as more boxes are added. This of course, comes with an expensive Swiss price tag. The four box Dual Mono P1s & X1s with the optional EQ curves installed, is priced at $ 90,850; this makes it one of the most expensive phono stages in the entire market, costing more than a small condo in some countries. 
This review will explore all five configurations:

The Beast’s Arrival

My review samples were the first CH P1s and X1s to land in North America.   They were hand delivered to me by a 3 man tag team: Raphael Pasche, Design Engineer at CH Precision, and my buddies David Chan and Lawrence Lock of DVLAudio. Two P1 and two X1 units came in 4 heavy wooden crates, weighing in at over 30kg each. A set-up of the four units took more approximately two hours. But of course, no guest of the Mak’s residence ever departs without enjoying a glass of fine Bordeaux. To convey my deepest appreciation for their labor, they enjoyed one of my finest offerings.
Inside the wooden crates, the actual units are embedded in laser cut, thick high-impact foam which can probably withstand quite a bit of transportation abuse. The crates are bound together by single-use galvanized steel hinges which snap off after opening. They remind me of the wooden wine cases in which fine French Bordeaux are housed; once pried opened they cannot be resealed.  Not that it really matters, because what I really care about is what lies inside the box.
Both the P1 and X1 come with an accessories box which reminds me of the tool kit that comes with a Mercedes Benz S-Class—there is an exquisite feel to its touch. Each unit comes with a corkscrew like CH-Screwdriver, and 4 stainless steel vibration isolation spikes which insert from the top of the chassis and extend through to the bottom. Should the units be stacked on top of each other, stacking cups are provided to receive the spike which are screwed on to the top of the bottom unit.  Everything is well thought out and feels expensive.
There is a bolt on the underside of the chassis which secures the internal transformer during transportation; it must be removed prior to operation.
The P1 is a complicated piece of machinery. If you pop the hood it looks more like a computer than a piece of audio equipment. Quite a stark contrast to my beloved Kondo M7 Phono ($20,000), with fewer than 20 components in total, 5 of them being vacuum tubes. The CH P1 is fitted with a slick 3.5″ multi-colored high resolution AMOLED screen, precision fit within a thick aluminum front panel.  If you can find a way to hard wire it to your Blue Ray player, I am sure you can play a movie on the screen. Five tiny buttons on the right side of the front panel control the operation of CH allowing users to navigate through a labyrinth of settings driven by internal firmware. Buried within its deep menu structure are highly configurable user settings which can be difficult to decipher unless you read through the P1’s 35 page owner’s manual. The settings include 3 input choices, subsonic filters, different equalization curves, input gain, loading, programmable button short cut buttons, various operation modes, choices for different screen colors and brightness, mute, power ON/OFF, as well as different default settings, all controlled with the 5 buttons.  
The choice for different equalization curves will be blanked out, unless you have pre-ordered the optional hardware which can be installed at the dealer level. It is a $1,850 option, with the choice of two out of four equalization curves amongst Decca, Columbia, Teldec and EMI. There is a USB port at the back of the P1, which allows you to download periodical updates from the CH website via a USB memory stick.   
The P1 does not come with a remote control. Rather, it is designed to work with a tablet or a handheld device in conjunction with the CH App available on Google Play. This of course assumes you already have a tablet and a certain degree of computer knowledge to get it working.  Apple users are out of luck as it does not work with IOS. You will also need a Wi-Fi Extender because the P1 does not have Wi-Fi capability.  It can only communicate with the P1 via a physical Cat5 cable plugged into back of the P1. I had neither, so I went to BestBuy and bought the cheapest tablet together with the cheapest WiFi extender with a Cat5 network outlet; in total it cost me approximately $150. For $31,000, you may have thought the P1 would come with these accessories – I’m actually thrilled it didn’t, otherwise it likely would be a $5,000 dollar Swiss made fancy tablet and a $2,000 dollar WiFi Extender. 
If all this confuses you, consider getting your neighbor’s 14-year-old kid to do it for you because that’s exactly what I did. Rest assured, once the setup is complete it makes operating the P1 much easier than navigating it with the front panel buttons. Now I can easily rename each of the three inputs using my tablet instead of having to press the tiny buttons multiple times to enter each of the alphabets in the word “CLEARAUDIO”. If you have a complete CH system, the App will also control all other CH equipment. 

Voltage Inputs vs Current Inputs

The P1 comes with three inputs, two of which are labeled MC1 and MC2, and the third MC/MM. The circuitry behind these inputs house two fundamentally different circuit designs worthy of special attention. The majority of the phono stages on the market are based upon voltage amplification circuits, amplifying the voltage generated by the MC cartridge 1000 to 10000x. They are, however, subject to the constraints imposed by the cartridge’s output level. High output cartridges requires less amplification, but their large internal coils reduce the agility of the cantilever, thereby reducing transient response and low level details. Low output cartridges have much better cantilever mobility, but amplifying the signal becomes very difficult as they are easily subject to noise and hums. Generally speaking, cartridges below 0.2mV are considered ultralow output and will usually require step-up transformers, which will obviously open another can of expensive worms.
An alternate solution is to employ a current amplification circuitry which operates in the exact opposite fashion as voltage amplification circuits. MC cartridges by nature are not efficient voltage generators, but they are, however, excellent at delivering current when their internal resistance is low. In current amplification circuits, the gain is directly proportional to the current the cartridge can deliver, the lower the internal resistance, the higher the gain will be. The disadvantage of a current input is that it works efficiently only with a low impedance cartridge. Successful implementation depends entirely on the impedance rather than the output of the cartridge; the cutoff point is at approximately 40-50Ω.
The tradeoffs between the two circuits are rather obvious. Therefore, CH decided to deploy both circuits into the P1, essentially combining two phono stages into one! The single MM/MC input is a voltage input and the MC1 and MC2 are current inputs. They are independent, fully balanced, and discrete circuits prior to RIAA.   After equalization, they share the same amplification circuitry.   
In illustration using a very low output cartridge vs a very high output cartridge connected to the Current Input vs Voltage Input on the P1 

My Sonic Lab Ultra Eminent BC: 0.6Ω output 0.29mV 

Voltage Input: At 0.29 mV, the Wizard determined the optimal gain level at +70 dB of gain. This setting has audible hiss coming from the speakers at 30% volume without any record playing. On careful listening, the gain level was sufficient. Optimal loading was determined to be 180Ω by the Wizard. 

Current Input: At 0.6 Ω, the Wizard determined the optimal gain level to be I/V + 20 dB, but based on listening test I preferred a much lower setting of I/V + 5 dB. 

According to Ohm’s Law where I = V/R, Current = 0.29 / 0.6 = 483 Micro Amps, a very sufficient level of gain based on the low impedance of the cartridge. 

Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement (GFS): 50Ω output 0.9mV 

Voltage Input: At 0.9mV, the Wizard determined the optimal gain level to be 70dB of gain on the Voltage input. On listening test, I preferred +60 dB of gain, a much lower setting. Optimal loading was determined to be 330Ω by the Wizard. 

Current Input: At 50Ω, the cartridge required IV+ 20 dB of gain. 

According to Ohm’s Law where I = V/R, Current = 0.9/50 = 18 micro amps, the GFS’s high input impedance resulted in a very low level of gain regardless of the Goldfinger’s output of 0.9mV, which is relatively high for an MC cartridge. 

The low output My Sonic Lab cartridge provided nearly 27x more current than the GFS. When the GFS is connected to the Current Input, volume had to be turned much higher to achieve the same decibel levels. 

However, when the GFS is used on the voltage input, the cartridge achieve much higher decibels at the same level on the volume dial. Based on voltage amplification, it has a much higher output than the MSL, almost by a factor of 3 (0.9mV/0.29mV). 

It is also important to note that when low output cartridges are used in the Current Input, it will not require a ground connection in most cases. Current input intrinsically has a very low input impedance (approx. 0.1 Ω), combined with the extreme low impedance of the MSL BC cartridge, it is almost immune to hum pickup.

The P1 “Wizard” 

As with all voltage amplification circuits, proper impedance loading is crucial to the resultant frequency response of the audio signal. The P1 provides a selection of five hundred resistance values from 20Ω all the way to 100kΩ in logarithmic increments; you’ll have steps of 1 ohm in the 20 Ohms range and the gaps between the values are increasing as you go upwards. The steps around 24k Ohms or above, are at 500 ohm increments. While most manufacturers will tell you to “go with your ear” while choosing the right loading, CH has developed an approach based on scientific measurements. The P1 is built in with an ingenious two part “Wizard” which will determine the optimal settings for GAIN and MC loading resistance automatically. 
The P1 comes with a test LP designed to work with the P1’s internal distortion analyzer. With the test LP playing, the P1 Gain Wizard will read the test signal and automatically choose a gain level which yields the lowest signal to noise ratio. Flip the LP onto the other side, the P1 Loading Wizard will automatically maneuver through multiple loading choices—its internal DSP (digital signal processing) device will automatically display 20 frequency response curves on the LCD screen. This allows the user to choose the one which yields the smallest amplitude and frequency response changes versus the signal recorded on the LP with the entire process taking less than 10 minutes. 
How reliable is the Wizard? I compared the results generated by the P1 versus the results from my own proprietary test LP and analog setup software currently under development. We arrived at the exact loading choice with a difference of only 10-20 ohms. Assuming we are relying on each other as the reliable benchmark, the results are close enough to be called scientifically verifiable! 

Enough already, tell me how it sounds!

I started my critical listening with a single chassis, stand alone P1 unit without the X1 external power supply. Each of the two input circuits carry distinctly different sonic flavors and the optimal choice will depend largely on the output and the impedance of the cartridge being used. Of the dozen or so cartridges I experimented on both input circuits, the voltage input seems to like cartridges with an output of 0.25-0.3mV or above. For this review I mainly used the Clearaudio Goldfinger Statement (GFS) cartridge on the voltage inputs. This cartridge has an output of 0.9mV and an impedance of 50Ω. 
“Dream of an Opera” is a high quality recording produced by Rhymoi Music offering ten samplings from different styles of Chinese opera orchestrated with a mixture of western and traditional Chinese instruments. You might expect this excellent recording to appeal mainly to Chinese, but surprisingly it seems to strongly attract the attention of my Caucasian friends, most of whom walk out of my listening room wanting to buy a copy. Instantly, the P1 delivered a sound which belongs to a category occupied by very high caliber, reference level equipment such as FM Acoustic, the Burmester 100 Phono, or the Tenor Phono 1, all of which I have on hand for side by side comparison. The sound of the single chassis P1 is unmistakably solid stage, exhibiting all the typical traits: fast, clean, dynamic, and with a super low noise floor. 
One trait which immediately stood out, is the P1’s remarkable extensions at both ends of the frequency spectrum. The speed and the pace of the music reminds me of the old Mark Levinson 26S, but with more refined elegance and musicality. It’s almost like riding an Aston Martin in comparison to a Ford Mustang. Using the same GFS cartridge, tonal balance seems to be more neutral with the FM Acoustics. The P1 sound conveys more vivid colors with a higher level of contrast—it is more Hi-Fi Sounding. The size and weight of the projected sonic images are solid but not as much as the Burmester 100 Phono, which also happens to be the warmest sounding of the bunch. The FM lies somewhere in the middle and the CH leans toward the cooler end of the spectrum, closer to the Mark Levinson 26S. Instrument separation, ambience, and air are the best on the Tenor P1, which also displays most organic qualities typical of tube phono stages. 
But much like the Transformer robots, there is More Than Meets the Eye with the P1. The very qualities which distinguish the P1 as special are further enhanced when you play low impedance cartridges on the current inputs. With a 50Ω internal impedance, the GFS did not work on the current inputs, which like to see a much lower impedance level (typically below 30 Ω)—the GFS sounded rolled off, muffled, and lacked gain. The story is, however, much different when I connect them with low internal impedance cartridges. 
I exchanged them between three cartridges with the lowest internal impedance in the entire market: the My Sonic Lab Ultra Eminent BC (MSL BC with 0.29mV & 0.6Ω), the Kondo IO-M (0.12 mV & 1Ω), which poses a challenge for most phono stages when used without the Kondo SFz step up transformer, and the Haniwa HCTR01 Mark II. On this cartridge, impedance was so low (0.4Ω) that the Kubotek does not even bother publishing the output figure. Rather surprisingly, all three worked remarkably well with the CH current input without any step up transformer or even the need for ground wire connections. 
The MSL BC cartridge, which has enough gain to work with both circuits, performed much better on the current input. On the legendary Philips “Hi Fi Stereo” recording with Oistrakh and Oborin performing Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata (Philips 835153 AY), the difference between the two circuits was startling. On the current input, it is almost as if a veil had been lifted from the sound, rendering details of Oistrak’s violin absent otherwise. The unmistakable advantage of low output cartridges as a result of better cantilever mobility became rather obvious. Transient response was much faster which made the violin sound livelier—as a result, Oistrakh’s performance became more realistic and lifelike. You hear more of the minute details, down to the very texture of the bow as it glides and bounces on the strings. On the Andante con variazioni of the Sonata, Oistrakh’s playfulness of his technique is fully portrayed with a liveliness reminding me of Rimsk-Korsakov’s Flight of Bumblebee. Air and ambience between the two instruments which had been lacking on the voltage inputs now began to rival the sound of the Tenor P1 with more tube like qualities. 
On the song Wicked Game, in Chris Issak’s “Heart Shaped World” album, the current input captures more of the essence and atmosphere of the song by rendering better detail and a more nuanced portrayal of his voice. The sound of the voltage input is more rounded and smoothed out. What came through was not just the playback of a recording, it is the recreation of emotive music right in my very room—this quality alone, is enough to make me fall in love with the P1. It has brought my appreciation of low output low impedance cartridges into a whole new and different level. By removing the issues of noise, lack of gain, and the need for step up transformers, the current amplification circuit has allowed low output cartridges to fully shine on a level which I have never experienced before. When comparing the two inputs on the P1, the current input clearly has the upper hand. Surely, I have heard other current input phono stages before the CH, but none of them seem to impress me as much as the CH P1. 

Two Chassis: P1 + X1 

If the single chassis P1 has not done quite enough to demote any of my existing phono stages (AR Ref 2 SE, Tenor Phono 1, FM Acoustics, Burmester 100 Phono and Kondo M7), I can assure you that the P1 + X1 combo has totally rocked the boat. With the addition of the X1, the main transformer inside the P1 will automatically remain switched off. The X1 contains discrete voltage regulators for all the P1 internal power supplies. These voltage regulators come in series with the P1 internal voltage regulators—in essence adding an extra stage of regulation to the power supplies upstream of the P1 internal power supplies. The P1 will still need to be plugged in, but only to power the internal microprocessor which is isolated from the signal path 
The X1 represents a positive improvement to the sound of the P1, and the effects are quite dramatic. Sound staging for instance, has been brought to an utterly new level of three dimensionality which had been absent without the X1. This is best demonstrated with live operatic recordings exhibiting active stage movements, such as in Mario Sereni’s famous aria, Di Provenza ilMa, in Verdi’s “La Traviata” (EMI ASD 543 ED2), Sereni begins singing the aria on the far left of the stage, and slowly walks diagonally to the front right, and then back to the center of the stage. On the single P1, the spatial projections are mostly forward with very little depth perception. With the addition of the X1, Sereni’s voice carries with it a much stronger spatial dimension which almost allows you to back trace his steps on stage just by listening to his voice. Quite astonishingly, turning the listening room into a 3D opera stage. The same can be said of Britten’s famous one-act opera “Noye’s Fludde” (Argo ZNF-1). On the scene where God calls out to Noah, “Noye, Noye, Take Thou Thy Company…..”, 
His voice comes from afar, deep within the stage and reverberates with the echo of his voice. It grips and holds the audience’s attention as if God is actually speaking to the audience. A few minutes later, a barrel like object rolls from the back of the stage to the front; the P1+X1 combo delivered a vivid realism with almost 3D projection of the object rolling towards me in front of my speakers. All this, is of course, limited by your system’s ability to render a proper sound stage in the first place, usually requiring ample space behind a pair of speakers correctly sized for the room, and with the speakers in their right positions. If your speakers are only a feet from the back wall, well then, tough luck. 
With the X1, the tonality of the P1 has moved from the cool side of neutral towards the center, in the direction of the FM Acoustics and the Burmester. Johnny Cash’s close mic’d voice on “The Man Comes Around” album, which was relatively speaking, hard and cold with the stand alone P1, became warm and intimate. There is an organic element revealed in Cash’s voice by the X1, and with it comes deeper emotion and pathos. The same can be said of the Canadian folk duo Ian & Sylvia’s, on their song “Four Strong Winds”, which some claim is the Canadian anthem of the west. Their voices became smoother and more velvety, not quite reaching the realms of the Tenor P1 or the Kondo M7, but the P1+X1 has definitely ventured into their vicinity. 
Finally, the X1 has also injected dynamic shading and contrast to the stand alone P1. The sonic image now carries as much weight and solidity as Burmester 100 Phono, perhaps even a tad more. But with it also came better frequency extensions which makes CH P1+X1 sound relatively livelier by comparison. The now defunct CISCO records, made a fantastic reissue of Capitol’s recording of Benjamin Britten’s “Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra”, a remarkably unveiled and dynamic sounding record, all recorded on a simple 1957 two track tape machine. The P1+X1 combo gave an exhilarating performance, well demonstrating the X1’s ability to add weight, impact, and dynamism to the sound of the instruments. If you love to play grand orchestral symphonic pieces, jazz or rock music – much of which requires an extra bit of oomph- the X1 is indispensable. 

2 Box P1 + P1 vs 3 Box X1 + P1 + P1 

Alternatively, you can instead add a second unit of P1 rather than an X1, which will make two P1s run in true monorual operation. If you purchase this configuration from CH, then each P1 will only come with one channel instead of two which means an exact replication of this configuration would require me to remove one channel of the circuit board from each of the P1 units. Not wanting to mess with the review samples, I decided to leave them in place. I basically utilized one channel on each of the P1s. This is not an exact replica of the true mono operation, but probably a close enough approximation. 
This configuration requires an additional $24,000, versus $17,000 for the X1, however I did not find the improvements of the mono operation to be quite as dramatic as adding the X1 power supply. When I played the above recordings, I find the P1 mono configuration to have a mellowing effect on the sound, effecting a change in tonality very similar to how the X1 injected musicality and organic elements to sound of the P1. But when it comes to dynamic contrast and three dimensionality of the sound stage, it did not deliver as much of an improvement as I expected. 
Adding an additional X1 to the two chassis mono P1 is the fourth possible configuration. This will require an additional $44,000, turning the phono stage into a 3 box setup. The description of this process may appear quite short. However, what is summarized here was actually, for me, 30-40 hours of intensive work. The relentless A-B Comparisons between the different configurations was quite a laborious task. My conclusion on the 3 Box setup is very similar to the 2 box P1+X1 setup. It is more a change in quantity rather than in quality. It is a continuation of the improvements along the lines of the X1+P1 configuration, representing a small degree of change in the same direction. Between the different configurations, adding the X1 power supply seems to offer the biggest bang for the buck. Consequently, if I was contemplating going beyond the single chassis X1, my first choice would be the two box P1+X1 combo for $48,000. 

4 Chassis: 2 P1 + 2 X1 

If there is ever an exception to the law of diminishing returns, it certainly applies to the case of the 4 chassis P1 + X1 configuration. At over $90,000, it represents a price category which very few would want to venture into. The four box CH combo represents a dramatic leap in performance by a much greater degree than incremental changes we have seen under all the previous configurations. The sound of the 4 box CH is nothing short of breath taking. There is literally a big improvements in every imaginable sonic category. To my ears, the 4 chassis configuration has vaulted the P1 into becoming my new personal sonic reference. The 4 Box P1/X1 is no longer going up against the competition; it has now become the reference against which the competition are measured. Perhaps someday I will encounter something better, but as of now I have not heard better. Be forewarned not to attempt a demo unless price is no object and you are prepared to pull the trigger. Once you have heard this sound, it will be very difficult to say no to it. 
If there is ever a system worthy of my most prized records, this, my friends, would be it. I pulled out the famed Decca recording with István Kertész conducting the VPO, on Dvorak’s “From the New World” Symphony No. 5 (DECCA SXL 2289 ED1). If you want a copy, please do yourself a favor and stay away from the Speaker’s Corner reissue which is rather grainy and abrasive. The Esoteric Reissue (ESLP-10002) is much closer in proximity to the original, albeit very expensive. The DECCA ED1 or ED2 original pressing of this recording is considered by many to be one of the most definitive performances in sound quality and in interpretation. It carries one of the widest dynamic range of any recording and represents the best sound of the DECCA golden age. Believe me, if the playback sounds awful with this record, the culprit is with your system and not the recording. On the 4 box P1/X1, the entire orchestration was rendered with the utmost dynamism combined with lifelike textual contrast, reaching a level which has never been achieved before in my system. The tonal balance is almost perfect; even with the most abrasive of instruments it did not once veer away from the neutral spectrum. Instruments are holographic and life sized, projected in a massive soundstage reaching far beyond my listening space. It is the best sounding I have ever heard coming out of this recording, leaving the audience in my room in amazed awe. 
The same caliber of performance was repeated on Julius Katchen’s riveting performance of Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 3, with Pierino Gambo directing the LSO (DECCA SXL 2106 ED1), a true tour de force—a rhythmically fast paced demonstration of the full range dynamics of a full size concert grand piano. Need I mention Michael Rabin’s pungently colorful performance of Sarasate’s Meditation from Thais on Capitol’s elusive Magic Bow record (Capitol SP 8510)? It is quite literally a show off of super fast transient response and rendering of minute details, yet without any hint of abrasiveness or sibilance, maintaining perfect harmony between a sharp focused image and a velvety smooth visual texture. From dynamic contrast, to sound staging, to tonal balance, to conveying human emotions, whatever records I threw at the 4 Boxed P1/X1, everything was rendered to perfection, resulting in a new level of appreciation for my entire record collection. The sound of the 4 box CH combo has travelled far from the sound of the single box P1; looking back, it is but a glimpse of the true potential and full power of this amazing piece of equipment.
I have written in numerous articles that no other cartridge and phono stage combo has ever came close to the seductive sound of human voice of the Kondo combo (IO-M cartridge, SFz Step Up Transformer and M7 phono), the Kondo sound is so emotive and organic that it poses a tough challenge even for the best of Koetsu cartridges running on tube equipment. It is also the first time that I have ever successfully mated the Kondo IO-M cartridge with anything other than the Kondo phono stage. I’ll end this review by quoting an obscure Chinese recording from the 1970’s Hongkong Kung Fu TV Drama “Phoenix Luk” (Crown Records CST 12-30), probably familiar amongst Asian readers only. Track 3 on side 1, is an emotionally charged performance by Teresa Cheung Tak-Lan (張德蘭- 鮮花滿月樓); it is almost the Chinese equivalent of Eva Cassidy’s Field’s of Gold.

The CH/IO-M combo delivered a clarity in her voice which I have never heard before. It fully captured the pathos of the melody in a fashion only the Kondo sound can deliver. Yet I am listening to the CH sound which is in its own way, equally captivating, soulful, and passionate. It is on equal footing with the Kondo phono stage, but with an entirely different expression. The Kondo sound is more voluptuous and full bodied, but the CH sound is youthful, and delivered with more clarity. With the 4 box CH P1/X1, the Kondo has finally met its match—I have fallen in love with the sound of the four box CH P1/X1.        


When I started writing ten years ago, I promised myself that I would only write articles which do not read like a marketing brochure. For an in-flight magazine read, I have committed the mortal sin of preparing a rather long article. With its myriads of features, double input circuitry, and five possible configurations, this review on the P1 represents almost 10 articles combined into one. But those who are looking to spend in the range of $30,000 to $90,000 dollars on a phono stage are most likely interested in a detailed and thorough analysis. I trust that I have done my due diligence by providing some useful information.  
My friends from CH ventured into my listening room knowing fully that the P1 will be faced with some very stiff competition; yet it came out of the exercise unscathed and undefeated. There is no right or wrong with subjective preference. My goal was to provide a gaugeable sonic description so that you, as a reader, can determine for yourself whether the sound is to your liking. One thing is for certain, the P1 is a giant amongst titans, or a titan amongst giants.   
I truly regret having listened to the four chassis P1+X1 combo. I feel like an indoor cat which has gotten a taste of the outside world, but is once again locked away indoors. I have now experienced a glimpse of heaven. As the cat stares at the window longing to venture outside just once more, I long for the day where my barns are filled to overflowing because on that day I will buy the four chassis P1 and X1, and my longings will be no more.
Richard H. MakMono and Stereo Senior Analog Contributing writer


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