Gideon Schwartz of Audio Arts in New York has a way of capturing my imagination — and attention — at audio shows of late. His new store features a host of very interesting brands, including the Zellaton line of loudspeakers, and here at CES, he paired those magnificent transducers with a new-to-me brand, CH Precision.
First, let’s start with the Zellaton GRAND ($39,750/pair): 87dB sensitivity, nominal 4ohm (2.6ohm minimum), 155lb/cabinet, 30Hz-50kHz response. There are four drivers, all made in-house by Zellaton: one 52mm tweeter, one 180mm full range driver, one 180mm woofer and one 223mm downfiring woofer. These loudspeakers are stuffed with audiophile goodness from Dueland and Mundorf. The fit and finish are impeccable with an industrial chic that screams European-modern.
Here paired with the A1 Power Amplifier ($37,475 each, and can be used either stereo or mono, configurable from the front panel) from CH Precision. I don’t have any experience with the brand to go on, but “I’m told by reliable sources” that the technology and design of these Class A/B amplifiers puts them on a par with solutions from Soulution and Constellation — that is, SOTA. I wouldn’t know, but yet again, I feel compelled to raise my hand and say, “bring it!” Ahem. Anyway, the A1 is good for 100wpc into 8ohms (run in stereo or in mono). SNR is >115dB in stereo and >118dB in mono/bridge mode.
The A1 is based on a novel proprietary amplifier architecture which optimizes the critical matching of the amplifier with the speaker … The analog input stage is a class A full discrete, zero global feedback design, optimized for ultra-low noise and transient response. The analog output stage contains the key innovation of the A1. It is built around a class A full discrete ultra-low noise driver and a power stage operated as a pure follower in class AB. The feedback topology of the output stage allows for programmable global or local feedback or a mix thereof. Modifying the feedback ratio between global and local allows for adjustment of the A1’s output to match a given loudspeaker, or even each specific driver when used in bi-amp or bridge modes. The amplifier includes a sophisticated monitoring system for each channel to report operating conditions (temperature, peak power into loudspeakers) and to ensure the security and stability of the system. There is no capacitor in the signal path. Premium grade components are used throughout such as 4-poles Mundorf capacitors, Argento loudspeaker binding posts and internal wiring, as well as many tight tolerances passive parts.
Fronting the A1 was the C1 ($32,975), also from CH Precision. This unit is one of the new crop of “full function preamps” that eschew the phono stage for an on-board DAC. Arguably, the unit is a DAC with an input switching capabilities and a volume control, but toe-may-toe, toe-mah-toe. It’s both. There. What I can tell you is that this unit is rumored to be one of the best DACs available on the market today. SNR is >120dB and THD+N is <.001%. The DAC is a “Linearized R2R” with four PCM1704/channel. Inputs are the standard sort you’d expect to see on a classic DAC: RCA, Toslink and AES-EBU. A custom CH-Link connector is for the D1 Transport ($40k — but not here at CES), and supports DSD. Modular upgrades can add Asynchronous USB ($3,750) and Ethernet for direct access to your music files stored on a remote NAS ($6,000).
The system was rounded out by a Loit Passeri CD/Transport, a Holborne Swiss Analog 2 Mk2 turntable ($7495) with a Holborne carbon fiber arm ($3,475) and a Van den Hul Colibri Cartridge ($11,200). The analog gear fed an Emerald phono/preamplifier from also from Van den Hul.
I spent a good little while hanging out here, not only because my hosts Florian Cossey, of CH Precision, and Gideon were having such an obviously marvelous time, but because the sound was mesmerizing. Flowing detail, delicacy, and real punch — it was quite a package and I pretty much wanted to wrap it all up and send it home. My favorite part was watching the real-time display on the front of the CH Precision amps — I think we might have maxed out at 17 watts, but the average output during the entire session was about 4. Yes, four. On an 87dB loudspeaker. And yes, the volume was up. Enough to make you go “hmmm”, no?
A Best-in-Show contender for me, for sure. Well done.