I've owned an Audio Refinement Complete and an Audio Analogue Puccini. Both fantastic amps, but I would say both are pretty laid back in terms of sound. I haven't heard the Classe before.
If you are looking for something a little more lively than the Audio Refinement Complete, you might want to look into the Anthem Integrated 2. It's a hybrid (tubed pre amp) integrated amp. They have been going for VERY reasonable prices lately, both new and used. I found that the Anthem was a more versatile amp than either the Audio Refinement or the Audio Analogue. Laid back and smooth when it has to be, punchier and more dynamic when the music calls for it.
My experience with the AR Complete was that its sonic characteristics were very tube-like. Warm and laid back, but it retained very good detail throughout all frequencies. If you are looking for a more lively or dynamic sound, the Classe (or some other integrated) might be a better fit.
Good luck, and happy listening.
Classe is a step above. Audio refinment is YBA Mid sector product it is built in China/Taiwan.
Classe is Built in Canada and is a High End product
My CAP 151 has never thumped through the speakers.
Natalie...c'mon. My Classe dealer SENT me to ANOTHER dealer to check out the AR Complete. Take one of each apart, and THEN decide which is mid-fi! You'd be surprised.
For $1k the Complete is a wonderful, neutral, refined product.
Subaruguru,your Classe dealer is not to sharp.
Audio Refinement is MFG in China by YBA as an entery level product for people who cant afford the real gear YBA makes.
Sorry No made in China amp desinged with compromises for me.
While I have not heard the Classe CAP-80, I currently own an Audio Refinement Complete ("ARC"), which I purchased to "downsize" my system. I had a Classe Four preamp and compared the Classe Four with a Classe DR-8 amp to the Audio Refinement Complete. The Classe separates were a little more transparent and dynamic. The ARC is a little smoother and more refined, especially in the midrange. The ARC seems to image as well as the Classe separates. That said, I would also add that I used to use Quicksilver Silver 90's monos with the Classe Preamp and neither the Classe amp nor the ARC are anywhere close to the Quicksilvers in terms of midrange richness and overall refinement. I like the ARC because it is compact, runs cool and sounds "good for solid state". It does make a turn on thump when you turn it on but it does not seem to cause any damage to anything.
We are a dealer of Audio Refinement, and perhaps I can clear up a few things.
AR equipment is manufactured in Taiwan, where labor is far less expensive than in France, where the equipment is designed. There are differing qualities of manufacturing plants in Taiwan, but there are a number of them that hold to high standards. AR is made at one of these plants.
AR uses parts made special for by YBA. About 80% of the parts in an AR piece is these very high quality YBA parts. The assembly quality is excellent, and exceeds what is typically found at this price. Take a look at the case as well...heavy aluminum front panel, or course, but also the rest of the casing is aluminum instead of steal. This is just one example of the careful attention to detail...the aluminum case does not create magnetic interference with the signal. How often do you find an all aluminum case in a piece of equipment, at any price?
I know a YBA/Audio Refinement dealer who stopped selling the single transformer version of the Integre (the DT is the dual transformer version) because they could hardly notice any difference between the single Integre and the Complete. The Integre costs almost twice as much, so they figured would be hard to sell to customers.
The single Integre only outperformed the Complete when powering hard to drive speakers. So the power supply in the single Integre must be superior to the Complete.
That said however, there is a used single Integre with the optional MM phono at Alternative Audio in Canada for CA$1250 (US$800.) They will ship to US. You can't get phono with the Complete and the Integre phono stage is very nice. So for the cost of a mint Complete you can get phono and a little better build quality. I am not connected to this dealer. http://www.alternativeaudio.com/useddemo.shtml
I recently spent 3 months shopping for an integrated amp. I listened to pretty well everything in the $1000.00 to $3000.00 CDN range. I finally wound up buying a Classe CAP 101 and am extremely happy with it. In A/B comparisons with the Audio Refinement Complete and Audio Analogue Puccini I found that the Classe had much more detail, larger, deeper and wider soundstage, much better dynamics and a sweet east to listen to for many long hours tonal balance. It is an amp that sounds refined with chamber music and will still pack a wallop on rock and Jazz.
If I could have paid more I would have bought a YBA Integre DT, which seemed to posses all of this with an even more refined sound.
The build quality is excellent and there is no hum or thump on power up. I had owned a CAP 150 for a while and found that to be too powerful for my set up and listening room. I could not turn the dial to more than 8:00 whereas with the CAP 101 I get the same sonic signature but can fill the house with music at 12 on the LED.
If you are looking to listen to a diverse range of musical styles I'd recommend the CAP 101.
Just my two cents.
Thanks, everyone, for the recommendations. But now that I decided to get the Classe, none are available for sale! Ahh, such is audio...
The transformer in the ARC is larger than the one in the single YBA, but smaller than the DT YBA....
Beware the "much more" this and "much more" that. Way too stong a statement for the relatively subtle differences in these type amps, IMHO. I just sold an ARC, and if it is "tube like" then so is the Creek 4330 and the 5350SE, which I still have. I guess Creek should add that to it's ad campaign. But, then again, I think most of us ss types like the distortion free sound of basically perfect solid state modern designs from these reputable manufacturers. Charlie