Classe CP-35 pre and Classe in general

Hello folks,

I just brought home a CP-35 to audition it as a step up from the Rotel RC-1072 and Acurus RL-11 I had been auditioning. I liked it -- excellent high-end, very natural. Less harsh than the Acurus, but better definition
than the Rotel. This is the only pre-amp in it's range I've seriously auditioned.

This is a dealer demo, for $900, I believe list is $1200.

I'm a bit concerned by the reviews I saw on Usually reviews there are positive (even for stuff that's less nice to listen to),but these were decidely mixed. All the reviews for all the Classe equipment were pretty old. This made me wonder if people are still buying this equipment. The most recent CP-35 review (which wasn't very recent)described this as a discontinued model, though it is listed on the Classe
website as "new". Several reviewers mentioned background "hiss" or "noise" as a problem, though I don't hear it in my demo unit.

The higher-end pre-amps (CP-50 and CP-60) got more decidely positive (though old) reviews.

Has anyone compared this entry-level pre-amp to the higher-end Classe stuff, or other stuff in it's price range?

Here are some other questions/concerns (feature questions):

-- The remote is nice (better than the Acurus, which doesn't allow input switching), but doesn't appear to allow controlling a CD player. If you buy a Classe CD player, do you need two remotes?

-- No headphone jack. But there are two sets of pre-amp outputs, so I guess you hook up one of them to a separate headphone amplifier? If so, it appears you turn off your speakers by turning off your power amp. In many cases, this can't be done remotely.

-- The Classe amps and CD players are expensive, in case I want to "match" them. I haven't auditioned these, what do people think of them?

-- Is the company likely to be around for awhile?

Thanks for any comments/feedback you can offer.

- Eric

p.s. Sorry if you saw this on I posted there three days ago, but it seems the moderators have taken memorial day weekend off, so no posts have made it there. I'm hoping to get some suggestins by tomorrow when I have to return this gear!

I don't feel qualified to answer all your questions, but I don't want you to have to return it with no response at all. So, for what its worth: I have owned 3 classe amps, the CAP150, CA200 and CA401. I replaced the 200 with the 401 for extra power. I replaced the 150 with a Levinson 383 at three times the price for better sound. Not three times better, but better. I believe Classe makes some of the best amplifiers around. But....I do not feel that way at all about their CD players or their Preamps. Good, but not excellent. I am a true Classe Amp fan, so I don't tell you this to put down the company. For my listening pleasure, I prefer Meridian, BAT, Sonic Frontiers and Rotel CD players. I am not as certain about Preamps. I only listened to their less expensive versions last year, but I was not impressed. Hope this helps......
Thanks for that response! By the way, my speakers are Celestion S-300s, the only parts of my current system that I plan to keep long-term.
First off, if you like the sound, then go for it. Our collective opinions mean squat if your ears enjoy the sound. I own a Classe amp and preamp; I've owned Classe amps of various flavours for 20 years now. Classe products are terrific value, and in your price range I would encourage you to buy the preamp. To answer the rest of your questions...First, most high-end preamps don't have headphone jacks so you need to invest in an outboard unit like the Grado. You connect it to the tape out as you suggested; you can leave your amp on, simply select "tape" on the preamp and it will kill the signal to the amp and allow you to enjoy music through your cans. As for the value of the balance of the Classe line, the amps are incredible value but the tuner and CDP's strike me as over-priced (like most high-end companys that made their name with amps and such). Why do you feel compelled to build a system around one brand? Buy a Magnum Dynalab tuner and a top notch CDP. I happen to own a YBA CD player, I highly recommend it. Classe's tuners and CDP's are pretty damned good, but there is better in the same price range. If you want a matching system there's certainly nothing wrong with the Classe tuners and CDP's, buy them used off AudioGon and save a bunch of money. Finally, will Classe be around in the long haul? Well, they certainly have the track record so far, and living in Montreal and being in the electronics industry I've kept an eye on Classe. Solid company, with exemplary customer service. Buy with confidence. To summarize, do your homework on the price to make sure you're getting a fair deal, buy the preamp and enjoy the music. ATB, Jeff

Thank you for that reply!

This is really a lame answer, but if truth be known, my main reason for sticking with a single vendor has been to get a nice remote that operates all pieces. I realize there are third-party remotes, but I'd wanted to avoid them for various reasons (cost, confusing to use). Maybe I should start a second thread asking for experiences on that score. Also I think I was hoping to simplify my choices in add-on pieces.

Do you have any feedback on the CP-35 in particular? I realize my own ears are the judge, and I find I do hear differences between the different levels of equipment, but haven't seriously listened to anything else in this range, and want to be sure this entry-level unit isn't the "bad apple" of the Classe line, and to be sure I shouldn't be trying to increase my buget (again).

Do you have any experience with the optional Classe phono stage, compared to reasonably priced (say $500 or so) external phono stages? This option is definitely a "plus" for me.

Two other "feature" hesitations I have about the Classe pre-amp:

-- Not many inputs. I was hoping for 6 rather than 5. Like headphone jacks, this seems to be something high-end units drop. The tape input (one of the 5) won't be as useful, in that with the headphone setup as you described I won't be able to listen to the tape input over headphones (I assume). This might be stupid, but I was thinking of using splitters to connect more than one device to a single input. Then just take care to make sure that only one is turned on at a time! Do I risk equipment damage or poor sound quality?

-- Not sure that this unit could fit into a home theater system (this is not important to me at all now, but never say never, I guess). Two-channel "home theatre" would be fine for me, if there's a way to just feed stereo from a DVD disc to the pre-amp without losing sound content.

-- Looks. I think the mixed black and silver is odd. I would prefer one or the other. But I don't care.

Every step up I've taken so far in the shopping process has been an improvement. This is the best so far, but it's in a different league than I listened to before (sort of the bottom of high-end, I guess, rather than "mid-fi").

It's good to hear the company is solid. I'm mainly considering this particular equipment because the local dealer that carries it has treated me so well (especially considering I came in looking for a $500 receiver originally). I had never heard of Classe before. Since then I have read everything I can find. I will post praise for the dealer elsewhere on this site, but for anyone in Vermont, it's Audio-Video Authority in South Burlington.

Other choices in town that are actually available to listen to are Rotel (the same dealer has it, I have "moved up" with the Classe audition), NAD (I listened to their lower-end stuff and didn't like it, mushy, dark, their high-end separates are not available for local listening), Arcam (I eliminated their top-end integrated because it doesn't image well), Cambridge Audio (too bright, good value on the lower end though), Parasound (only the low-end pre-amp is available to listen to, sounds a lot like the Rotel, good, but bass-heavy and not as refined), Adcom (the higher-end CP-750 pre-amp is available to listen to, I may try it based on comments here, I listened only to the low-end before), Acurus (I like it really well, but thought it would be harsh to listen to long-term, and some music doesn't sound good through it), Marantz and Myryad integrateds (both nice, but I fear not enough power for my speakers and room). McIntosh, Bryston (same good dealer), Conrad-Johnson, and Audio Refinement are available, but out of my league, I think. Anyway, I don't think you needed to know any of that -- unless you happen to have compared the Classe pre-amp to the Adcom CP-750, which is probably the only thing on that list I will think about auditioning "against" the Classe.

I will definitely buy local.

Thank you again. As I have perused the "board," I really appreciate the time you and others have put into answering questions here.
Good choice of dealer. I bought all my Classe, Bryston,
Home theater equipment and B&W speakers from them. Excellent service! Bob

I am classe guy. I have Classe CDP .3, CP-45,CA-400,CVA-150,SSP-50 and another CA-400 on its way. As other posts above said, Classe is solid company and offer great values. Before I settled on my above components I auditioned ( actulally owned before upgrades) had CP-35 and CA-200. I was Happy with the sound. Then my CA-200 malfunctioned ( at least that's what I thought at the time, but in fact it was a faulty IC) and I got CA-400 and never regreted paying double the price(than the CA-200), in the process I also got CP-45 and later CP-50(built in to the SSP-50). Honestly in my system, which has a Classe synergy(very important in my book), CP-45 is very musical and works way better. CP-50 Sound I have access to but do not prefer. CDP .3, in my opinion, is one of the great buy for the price. (DAC-1 built in to the SSP-50 does not compare for overall sound, ceratin things are better, but at cost of other greater aspects)

I know you starting out but if dealer offeres you CP-45 (now they calle it may be 47.5?) at slightly higher than the cp-35, I recommend you audition and compare the two sound. Don't go by the looks, go for the sound. If you hapen to add hometheater at a later date the main channels can always go in to to the tape in for a integrated system.

I have auditioned similar categoried, but higher prices Krells, Levinsons, Jeff rowlands and ended buying Classe for overall great sound /value conmbo point of view. Just one more positive opinion, but listen yourself before you buy.
Ehart. I suggest you call Classe and speak with Robert Adam. He is very generous with time and information. He has been quite helpful with me. I owned two CA151s and a CP50. The CP50 is a nice preamp and could be found used for around $1200. If interested, make sure you get the right remote. There are some sold with an older remote that doesn't allow full use of the functions. There is a slight hum that can be heard at the speakers if you put your ear near to them. This is caused by the large power supply. I was informed of this by Classe, before I bought mine. It did not bother me, but this is probably what the reviews you metioned were refering to. The newer model. the 47.5 doesn't have this problem, but I do not think it is as good overall, nor worth the price, considering other options.

I understand your desire to stay with one brand. Many people I know feel the same way. I do not. I prefer the best sound I can get within a budget and have mixed and matched my system over the years. I have heard Classe amps sound great with Conrad Johnson, VTL, Bat and Sim preamps. I always wanted to get my hands on a CA400. I think it is a great amp, Maybe someday. I just bought a Rowland Concentra II, and have stopped looking for the time being. Good luck.
Very helpful posts.

- Has anyone used the optional Classe phono stage and care to comment? I will buy it unheard.
- Has anyone compared the CP-35 with the Adcom GFP-750?

Nilthepill, It sounds like you prefer the CP-45 over the CP-50 -- do you also prefer the sound of the CP-45 over the CP-35? What vintage was your CP-35 (they were revamped about 6 years ago as I understant it). Unfortunately, my dealer doesn't have one of the higher-end Classe pre-amps on hand for me to demo.

Bob, How cool that you have been to AV Authority! Ron and Chris have been great. I saw in another post that you were wondering about other Hi-end audio places in Vermont. I do think AV is the best overall, but there are other good ones:

Sound Essentials is on the waterfront by the bike path. Check his website at Chris (different Chris) has been in business for less than a year, he is a one-man show and is very committed and eager for business. He has a real job, so his hours are kind of odd, but actually easier for a working person. He will schedule times to work with you when he's not normally open, so you'll have the place to yourself. At the lower to middle end (below $3000), he only stocks integrated amps (NAD, CA, Arcam, Audio Refinement) because he believes they give better bang for the buck than sep. On the higher end, he has a bunch of tube gear from VTL and Audio Research. For speakers, I believe it's ARC. He is a big vinyl fan, as well as CDs. He is a freak for cables and gadgets (pucks, CD pens, power cords, speaker and interconnect cables, you name it), and will come to your house to demo stuff (I dunno about Woodstock, though). In the end, his stuff didn't work for me -- the integrated stuff was too low-end, and the high-end stuff was too expensive and high-maintenance (but may be perfect for you, given that you are way ahead of me in your current setup). Nice guy, though a little more sales-y than AV Authority (you can't get much more relaxed than AV). He is upfront about discounting most everything about 10% or a little more off list, which is refreshing. His listening room is small, making it hard for me to judge how things would sound in my (larger) room.

Butternut Audio in Essex (Susie Wilson Road) is run by Tom, former head repair guy for the Audio Den, from which all these other places spun off when it closed down years ago. I don't think they have a website -- their number is 802-879-3900. I would definitely go to Tom for repair on anything out of warranty. He's very knowledgeable about all kinds of things audio. He's not a very good salesperson though, in that he almost seems to not want to sell you stuff (this has it's own charm of course). I had to visit there twice before I could convince him that I really wanted something higher-end than a receiver. When I finally picked something I wanted to home demo, I couldn't take it home because he was expecting someone to come in to listen to it shortly; he took my number but never called me, although I was clearly serious (I brought my own speakers to listen to in the store). Talk about laid-back! At the low end (and for home theatre), he sells mainly Marantz, including some pretty fancy AV receivers, and a nice $1200 integrated 60WPC amp that must weight about 40 pounds. Low-end separates are Parasound, and he has Conrad-Johson at the high-end. Speakers are PSB and Magneplanar (I believe). Sells Rega Planet CD player, and some very high-end speaker and interconnect cables (which AV Authority is weak on, if you're into that sort of thing -- I would guess they work if Tom sells them). Nice listening room. Tom has easily the best (well, only, as far as I know) selection of used gear in the area, and prices it fairly. I bought used speakers and CD player there years ago.

Finally, there's Creative Sound at Tafts Corners (actually "Blair Park" in Williston. They're at 802-878-5368. I dealt with an owner (you may want to ask for roger or Chris) there recently, and that was pleasant, but for the most part nobody you talk to there knows anything (including prices of high-end gear). Their staff is young and mainly focussed on car audio. That's too bad, because they have some nice stuff. Low-end is Yamaha (which is nice low-end, to my ears). They have Acurus and Adcom in the middle, also nice sounding gear (well, I didn't like the cheaper Adcom stuff, but I understand their better pre-amp is nice, and I did like the Acurus). The high end is Mcintosh. They have a variety of speakers, including Polk, KEF, and Vandersteen. They are very good about lending you demo gear to take home. They just built a new building and seem willing to deal on stuff that's in stock.

You mentioned that you have Bryston amps in combo with your Classe pre-amp. Which ones, and how much? I will probably eventually step up to either the Classe or the Bryston power amps (around 150wpc) -- I assume you made that comparison? AV has no Bryston in stock currently, so I have not.

Sorry for the long post. I hope that info on Vermont audio stores is helpful, email me if I can help.

Way cool, you've given me some new places to visit next time I'm home in Vermont...can only hit Carbur's and the Last Chance Saloon so often (if they are still even there...).

By the way, I bought my first "real" stereo at Service Merchandise on Selburne Road a whole ton of years ago--parts of it are still running in my brother's house in White River Junction...

Vermonter, I used to shop there also. Select the merchandise on a computer and wait for it to come up on a conveyor belt. No salesman "interface". Hey, there's an idea!
OK, this is off-topic, but:
Last Chance is gone, check out Vermont Pub and Brewery downtown for a good brewpub -- next block up from Carbur's, which still has 200 (or however many) beers available. It's hard to lament Service Merchandise -- anyhow, they've dropped their electronics business altogether, just jewelry and lawn chairs anymore. No loss.

email if you're going to be in town!
Also off topic...

I spent many a night at the Last Chance with preliminary stops at Hannibuls,The Silver Keg, Finnian's, and The Chicken Bone. We'd top the evening off with a sub and bagel from the All American Hero, then stagger over to the old gas station where Ben and Jerry first set up--I vividly remember the crazy sight of around 40 little ice cream makers plugged into a tangled mess of extension cords, churning their hearts out, and the proprietors (Ben and Jerry themselves) throwin' out the scoops and dispensing their counterculture wisdom...I'd then stumble up College Street to my fraternity--was relying on autopilot at that point...

The good old days--their appeal and my fond rememberances of them increases proportionally with time.

I've owned the Model 30 pre, DR6 pre, (2) CA-100's, CA-400, CDP.3, DAC-1 and CDT-1. The Model 30 (I think) is the first version of the "35". I got a lot of enjoyment out of it. I have always had seperate remotes with Classe equipment. I can't comment on the phono stages first hand, but they always seemed to be easy to customize for any cartridge. As far as an all "Classe" system. I found that a tube pre works best with thier amps.(everyone told me this, but I had to learn for myself) Everyone at the company is a pleasure to deal with. Robert Adam is more than willing to talk with you. Right now I'm very satisfied with my system. Classe DAC/CDT, Monarchy DIP, AR LS15 pre, CA-400 and Thiel CS5i's. Illuminations D-60/Orchid and MIT 330 Proline/Shotgun and 770 Twin CVT cables. You just have to listen and sometimes it's best to follow others advice. They may have already been there and done that!
One more thing, with the amps, there is a quiet low level whoosh that you will hear if you place your ear against the speaker. You'll never hear it any other way. It's not a bad thing, it's just there, it means nothing. I've noticed this with all the amps I've owned from Classe.
The answer to to both questions is YES. CP-35 was bought in late 96, and was pleasure to listen to, but salesperson adviced me to go few levels up ( I had bought Dunlavy V's from the begining ) CA-45, CA-400 combo was better match for them ( resolution capability wise, CA-400 made a huge difference in sound quality). I do like C-45 better than CP-50 in MY system.

CP-35 is a good low line high-end choice. The Adcom model that you mention should be good too( from the reviews ).
Good Luck!!
For what it's worth.... I currently own a CP-35 and use it with my Classe CA-300 amp. I originally bought it with a CA-100 three years ago as my first "High-end" preamp. I was on a budget and the CP-35 was one of my choices. I listened to McIntosh (very nice sound), Krell (too harsh), Rotel (not bad) and B&K (terrible). I was able to listen to these items with the speakers I own - Thiel CS 2 2. I felt that the CP-35 gave me the best balance of imaging and musicality of the bunch. Keep in mind that the Classe gear may not suit your particular tastes with the associated equipment you will use. I upgraded my amp for more power and better sound and got that. I do intend to upgrade my CP-35 to a CP-60 when my budget allows. The CP-60 does have a better sound, but it is unfair to compare the two. I still think my CP-35 has a very good sound and am not unhappy with it at all.
You may be able to pick up a phono preamp to use with the CP-35 from Creek or Black Cube to solve the phono situation if you can't find it built in. Give it a shot. The sound is first rate and the product is built like a tank. Don't let the remote scare you away if the price is what you want to spend.
I agree with Snooker14, Eric. I love the Classe amps, I own a CA-200 and a CAV-75 for surrounds. I preferred the Proceed pre/pro to the Classe. The Classe was pretty good, I just liked the Proceed better. The amps are pretty tough to beat for the prices. Mrderrick, my amps are dead quiet even with the ear right up to the speakers. I'm running them in balanced mode, I don't know if this makes the difference.
I also run fully balanced. I've spoken with several others who also hear it in their systems. It's barly audible right at the drivers. Had it with both CA-100's and the 400. It's probably AC line noise related. Right now it's not worth my time to try to track it down.
I bought the CP-35. Thanks to everyone for their input. It came down to the Adcom GFP-750 or the Classe. Tough choice. In the end I decided that the Adcom is a little "too" precise for me (if that's possible). The sound didn't hang together as well as with the Classe (not as "musical", though the amazing distinctness of the instruments provided by the Adcom in passive mode was interesting to listen to.

It didn't hurt that the Classe (as a demo) was a couple hundred cheaper, and that I preferred the Classe dealer.

Both of these pre-amps sound so much better than what I have now (old receiver), as long as I am not directly comparing them, they both blow me away.

Thanks again. These forums are a great resource!

- Eric