Preamp Decision – L1 Stereo, L1 Mono or C1 Mono alone

micro13

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Hi All, after years with several EMM Labs Dacs (Dac2, Dac2x, DV2) and several Audio Research preamps (SP9 MK3, LS26, Ref 3, Ref 6) I came across a used C1 Mono plus X1 double, which I’m already using for around 1,5 years.

The Ref 6 was sold with the purchase of the DV2 and since then I had no preamp anymore in my system. The C1 Mono is an amazing machine and I don’t miss a preamp.

But now I got an offer for a used L1 Stereo or Mono plus another X1 double. The C1 Mono is such an exceptional machine, I can’t imagine thet it’s getting better even with a L1 + X1 in the chain. Unfortunately I can’t try it to decide if it’s worth the effort or not.

Therefore I’m asking here for advice – what would I gain with a L1 Stereo or a two box Mono plus X1 double in an all digitial system with the C1 Mono in the center? I don’t want to buy something just fort he sake of collecting more shiny boxes. Regardless the two box L1 Mono is very tempting but probably still out of reach. Especially after hearing some rumours that the L1 mono plus X1 could still be better than the new L10 in the two box stereo version. And I’m aware from other threads here that a full mono path is recommended, especially when a C1 Mono is already in the system.

My DCS Rossini SACD transport is surely not the best partner fort he C1 regarding system synergy, I’m also thinking about the new D1.5 instead of buying a L1. What would be the better next step?
 

pweg

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Jun 8, 2014
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unfortunately the L1 and further the L10 are both amazing and will add sonic positives. C1 whether stereo or mono is not as good as a preamp .
 

micro13

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Jun 15, 2020
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unfortunately the L1 and further the L10 are both amazing and will add sonic positives. C1 whether stereo or mono is not as good as a preamp .
Thanks for your thoughts. After reading other threads here I wasn't really sure about it.
And what got me thinking are the reviews at hifi-advice.com. The reviews there are usually very detailed and insightful. The reviewer himself has a C1 and a A1.5 (and also a P1) in his system. Interestingly after reviewing a L1 and a X1 he still uses the C1 as a preamp.

Do you already have experience with the L10 vs L1 (especially with L1 Mono)? I've no doubt that the 2 box L10 is clearly superior to the L1 Stereo with a X1. But how does it compare to the 3 or 4 box L1+X1?
I just read the L10 review from Roy Gregory - his experience is that the 2 box L10 is still superior to the 4 box L1+X1. Is somebody else here who can confirm this?
 

pweg

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Jun 8, 2014
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Australia
Thanks for your thoughts. After reading other threads here I wasn't really sure about it.
And what got me thinking are the reviews at hifi-advice.com. The reviews there are usually very detailed and insightful. The reviewer himself has a C1 and a A1.5 (and also a P1) in his system. Interestingly after reviewing a L1 and a X1 he still uses the C1 as a preamp.

Do you already have experience with the L10 vs L1 (especially with L1 Mono)? I've no doubt that the 2 box L10 is clearly superior to the L1 Stereo with a X1. But how does it compare to the 3 or 4 box L1+X1?
I just read the L10 review from Roy Gregory - his experience is that the 2 box L10 is still superior to the 4 box L1+X1. Is somebody else here who can confirm this?
Only with l10.
 

Elliot G.

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Jul 22, 2010
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The L1 with a C1 is a big step up. Its not close. I have not compared an L10 to a L1 mono however I did own and L1 mono and sold off everything but the L1.
I have heard M1.1 mono vs M10 stereo and IMO its not close either. My client who just did the same thing is sending me his M1.1's in trade for the M10 stereo.
Ten series is a major step forward. Go listen you will see its not hard to hear the difference.
 

kinch

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Jan 7, 2014
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I lived with the C1/X1 for 6-12 months before adding the L1. Agree with the comments: not even close, the L1 added true harmonic depth and punch to the C1. I would encourage you not to stop at the C1.
 

micro13

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Jun 15, 2020
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The L1 with a C1 is a big step up. Its not close. I have not compared an L10 to a L1 mono however I did own and L1 mono and sold off everything but the L1.
I have heard M1.1 mono vs M10 stereo and IMO its not close either. My client who just did the same thing is sending me his M1.1's in trade for the M10 stereo.
Ten series is a major step forward. Go listen you will see its not hard to hear the difference.
Many thanks for your suggestions, sounds very promising for the L1.
And regarding the M10, I also heard from different sources that it's apparently better than even the M1.1 monos.
 

micro13

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I lived with the C1/X1 for 6-12 months before adding the L1. Agree with the comments: not even close, the L1 added true harmonic depth and punch to the C1. I would encourage you not to stop at the C1.
Many thanks for sharing your own experiences with the L1, it seems I really should go the route with the L1.

The big question still is how much difference is between L1 stereo and L1 mono? Is the price difference really worth the extra effort?
 

MadFloyd

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Why would you want to go the route of L1 monos?

Think about it, you'd need:
- quality rack space for 4 boxes
- 4 good power cords

With the L10:
- quality rack space for 2 boxes
- 1 good power cord
- local feedback option (much better sound than the L1's global)
 
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Elliot G.

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Many thanks for sharing your own experiences with the L1, it seems I really should go the route with the L1.

The big question still is how much difference is between L1 stereo and L1 mono? Is the price difference really worth the extra effort?
If you are prepared to spend for L1 mono I would HIGHLY suggest you buy a stereo L10 instead. The 10 series is truly worth owning in every way.
 

micro13

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Jun 15, 2020
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Why would you want to go the route of L1 monos?

Think about it, you'd need:
- quality rack space for 4 boxes
- 4 good power cords

With the L10:
- quality rack space for 2 boxes
- 1 good power cord
- local feedback option (much better sound than the L1's global)
The main reason for going with L1 stereo or L1 mono instead of a L10 is that the mentioned L1 is about 3-4 years old and accordingly cheaper. And the L10 is out of reach, the second hand L1 mono plus X1 is still much money but in reach for me.
 
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micro13

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Jun 15, 2020
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Why would you want to go the route of L1 monos?

Think about it, you'd need:
- quality rack space for 4 boxes
- 4 good power cords
And this special offer is about "only" 3 boxes, it's just one X1 with two regulator boards.
But you're right, rack space and especially a lot more good power cords aren't cheap either.
 
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gian60

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Apr 17, 2016
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In 2016 i bought C1 witn X1
Then in 2018 i bought L1 and was a good improvment vs C1 alone,so i suggest to buy for my experience
 
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CKKeung

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Jun 18, 2011
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Hi All, after years with several EMM Labs Dacs (Dac2, Dac2x, DV2) and several Audio Research preamps (SP9 MK3, LS26, Ref 3, Ref 6) I came across a used C1 Mono plus X1 double, which I’m already using for around 1,5 years.

The Ref 6 was sold with the purchase of the DV2 and since then I had no preamp anymore in my system. The C1 Mono is an amazing machine and I don’t miss a preamp.

But now I got an offer for a used L1 Stereo or Mono plus another X1 double. The C1 Mono is such an exceptional machine, I can’t imagine thet it’s getting better even with a L1 + X1 in the chain. Unfortunately I can’t try it to decide if it’s worth the effort or not.

Therefore I’m asking here for advice – what would I gain with a L1 Stereo or a two box Mono plus X1 double in an all digitial system with the C1 Mono in the center? I don’t want to buy something just fort he sake of collecting more shiny boxes. Regardless the two box L1 Mono is very tempting but probably still out of reach. Especially after hearing some rumours that the L1 mono plus X1 could still be better than the new L10 in the two box stereo version. And I’m aware from other threads here that a full mono path is recommended, especially when a C1 Mono is already in the system.

My DCS Rossini SACD transport is surely not the best partner fort he C1 regarding system synergy, I’m also thinking about the new D1.5 instead of buying a L1. What would be the better next step?
Hi micro13,

Please read my L10 / M10 review here :
https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/ch-precision-l10-m10-my-votes-for-the-best-ss-amps-for-the-past-5-yrs-till-6-2021.33143/

Please read my D1.5 review here :
https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/ch-precision-d1-5-transport-extension-of-a-new-horizon.34159/

To summarize my previous audition/comparison sessions of CH components :
1. One L10 stereo preamp was significantly better than L1 mono preamp (with two X1, i.e. 4 pieces).
2. Adding L1 or L10 preamp to the system was significantly better than C1 or C1.1 driving a CH poweramp directly.
3. The D1.5 with the new CH Link connection was significantly better than D1 with the old ver of CH link.

IMHO getting a L10 stereo preamp and a D1.5 sacd/cd transport should be the best upgrade path for you.
:)
 

micro13

Member
Jun 15, 2020
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In 2016 i bought C1 witn X1
Then in 2018 i bought L1 and was a good improvment vs C1 alone,so i suggest to buy for my experience
Thanks for your thoughts, Gian. So it's rather without any doubt here that the C1 works better with a L1 at the front.
 

micro13

Member
Jun 15, 2020
50
9
13
56
Hi micro13,

Please read my L10 / M10 review here :
https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/ch-precision-l10-m10-my-votes-for-the-best-ss-amps-for-the-past-5-yrs-till-6-2021.33143/

Please read my D1.5 review here :
https://www.whatsbestforum.com/threads/ch-precision-d1-5-transport-extension-of-a-new-horizon.34159/

To summarize my previous audition/comparison sessions of CH components :
1. One L10 stereo preamp was significantly better than L1 mono preamp (with two X1, i.e. 4 pieces).
2. Adding L1 or L10 preamp to the system was significantly better than C1 or C1.1 driving a CH poweramp directly.
3. The D1.5 with the new CH Link connection was significantly better than D1 with the old ver of CH link.

IMHO getting a L10 stereo preamp and a D1.5 sacd/cd transport should be the best upgrade path for you.
:)
Thanks CKKeung for your recommendation and the links to your reviews.
I already read both threads before but surely missed the part about your findings that a L10 stereo still betters a 4 box L1 mono.
From other reviews about the L10 it seems that the L10 do things completely different than the L1, regardless which version of the L1 is compared with the L10. Therefore it's obviously quite meaningless which version of L1 you compare to the L10, it can't reach this different level. At least that's my conclusion after reading your review and that from Roy Gregory.

Interestingly there are still statements from different people that a 4 box L1 is better or at least at the same level as a L10 stereo. I can't say because I had still no chance to listen to a L10, not to mention a comparison with L1. Maybe these statements are from people who try now to sell their 4 box L1 in favour of a new L10. If the L10 is significantly better than even a 4 box L1 as you stated then it'll not be easy to sell a 4 box L1. Or at least at a very low price point.
I understand your conclusion that it's best to go with L10 and D1.5, but the L10 is unfortunately completely out of reach for me. And the D1.5 is at least planned for next year.

So the big question for me now is after I have to remove the L10 from the equation - is a 3 or 4 box L1 so much better than a 2 box L1 stereo with a X1 that it's worth the price difference? Especially if I say I'll stick with whatever version of L1 because funds for a L10 will never arise (most likely). And I'm talking about a 3 year old used L1 stereo or mono (both options are open) for very reasonable prices. Still the 3 or the 4 box versions are a bit out of reach at the moment, but would be manageable I guess.
 

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