The Précis over-emphasizes the upper registers of wind instruments, certain voices, and, during the Saint-Saëns Cello Concerto No.1 [Channel Classics], Pieter Wispelwey’s cello. The amp seems to grow cooler as it reaches up higher in pitch; hall sound also firms up, as if damping has been removed. Strings sound a bit more tightly wound, a touch wiry on top, and slightly forward. And though this makes for a very clean, fast sound, some delicacy and resonance are traded off.
One other area where I felt the Précis might be improved is the mid-treble. The Chapter doesn’t have the same command over soundspace and dynamics in this region as it does throughout the rest of the frequency spectrum. On Bartók’s Concerto for Orchestra [Telarc], for example, the microdynamics and harmonics of complex orchestral passages in the treble were communicated less specifically, as if the flow of sound were being channeled from a wide pipe into a much narrower one. Again, with Reference Recordings’ Rutter Requiem, the resolution of soundstage layers and of individual voices in the chorus was a little less precise.
In the Class D survey mentioned above, Jonathan Valin characterized this anomaly as “top-end compression,” and I think this description is as accurate as any I’ve heard about what appears to be a common issue with switching amplifiers. It’s a sensation less like the grainy artifacts of early transistor designs and more like a scrim overlaying the air of the performance—a tether holding down the ceiling of both instruments and venue. It was the only region where I felt the otherwise-effortless Précis was laboring.
Note that the extent to which this oh-sosubtle trait revealed itself was dependent on cabling. In this instance, it was the TARA Labs “Zero” interconnects that played super-sleuth, uncovering the Précis’ sonic fingerprint in the treble. With most other cables it slipped past virtually unnoticed. On a more philosophical note, it was a reminder that when you hear the full potential of a system the results may be mixed. In this case, the Zero interconnects not only improved the performance of Précis in every area, but also pointed out where the Précis didn’t quite fully rise to the occasion.
The Chapter Electronics Précis is the genuine article. Only a few years ago, this degree of power and finesse in a package no larger than a preamp would have been unimaginable, but today’s premium integrated amps are setting standards that even some separates struggle to match. This includes the Précis—a component that joins the exclusive company of some of the finest integrated amplifiers I’ve heard. TAS