CLASSE - Great amps or highly flawed?

Some love them. Others criticize:

Highly colored.

Midrange nice, but euphonic & not accurate.

Highs rolled off, and given an electronic sheen.

Overall dark sound.

Imaging only so-so.

Lack transparency.

Textured sounding.

Bass somewhat lacking definition & loose.

What's your opinion??
I love Classe amps and run dual Ca-400's. I find them very fast with a lot of punch, extremely Transparent, image very well, and I wouldnt call them colored. They are rolled off quite a bit and very dark but I consider this a quality not a draw back.
I have read the same criticisms and wondered myself. So I went out and bought a used DR-8. I had a Four Preamp, which I really liked.
The DR-8 didn't sound dark, it didn't sound grainy or textured or euphonic, etc. Basically, like the Four, it seemed to have little character of its own and was very transparent. That said, I had been using a tube amp before, and was used to a little more warmth and some more roll-off in the highs than the Classe offered. I may have been able to get it to work for me with some cable rolling and maybe my speakers with metal dome tweeters were not an ideal match, but the amp developed an intermittant short in one channel so I returned it. Actually this is unusual as Classe stuff is overbuilt and I have never had any problems with my preamp. I do not think Classe gear is highly flawed.
Their smaller amps were anything BUT "dark" or "rolled on top". I would have called them "lean and bright" if anything. The bigger amps are notably mellower from my experience. Either way, it's like anything else: system synergy and personal preference. I will say that i consider them to be "well built" though. Sean
It seems like those critics use Krell or some other bleach white(not colored) amp as a frame of reference. All I can really say, however, is that with my speakers (Hales), Classe is magic. The first time i heard the Hales/CA-300(store auditon) was the first time I was truely impressed with hi-fi. My heart pounded, my eyes watered & I even clinched the arms of the chair a bit. I have heard Hales with other amps, and I thought they sucked. Very boring, and/or hard on the ears. For SS, Classe rules.
It really is just a matter of preference. However, there is nothing that is highly flawed about it. Sure, it is in good terms, smooth, and a bit relaxed sound. In additon, it has tendency to compromise the "digital blues" quiet well. It may not produce the most accurate sound and the tightest low range, but by no means it is highly flawed.
It does not tire you out when running a long session like some other amps. plus a great sound stage.
Martin Colloms, respected British reviewer, reviewed the Classe CA-200 in Stereophile, Feb. 97. He said the amp had a audible sheen or emphasis in the treble, adding a breathiness to vocals. He also said that pace, rhythm, dynamics and listener involvement were not addressed in the design as much as smoothness and a relaxed, laid-back sound.

He admitted that he was "not totally knocked out" by the Classe, even though he didn't knock it that much. A rather lukewarm response to this amplifier. He seemed to think it was just an ok amp.

This review, plus some negative comments I have seen by some audiophiles, and a past audio store salesperson who really trashed the line, have made me wonder.
That review offers no help in deciding if that particular product is worth a chance or audition. It was a lousy review by Martin colloms and done "half-assed" IMO. It was so matter of fact it looked like he had to do it out of punishment. Besides if you take stereophile reviews as a big part of your decision your making a mistake. Go thru some issues and look at other equipment and cables used to evaluate and review components. In most reviews, no proven synergy, just comped and borrowed components and cables thrown together to put a system together. And the cables are almost always top of the line which most real audiophiles will never own anyway - if they are smart. Lots of cables in the value price range match or outperform flagship models. Synergy is THE MOST important factor in a system and that's why people are always "upgrading" because they are not ever satisfied, they don't take the time to synergize and get the absolute most out of a component and a particular system IMHO.
I would agree that Classe has a house sound of sorts, but to generalize to broadly would be a mistake. Classe's model line up ranges from their small integrated's all the way up to their new Omega monoblocks. Each comparable make and model has its own sonic signiture and attributes which either meet your preferences, mate well with your system, or provide the least compromise to long term enjoyment. Five years ago I auditioned the Classe CA150 and CA300 My take away was the similar to Martin Colloms, and ultimately ended up getting a McCormack DNA-1 dlx. This year I choose to purchase Classe over Mark Levinson, Krell, and McIntosh. A different system, but I also think that the current Classe sound is livelier then in earlier models.
I like my Classe amps. I own A 301 and a CAV150 both purchased at agon for 50% off retail and both less then a year old. At that price, what could be better? You have Balanced and RCA inputs, bridgable at the flip of a switch, very well built and when you call them on the phone a hot chick with a french accent picks up!!! (BONUS)
Pops right on the money.
I can only offer my opinion about an older Classe amp that I owned. The Classe Seventy (about $1300 when new, 70wpc, natch) was already a few years old when I bought it 3 years ago, but in its time, I recall that it was a lower-powered SS reference for a couple of reviewers. It replaced an NAD 2200 (100 wpc) in my system and was better in every way. It also struck me as being exceptionally well-built for a non-luxury product, but it did exhibit low but noticable mechanical transformer hum. Driving my Thiel CS2 2 floorstanding 3-ways, it was powerful and in control, but the bass range was rather too heavy and overbearing. It also exhibited some graininess and "electronic" character, but I was able to ameliorate this to a degree through the addition of a Synergistic Research Master A/C powercord, which enabled me to keep listening to the amp longer. Then, I auditioned an older conrad-johnson preamp/amp combo, and wound up buying the PV-8 preamp, which I still use. This really helped the overall expression of the sound in place of my old NAD pre, but I couldn't get the c-j tube amp's sound out of my mind. When the opportunity came to buy a new demo c-j MV-55 (45 wpc, all tube), I took it home to audition against the Classe. This proved to be one of the most significant audio-educational experiences I have had, and what finally took my budding system from "hi-fi" to high end. Not to dump on the Classe, but only now did I really believe that I was hearing a natural and accurate reproduction of recorded music. In audiophile-speak, the most improved areas were: lack of imposed timbral character (the Classe was revealed as dark on top, having uneven response in the middle, and edgy in the lower treble, in addition to being too-generous in the bass); a purity of harmonic rendering of musical overtones that eliminated "electronic " aspects from piano, for instance, and prevented cymbals from sounding somewhat like white noise; rock-solid imaging and location of performers and instruments within a more expansive, deeper soundstage (the Classe changed the location and size of images with the loudness and frequency range of notes played); increased overall transparency to low-level detail and dynamics; no apparent grainy texture or hardening glare, replaced with a smooth airiness; a rejoining of reverberent bloom with the vocal and instumental images from which it initially eminates, presented as surgically separated events in different planes via the Classe; more 3-D body to the presentation of images; the elimination of a certain "phasey" quality that indicated improved response in the time domain; and listener fatigue reduced to the vanishing point. The Classe, not surprisingly, did exceed the c-j in the area of bass slam and control, but not in overall bass-range tactile believability or balance (the c-j was later much improved in bass control when I changed the stock Sovtek EL-34 output tubes for Svetlanas, which also improved HF extension). As a result of my purchase of the MV-55, I would say that I subsequently listened to my system twice as often, and for twice as long when I did - clearly a "good thing" for anyone who cares about music! Also, it enabled me to really begin upgrading my source components and cables and truly hear the results. Now obviously, this is a very limited comparision which cannot be extrapolated to other, more recent Classe models, or to any other SS amps in the price range, for that matter. But in fact, my experience does leave me curious whether in 2001 a music lover of average means can exceed my tube satisfaction with a currently made small SS stereo unit. (Someone else, however, is going to have to report on that one.) But I will say that my time with a Classe amp left me admiring its construction and value, and thinking that it must have been designed from more of an "engineering" standpoint than a "music reproduction" perspective. I hope they've managed to integrate the two more since then.
I have been through a spectrum of audio equipment and have found myself going back to the Classe products. As "audiophiles", we possess that "critical ear". We all have our taste in sound as well as everything else. I think the reason Classe is the focal audio "victim", for lack of a better word, is because of the price of their units Vs the quality they produce. Look at the units and how they are made. They are a top notch company and are belittled by audio snobs because they've spent a "gazillion" dollars on their system. There are cables the price of high end power amps for heavens sake. Does price make a product better? I think not! Long live Classe for its price performance ratio.
The original question included only negative comments about Classe so I can only assume the person inquiring has already made up his mind but....

I think Classe makes outstanding amps. I've owned three over the past few years. In my opinion, Classe offers world class gear at reasonable prices and they compete right up there with the best of them. My 2 cents worth.
I have used a pair of Classe CAM 350 monoblocks for about a year. They are as good as any amps I have ever used, provide an enormous amount of power at a very reasonable price, can be lifted by one person, and outperform some highly respected amps that cost twice as much and weigh twice as much. But that may not be enough for some people. Oh well....
Ditto for a pair of CA-400 I have. No complaints here!
I have heard of Krell bashing, but Classe bashing..... ? This is new!
In response to 'Pops', it sounds like you are venting anger at Martin Collom's review, rather than basing this on facts. I don't see what you are basing your belief on that he "reviewed this as out of punishment". He has certainly proven himself to be an articulate and serious reviewer. Further, Bob Reina's review in Dec. 1997 of the CA-100, while positive at the price point, did indicate a number of sonic flaws as well. No, I don't base my decisions on Stereophile reviews, but I do think taking the totality of all opinions sheds some light on the overall sonic of a piece.
I'm the current owner of a DR-15. I also have (in no particular order), a Krell 300i, VTL 100 monoblocks, Quicksilver MV60, and Counterpoint SA-20. The Classe represents the best compromise of the bunch... the Krell's are obnoxious if you don't design a system around them, the Quicksilvers are dark (but very transparent), the VTLs are not too subtle, the SA-20 has a "glaze". Needless to say, the DR15 is powering my main system (Hales Sig 11, VPI TNT 2.5/JMW 10.5/Grado, Nordost cables, Black Diamond cones, Deluxe Justarack, Big Rock 3s and Air Masses throughout).
You could do a lot worse than Classe in its price range or spend more and still be worse off. If I ever got tired of my tube gear, I would go back to Classe equipment with no hesitation at all.
Classe manufactures a VERY WIDE line of amplifiers. I think their top-of-the-line is a $18k Omega monoblock.

Any description that attempts to characterize ALL their amps cannot possibly be true. I've heard the CA-301, and none of your descriptions apply at all. Not even close!

Where are you getting these descriptions and what exactly are they describing? For the most part, those descriptions are useless without the context of the system. The shortcomings could be due to the speakers, cables, room, etc.
My experience with Classe is having heard several amps over several years in several auditions of other components, and once when considering an amp purchase. I have felt like it was very hard to generalize about them. Different models have varied a lot, and the only trend I've noticed is that the bigger amps are more dynamic, transparent and extended than the smaller ones, and not just because they were bigger. I have also seen a lot of Classe on panel and electrostatic speakers, both in dealers and at shows. I certainly wouldn't bash them, as there are many brands that charge more and deliver less. Classe is definitely competitive with Bryston and Sim Audio.
Responding to Lpim, read review on CA-200, Stereophile, Feb. 97 by Martin Colloms. He used many top-notch products with it & amps to compare it to. His final analysis was that he was not totally knocked out by the Classe. He heard a sheen or emphasis in the treble; felt there was a lack of rhythm & dynamics, and it had a low listener involvement factor.
See also Bob Reina's review of CA-100, Dec. 97, where he heard problems in the upper midrange and a dark sound to the high treble. It rendered music thick & opaque.

Usually when you find more than one review that finds similar problems, it is a good indication that there are problems.

A number of people claimed that the different models sound different. I find that hard to believe when they are all based on the same circuits (except the Omega and some models below it).
Hmm, I never read those Classe reviews but I've owned both the CA-100 and CA-200. If these amps were so "flawed" I wonder why so many people find them to be outstanding performers and excellent values? My CA-100 was a great match with my Thiel CS 1.5's and the CA-200 was better with tighter and lower bass. If anything, there was a very slight emphasis in the midrange or a slight "warmth" which is a great match with somewhat try Thiel speakers. I heard no treble emphasis at all. If anything, I found Krell to sound "bright" compared to the Classe amps that I've owned.
Stan Warren of Supermods has quite a bit of experience with analyzing different amplifier circuit topologies to determine how he can "fix" their oversights. He told me that Classe' was by far one of the most thouroughly designed circuits that he had reviewed.
I think there is an idea circulating that everything with a particular manufacturer's name on it sounds the same within a certain range as to price and size. It simply is not true. There are not only breakthroughs, but changes in direction, new designers going to work for established companies, etc. It is clear to me from recent listening that every post-Omega Classe sounds different from what went before, just as 1995 Levinsons and Krells sound different from what they are producing now. Anyone who writes off an entire line on the basis of out of date information is wasting his or her time as well as everyone else's.
I am always fascinated to read reviews of reviews. The truth is that Classe makes very good equipment. How good?
If it does not perform up to expectations. What is really at fault? Could it be that their are other faults in the system? I wonder. My experience with Classe CA-200 using a variety of equipment and cables mated to it, has been very favorable.
So with all the comments..

is classe worth to give a try ?
if i can get a good deal on used classe amp for my stereo system..should i try it ?

pardon my english ...but what does " thouroughly " means?
good or bad? ;p ehhe

it's cool though that classe audio manuf is only 30 mins from my place :)
i like to buy local products :)
To characterize (good or bad) an entire product line - especially one as broad as Classe's - is just plain ignorant. That's not to say that there aren't similarities between a company's given products, but I think that has more to do with engineering philosophy and marketing strategy. Kevziek is WAY off-base when he says that all of their products are based on the same circuits....huh??
Pops was right on the money when he talked about product compatibility and synergy. Zaikesman's analysis and extrapolation of his experience with one of Classe's older and least expensive models is completely unfair. Apples and oranges...or perhaps Valves and FETs. Not only are the products dissimilar, but they're in a completely different price range. I know he meant well, but...
The bottom line is that companies build reputations based on the satisfaction of their customers (dealers and end-users alike). Additionally, there are some companies who, because of their reputation, tend to be scrutinized and criticized or develop great allegiances. For example; Krell and McIntosh are both excellent companies who produce products that people either "love" or "hate". But those who love them tend to be very loyal and those who hate them are unrelenting in their criticism. So it is to a lesser degree with Classe.
So where does my allegiance lie?? To whomever produces the product that best compliments my system. In this case, it happens to be Classe (DR 9), but if I were to, for example, purchase new speakers which require a more synergistic amp, perhaps it would be somebody else. I would have to take into consideration my budget (can't forget that), the power requirements of my speakers (solid state only, or tube-friendly) and then let my ears (and heart) do the rest.
Anyone who so thoroughly trashes a product line (such as the above) may have an agenda, but if not, then that perception remains nonetheless. I cannot really speak one way or the other regarding my very limited personal experience with only one of their products in my own home, but the numerous Classe demo's that I have heard at some of the shows were certainly most impressive. Granted that these demos were put together with some of their more esoteric offerings, but Will doesn't appear to have given them a fair shake IMO.
So are classe smaller amps like the 125W 2 channels amps worth it ?

cause they aren't cheap either..but if they beat every other SS in their price range then they must be good nah?
Here are some suggestion:
DR-3/3b or DR-3bVHC Pure class A
If you still find it still expensive.Try DR-10
All the above models are old gears.But It's worthwhile to try.
Good luck.
Sound depends on the designer. The earlier Classe amps DR 8,9 and were designed by Dave Reich and were extremely musical amps but slightly dark sounding. The later 1990's Classe 10,15 and 25 were almost opaque sounding by comparison and even non-audiophile friends of mine said so in direct a-b comparison. The later 1997 version CA series ahd a diffirent sonic signature. Certainly not dark but appeared to emphasise the highs and seemned to have an electronic sheen( concur with martin collins on this). I have not heard the latest classe series but they are designed by a swiss designer who was responsible for the OMEGA series.
If Kevziek have listened to all Classe products and indeed found them to be what he listed out to be, he shouldn't be asking others now. On the other hand, if those were only hearsay comments that he has picked up, he should go audition some classe products to satisfy his curiosity. Alway trust your own ear, respect your own taste, following others criticisms doesn't get you anywhere. Every product, no matter how good or how poor it sounds to some, is also praised by someone else. What does that tell you ? Classe has been a company around for a long time. If their stuff are so bad, do you think they could have fooled so many people for so long ?
Since posting this thread, I have listened to the Classe 201. And it does have significant sonic shortcomings.

(1) The bass is not tight or defined or powerful.

(2) There is an overall lack of air or extension in the high end.

(3) There is an opaqueness to the sound. Individual images seem congealed together, they are as of one fabric, not truly separate.

Yes, the midrange initially sounds nice, but further listening reveals the above flaws, and to me, they are intolerable.
Give a CA 400 a listen
I agree with Perfecimage. Ca-400, once their top of the line would change your mind. Apparently difference at different price points, the sound signature does change, as it should.But not to the extent that Kevziek describes. Although I have to agree prior to having CA-400, I did have Ca-200 and the sound was inferior as compared to the CA-400.
I own the 301, and short of having twenty thousand dollars to buy the tenor otl's, I love them. I use the 301 with piega 10's, and the audio aero capitole 24/192 cd player... I think the results of other listeners opinions could be what they are matched with, and possibly, just plain old opinion... we all have one, got to love america.....
The real change of circuitry design based on what Classe has learned from developing thier Omega power amp starts from the CA301. The CA201 is still pretty much the old CA200 design with a now 01 style case. If you want to appreciate the Omega inspired changes on the Classe CA line of amps, start audioning from the 301 and up ! If you still come to the same conclusion that you had on the 201, then call the whole world stupid with you being the only smart one, and look elsewhere for you next amp and see if you can surpass the values of the new Classe amps.
Happy amp hunting.
Dragont, do your homework first. Classe told me that the circuitry in the CA201, 301, 401 is ALL THE SAME CIRCUIT. Any improvements from the Omega project that are used are used in all of them. The CAM 350 & 200 are different, and incorporate more of Omega's technology. The McCormack DNA-225 is far superior to the Classe. I went on the Audio Research tube gear, and it blows all of this stuff in the dust.
God, who cares? Kevzeik had made up his mind by mid-October. I am just a little puzzled. He seems to be angry with Classe and/or the posters of this thread. And poor me, I will just have to wallow in the mud with my lowest of the low, the Classe 70.
Can't this be an intelligent discussion instead of an "attack Kevziek"? I tried to encourage discourse and dialogue and a presentation of varying opinions. Let's stop this politicial correctness. Ohlala, if you're happy with your Classe 70, all power to you! I began this thread to find out other's experiences, not be attacked for daring to say negative things about the enshrined Classe amplifiers.

I have nothing against Classe. Actually, I think they are a great company and truly dedicated. Their Omega amp, and probably the CAM series, have been well received. I have no opportunity to hear them, as the Classe dealer here doesn't carry anything but the small models. The CA201 to my ears was too homogenized sounding, and the lack of air and space in the highs, along with their rolloff, made it a non-choice for me.
Kevziek, I did do my homework. I had been a CA200 owner for more than 4 years and I recently upgraded to the CAM350's. Before I did the upgrade, I discussed the new 01 line-ups with Classe's sales manager. What I said yesterday was exactly what the Classe sales manager told me. I didn't add any or take away any from what he said. So take it from there.
I'm surprised too. It is quite apparent that you are not a Classe owner but you choose Classe for creating a discussion and pre-empted the discussion with a list of negatives on the entire Classe line. Whenever you hear any favourable comments coming from other actual Classe owners, you would rebuff and bring out other products such as McCormack's to put down such comments.
You may have started the discussion with whatever good spirit you claimed to have had, but you certainly have defeated yourself by sounding stubborn and ignorant. You've admitted that you've never listened to any Classe models higher than the 201 because they are not available from where you live. Then, how can you discredit all Classe lines because you didn't have the opportunity of listening to them ?
By this time, you have received 40 feedbacks on your questions on Classe, why not leave the subject now and form your own decision whether or not to buy a Classe product for yourself.
To all Classe owners, don't waste any more of your time on this unworthy question from someone who has demonstrated repeatly that his mind is already made up that almost no Classe amp is worth his consideration. We all wanted to tell him and help him, as Classe owners,how we feel about what we own, but apparently he is not open to any favourable feedbacks. Let's wish him luck to be able to listen to more Classe designs, old and new and have the good fortune of owning some someday.
Kevziek, May this one set-up you listened is flawed. What speakers, cables and other electronics they are paired with, not to mention room. What is/are your other source/s of criticism? Stereophile? It may be that at the time the reviews came out Classe was not the great advertising income for Stereophile!! I said May be!! Any way I am more than happy with my two CA-400's, one CAV-150 and TUNER1 and CP-45 and CDP.3 and SSP-50. No intention to upgrade.
Jayt, or is it Dragont? Why do you have two user names on Audiogon?

Your name-calling is inappropriate, unfounded & only reflects back upon the writer.

It is certainly curious that Classe' sales manager would tell both of us different information. Since the information Classe gave me is also STATED IN PRINT in all Classe' owner's manuals, I would say that my information is correct. Go in the first pages to "CLASSE DESIGN PHILOSOPHY", and I quote, "All Classe products share exactly the same circuit design philosophy. This means ALL AMPLIFIERS and all high level circuits benefit from the same design goals. Similar circuits are then tailored to different power levels etc...."

In response to your accusation that I "pre-empted the discussion with a list of negatives on the entire Classe line," I suggest you read the title of the thread. It specifically states "amps". What right or business of yours is it to tell me to "leave the discussion," the one that I began? Why don't you follow your own advice.

Nilthepill, the systems I listened to the Classe in were very revealing systems, the components of which I shall list. In any event, the results were clear and significant.

Preamplifiers: VTL ($4500 new model), SFL-2
Amps: Mac MC2000, Mac 352, McCormack DNA-225, Audio Research VT-100 Mk II
Source: Ayre $7500 CD player, Sonic Frontiers SFT-1 & Theta Pro Basic IIIa
Speakers: B&W Nautilus 802, B&W 802 Matrix III.
Whenever I read discussions like this, I always wonder whether the person who auditioned the equipment has asked how long the equipment has been run. I am going through a significant break-in period with some new equipment that I purchased, and, if you auditioned it the day I brought it home, you would have made many observations about harshness in the mid-range, lack of bass response, a "sheen" on the high frequencies, etc.

I am now in the position to leave the equipment turned on 10-12 hours per day, and can state that the sound today is nothing like the sound on the first day. I expect in 2-3 more weeks the components will be close to totally broken-in and the sound will have changed (for the better, hopefully) yet again.

I guess my questions are: do you think equipment needs to be broken in? Was the Classe equipment you auditioned fully broken in? Could a full break-in period be the difference between what you heard and what the Classe owners are saying about their equipment?
No, the amp was well broken in from the dealer and over a year old.
Depends on your associated equipment and your tastes, just like any other hi-fi purchase. I personally love the Classe sound. I've owned a Classe CA-200, CAV-75 and currently a CDP 1. I've never had any problem with any of these pieces of equipment. As far as 'dark-sounding', if you like the 'brightness' of Krell, you will not like Classe. I prefer the musicality of Classe over Krell. This is a highly subjective choice though.
I’ve owned a late production run Classe CA 300 for well over a year now. In my experience, I have found that this amp works very well with electrostatic hybrid speakers. It casts a spacious, well layered soundstage that is anchored upon a vise-grip tight bass foundation. The midrange presentation is a bit cooler than Rowland gear, yet not as sterile as some Krell amps I have owned. (Yes, I’ve owned Krell gear) The upper registers are detailed and clean. Much like the Rowland gear, I can listen to this amp for hours as it is musically inviting, exceptionally dynamic and fairly involving. I can’t say that about most solid state gear. The CA-300 build quality is exceptional! This amp is a brute but also very sensitive. I have had issues with ground loop hums, heat sink ‘ringing’ and sudden safe mode shut-downs when this amp gets fed anything it doesn’t quite like. I’ve been fortunate as these issues have been far and few between and generally quickly resolved. With a used street price around $2,000 I believe the Classe CA-300 represents a good sound value. While a bit finicky, this amp is long on muscle with a sweetness and openness that just makes you smile! I certainly think it’s a solid state amp most can happily live with and others would die for.
This thread should be removed as it begs the question:
How bad does Classe suck? An apology would be in order from the writer and the moderator.

The statement you qouted does not say that the design is the same, just the design "philosophy". Philosophy and circutry can be two different things.

Anyway, I own a CA101 and feel that it meets my needs better than a McCormick, ie. DNA .5 delux, which I am very familiar with.
What a worthless thread, the only information worth reading are Classe owners or other rebutals who have heard Classe amps and offer personal experiences - this thread should have gone under "hall of shame" or "who got their feelings hurt by Classe." If you already have all the answers Kev then move on...