Are you a TV between the speakers guy? If so Classé has you in its sights for an upgrade. The Canadian company believes that there is a hole in the market between the more expensive one box AV receivers with their myriad sockets and even more features, and high end processors and power amps. So it has built an amplifier system that seeks to fill this niche, a separate processor and power amp system that offers quality rather than quantity, and avoids what Classé president Dave Nauber describes as the paradox of choice.
The Sigma series consists of an SSP stereo and 7.1 channel preamplifier/processor and two power amp options with two and five channels. Controversially, in this feature lead, business the Sigma SSP takes a less is more approach to socketry, it eschews connections which Classé considers unnecessary. So there are no analogue video outputs and only one pair of balanced outputs, the centre and surround outputs are all single ended. By spending less on these parts the company has more in the pot for features not normally found on a surround processor, such as asynchronous USB and an Ethernet port, connections that tallow the SSP to act as a renderer for network (DLNA) and computer audio sources.
On the front there is a USB for Apple iOS sources (of the rare asynchronous variety), alternatively the Sigma SSP receives Apple Airplay should the thought of a physical connection offend. Input wise Classé has taken a modular approach to the dilemma of ever changing formats, so video and DSP boards can be installed as required as can a phono stage. For instance there will be a Dolby Atmos upgrade available in the future, the dearth of material for this ceiling mounted channel meaning that the company doesn’t expect much demand at this stage. DSP currently offers tone and tilt controls as well as a nine band parametric equaliser.
The AMP power amplifiers are class D types that are proprietary Classé designs. The AMP2 has two times 200 watts with a 1kW power supply and no internal shielding. The engineers claim to have found a means of laying the design out in such a way that shielding is unnecessary, an unusual state of affairs with a switching power supply. They also state that ‘dead band time’, the time when the signal is ‘off’ between positive and negative states has been reduced to a world beating three nanoseconds. The shorter this time, the lower the THD (total harmonic distortion). AMP5 is a five channel variant also with 200 watts per channel but two channels can give 400 watts into four Ohms, for the really big explosions!
The casework is slimmer than usual for this sector and build and finish in the front league, the shiny bit in the middle that looks like plastic is in fact painted aluminium. Prices are: SSL £4,250, AMP2 £2,950 and AMP5 £4,250. The angle is ‘high end hi-fi for all’ on the basis that the bigger Classé components come in around twice these prices. Price is one thing but bridging the divided worlds of serious AV and stereo is also a challenge in our experience. www.classeaudio.com